Reflections on IWBC 2019

Hi everyone! This is Kate Amrine 🙂

It’s been about a month since the International Women’s Brass Conference and I’m trying to get back into regularly blogging so here are some thoughts and reflections on my time at IWBC.

I was there to play on a few recitals. On Thursday May 23rd, I played a solo recital of music from my upcoming album: This is My Letter to the World – featuring new music inspired by politics and social concepts. Here are two clips from my recital:

On Thursday I also played on a recital with my group, eGALitarian, where we played music by Jennifer Higdon, Ethel Smyth, Megan Dejarnett, Jessica Meyer, Brianna Ware, and Joan Tower. I also joined my colleague JoAnn Lamolino for Rite of Spring for 2 trumpets on Friday. Here are two excerpts from Rite:









Favorite parts:

  • Huge variety of presentations
  • Warm weather of Arizona and beautiful environment
  • Hanging in the Airbnb with my group
  • Meeting other brass players I know tangentially from social media
  • Amazing performances and workshops

Least favorite parts:

  • Dry air = bad environment for my lips to feel comfy when playing
  • Hard to juggle practice time and seeing every presentation
  • Switching between some of the further rooms and missing the beginning of presentations

And now for some more controversial opinions / real talk: The concerts were all amazing, but there were definitely some I enjoyed more than others. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that several of the pieces by women that my group was playing, as well as many pieces by women that I hadn’t heard of, were sprinkled throughout the program on other group’s concerts. Especially for those attending the conference who may not live in a big city or attend a big conservatory that is in tune with diversity in programming, this is a big moment and opportunity to expose the audience to music by women+ composers.

However, I was unfortunately surprised that several groups – including some of mostly men – chose to play programs of all-male and all-white composers. Several years ago (and for literally hundreds of years) this wasn’t a big concern in the music world. Even now, most people attending or looking at a concert program may not even realize when the composers are all men. I don’t think it should be a requirement for IWBC to have groups with a diverse program or only accept these sorts of groups. That sort of restriction might limit ensembles from picking the music that is most accessible to perform in terms of acquiring the parts and the music being of the appropriate level. However, I do believe though that moving forward the change has to come from the soloists and groups themselves to make it a priority to find pieces by composers of color and women+ composers. All of the performers and presenters at the conference have the opportunity to create the sort of positive change that will benefit women in many facets of the music world, and it was tough to see these opportunities repeatedly overlooked and passed over. Without attempts to create a more diverse environment both for the musicians and the music itself, we will continue to program the same composers and not propel the future of brass music forward in any way.

Interview with Bria Skonberg – Jazz Trumpeter and Vocalist

Bria Skonberg headshot

New York based Canadian singer, trumpeter and songwriter Bria Skonberg has been described as one of the “most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation” (Wall Street Journal). Recognized as one of 25 for the Future by DownBeat Magazine, Bria Skonberg has been a force in the new generation with her bold horn melodies and smoky vocals, and adventurous concoctions of classic and new.

Brass Chicks: As a trumpet player and vocalist in the jazz world, you have developed a unique voice covering many jazz styles. How has being a vocalist informed your brass playing, and vice versa?

Bria Skonberg: I loved singing as a young girl but honestly was too shy to do it openly. Playing trumpet helped me gain confidence to sing in front of people. Learning lyrics has been such a benefit for learning melodies and I often embellish my vocals the same way I would on the horn.

BC: Have you faced any specific challenges related to being a woman in jazz? If so, how have you seen them evolve over the course of your career and how have you confronted them?

BS: I think if I was to compare the benefits to challenges of being a woman musician they would even out; If I’ve lost opportunities I’ve gained others. I do think there’s a higher expectancy for you to perform well so you have to make a strong first impression and opening musical statement. Confidence is key and something I have had to work on, but it’s worth knowing how to “fake it ’til you make it”. Stand up tall, hold your bell up and put that air through the horn!

BC: Tell us about your new album and collaboration with Pledge Music. Why did you choose to use that platform and what has been your experience with it?

BS: I wouldn’t recommend anyone get involved with Pledge right now because they are not paying out to their artists, myself included. I chose that platform because I had a successful experience with them two albums ago. They have a sizeable database to attract new audiences and you don’t have to make your financial ask public which I prefer.  I am frustrated but will deliver what my Pledge community has ordered no matter what happens.

BC: What do you have coming up? What are you looking forward to this year?

