Five Things I’ve Come To Terms With While Pursuing a Freelance Tuba Career

Allison Lazur has explored various aspects of the arts, including work in the art of baking as well as life on stage as a performer. After obtaining a degree in the pastry arts from The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, Allison baked for five years at various outlets throughout the tri-state area. She returned to school in 2011 to pursue life as a tubist, graduating with a degree in Tuba Performance from the Hartt School in West Hartford, CT.

Allison enjoys an active freelance career by performing with several groups including The New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, Smiling Rhino Theatre and Chatham, New Jersey’s Community Players. In March 2015, she premiered a tuba concerto with the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra written by Charles Menoche at Central Connecticut State University. 

She is currently the instructor of tuba at Wesleyan University, while also keeping a small studio of private students. Her most recent endeavors include a 1920s Dixieland Jazz group, French 75, as well as currently being a member of the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra (HICO), which performs new music throughout the state of Connecticut.

1. Financially Filling in the Gaps

As a former pastry chef, promotional girl, retail worker, insurance biller and current journalist, I’ll admit I’ve worked several jobs unrelated to tuba to fill in the financial gaps. I’ve always struggled with the idea of dedicating focused time and energy to jobs unrelated to playing my horn. I have felt as though I was cheating on music by flirting with jobs that weren’t nearly as fulfilling as playing tuba, but paid the bills. I would dabble in one field, then switch to another and then another until landing in a profession I could tolerate or maybe even enjoy while also pursuing music. And I’ve decided this is okay! I have finally found a balance between having a steady, weekly paycheck and wholeheartedly continuing to pursue my tuba career. I’ve learned to accept that at the end of the day, as long as you’re pursuing your purpose, everything works out.

 

2. Creating gig opportunities

Tuba might be the least popular instrument in the brass world. There’s only one of us in an orchestra (maybe two, depending on the piece), most people have the misconception that the tuba is only used for “oom-pahs” and often times when someone imitates what a tuba sounds like there’s usually a demonstration mimicking flatulence of some sort. However, despite the misconceptions tuba players face daily, I love this instrument. I believe the tuba is one of the most important instruments in any ensemble. The tuba often lays the foundation for the rest of the group, but in other scenarios can truly act as the solo instrument. Because I see the value of the tuba in an ensemble, I will continue to convince others of its value. I have accepted that I will oftentimes have to convince the one calling the shots that a tuba is needed. I can recall one specific situation where I had discovered there were several parts not covered in the pit for the show Oliver. Although there’s no tuba book for Oliver, I convinced the conductor I could cover several parts from different books all on tuba. With a bit of planning and arranging on his part and mine, it worked!

Create opportunities. Don’t take no for an answer and convince people of your worth.

 

3. Staying active on all fronts is a full-time job

I think I often get so caught up with learning the music, I forget that showing up at concerts, meeting new people and maintaining an online presence are all so crucial to a successful freelance career. The dixieland group, French 75 (www.facebook.com/F75music), was founded only about 2.5 years ago by myself and the clarinetist of the group. And over these last 2.5 years, I’ve learned a ton about what it means to really stay active. Our facebook is crucial. If not regularly updated, we look as though we aren’t on top of things. Our recordings on youtube also hugely contribute to our online presence. Finally, just showing up to venues as a group, even if we aren’t playing helps those who are booking gigs remember us, like us and book us!

 

4. Female tubists deal with nonsense

I’ve accepted that when I show up for a gig there will probably be at least one comment made about being a woman and playing such a large instrument. I’ve also accepted that there’s probably more than one individual at said gig who has already decided how I play before they even hear a single note. Instead of verbally acknowledging the obvious – that yes, I am female and yes, the tuba is pretty large – I just play. I don’t foresee the stereotypes that are associated with being a female brass player being eliminated from the minds of some anytime soon. So at the end of the day, all we can do is play our best, always.

 

5. Reveling in the small accomplishments is crucial

It’s incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re one, lonely, little, tuba player practicing day in and day out, hustling, working multiple jobs, navigating social stigmas and sometimes unable to figure out what the next step is towards your goal. So instead of giving in to feelings of defeat, acknowledge the small achievements and revel in those achievements. Even if it’s just finally mastering five measures of music, revel in that. Five measures of pure gold coming out of your bell, means your five measures closer to your goal.

