Warm-Up With Me: In-Depth Fundamentals Routine [Video]

How I Regained Confidence In My Playing (After Becoming Too Afraid To Play)

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After I graduated with my degrees and was officially a musician in the world, I became afraid to play.


I got a full-time non-music job right away, and was trying to figure out how to be an adult and not a student anymore, and I had moved to a new city where I had no friends or connections.



During that time, I had no outside motivation or goals, and I rarely played anything. I quickly slipped into a place of fear and judgement with my instrument.



When I look back over the the past few years, there are several key things that stand out as having helped propel me back in to a positive, self-motivated place with practicing and performing.



The most important part is that it didn’t happen overnight, and it certainly wasn’t all of these things at once!

It was one step at a time, a little bit each day, and a lot of self-kindness in between the frustrated moments that helped me grow.


  1. Instagram



    The first video I posted in 2014 was an old practice video I had taken while at FSU, and some kind people left positive comments. It felt like studio class where my peers were supporting me! I posted a few more old practice videos and started interacting and supporting others who were posting their playing, too.



    After a few weeks, I finally decided to record and post current videos. I had no goals or projects to work on, so my initial goals were tiny - to simply record and post a section of a piece I enjoyed - and back then, it was only 15 seconds! I thought “I can play for 15 seconds!”



  2. Actual Goals, finally.



    A couple of actual auditions popped up between then and now, and it was time to actually start auditioning for real. My first audition was a train wreck, and I KNEW I could only do better from there!



    And I did. And the one after that was just a little better still. I started learning more and more about the mental aspects of performing to improve myself, and it started learning to overcome stress.



  3. Fun Things



    When it felt scary to practice, going to Dr. Terri Sanchez’s materials were very helpful and encouraging to practice. I started doing her Epic Flute Warm-Up daily, and it became that thing that helped me to improve a little bit each day.



    I could touch on all aspects of my playing a little bit at a time, and I enjoyed doing it consistently! I started noticing how much I’d improved because some of its initial challenges felt much easier over time. (I also enjoy her descants and pop music tracks, especially on days where I’m taking myself too seriously and especially afraid of my own sound.)



  4. I Became an Inspiration Sponge



    While working my full-time and then part-time insurance job for four years, I used all the time I could to listen to recordings, master classes, podcasts, and videos to soak up any inspiration I could while working. I’d often become ANTSY to practice and couldn’t wait to clock out and get my flute out! When I wasn’t actively soaking up inspiration during the day, I’d be more likely to feel too tired to practice after work.



    The Inspiration Calendars were also born at this time - I spent hours each day seeking resources and little bursts of inspiration to propel me, and it all fell into the mantra of “a little bit each day.”



  5. Etude of the Week



    Thank you Katy Wherry for creating the best practice accountability group! When I first posted in Etude of the Week, I was feeling ready to take on the challenge of recording and posting something longer than 60 seconds, but I was still tensing up when pressing Record.



    With every week, I got better and better at learning to perform confidently under pressure, and started learning how to enjoy performing with self-trust.



    The added pressure of posting it in a group of flutists also meant I was trying to listen for every little opportunity to improve something about my playing for the next one, and it gave me (and still gives me!) a laser-like focus for improving my playing every week!



    (Not to mention, this group is so supportive and encouraging!)



  6. 100 Days of Practice



    Thank you Hilary Hahn for starting the #100daysofpractice challenge! This practice challenge gave me a reason to embrace the mess and overcome perfectionism FOR REAL. I found it to be incredibly liberating to put the mess out there and truly embrace the process.



  7. Playing with Others



    I played in several community groups for the chance to practice something that really scares me - playing in ensembles. I’ve always found wind ensembles to be a little bit more intimidating than orchestras because you’re right up close by the director and you’re never quite soft enough!



    While playing in these groups, it didn’t matter to me what level everyone else around me was playing at - I used every rehearsal and concert to practice grounding myself, staying free, and playing at the highest level I possibly could as though I were in a professional ensemble.



  8. Teaching



    The better I practice, the better I teach. The better I teach, the better I practice. I didn’t get to teach as many students as I do now back then, but I still learned something every week and used all those jolts of inspiration to inspire lessons!



  9. Playing for Actual Humans


    In addition to playing with others in ensembles, I also found it extremely helpful and enjoyable to practice duets and perform a couple of duo concerts with flute friend Nicole Riccardo at an assisted living facility.


    Our first concert was one of the first times I had performed for others in years, and I was overwhelmingly tense. It felt difficult to breathe while playing, but I managed to play anyway, and by the next time, I felt much more free!


    Nicole and I also played mock auditions together!