BS: Despite the Pledge experience, I have an awesome new album recorded of mostly original music, and I’m currently figuring out how to release it. I’ve been on both ends of the label spectrum – from very independent to major – and I just want to find a good fit, but keep an eye out for that in the Fall. 😉 I’ve had a regular band for over a year now and I’m looking forward to growing more with them, visiting new places and trying new foods! I love meeting new people so that’s always a plus. I’m doing increasingly more work with students of all ages and love the workshop environment. I’m the Artist in Residence in Cape May this year and I direct a jazz camp for adults in Manhattan (nyhotjazzcamp.com) which culminates with a festival (gothamjazzfestnyc.com). I have an all female large ensemble called Sisterhood of Swing that honors the International Sweethearts of Rhythm which is a fun and meaningful project where I’m also learning a lot, and I’m developing educational activities for teaching artists at the Louis Armstrong House Museum. I’ll be part of the Monterey Jazz Festival Touring Band March/April which will be such a good experience playing with Melisa Aldana, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Christian Sands, Jamison Ross and Yasushi Nakamura.  I’m looking forward to practicing more and becoming a better trumpet player. 🙂

BC: Is there anything you wished you had known as a student or young professional that you know now? Any advice that you’d like to share with younger female musicians? Do you see any specific challenges for musicians in today’s climate?

BS: Work hard, stay humble. Surround yourself with people that challenge and inspire you. Have patience and discipline. Be prepared to do it all yourself. Embrace the uncomfortable because that’s where the learning happens. Respect yourself and present yourself accordingly. The challenges are focusing and prioritizing what is important, necessary, and urgent. I think the best thing for me was that there were always female trumpeters in my classes so I didn’t think I was special. Be your own personal best.

BC: Are there any resources you recommend (books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life, or similar)?

BS: I actually listen to a lot of stand up comedy or story inspired podcasts like This American Life and Radio Lab. It helps me not take things too seriously and learn more about humanity which informs my music. I’m reading Swing Shift right now by Sherrie Tucker which captures what female musicians had to deal with throughout the 1940s which is fascinating and frustrating. I’m super grateful to be living in this time where we can have discussions, honor the past and move forward together.  Thank you so much for instigating this with your blog! 🙂


Bio continued from above:

Noted as a millennial “shaking up the jazz world,” (Vanity Fair), Bria Skonberg has played festivals and stages the world over, including New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, and over a hundred more. She recently performed the Star Spangled Banner at Madison Square Garden for an NHL game. Originally from the small town of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Bria studied jazz and performance at Capilano University in Vancouver while balancing a full road schedule with two bands. After graduating, she traveled extensively, performing in China and Japan and throughout Europe. When she wasn’t traveling, Bria was honing her chops with Dal Richards, Vancouver’s King of Swing. Playing BC Place Stadium at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver capped off this exciting period, with Bria featured at the Paralympics opening ceremony for over 50 000 people. Seeking new challenges, Bria moved to New York city in September of 2010. Upon arrival she went to jam with friends in Washington Square Park and an hour into playing world renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis stopped to listen. He gave her a thumbs up.

In 2012, Bria released So Is The Day (Random Act Records). That collection showcased a developing flair for original songs and new takes on standards with notable players like Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines and Ulysses Owens Jr. and included a duet with John Pizzarelli. So Is The Day received rave reviews from critics; “while tipping a hat to tradition, [So Is The Day] appropriately pushes Bria Skonberg to the forefront of today’s musical talents” (All About Jazz). In 2015, following her second album Into Your Own, Skonberg received the distinguished Jazz At Lincoln Center Swing Award. Further accolades include Best Vocal and Best Trumpet awards from Hot House Jazz Magazine (2014-15, 2017), Outstanding Jazz Artist from the New York Bistro Awards (2014), DownBeat Rising Star (2013-17), and a nominee for Jazz Journalists Association Up and Coming Artist (2013).

Bria signed to Sony Music Masterworks’ OKeh Records in 2016 and released her debut LP, Bria, which won a Canadian JUNO award and made the Top 5 on Billboard jazz charts. She collaborated again with producer Matt Pierson, as well as multi-Grammy winner Gil Goldstein, for her second Sony album, With A Twist, released May 2017. Her music has garnered over 6 million streams online. 

She is an avid educator and supporter of public school opportunities, giving numerous workshops and concerts for students of all ages. Bria has been a faculty member at the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Camp (2008- present), Centrum Jazz Camp, performs outreach on behalf of Jazz at Lincoln Center and co-founded the New York Hot Jazz Camp for adults in 2015. She is currently working with the Louis Armstrong House Museum to develop educational activities, and is co-founder of the New York Hot Jazz Festival.


