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.

2. Be nice

We may all be tired at the end of the day on our last thing but legitimately caring about what your colleagues did today or have coming up is such a great way to create a positive working environment. Ask about someone’s day and/or pay someone a compliment! You’ll feel better and they will too. Of course all of the other usual nice gestures also apply!

3. Be flexible

Sometimes rehearsals start late, end late, get rescheduled, or involve slightly inconvenient things like needing to switch rooms or bring a stand. Learn to bring a book or something extra to do if you know you may have time to kill. Practice being patient in uncomfortable situations – instead of wanting to complain out loud to the person next to you, think about how grateful you are for the opportunity to perform in this instance and have the opportunity to work on these tough skills.

While things like rehearsal order or type of chairs can change all of the time in a standard freelancing scene, nothing will make you more flexible than learning to be a good colleague on the road. Being on tour can really bring out the best and worst in people, especially when exacerbated by unfamiliar situations, lack of sleep, and irregular schedules. Of course sometimes things happen that can be incredibly frustrating and debilitating, but trying to be flexible and understanding in these situations will make you a great colleague that people love to be around.

4. Be fun

Here’s your chance to be the person with lots of jokes – assuming it is the right time to tell them 😉 and not in the middle of a rehearsal…. Be the kind of person people enjoy being around. Maybe you can easily make light of difficult situations and always have something positive to say. These people are amazing and I always appreciate when someone is enjoyable to be around, in addition to being a great player. Invite people out to drinks or dinner after rehearsal. How can you show people that you are a great person to be around in addition to being a great player?

5. Be extra

Feel inspired to bring some homemade baked goods to rehearsal? Why not. What else can you do that is going above and beyond what is expected of you? Not many people are consistently going the extra mile so this is a great opportunity for YOU to do something and see what happens. This could even be something small like setting up the room for a chamber rehearsal before everyone arrives. It isn’t about doing more in the hopes of being immediately recognized /praised but more about the long term and continuing to create a better environment for yourself and those around you.

How do you work on being a better colleague? We would love to hear! Reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram 🙂

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.

2) Keep practicing.

To stop practicing altogether is one of the worst things you can do for yourself right after you get braces. It prolongs the adjustment process, and ultimately makes everything more frustrating because if you are not practicing you are not getting better.

3) Don’t forget why you play!

One of the biggest struggles for me was that I no longer sounded good, therefore I no longer wanted to play at all. This is a terrible mentality to have and emphasizes one’s talent as opposed to enjoying music. It took me months to remember ehy I enjoyed playing and how I felt expressing my emotions through the horn. It was a big wake up call for me, and motivated me to practice again.

4) Breaks

A big problem with braces (who are we kidding, one of many) is that they create lots of cuts in your mouth, which is really annoying when you play an instrument constantly pressing into your mouth. To prevent this, small but frequent breaks can do wonders, and you will thank yourself later.

5) Medicine

I was always told to use wax (not a medicine but whatever), but I found wax to be the least helpful. Not only did it not stay, but it made it more difficult for me to play. Braces create more space between your lips and your teeth, which is what throws everyone off once they try to play after the braces are put on. Putting wax on top increases that space more, even if just a little bit. Personally, I just used lots of Ibuprofen for the pain and an ulcer medicine called Kanka to heal the cuts. Obviously there is no magic cure, but it did wonders for me. Even though it is difficult not to, try not to get discouraged! With patience and time, you will adjust to the braces and your playing will flourish once the braces come off. I wish you all the best of luck!

 

… Bio continued from above …

In high school, Alyssa was part of the jazz band, the orchestra, marching band, the pit orchestra, the Lancaster Youth Symphony, the Allegretto Youth Orchestra, and many more. Alyssa got braces in her junior year of high school, but was able to successfully overcome the transition to pursue her love for music. She is now studying Audio Music Production at Lebanon Valley College.

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.  

…..bio continued below post


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.

2. Breaking out of the box

Take the box of rules that most educational institutions pass on to youth and throw it away. As a society we are told to just pass the tests, rack up the student loans and get the degrees. An education in the arts is a lot more than text books and going through the motions. Allow yourself to be inspired by unconventional resources. Allow yourself to break the mold and carve your own path. Latch onto teachers, coaches and mentors that are out there doing or have done what you want to do. That is the best way to learn about performing and educating. Also, don’t wait to be ready to take the next step – JUST GO!