  10. Learning About trust vs. doubt



    I began understanding more about the mental aspects of playing mainly while reading sports psychology books. The main, overall theme is that great players trust themselves in the moment, but amateurs direct themselves through the mechanics of playing at the critical moments, and that’s a form of self-doubt.



    I started using affirmations and simplifying my mental state while performing for my camera, and little by little, I could find freedom to sound how I wanted under pressure!


I’m still on this journey of finding more and more confidence in myself, growing a little bit at a time, and I’m encouraged to look back and see how much I’ve been able to grow, even if it took several years.

This is a life-long process — it’s not a race!

No matter where you are, you’re growing, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

I’m here cheering you on!


Have you found tools that have helped you gain confidence in yourself?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments!



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My Go-To Exercises and Tips for Getting Into Shape Quickly

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After any amount of time away from practicing, these are the exercises and ideas I go for to ease back into playing!

They’re the things I like to focus on first, and they're all about getting air flowing, finding my best sound, and building on success and ease.

I really notice that all of these help me feel warmed-up especially quickly!



More Tips for Finding Your Sound:

 
 

2018 Highlights + The Year's Top 5 Most Popular Posts

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2018 was a BIG year!

Two huge dreams came true:

  1. Becoming a full time teacher

  2. Making my dream flute a reality (I’m still in disbelief.)

Another big moment was getting the opportunity to teach a master class as a guest artist for the Texas Flute Society, along with presenting my own workshop for the first time: Effortless Playing Through Self-Awareness.

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With so many big changes came a lot of big challenges, especially…

  • adapting to a completely different lifestyle and schedule (and a lot more driving).

  • pausing to re-learn a new instrument after 12 years of adapting to one that’s very different.

  • dealing with imposter syndrome.


After reading last year’s review, I was reminded that after last year, I felt that I had finally reached the top of the rut I’d been in and was able to see out.

It wouldn’t have been possible for me to handle these things last year, I wouldn’t have been ready!

I can say with certainty that I feel more resilient now, and I’ve been able to work through these challenges with a lot more self-compassion that I might’ve in the past.

This year brought heartache, too. An unexpected loss for my family taught me that you never know what can happen, so you have to live wide open and go for the big dreams no matter what.


What I Learned:

  • I learned to be more self-forgiving and stopped being so hard on myself because I deserve self-compassion no matter what’s going on around me.

  • I learned what motivation really is, and how empowering it is to take action when you don’t feel like it.

  • I learned how to enjoy what is uncomfortable and challenging, and a whole lot about self-trust.

  • I learned to be more self-aware outside the practice room - monitoring my thoughts and energy and finding calm and freedom a lot faster. (Especially while driving alone, when my thoughts are free to roam!)

  • I became a much better practicer. Last year was all about improving a little bit each day - this year, I really leaned into enjoy practicing and found myself luxuriating in it more!


2019 Goals:

  1. Fail More

    I could’ve failed a lot more.

    I faced formal rejection maybe 3 times, and I learned that I’m less afraid of failing than I am of succeeding.

    With greater resilience this year, I can rack up more failures and take more risks!


  2. be deliberate

    I learned a lot about what it means to be deliberate this year, especially with practicing thanks to the Mind Over Finger Podcast + Modacity App Practice Challenge!

    I have TONS of choices every day, and I have the power to choose exactly what will fulfill me and inspire those around me - or not.

    I can use intentions to be deliberate in the practice room, but especially outside the practice room.

    I also have a renewed sense of self-trust, and can move forward without paralyzing fear.


  3. protect My Energy

I get to choose what gets my attention, and I have the power to remove my attention from anything that doesn’t serve me.

So this coming year, I can continue to utilize that power to respect my own energy.

I have a better developed sense of mindfulness, and I can choose to be in the moment. In the moment, I’m alone in a peaceful room, and I’m enough.

In my head and on my screen, I’m in a loud world full of others’ energy. I can continue to do more to separate the two and lessen the mental clutter.


Top 5 Most Popular Posts of 2018


Thank you for the support and inspiration this year! Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year filled with joy, laughter, and lots of discoveries!

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The Power of Choosing Enjoyment Over Fear

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Life Update: I’ve become a podcast person.

 

I hadn’t listened to many podcasts until recently, but I have a few early morning commutes and decided to use my time in the car to soak up knowledge and inspiration.


(P.S. Leave your podcast recommendations in the comments!)

 

Mind Over Finger

I started with the Mind Over Finger Podcast by Dr. Renée-Paule Gauthier, and I’ve since listened to every episode. I love her interviews focused on mindful, efficient practice and techniques, and I’ve gathered a lot of inspiration to shake up my own practice.