Interview with Sara McDonald

Sara McDonald is a vocalist/composer living in Brooklyn New York. She recently graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music with a degree in vocal jazz. Soon after graduation she went on to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and then headed to Germany to record this big band record. In February she was named the winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award.


1.Tell us about your band the NYChillharmonic and what you have coming up!

The NYChillharmonic is a 22 piece progressive-indie-jazz ensemble that I write, arrange/sing for and lead. Our next show is on August 2nd at National Sawdust! Some international touring is happening this fall as well and our next album will be out in ten years. (Joking)

2. You were recently named one of Brooklyn Magazine’s 30 under 30. You have this unique position of being the face of the band as well as the composer and cattle wrangler of all 22 people in the band. How do you keep track of everything as well as manage it with everything else you do in NYC?

I’m a control freak, which works very well when running a massive group. I’m also very bad at delegating. I like to do everything myself even when I know it’s killing me. Over time I’ve had to learn how to pace myself. Running a large band while maintaining other projects and working a fulltime job requires a lot of planning. When I first created this ensemble it was sort of a fun, sloppy mess. But the project grew and the level of musicianship rose, and I knew that I needed to treat the music and the musicians playing it with equal respect. I keep detailed lists of everything I need to do, and I stay in touch with people. With so many moving parts involved in my work, I have to keep tabs on everyone and everything involved. Also, over time, a natural order and flow sort of come into place. But I really do spend a lot of time sending emails and making phone calls.

3. How do you face the position of being a female brass player and a female band leader? Have you faced discrimination or difficulties in either of these roles, and how do you deal with it?

Fortunately I have never truly felt discriminated against in a professional setting because of who I am or what I play. People (men) make comments, jokingly and ignorantly. I was a vocal major in college but I’m also proficient on french horn and piano. Plus I write and arrange for ensembles of many shapes and sizes. So when someone questions my ability to actually play another instrument I just set them straight. This is NYC; anyone that manages to stick around and work for many years is probably good at more than one thing, or they’re just doing one thing a lot better than everyone else.

4. 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?

Forget about the doubts of others. Not everyone is going to understand your ideas the first time around and that is really ok. When I first began this project everyone was so quick to hit me with unsolicited advice. Granted some of it was completely legitimate – voicing chords better, learning easier-to-read notation tricks, etc. But a lot of it was and still is – “why does your band need to be this big?” Sometimes that still stings. Have those people not considered that I have put years of thought into this? But it’s not their fault. People see something they can’t immediately categorize and it frustrates them. I’m glad it’s the exact opposite for me. To summarize – if you have a clear idea of what you want to do – go for it. Don’t feel shy or embarrassed about it, and definitely do not half ass it.

5. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life, etc?

Listen to what you like! I don’t ever listen to jazz big band recordings but here I am with my giant band playing jazz clubs.

There are a lot of musicians I admire and listen to regularly though – Hanne Hukkelburg, Grizzly Bear, Kishi Bashi, Nine Inch Nails, and Madonna are always at the top of my recently played list (lol) but nothing gets the inspiration flowing like going for a long run and deep cleaning my apartment. (Control freak.)

Five Things I Need when I’m Headed out the door

JoAnn Lamolino is the Associate Principal Trumpet of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra following a successful national audition in February of 2018. She has performed with the Hawaii Symphony and the Honolulu Brass Quintet since the 2015-16 season. JoAnn is also a member of the Reading Symphony Orchestra in Reading, PA. For two seasons, she was a member of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in SC. Additional performance highlights include the Baltimore Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, American Ballet Theatre, State of Mexico Symphony in Toluca, MX, Czech Radio Symphony, Adele, Josh Groban, Taoramina Arte in Taoramina, Sicily, Spoleto USA,  and on Broadway shows. As a soloist, JoAnn has performed at the Trinity Concerts at One Series in Lower Manhattan, Bahamas Music Conservatory, RAI National Television of Italy, Charleston Symphony, throughout Europe with American Music Abroad and was a First Prize winner at the International Women’s Brass Conference.