3. Making carbon copies

I’ve been a student of both music and circus arts. It’s funny how in each field there are instructors that feel the need to make exact carbon copies of themselves. You know the type – the ”my way is the only way you’ll make it” type. The truth is that physically and mentally none of us are identical. The path to success may be guided by great teachers but no one should be strong armed into completely replicated it. I once had a man that was 6’3 and about 200lbs tell me I had to phrase a piece of music exactly like him. Well, that would be delightful if my lungs went from my ear lobes to my knees. Don’t feel incapable if you come in contact with these people. The problem lies within their rigidity, not you.

4. From joy

It’s easy to get caught up in the politics and logistics of being a performing artist. There’s a lot of hustle to be had making a living in the arts but we must never lose sight of why we do it all. Music is a language greater than words. Whether you are teaching a beginner a Bb scale or hanging from the ceiling playing The Swan it must never escape us that what we do should be from a place of joy.

5. Living with the chick in the mirror

At the end of the day it comes down to living with your choices – that’s true of all things in life. Personally, I need to feel air under my feet and the horn on my face to feel completely fulfilled. I know that if I keep a steady diet of those two things that I’m doing my part to contribute to the world in a positive way. There are people that may think it’s ridiculous and insignificant but it makes me want to wake up every morning and keep going. That’s all that matters. Be proud of the choices that you make and walk your path confidently.

Bio continued:
In addition to her musical performances Julie Passaro Krygsman is a marching band advisor at Cresskill High School specializing in drum major/majorette and twirling disciplines. She also maintains a full private studio of trombone students. In 2011 Julie decided to combine her love of music and movement and began training on silks premiering “Jump in the Line”, an aerial act that features her playing trombone in the air accompanied by live musicians on the ground. She has since studied circus arts at Circus Warehouse in Long Island City, NY in the professional program with a concentration on silks, contortion and wire. Julie has performed on silks all over New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Connecticut as a freelance artist as well as with Heliummm Entertainment, Khris Dodge Entertainment, Braun Entertainment and Gramercy Brass Band.

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

Five Ways to Take Care of Yourself Before the Fall Semester Starts

Today’s post is written by our very own Kate Amrine who is gearing up for a busy fall semester of teaching and performing. We believe today’s post will appeal to all fellow Brass Chicks, regardless of  career status and direction. Enjoy!


Since the fall semester is around the corner, I thought this would be a great post to get everyone thinking about their preparation for the busier times of year. We all have our own idea of what taking care of ourselves means but hopefully this will broaden your perspective and help you reconsider what is best for your own preparation for the fall semester

1. Self Care

This is the one you probably most expected right? So self care isn’t just face masks and bath bombs… self care means taking action to improve one’s health. This could mean taking a vacation, journaling, developing a healthy morning routine, exercising, and so on. What can you do every day to be a healthier and happy person so you are in a better position to be a successful musician?  Continue reading

How My Ethnicity Has Shaped Me as a Musician

Chloe Louise Swindler is a Boston-based trumpet player. While growing up in Tucson, Arizona, she began her classical studies in trumpet at age 9. After joining the Tucson Philharmonia Youth Orchestra at age 13 and later competing in the ensemble’s concerto competition at age 16, Chloe was invited to perform the Haydn Trumpet Concerto with the orchestra. The next year, she performed the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto with the Arizona Symphonic Winds. After high school, she attended Boston University and studied under Terry Everson.

In addition to being classically trained in trumpet performance, Chloe began playing guitar in her freshman year of high school and has since composed more than fifteen songs for varying combinations of guitar, vocals, piano, trumpet, and ukulele. Here’s a link to her SoundCloud.  While attending Boston University, Chloe began to be more interested in jazz music. This led her to perform in various jazz combos as both a trumpeter and a vocalist. In the fall of 2015 during her study abroad in London, she was a part of both the Royal College of Music Big Band and Swing Band.

