Five Post-Grad Lessons from Playing Trombone in College Marching Band

This week’s Five Things Friday post was written by Kristen Frank, an alumna of Lousisiana State University’s “Golden Band from Tigerland” who played the trombone in high school and college. She holds bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology with a minor in linguistics and an MS in psychology and currently currently teaches psychology at Baton Rouge Community College.

See the end of this post for Ms. Frank’s more complete biography.


The wand chooses the wizard, and the trombone chose me. Here are five things I have learned from playing since I graduated!

Ten years ago, I was in the 10th grade, my instrument of choice the flute. I loved it: It was pretty, small and lightweight, and the same instrument my aunt had played in her high school band. She had gone on to play piccolo in her college days, and I thought I would do the same. Two years later, however, my flute was sharing the stage (literally: my last concert in high school saw me switch back and forth at least twice, not to mention the jazz band sections) with the trombone. The trombone was big and awkward, and, at first, I couldn’t buzz, much less play, to save my life. A year later, though, I had gotten into my college’s marching band on trombone. This was amazing, given that I had basically taught myself and only been playing a year. It was tough: the hours were much longer than in high school—band camp itself was a week from about 8 am to 8pm—and I was in a section full of guys, which I was not used to. I grew to love my section-mates, however, and the next three years flew by. Now that I’ve been out of college for a while, some important lessons from that band and from playing the trombone stay with me: Continue reading

Five Things to Teach your Female Students about Jazz

This week’s Five Things Friday post was written by Marie Millard, trombone, founder of Sonoma Jazz Girlz.

Marie Millard received her music degree from Cal State Hayward in 1996 and began teaching elementary band and private trombone a year later. In 2016 she discovered that the all state high school honor jazz band that only had three girls in it when she participated in 1991 had even fewer girls in recent years, and she started Sonoma Jazz Girlz, a jazz improv class for junior high and high school girls. She plays with Awesome Hotcakes (awesomehotcakes.com) and blogs at halfthatjazz.com.

See the end of this post for Marie’s full-length bio.


1. Chord Spelling and Improv

Before I started teaching my jazz class, I emailed the jazz director at nearby Sonoma State University and asked what he thought were the biggest deficits in his incoming students. He mentioned two. The first was chord spelling (what notes are in each chord), which had already been my priority concerning what to teach. How many of my private students came to me playing the blues scale over anything and everything? And it’s a HARD habit to break. I would rather a student come to me knowing nothing about improvising than come to me knowing the blues scale! Continue reading

Building it Better: An Interview with Carol Jantsch

We are thrilled to have had the chance to interview Carol Jantsch, tuba! Carol is an incredible musician and, as her interview responses make clear, she is also a thoughtful, engaging person (with an astonishing number of projects going on)! Thanks to Carol for making the time to respond to these questions.

Praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer as having “a sound as clear and sure as it [is] luxurious,” Carol Jantsch has been principal tuba of The Philadelphia Orchestra since 2006. She won the position during her senior year at the University of Michigan, becoming the first female tuba player in a major symphony orchestra. In addition to her duties in the Philadelphia Orchestra, Ms. Jantsch is a renowned tuba soloist. She also teaches masterclasses internationally and is on the faculty at the Yale University School of Music and Temple University’s Boyer College of Music. See the end of this post for her full-length bio.

Interview

Brass Chicks: From ultimate frisbee to tuba throwing, marathon running to yoga, you have tried a broad variety of forms of exercise over the course of your professional tuba career. How have different kinds of athletic activity influenced or related to the way you play?

Carol Jantsch: Listing them all like that makes me seem a bit like a crazy person, which may in fact be the case—although I go rock climbing more often than tuba throwing these days! Playing any instrument is a physical endeavor, so staying generally active and healthy helps with ease of playing and longevity. Yoga has probably been the most applicable to brass playing for me, in that it teaches a higher level of bodily awareness and more specific muscle control.  Continue reading

Five Tricks for Handling Multiple Projects at Once

This Friday, we at Brass Chicks are feeling a bit overwhelmed. There always seems to be so much to do – and so little time to do it! Nonetheless, we (like many in the music field) do the work we do because we love it. Although the topic of this post is not as explicitly musical a subject as what we usually discuss here, these skills can be invaluable for musicians in the era of the portfolio career. The advice below might seem basic, but these steps, combined with a little discipline, can turn too many things to do into a road map to your next set of accomplishments. If you, too, are feeling the strain of juggling more responsibilities than you feel you can manage, we hope the following five tricks for handling multiple (or many) projects at once can help:

1. Make a List

This may seem obvious: we are all familiar the ubiquitous to-do list, and we all know how to make one. You probably enough lists every day that it feels like there’s nothing special about the medium. Even this post is a list! Additionally, to-do lists frequently fail and can cause stress. Nobody wants tons of uncompleted tasks hanging over her head!  Continue reading

Five Ways to be a Better Colleague

Today’s post is written by our very own Kate Amrine. Check out her bio on her site here.  