JoAnn received a Bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a Master’s degree in Orchestral Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. Principal teachers include members of the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


Since I started playing with the Hawaii Symphony three seasons ago, I’ve learned a lot about performing well while my body clock is displaced by 5 or 6 hours. I primarily live on the east coast and make an average of 7-8 round-trips from New York to Honolulu per season. It can take anywhere from 9-11 hours of non-stop flight time or 10-13 hours with a stop. I’ve always enjoyed traveling a lot and dealing with all of the particulars that go along with it. When the opportunity arose for me to play in Hawaii, I was very excited for a lot of reasons. I’ve compiled a list of my 5 Things I need when I’m headed out the door.

  1. Melatonin, Kava, CBD oil. Or as I like to say, the drug bag! I am typically flying during the day and I have to go to rehearsal at night after I have arrived. The best way to adjust to your new time-zone is to eat and sleep on that time ahead of time. My preparation starts when I wake up in the am before going to the airport. I drink water and do not eat anything. I don’t want my bodyclock to think we are going to be up for long. So, when I get on my flight at 8am in NYC, I look at the time in Honolulu. It’s typically a time when I would be sleeping, like 2am. I take a melatonin and maybe a drop of CBD and I go to sleep until it is a time I would actually wake up in Honolulu. By the time that happens we are over Nevada or California. Kava and CBD can also be used during other flights when you just want to chill. The worst feeling is having too much energy and you are stuck on a plane for hours. They take the edge off without falling asleep. Obviously everyone is different and these are what I have found to be helpful for my body. You may need to experiment to find the right fit for you.
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  3. Food and Water. When I am flying, I carry whatever meals I need. Usually breakfast and lunch. I do not eat on red-flights. I only eat at times that are normal times to eat in my new time-zone. I carry foods that won’t cause extra inflammation. Flying causes inflammation on its own and I can’t control that. I generally pack hard boiled eggs, an apple, a banana, a bunch of cooked vegetables or a salad and a small piece of meat. For a snack, it’s some kind of protein bar. I never have alcohol (unless I get that First Class upgrade!) or the free cookies. Too much sugar = inflammation. My chops feel puffy when I play later in the day and jet-lag lasts longer. Carry your own refillable water bottle and fill it up after security. No matter how many times the flight attendants come around with the small cups of water, it’s never enough. Your food and water intake will help you feel better and sustain your energy once you land and have to play well and be social.
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  5.  Practice-mute. Delays happen! Weather, mechanical, whatever…there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t complain and get agitated like most of the people on your flight. Go find a space to warm-up and practice in the airport. I’ve had success at an empty gate area, the chapel and a vacant space in an airline lounge. I once got stuck at the Zurich Flughafen for 8 hours. So after spending way too much money on lunch and buying a watch that I never wear, I got some good practicing in.
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  7. An old-school i-pod. I know it’s 2018, but I still carry it. I like to give my phone a slight rest a long trip. I use the phone if I want to check out a podcast. On my ipod, I keep 90% of my music and a sleep playlist that I use to sleep. When I hear the list and I’ve taken a melatonin, it helps me fall asleep faster and stay asleep until Nevada. Based on where I am on the playlist, I know roughly where we are in the flight and when I can get up, eat breakfast, drink coffee and start my day. After the sleep playlist, I do a guided meditation. I have a regular meditation practice and I am a firm believer that having that practice helps me stay grounded when I am taking such long flights and changing time zones as frequently as I do. Wherever I am, I am comfortable.
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  9. Your own entertainment. For me, that is always a book and a notebook. You never  know when there is going to be a problem with in-flight entertainment and you are completely bored. Again, don’t complain. All it does is put you in a bad mood and waste your time. I once had this happen flying 8hrs from Milan-JFK, I was so bored I drank 4 beers. It was fun until it wasn’t….Airplane flying helps you unplug. When you are reading a good book, it can entertain and stimulate new thoughts and ideas that you may want to write down in a notebook. It’s your own sanctuary of time. It’s kinda priceless.