 

One of the more recent episodes was with Marc Gelfo of Modacity. I’d heard of the Modacity Practice App earlier this year, but I hadn’t fully jumped in to using the app.


Marc has a fascinating background and vast knowledge on the science of learning and improving, which he based the app’s features around. After hearing him talk about it, I had to try it!

 

Mind Over Finger and Modacity teamed up to host a Mindful Practice Challenge for the month of November, and I was just too intrigued to NOT jump in!

 

Your Language Matters!


The biggest revelation of the week came from Dr. Gauthier’s thoughts on watching and noticing the language you use surrounding your goals and practice sessions. Notice opportunities to be self-compassionate. She also stressed that we can decide to have fun!

 

Something clicked in me, and I went swapped out a word in my goals to:

ENJOY.

 

I switched

“I will practice my high register tapers every day”

to

“I get to enjoy high register tapers every day.”

Then I practiced.

 

And while I did, I continuously re-played the word “ENJOY” in my mind, and you know what?

I felt far less pressure to be perfect, and started taking myself less seriously.

 


It allowed me to be imperfect without losing faith in myself, and from there, I could build on success rather than dread.

 

Lo and behold, I was enjoying myself!

 

It’s almost absurd that deciding to enjoy myself was the lightbulb moment of the week. It even felt RADICAL to choose enjoyment!


The next day, I started thinking about practicing and told myself: “I should really practice now.” It became clear to me that fear and pressure were growing in this moment.

This is where it starts to happen. I’m aware now, so I can decide on something else:

 

I re-framed my statement to “I get to enjoy practicing my instrument now!” and jumped up and dove in with ease and excitement!

 

Reflection

 

  • How many days have I felt pressure before and during practicing vs. the number of days I allowed myself to enjoy it? 

  • I don’t have to wait for permission to enjoy, I’m worthy of enjoyment right now!

  • I get to decide to enjoy myself every time I practice!

 




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How Wobbly Trills Led Me to a Revelation About Flute Stability

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While teaching a student recently, we noticed that certain trills had a tendency to cause the flute to wobble on her face.

I asked her how much her left hand was anchoring the flute onto her chin - she was using as much left hand anchoring as possible, but the wobble was still happening, especially during the right hand trills.

Later that week while practicing with a mirror, I noticed something similar happening to myself.

No matter how much I anchored with the left-hand-to-chin balance point, there were still some finger patterns that caused the flute to move on my face.

Just like my student, it was especially the right hand finger movement that was bouncing the flute.

I realized then that when my fingers closed the keys, they were also pushing the whole flute down, and my right thumb was doing nothing to counter the motion.


My right thumb doesn’t operate a key, so I had forgotten that it has an important job!


I decided to push up with the right thumb to counter the motion, and BOOM. Stable trills.

It seems so simple now, but the effort level of the right thumb just wasn’t something I was taking note of in this way before. 

At our next lesson, I instructed my student to “push the right thumb up” to counter the motion of the fingers closing keys in the right hand, and it made all the difference in her wobbly trills!

Not only has this helped trills, but it’s helped finger technique in general!


  • Do you notice the action of the right thumb while playing?

  • What is it like to trill with the right hand while bringing the right thumb closer to the tube?

  • What is it like to bring the right hand forward and up toward the tube?

  • How much effort is necessary to maintain stability, and is it needed at all times?



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Life-Changing Productivity Tools for Overwhelmed Musicians

The past few months have required me to really step up my own systems of productivity, efficiency, and self-care to feel effective, balanced, and inspired.


I’ve been on the hunt for tools and resources to help me feel energized and productive.

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Below are the most life-changing ideas that I’ve implemented into my routine.


1. Morning Pages

Morning Pages originates from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.

In her own words, Morning Pages are:


“...three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page...and then do three more pages tomorrow.”


Essentially, this brain dump first thing in the morning allows me remove the mental clutter that could lead to an anxious day. This also provides me with a chance to remove the mental to-do list that I allow to live in my head and overwhelm me throughout the day.


The most important part of Morning Pages for me comes after the To-Do list dump - Writing out goals, affirmations, wins, and gratitude.


(Too often, the only things we think about are “to-dos” and “shoulds.” Try writing down what you're already crushing and give yourself credit before moving ahead with the day, and see what changes!)


2. Calendar Blocking > To-Do List

I have a confession - I’ve relied too heavily on Post-It notes to hold onto important dates, to-do list items, and scheduling changes...and sometimes, I lose them...which adds stress.

I finally made the switch to a Google Calendar a couple months ago so I could have a fully up-to-date schedule in my hand and on my laptop at all times, and I am so happy I did.