A passionate and creative performer, Kate Amrine is a prominent trumpet player balancing a multifaceted career from developing new repertoire and curating concerts to freelancing with many different groups in the New York City area. Recent performances include an off Broadway workshop of Duncan Sheik’s new musical “Alice by Heart,” an orchestra tour to Japan to perform Torelli’s “Concerto in D,” and Rite of Spring for two trumpets. Upcoming performances include several dates with new ensembles eGALitarian and Wavefield and more!


1. Be prepared

It is very important to have a strong handle on your performance before addressing any other aspects of being a successful musician and a good colleague. Have you practiced all of the music, written in any needed cues, and listened to multiple recordings when possible before your rehearsal? Are you showing up with all of the relevant mutes, pencils, and hard parts already figured out ahead of time? It is normal to want to ask the conductor or section leader a question about phrasing or something unclear in the part but often times these questions are things that could be figured out before the rehearsal over email or in person beforehand.  Continue reading

Five Things to Help Work Through the Challenge of Braces

Alyssa Richards is a trumpet player hailing from Southern Pennsylvania. She was raised by two very musical parents, and her favorite childhood memory is watching her dad direct his high school marching band. Inspired by him, she decided to learn the trumpet in the fourth grade. Alyssa knew from a very young age she wanted to study music, but it wasn’t until high school she took it seriously.


Braces are any brass players worst nightmare. When I got braces as a junior in high school, I was terrified. I was angry that the one thing I loved more than anything in the world was momentarily taken away from me, and I thought that my life was basically over. I was in multiple groups as a lead player and determined not to make a fool of myself. I forced myself to get better, working until I physically could not play (which is one thing I would not recommend) just so I could regain my playing abilities again. Unlike the readers here, I had nobody who understood to help my adjustment and I had to sort through a lot of bad advice. Here are five things to help you work past the challenges braces can create.

1. Return to the basics

Anytime you go through a major transition it is important to return to those long tones and technique exercises we so often avoid. I personally practiced exercise number 47 in the Arban’s method book every single day because it helped me rebuild a foundation for my upper register. This may have worked for me,but may not work for you, so do not be afraid to experiment with different exercises until you find one that works for you.  Continue reading

Five Things to Stop Stressing About and Start Appreciating as a Human and a Female Musician

Julie Passaro Krygsman is a musician and aerialist based out of the northern NJ/ NYC area. Julie has been playing trombone for over twenty years performing in various entertainment companies, orchestras, brass bands, quintets and concert bands including Imperial Brass, Music in the Air and the NJ Sackbut Ensemble.  

See the end of this post to read Julie’s full-length bio.

 


1. The substance of art

If you’ve ever suffered from imposter syndrome you’ve asked yourself “Why am I doing this in front of people. Am I a hack?” The origin of those questions is rooted in your passion. You care so deeply that you don’t want to do poorly at your craft. Take a moment and embrace that.  Continue reading

Five Popular Songs with Women Playing Brass

This week, we’re sharing a Five Things Friday post on the lighter side. How many of these songs have you heard before?

1. Beyoncé — Blow

Known for touring with an all-female band (Suga Mama), Beyoncé stayed true to form and recorded “Blow” with an all-female horn section: Katty Rodriquez, Adison Evans, and Crystal Torres.

2. Talking Heads — Blind

This 1987 single, written by David Byrne, is a “parody of partisan politics.” If you listen to the track closely, you can hear the work of Laurie Frink, trumpet!

3. Kool & The Gang — Good Times

This track from Kool & The Gang’s 1972 album by the same name includes the work of Sharon Moe, horn.

4. Radiohead — Codex

This 2008 track from Radiohead’s eighth album, The King of Limbs, includes the flugelhorn playing of Yazz Ahmed. (If you watch Westworld, you may recognize this song from the season 2 finale!)

 

5. Lorde — Sober (Vevo Series)

On the re-orchestrated, acoustic version of “Sober” Lorde recorded for Vevo at Electric Lady Sound Studios in New York, she featured three horn players: Rachel Drehmann, Jenny Ney, and Kaitlyn Resler!