Five Things I Learned About Myself while Sitting in the Pit

Kaitlyn Resler, 22, born in Orlando, Florida, is a master’s degree student at The Juilliard School and a recipient of a Kovner fellowship. Ms. Resler also received her bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Julie Landsman. Ms. Resler is currently an active player with Wicked on Broadway, The Colorado Symphony, the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra and the Florida Orchestra. Kaitlyn is Co – Leader of eGALitarian – a brass ensemble of women musicians in NYC dedicated to improving and inspiring the lives of women in the community. 


Pit life is one of the most fun playing experiences I’ve ever had. But as we all know… it does often require a significant amount of downtime, often with nothing to do but dwell inside our crazy, beautiful minds! These are five things I realized about myself in the past few months while I had those endless hours of pit contemplation.

1. You can’t win at music. Sure there are competitions, job auditions etc… but ultimately isn’t music all about sharing a story with the audience and impacting lives? When I put it into this perspective the concept of “winning” music seems a little silly.

2. No one is counting your mistakes but you. I find myself time and time again tallying up the number of cracked notes. It was a nice realization to come to that no one else was counting every single little blip in my playing but me!

3. Comparing yourself to others will never be beneficial. Different people are at different places in their lives. Live in the moment and acknowledge all the things you have going for you right now.

4. Learn to appreciate your mind! For the longest time, I hated the fact that I would overthink every single thing in my life. Sometimes I even go down the rabbit hole of overanalyzing my analyzation of my thoughts! Whew.. but as I’ve come to realize, these crazy minds are what bring people together. It’s what helps us create life long relationships and connections with people and ultimately is our #1 source for creativity!

5. Music is meant to be fun. – a last but certainly not least familiar, simple, and super cliche concept. I know we’ve all heard it a million times but every single day it is so easy to forget.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the stressful side of performing that I often find myself forgetting that this is supposed to be an art form that is enjoyable for us and our audience! We, as musicians, are so lucky that our “work” is something that we can be so passionate about.

Five Tips for Surviving during your First Year out of School

Émilie Fortin is a Montreal-based adventurous musician and teacher who explores every possible facet of the trumpet. A versatile performer, she is a freelancer for several ensembles and orchestras. She has contributed to the creation of more than a dozen works with various emerging composers in an effort to enrich the repertoire of her instrument. She currently plays with the Griffon Brass Band. Originally from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, she received a bachelor’s degree in classical performance with Lise Bouchard at the Université de Montréal. In the spring of 2017, she completed her Master’s degree at McGill University under the direction of Russell DeVuyst. Perfecting her craft with great masters, Émilie always seeks to excel in her personal practice. It is with this in mind that she has participated in brass workshops at Domaine Forget and Chosen Vale (Vermont). She was selected to be a member of the Montréal Contemporary Music Lab in the summer of 2016, as well as a participant for Soundscape Festival (Italy) in 2017 and for Banff’s Evolution Ensemble program for this summer. Firmly believing that pedagogy is an integral part of performance, Émilie is a teacher in various secondary schools in the region. She has also had the opportunity to teach the trombone, trumpet and music theory at an orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets (Haïti). During the 2017-2018 season, she developed her focus on community engagement and teaching with The Global Leaders program, where she was one of 35 people selected for an international cohort of enterprising young musicians.


  1. Play music that you like

You don’t have a jury to please anymore, or a specific format to fill (unless you’re participating in a competition). Play that sonata you always wanted to do but was too chop-tiring for a 60-minute recital, try that cool chamber music piece with your friends, or arrange some pre-existing works! It’s so easy to feel that playing music is a chore after being at music school that it’s essential to be back in touch with the pleasure of creating art. In my case, I made a list of people I would like to play with, teachers I would like to take lessons with, and music I would like to perform. After finishing school, I found this was a great way to help me keep me motivated and keep track of my goals. Rather than just playing gigs, I’m organizing my own concerts with the repertoire I want to play. I’m surrounded by musicians and friends who are willing to embark with me on crazy projects, so I’m always inspired. Don’t wait for opportunities; create them!