Five Trumpet Works by Living Women Composers

Ashley Hedlund is a multi-faceted trumpet player, educator, drill designer, and advocate for female musicians. Ashley has performed in a wide range of ensembles, from chamber music to large bands and orchestras, performing professionally with the Sandia Brass Quintet and the New Mexico Philharmonic. 

Bio continued at the end of the post.


In two weeks, I will be putting on my master’s recital, also known as “More Than Just Dead White Guys.” This performance will feature works by living women composers, with one work being the world premiere of a work I commissioned!

In two weeks, I will be putting on my master’s recital, aka “More Than Just Dead White Guys.” This performance will feature works by living women composers, with one work being the world premiere of a work I commissioned!

If you happen to be in the Albuquerque area, the recital will be held on the University of New Mexico campus in Keller Hall, on February 16, 2019 at 6:00pm Mountain Time. If you can’t attend but would still like to hear some of these works, a livestream will be available! You can head to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0wnhFp0fPU to view the livestream!

Anyways, onto the program:

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Interview with Kiku Collins – Pop, Jazz, and R&B Trumpet Player

Kiku Collins has established herself at the heights of pop, jazz and R&B. This former “Jersey Girl” followed music on a journey out of her small town to the Interlochen Center For the Arts, and from there, onto the biggest stages in the world. According to Jazz Journal International, “Ms. Collins plays trumpet and flugelhorn like a twenty-first century Miles Davis.”

Collins has performed with Beyonce, Michael Bolton, Jill Scott, Nick Lowe, Gloria Gaynor, Train, et al. She’s performed on the Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, at the White House for President Obama (twice), The Rachel Ray Show, The View, The World Music Awards, the Black Girls Rock Awards on BET many times, Ellen Degeneres, the Grammys (and many others),in addition to appearances at several international jazz festivals.

Collins boasts two recordings as a leader, to her credit. Innova Records said about her debut recording, “Here With Me” that “Kiku puts a flugelhorn to her lips and animals come to listen, it’s so sweet.” Her newest recording, “Red Light” showcases her unique abilities as composer, performer and producer and includes notable guest performances by Michael Lington and Al Chez. A third album is officially in the works.

Collins continues to keep a busy schedule as a performer and clinician for Getzen Musical Instruments and spends much of her time creating new music in her recording studio. Legendary trumpeter Mike Vax said of Ms. Collins,“Her phrasing, sound and lyricism remind me of great singers. For me, that is one of the best compliments that I could give to any trumpet player!”

Collins is also a cancer and lymphedema patient, and is actively involved with #Cancerland and other advocacy organizations. Until we have a cure, we have each other.


Brass Chicks: From working with Beyoncé to appearing on TV and in the White House, you are no stranger to high-profile gigs with and for important people. How do you manage your nerves and stay calm on stage during these performances?

Kiku Collins: I make sure that I’m prepared as much as possible. Learn the music inside and out, warm up, hydrate, and go from there. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is this – if I feel nervous, I tend to screw up. I like to use the energy in a more exciting way. I like to think of all of the people out there who are excited to hear music! And, I get to make some of it for them! What a privilege. Enjoy it and create happiness! I remember after my first White House gig, one of the band members congratulated me on one tune that I started on my own – out of the blue. He said he sat there nervously waiting for me to start, and breathed a sigh of relief when it came out right. I laughed at him and realized how funny it was that he was more nervous than I was. What I did was blow air through my flugel, which was cold at the moment, sing my first note in my head, and realize that I’d done it a handful of times during rehearsals without a problem. I was still a bit tense since I had no reference note or rhythm, only a very quick and quiet countoff, but The Obama’s were sitting mere feet away from me, waiting! What an opportunity!

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Five Things I’ve Learned from Going to Honor Bands

This Friday’s post was written by Phoebe Saboley, a high school-aged horn player with a number of band and orchestral experiences under her belt, on her experiences playing in honor bands.

Phoebe Saboley is a 16 year old horn player from Columbus, Ohio who has been playing for five years. With three national ensemble performances under her belt and her performance at Carnegie Hall at age 15, she is preparing for a future career in horn performance. With multiple experiences in honor bands around the Midwest, she hopes to share how she has been influenced as a musician and person. 

bio continued at end of post.