Five Reasons Why Having a Baby Has Made Me a Better Musician

Kristina Mulholland is an active freelance French horn player and educator in the greater Philadelphia area.  Some of her recent performances have included Symphony in C, Riverside Sinfonia, Patriot Brass, and Opera Delaware.  In 2018, Kristina gave the Philadelphia premiere of Karl Stockhausen’s Nebadon.  Her teaching engagements have spanned from private instruction to large ensemble rehearsal, from summer camp to general music, and from preschool through college-aged students.  Ms. Mulholland received her Bachelors in Music Education from The College of New Jersey and her Masters and Artist Diploma in French Horn Performance from Temple University. Find out more about Kristina online at www.kristinamulholland.com.

Photo credit Ben Tran Photography


It all started when…

August 17th, 2017.  11:45am. After the initial intake process, including over an hour of trying to find a vein for an IV (one of the attempts literally bent the needle), it was time for the C-section of my breech baby.  

Doctor jokes to keep the mood light:

“So if your child marries and his wife has a breech baby it will be a son of a breech.”

“We don’t do the Cleopatra treatment to the operating room.”

“This will be the happiest day of your life.”  

And just like that, at 12:10pm, 9 pounds and 7 ounces changed my life forever.  It was the most terrifying, painful and longest day of my life. But it turned out the doctor was right, it was also my happiest.  

Then comes everyday real life…

New parents from all different career backgrounds know this feeling.  A major shift in identity happens when you suddenly have a new, vulnerable, beautiful being to care for.  A balance, compromise, redefinition of how things in life work happens in such a unique way for each person.  Its virtually indescribable.

I found this balance to be especially difficult to navigate as a musician, educator, and wife of a musician/educator.  Some of my personal internal struggles–How do I prioritize my family over teaching hundreds of other people’s children?  How do I balance practicing and caring for my child? How do I deal with the guilt and anxiety of leaving my child with a babysitter?  How do I balance income opportunities with childcare costs? How can I be the best version of myself for my family and my career? What matters most?

Just promise me you’ll keep playing…

This past year has not been easy but it has been worth it.  I often find myself reflecting on a moment that happened playing a gig a few months before having my baby.  An older gentleman came up to me after he found out I was pregnant and said, “just promise me you’ll keep playing.”  At first I was offended. Playing horn is such a large part of my identity. Who is this person to assume that I have chosen to completely abandon my career once the baby arrives?  Then I reminded myself that I am so incredibly fortunate to live during a time when, as a female, balancing a performance career and a family is even an option.

Five reasons why having a baby has made me a better musician…  Continue reading

Interview with Trumpet Player/Composer Nicole Piunno

IMG_7166.jpgNicole Piunno (b. 1985) is a composer who views music as a vehicle for seeing and experiencing the realities of life. Her music often reflects the paradoxes in life and how these seemingly opposites are connected as they often weave together. Her harmonic language and use of counterpoint mirrors the complexity of our world by acknowledging lightness and darkness, past and present, beauty and brokenness, confinement and freedom, chaos and order, spiritual and physical, life and death. 

Nicole holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition and a Master of Music degree in theory pedagogy at Michigan State University. Her composition teachers were Ricardo Lorenz and Charles Ruggiero. She earned a Master of Music degree in composition at Central Michigan University, studying with David Gillingham. She has also worked with Jason Bahr, David Ludwig, and Tony Zilincik. Nicole earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education and her emphasis was on trumpet.  Her music has recently been performed by the Principal Brass Quintet of the New York Philharmonic, Athena Brass Band, University of Akron Faculty Brass Quintet, and the Michigan State University Symphony Band. Her music has also been performed at the Orvieto Musica TrumpetFest in Orvieto, Italy, the OWU/NOW Festival of New Music, the Women in Music-Columbus concert, the SCI Student National Conference, and multiple International Trumpet Guild Conferences.

Nicole suffered an injury to her orbicularis oris during her fourth year at Ohio Wesleyan.  After completing a semester at the University of Michigan where she was pursuing an MM in trumpet performance, she left to have embouchure surgery.  She receives calls from brass players seeking advice on injury and the process of rehabilitation. She has overcome this surgery and rehabilitation process and now enjoys playing, teaching, and sharing her experience with others.

Brass Chicks: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. How did you get started as a composer?

Nicole Piunno: I love beauty and reality and I try to reveal those things through music. Continue reading