  1. Take risks!

Since I started university, I decided to spend my summers not working 40 hours a week to save money for the school year, but rather doing festivals instead, which means I was really careful with my money. In the same order of ideas, I often chose non-paid gigs instead of non-music related paid work, just because I knew that in the long run, it would pay off. I also dived into The Global Leaders Program, asking myself often if it was the smartest idea to do this right after my Master’s. Of course, there’s nothing stable about this, and my anxious nature suffered from it from time to time! But I do think that if we decide that music is our career, we have to accept all the ups and downs that are coming our way more often than in the life of “normal” people. While everyone’s economic situation is different (some have the privilege to take more risks than others), and one should always value their work and ask to be paid whenever possible, risk is simply a reality of the musician’s life that we have to embrace. Your life won’t be as consistent, especially financially speaking, than your non-musicians friends, but it’s worth it in the long run to accept artistic projects as much as you can and if they’re related to your long-term goals.

  1. Go out

Try to attend as many concerts as possible and go out of your comfort zone. Everything you read, listen or go to will feed you as an artist. I’m talking equally about concerts, art exhibitions, poetry nights, you name it. Not to mention that the after-concert hang is important as well; connections you will make at the bar afterward are a part of creating a network and learning to know the human beings under the musicians. I used to see this networking as just an artificial “business” aspect of the music and found it negative, but now I’m enjoying discovering and genuinely connecting with new people.

  1. Take a part-time job that is flexible

I know many people who can only attend one festival per summer because their job wouldn’t let them away from the office for a long time, or that they have to ask far in advance for days off and sometimes miss gigs because of that. My more “stable” day-job is to be an usher at a concert hall, which means I work more often during the evenings and have my schedule three weeks in advance. The majority of my colleagues are artists as well, so it’s really easy to trade my shifts and my boss understands if an opportunity comes up and I have to be away for some time. In the meantime, you are creating a network of artists and friends from different backgrounds, not only musicians. Find a job that is adaptable to a freelance schedule, or even many jobs that are easy to deal with. Don’t also neglect a job where you can do something else, like answering emails or learning your music. You’ll have more energy to practice when you’ll come back home. You may have less stable income but will be grateful when your colleague asks you to sub for an ensemble at the last minute and you can say yes! And not to mention, listening to concerts for free is a great perk!

  1. Take into consideration your own progress

It is so hard to have the feeling that everybody else’s life is going so well, that they have so many gigs, while when people are asking you what your projects are, you don’t know what to answer. But please, remember that social media is not a mirror of real life! (I’m not always able to follow my own advice, here, by the way…). Write down your short-, medium- and long-term goals, then work toward them in everything that you’re doing. Be proud of the evolution you achieve, and don’t be distracted by the successes of your colleagues. Like life, the music world isn’t fair, and there will always be somebody better than you in some aspects, and there’s always an aspect of luck and circumstance in others’ success. So, focus on what makes you different and worthwhile, on why people would like to work with you. Take time for yourself, find what makes you feel good, and do it every day. Never forget: the musician in you is just one aspect to your personality; you have to nurture the other sides to feel complete as a human being. Balance is essential.

Five Tips for Thriving on a Touring Show

Today’s Five Things Friday post was written by trumpet player Christi Wans.

Christi is a freelance trumpet player and soloist based in the Oklahoma City area, and is currently traveling with the national/Asia tour of Kinky Boots. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in music education and trumpet performance from Central Washington University, as well as a Masters and DMA (ABD) from the University of Oklahoma.

 


For the last year, I have been traveling with the North American tour of Kinky Boots. The show has a great message, the music was written by Cyndi Lauper, and I’m getting to see parts of the country I never thought I would see. Most importantly? I have a full time job, with benefits, where all I have to do is play my trumpet.

That being said, it’s not always the most glamorous life. There are several things I have learned to help me survive:

1. Develop a routine early on.

This doesn’t just apply to playing your horn. When you’re traveling all the time, food options can be very limited, traveling is exhausting, and it can be easy to fall into the rut of laying in bed playing Candy Crush all day. Staying healthy became necessary for my sanity.