 

1. Conductors are an endless source of wisdom and inspiration.

I’ve participated in a lot of honor bands during my three years of high school so far, and as a freshman, I used to be intimidated by the conductors and scared to ask them questions. It wasn’t until OMEA All-State Band last year when I learned that by not talking to them during breaks when I had the chance, I was missing out. Our conductor that year was a retired high school band director, which was abnormal because they are normally college professors. However, he had countless inspirational stories about the struggles he dealt with in his life and how he always turned to his students and music to continue remaining optimistic.

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Five Apps for the Busy Freelancer

by Marina Krickler

Marina Krickler is a sought-after musician and educator throughout New England. Hailed for her “soaring… warmly played” solos (Boston Classical Review), she performs extensively with many of the region’s ensembles.
Currently Fourth Horn with the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra and the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, she has also performed with A Far Cry, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. In addition, she has appeared with the period ensemble Grand Harmonie. Ms. Krickler is the co-founder of Andromeda Quintet, a brass chamber ensemble dedicated to creating adventurous listening experiences for audiences of all ages. Her recent solo work includes performances with Haffner Sinfonietta, and Symphony Nova.

See the end of this post for a longer bio.


As someone who’s primarily self-employed, I’m always looking for ways to improve the quality and quantity of my work. Whether that means making more efficient progress in the practice room, becoming a better educator, or balancing an often-unbalanced lifestyle, here are my top 5 app picks:  Continue reading

Five Things I’ve Learned about Freelancing

by Kate DeVoe

See the end of this post for Kate’s bio.

When I first entered the freelance world after college over a decade ago I had… a lot to learn. College prepared me musically but there were plenty of other things I learned as I went. I learned a lot from trial and error, which I know was good for me because… character or something like that. I’m still learning and I don’t have all the answers, but I think that younger version of me would have really appreciated a post like this.

1. Remember that networking is just getting to know people. When I was younger the word “networking” made my skin crawl. The idea of networking seemed so foreign to me—like perfecting the art of selling yourself. I’ve since come to learn that networking is just taking the time to get to know people and let them get to know you. It’s connecting with each other. I really enjoy connecting with others so this change in perspective was huge for me. Continue reading

Interview with Mary Galime, Artist Manager and Product Specialist for Denis Wick USA

Mary GalimeA trumpet performer for over 20 years, Mary Galime has enjoyed the last 10 years of her career back home in Chicago. In addition to her performance schedule in the Chicagoland area and Alliance Brass Quintet, Mary is part of the marketing department with  Dansr, Inc., the North American importer of Denis Wick and Vandoren products. As the Artist Manager and product specialist for Denis Wick USA, as well as a Denis Wick Artist herself, Mary works together with performing artists, teachers, students, schools, and businesses, striving to promote music performance and education in communities across the nation.

Interview

Brass Chicks: Tell us about what you do! How did you get involved with Dansr/ Denis Wick?

Mary Galime: I went to school determined to become an orchestral musician. I received both my bachelors and masters degrees in music performance. The year after I finished my graduate degree at DePaul University, I started freelancing, teaching, performing with a brass quintet, and playing with a competitive British style brass band, Chicago Brass Band. The brass band and brass quintet won my heart, and suddenly I realized that playing in an orchestra was not what I really wanted to be doing. Since a career in chamber music did not seem lucrative enough to cover the bills, I found a job running a local music store. One of our distributors was Dansr, Inc, North American distributor for Denis Wick Products and Vandoren. I had met one or two of their reps and at the time I decided I did not want to run a music store any longer, a sales position was opening at Dansr, Inc. Working with Denis Wick, and Dansr, gave me great people to work with, and really expanded my understanding of the music industry. And as the icing on the cake, gave me plenty of flexibility to continue a trumpet performance career on the side. Though I started in sales, I later became the Denis Wick Artist Relations manager, and Event Coordinator. A couple years ago I took over the marketing responsibilities/product specialist in addition to managing the Denis Wick Artist Group.  Continue reading

Five Movies about Women Who Kick Brass

By Rebecca Epstein-Boley

It may be different where you all are, but where I am right now in Michigan, the air is beginning to cool down and leaves are just beginning to fall from the trees. It is the midway point of my academic semester and I’m beginning to need a mental break from all my work. There is only one reasonable response to these circumstances: movie night!

For anyone else who will be having a night in, I share this list of five films featuring influential women who play brass:

1. Everything but Oom-Pa-Pa (Original German: Kein Zickenfox)

This film tells the story of the Frauenblasorchester Berlin, the largest women’s wind band in the world. Discussing the women in the band’s personal lives as well as the music they perform, this documentary is an inspiring celebration of the power of women who come together to make music.  Continue reading

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