Amy Landino’s YouTube channel is full of inspiring content about productivity, and her video called “Get More Done With Calendar Blocking” confirmed that I absolutely needed to start using a Google Calendar - not just for my schedule, but for my to-do list.

She says that your to-do list means nothing if it doesn’t have a scheduled time and place in your day to make it happen, and Google Calendar makes it easy to block out time for everything you need and want to do.

Being a visual person, (and one that is THRILLED to color-code anything and everything), this has been life-changing.


3. Remove Physical Clutter


In my search for productivity inspiration, I found myself watching “Decluttering Videos” on YouTube. (Watching YouTube is sometimes the opposite of being productive, but not this time!)

The 10-Drawer Cart from Michael’s has been a game-changer for music piles! Finding the right system makes all the difference!

The 10-Drawer Cart from Michael’s has been a game-changer for music piles! Finding the right system makes all the difference!

Watching other people go through rooms in their homes, getting rid of things they don’t need anymore, and having their spaces professionally organized motivated me to immediately get up and purge my own closet. (I ended up donating 7 trash bags worth of clothes and shoes.)


Then, I purged the Flute Room and completed cleared out my closet and shelves. (I removed at least two trash bags worth of old paperwork and things that I haven’t touched or unpacked since moving out of Florida!)

Removing the physical clutter renewed my energy and made me feel 20 pounds lighter. Less physical clutter means less mental clutter which means more energy and clarity for better things!

From there, it led me to understand how important it is to have the right systems in place for staying organized. Only have what you need and love, and have a system that makes it simple to stay organized - everything needs a home, otherwise it becomes clutter! (Especially paper!)


4. The 5-Second Rule



I saved the best for last.


The most important thing I’ve learned is that when we’re in a struggle to achieve the things we want, we can sabotage ourselves by overthinking and waiting for motivation.


According to Mel Robbins, if we have an impulse to do something, we have exactly 5 seconds to marry the impulse with an action before our brain talks us out of it and we betray the impulse.


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“The 5 Second Rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.

The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule.

When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.”


Read more here!


The act of counting down backwards from 5 shakes up the thought-betrayal process and changes your brain to help you take action rather than second-guess!


The 5-Second Rule has made it possible to change my habits and overcome motivation and dread issues, and the more I take action in the moment, the less mental clutter I have weighing me down.


Impulses that I Did NOT Betray Because of the 5-Second Rule:

  • Practicing

  • Answering emails before they pile up

  • Doing the dishes

  • Taking the trash out

  • Anything related to cleaning and being tidy

  • Getting out of bed without snoozing

  • Writing this post

  • Even issuing compliments to strangers!



Do it now, do it anyway, don’t wait to feel like it. 5-4-3-2-1-GO!


Mel Robbins’s Famous TEDxTalk explaining self-sabotage and the 5-Second Rule:



How do you stay organized?

What tools or ideas have changed your perspective on productivity?



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Effortless Projection: Wide Back, Soft Front, Free Sound

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This past week, I decided to pull out Fiona Wilkinson's book, The Physical Flute: Creative Techniques for the Development of Tone, Vibrato, and Pitch Control for some fresh perspectives during my warm-up.

 

Reading through the first page, I was committed to approaching my physical self before making any sounds.


Finding Spring-Like Poise from the Ground Up

 

The first part is called, The Body - Alive and Well.

She provides thoughtful descriptions for taking a look at the body from the ground up to find areas that can be un-stuck and better aligned for a rich sound:

 

Here are the specific words that jumped out while I slowly processed:

 

Legs:

  • "Elastic Knee Joints" - Not Locked

  • "Feel the life in your legs."

Hips: 

  • "Lift your weight off your pelvis, elongate the sides of the torso."

Back:

  • "Draw your weight up from the floor creating a feeling of length and width in the back."

  • "Imagine as much space between the shoulder blades as you can while remaining relaxed."


Freeing the Torso for Effortless breathing

 

Whenever I digest thoughts like these on physical ease and balance, there's always a reminder in there that helps me re-discover ease in a new way each time. (And it never gets old!)

 

This time, it was the thought about lifting weight off the pelvis and life in the legs.

 

Freeing the hip joints:

 

Following the instructions from the ground up, I took a moment to balance at the knees, finding that place where the thigh muscles release their grip and the legs feel both free and stable, with the weight moving straight into the floor via the feet. 

 

I moved up towards the hips as she instructed, tilting the pelvis on top of the legs and observing.