If you start out your tour active and making good decisions, it will be a lot easier to maintain. I like to run, so I decided to sign up for races ahead of time in the different cities we visited. Some people would hit the gym like clockwork as soon as we got to the hotel. Exercise becomes even more important for the musicians, because we are sitting in one place for three hours while the cast is running around burning calories on stage. Set yourself an alarm to be out of bed by a certain time on non-travel days so your internal clock isn’t completely backwards.

Try to resist the temptation to go out and drink every night. Some of this is important for building relationships, but it gets expensive and your body will hate you. Also, eating gas station food and McDonald’s all the time will drop a sodium bomb on your body. We would make the occasional bus stop at a Walmart or Whole Foods, and during these times I would try to stock up on healthy options (protein shakes, tuna fish packets, etc.) I also travel with a small bullet blender so I can make myself green smoothies (kale, apple, lemon, cucumber, chia seeds). Everyone has their own diet they need to follow, but one universal truth is that nobody can live on cheeseburgers.

Lastly, one of the biggest perks of traveling nonstop is that you get to see all different parts of the world. Do some research and plan ahead to see what there is to see (unless you’re in Flint, MI…nothing to see there). Plan a quest for the best cheesesteak in Philly, go for a hike in Alaska, tour the Alamo in San Antonio. Take lots of pictures.

2. Keep an organized suitcase.

On Kinky Boots, we were each allowed ONE fifty pound bag and then a small carry-on size bag (which I wasn’t able to bring because my case is my carry-on…sound familiar?). While we did have a few layoff weeks, I never went home during them because I have a boyfriend who is also a touring musician. All of these considerations combined meant that I literally had one suitcase of clothes for 9 months of tour.

My BIGGEST recommendation would be to buy a set of packing cubes. If you aren’t familiar, these are small rectangular nylon/mesh pouches that work to compartmentalize your suitcase. It transforms one large catch-all into essentially a dresser, providing separate spaces for everything, so when I inevitably couldn’t find the one shirt I wanted I only had one section of the suitcase to blow up instead of my entire belongings. I’m sure they’re all very similar; I like these ones because they are cheap, come in lots of sizes, and I can use the shoe bag as a small laundry sack for my dirty socks and underwear:

Gonex Rip-Stop Nylon Travel Organizers Packing Bags Red https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9R0CC1/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_q3jiBbAWPPJ7W

A few other useful suggestions for packing: as you find yourself not wearing certain things even when they’re in season, ship them home in flat rate boxes and save yourself the extra poundage. Keep Tide pods in a ziplock bag to spare yourself the need to buy new detergent in every city (not to snack on, silly kids). Invest in a handheld luggage scale so you don’t have to repack at the airport and slow your group down.

3. Find ways to keep your playing fresh.

If you rely solely on playing the show to keep your chops up, you’re going to end up with issues. In our setup, I am surrounded by plexiglass covered in acoustic foam panels. We each have an individual Aviom and in-ear monitors, which is a curse and a blessing: even though I was completely deadened and blocked off from everyone, I could make my own mix in my ears and add back that reverb I was missing. We all hate playing with ear plugs in, but at least you can pipe back in your own sound (and protect your hearing). I adjusted to this all fairly well, but whenever I had the opportunity to play naturally it took a chunk of time to find my center again.

My absolute favorite thing to do is play piccolo trumpet and soprano cornet, and there is none of that on this show. While I feel like the show has helped further develop my lead playing, I found myself really missing what I was passionate about. Somewhere in the middle of tour I decided to start plugging away at the Charlier book again, and that helped. I would meet up with fellow trumpet players and play with them, trading off on flow studies, flexibility, articulation. We are heading to Asia in a month, and I just purchased a little single picc case so I can take it with me as a personal item and work up some repertoire in my free time.

4. Maintain your contacts at home.

This was something I worried about a lot – you spend so much time building a freelancing career and making those relationships, and if you are out of the picture opportunities can vanish very quickly. It’s not at all impossible, but very important, to keep in touch with your home network and keep them updated on your schedule. A few weeks before a layoff, call the church you used to frequent and see if you can arrange something. Set up a meal with your old professor. I’ve been busy filling my break with meaningful performance experiences that also help pay the bills and keep me in the loop – I just finished up a concert series with the Sacred Winds ensemble in Kentucky, and next weekend I get to play the Haydn Concerto with the Oklahoma Haydn Festival! It’s been great to have a goal to practice for.