In January of 2017, the Boston University Dean of Students invited Chloe to perform an original song for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. A video of that performance can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3045&v=Y5_AKfdJTDQ. In this video, she references her thesis work on African-American female instrumentalists, more of which can be found here:  https://blackfemaleinstrumentalists.wordpress.com  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXokxxiPyBw

After graduating from Boston University, Chloe began her studies at the Yale School of Music and is currently beginning her final year of the program. In her first year of the program, she joined the Yale Jazz Ensemble on trumpet and was a featured vocalist during the 2018 spring concert series. For the upcoming academic year, Chloe will be joining the roster for the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass as an Associate Artist. As part of the tour, she will be performing in New York, Philadelphia, Texas, Arizona, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Iowa.


How My Ethnicity Has Shaped Me As a Musician

One week ago, I took a lesson with a trumpet player in a major symphony and they asked me a question that I wasn’t expecting: are you prepared to compete in a man’s profession? At first, I was taken aback and it wasn’t until I began writing this did I realize that my answer is decidedly – yes. In this open post, I’m going to weave together my thoughts on three topics: a man’s world, my research on black female instrumentalists, and community outreach.  Continue reading

Five Reasons to Pursue and Practice Experimental Techniques

This week’s Five Things Friday post was written by trumpet player and composer, Megan DeJarnett.

Megan DeJarnett HeadshotMegan DeJarnett is a Los Angeles-based composer-trumpeter who has spent her life in the thrall of a good story. Throughout her musical training, she has prioritized communication – the composer telling a story to the performer or audience through the score, the performer commenting on the music aurally or visually, and the audience’s response to a piece all figure prominently in her creative practice. Megan has dedicated herself to the creation and performance of new music, collaborating with composers around the world as a soloist and a co-founder of Phantom Collective, a student-run chamber brass ensemble at CalArts. She has premiered new works across the United States, including at the 2016 National Trumpet Competition, and has studied trumpet with Edward Carroll and Matt Barbier. Megan’s creative work focuses on bridging the gaps between composer, performer, and audience through physical, idiomatic, and textual means.

Megan holds a BM in Theory and Composition from Arizona State University and is currently in pursuit of her MFA in the Performer-Composer program at CalArts. She is constantly seeking out new collaborators; her work can be found at https://megandejarnett.com.


In my time as a composer and performer, I’ve met countless brass players who will gladly go up against Hindemith or Bruckner or Mahler and can multiple tongue until they’re dizzy, but who shy away from studying and improving their extended technique. And I can’t blame them! Extended and experimental techniques can be daunting to approach, especially when you’re not sure what you’ll get out of it in the long run. Below are five of my biggest reasons why extended technique is an invaluable addition to any brass performer’s practice:  Continue reading

Five Ways I Got Ready for My International Solo Debut

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. Selected past performances include performing two solos with orchestra in Japan, an off Broadway workshop of Duncan Sheik’s new musical “Alice by Heart,” a solo recital in Mississippi at the Music by Women Festival, a featured recital at the International Women’s Brass Conference, and a recital at the Women’s Composers Festival of Hartford. Upcoming performances include Rite of Spring for two trumpets, a solo show of music inspired by politics, and a tour with Mariachi Flor de Toloache.

Kate is also extremely dedicated to commissioning and performing new music, premiering over 30 pieces both as a soloist and a chamber musician. Her debut album “As I Am” was released in November 2017, featuring new music by women composers. Kate is also an active freelancer in New York City, where she performs in many different ensembles – from musical theater and Broadway to standard orchestra gigs and more. Kate is also very passionate about increasing diversity and representation in the women’s brass community. She is the co leader of the Brass Chicks blog and co leader of eGalitarian – an ensemble of women brass players playing music by women composers. As an educator, Kate enjoys teaching private lessons in her own studio and as an Adjunct Instructor at New York University.


I was inspired to write today’s post from seeing the feedback on some of my recent Instagram posts about my time performing and soloing with the orchestra in Japan the past two weeks.  I had a great time performing Torelli’s Concerto in D and Leroy Anderson’s A Trumpeter’s Lullaby. Out of our 4 concerts in Japan, I was performing one of these pieces (if not both), on 3 out of the 4 performances.  I wrote a little bit about my preparation and the process of putting it together and how I felt about the whole experience on Instagram but I figured a longer and more detailed version of these posts may resonate with people so here’s how I got ready for my international solo debut!  Continue reading