I noticed just how connected the movements of my knees, hips, and back are:

 

  • When I tilt the pelvis to lift weight off of it, there's a resultant effort felt in my lower back and the core muscles - they begin to grip.
  • If I bend the knees first, I can find freedom in the lower back and abdomen. If I then bring the knees into balance while remaining free in the back and abs, I can then find movement at the hip joints without adding back/core tension.

 

 

The Result

 

As I began to play, I noticed that this felt different than normal:

 

From here, the torso was finally balanced on top of the pelvis and delivering weight through the legs effectively. 

 

I normally have more effort and holding in my torso when I'm not balancing the pelvis on the legs like this!

 

Enjoying the ease of the back, I could effectively let the shoulder blades remain wide and free, and I felt a wonderful ease and length for the arms as I continued to play. 

 

Breathing became easy and not forced, and I could feel that my abdominal muscles weren't engaging with the breath as they often do!

 

Free, wide back. soft front.


Connecting the Back to the Whole

    he latissimus dorsi connects at:

    • Spinous processes of T7 – L5 vertebrae.
    • Iliac crest of sacrum.
    • Inferior angle of the scapula.
    • Lower three or four ribs.

    The first 60 seconds of this video demonstrate an important connection between the back and the arms. He points out how large the latissimus dorsi is, and part of its functioning in moving the arms. Its connections to the spine and lower ribs mean it's involved in our breathing movements, too!

     

      The latissimus dorsi:

      • Adducts the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
      • Medially rotates the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
      • Extends the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.

      Life in the Legs

       

      Finding Power via the Legs: Soft Front, Strong Back (of the legs)

       

      After all of this, I was playing with more awareness on my back than on the front of my body. I normally direct a lot of focus on the front of the body, always watching the abdominal muscles to see if they're gripping, because I know I want them to stay free to breathe and resonate well.

      With my awareness on the back, the front just remained natural without having to tell it to. (!!)

       

      I went back to the idea about "Life in the Legs."

       

      I know that effortless projection comes from ease and coordination of the whole self, depending on the ability to feel supported by space and the floor below.

       

      Having the knees and pelvis aligned well, I noticed a different presence for the back of my legs while playing. (Normally, I don't notice the back of my legs at all, especially if my knees aren't in balance - they're just not a part of my awareness while playing!)

       

      I imagined a sense of power and projection stemming from the support of my legs while playing.

       

      This instruction led me to a full, embodied sound that was projecting from below and behind me into space. I felt free and effortlessly powerful. No forcing anywhere. Front remained soft. (!!!)


      "Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart" -  Braving the Wilderness  by Brené Brown

      "Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart" - Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

      The Takeaway

       

      Awareness of the back led me to the feeling of being supported by the space behind me - I was no longer forcing or squeezing in the abdomen or shrinking into a smaller space. I was projecting with easy via soft front, wide back, supported legs.

       

      We don't project with ease by becoming smaller, we soften into space: Occupy all of your space!

       


      Intentions

      "Wide Back"

      "Weight off of pelvis"

      "Arms lighten and lengthen from the lower back"

      "Elastic knees, supported by the back of the legs"

       

      Sources:

      Get Body Smart: Attachments & Actions of the Latissimus Dorsi

      AnatomyZone: Back Muscles in a Nutshell



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      Inspiration for Sound, Presence + Repertoire: YouTube Playlists for Flutists

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      A while back, I shared my favorite recordings for listening inspiration. Today, I wanted to share my favorite YouTube videos!

       

      (Click here to open that in another tab for after this post!)

       

      I'm often referring my students to listening inspiration on YouTube, so I've created several public playlists on my channel to share and constantly update with my own personal favorites.


      The benefit of videos is that we have a chance to observe and absorb the physical presence of some of our favorite artists.

      • Are they grounded and easy?
      • How do they interact with their collaborators or the audience?
      • How do they bow and enter and exit the stage?

       

      While most of these artists have exceptional poise, I have a separate playlist dedicated to a few examples of refined poise, effortlessness, and commanding or captivating stage presence.

       

      These examples may have higher quality video or angles that showcase the artist as they play, so we can observe things like eye contact with the audience, interactions with collaborators, elegant movements and effortless breathing, remaining grounded while floating up and out into the space... and so forth.


       

      Try On Inspiration

       

      As I mentioned in my favorite recordings post, we can try on a sound and find new possibilities when we listen to high quality recordings.

       

      We can do the same thing with videos - try on a presence, movement pattern, or stance.

      What is it like?


      YouTube Playlists

       

      Click the image or button below to head on over to my YouTube Channel to find my created playlists, or go directly to each playlist via the links below! 

       

      I'll be continuously updating and adding to these lists, and would love to hear some of your favorites or suggestions in the comments below!



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