5. Be fearless.

As a musician and a person! The commercial music and theater industry is very heavily dominated by men. People are going to look down into the pit and be shocked to see a female musician (we were lucky enough to have two in ours). Do everything you can to break that stereotype. One of my old teachers was actually convinced that women were not physically capable of achieving the same power on the trumpet as men because he had encountered so many timid female players. Shocking, right?

The best thing I learned in graduate school was to stop worrying about how I looked, worrying about not being ladylike, worrying about missing notes, worrying about what everyone else was thinking. Trumpet is an inherently masculine instrument in that it takes a powerful and aggressive approach, but that does not prevent anyone from lighting it up on stage. All it takes is confidence and hard work.

To quote Kinky Boots, “you’ll change the world if you change your mind.”

Interview with Jen Baker – trombonist and composer

Jen Baker, trombonist/composer, has collaborated with artists all over the world in site-specific mixed media performance, concert halls, solo and chamber commissions. As an improviser she is featured on the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World. She has performed internationally in festivals and has toured with Arijit Singh, Karole Armitage, and Mansour, and new music ensembles S.E.M., TILT brass, and the mobile ensemble Asphalt Orchestra (founding member). Her forthcoming book, Hooked on Multiphonics aides composers and trombonists in understanding and executing the deep complexities of multiphonics. She currently teaches trombone and composition at Sarah Lawrence College and also Brooklyn Conservatory, through which she goes to after school programs in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn for trombone classes (New York City does not fund public school music education, so this program is a vital way of bringing music to kids who wouldn’t have it otherwise.). She loves improvised vegan cooking (10 years and counting!), teaching, listening to animals, and long meandering walks.

 


  1. Tell us about your project, Silo Songs. How was the process of recording and putting it together different than that of your previous albums like Blue Dreams? How did you balance that with all of your other responsibilities in NYC?

The fundamental inspiration for both projects came from physical surroundings of the family farm where I grew up. At the time of Blue Dreams I was intrigued by the beauty of slow motion decay and decomposition many disused barns were undergoing (and continue to do): rusting roofs, peeled paint, weathered wood, bent rebar, piles of orange twine knotting together, entire barns leaning impossibly far but not falling. Silo Songs was developed entirely inside one of the buildings on the farm- a large concrete grain silo, completely empty since the 80s.

Silo Songs was a slow accumulation of ingredients that eventually clarified itself during the four years I spent workshopping ideas inside the silo. Silo Songs bears little musical resemblance to my solo album Blue Dreams aside from the continuity of multiphonics, a world that I obsessed over and lived within for several years. Blue Dreams was conceived early on in my immersion into through-composed and through-performed multiphonics pieces, and it was recorded during my most prolific stage as an improviser when I was living in Oakland, California. Free improvisation is another area that I focused on for several years, particularly in the Bay Area, where I was in close proximity to a hotbed of creative musicians with open minds and gigantic listening ears. I long to saturate myself once again in that world, playing as I float along the stream of consciousness, and i look forward to reuniting with improvisation sometime. As to recording Blue Dreams, I gave myself 3 hours in a gorgeous studio-all wood and dim lighting with a fantastic audio/sound engineer/percussionist/improviser (Karen Stackpole) who I knew would give me the psychic space I needed to improvise crystal clear ideas. My sole focus was representing what I heard/saw/thought/felt from the collective stream of consciousness in the form of multiphonic trombone pieces/songs. In the weeks prior to the recording, I sketched out a basic harmonic form for three or four pieces, and played multiphonics daily to build endurance.  

Recording Silo Songs was a completely different experience. For starters, I spent several years working out the physical and technical kinks of playing outdoors in various temperatures. I was also living and working in New York at this point. Economically, the silo project all had to be done by myself – there’s no way I could have hired someone to travel out to Jonesville Michigan every time I experimented. Besides, I vehemently believe that my personal and psychic space needed to be uninterrupted by others. As an individual who is influenced by others to a disturbing degree, I struggle to hear my own thoughts. In order to make artistic decisions unfettered by the ideas and opinions of others, I must honor my need for solitude, the chameleonic Pisces that I am! So there I was, learning how to be a field recording engineer, while also assessing the acoustic phenomena of the space for what pitch sets would be optimal, and testing out how other found objects and instruments reacted in the space. Eventually (in the final year), I was also thinking about the mechanics of actually playing trombone in such an unlikely performance space.

Within real life this recording project was one of many varied performing and related projects. Having many irons in the fire (professional, personal, and otherwise) tends to keep me alive and focused – I thrive on a plurality of identities! Silo Songs could have been done in a month’s time, but the beauty of spreading it out is that it had time to marinate and simmer alongside other projects like commissions for Loadbang and The Fourth Wall, and writing my book on Multiphonics. My work in the silo was done at times of the year when performance seasons have a lull, like February, early July, August, and so on. It worked out rather seamlessly with my “regular” NYC life. I’d like to think that is because I spend a lot of mental energy manifesting – in this case, manifesting an ideal schedule that doesn’t cause any outrageous double bookings. It more or less worked out.

 

  1. What inspired you to write Hooked on Multiphonics? What were your original goals with the book and how do you feel now that it has been out for a little while?

I remember in 2011 noticing how often I had to repeat myself to composers who wanted to write extended techniques for trombone. “Why don’t these people learn more about the mechanics of the trombone in school,” I thought. Or, “if you’re so interested, why don’t you look it up?” But when I looked around for resources to point them to, no text or resource really gets granular and specific enough to convey what the trombone can do. So then I thought I’d just make a quick sheet or two of musical examples to hand over to any composer interested in my instrument…well, that quickly exploded into multiple chapters, and eventually into a two part book, because trombonists need to understand the mechanics of multiphonics as well, and tricky passages could be made easier by having some studies to practice. I’ve heard good things from both composers and trombonists who are using/have used the book. Personally, I’m still editing the book in my mind. I think the process of making the book exacerbated my inner critic and perfectionism has now run rampant in my life. I’m gently swinging the balance back toward spontaneous fun and play in my musical life.

 

  1. Do you think we have a specific role or responsibility as female brass players? How do you incorporate that (or not) into your own life as a musician?

What does it mean to be a female brass player? This is a really small club, one that’s so small most of its members didn’t even know there were any others in it! I certainly didn’t. Being a female brass player for me has meant taking a “joke” that isn’t very funny and is demeaning to women; walking into a room of colleagues having “locker room” talk and quickly dwindling down to a murmur when you enter; or worse, having locker room talk right there in front of you and expecting you’ll just be cool about it; having to relate outside of yourself in order to “get” male humor, and if you’re hetero, dealing with the complexity of human attraction with an awkward proportion of “date-ables.” And a lot of other stuff. In other words, the ratio of men to women in brass world is tricky to navigate, even for a tomboy at heart like myself!

I think as human beings, we all have a responsibility to one another to keep one another in check by our own sense of (hopefully) good ethical/moral/professional standards. As a population, we will evolve more constructively if we all pitch in, and this is how communities become strong. So to break that down into a smaller sector- the responsibility a female brass player has – it isn’t any different. At least not to me. We are all responsible for our community and subcommunities that we identify with, whether we actively participate or not. We do this face to face, at jobs, after hours, on the train, social media, and on the rare occasion we can get out of our spheres and do something non work related. I’m still working on being better at participating in my communities-especially in the non work, friend hanging portion. It’s a long term project and we can all choose how we contribute to it.

 

  1. Do you see any specific challenges for musicians in today’s climate? How do you mitigate those on your own or in your teaching?

Well, more than ever, if you want to be a musician, it had better be a huge passion, and you’d better not be worried about stability…and if you are thinking about stability, then music is just simply not a good career choice. The hardest thing for me to do as a musician is to have fun and remember that I do this because I love it (I really do love it). And make space-psychic, physical, emotional, mental – to create!! Creation is left out of a lot of music education- it’s up to YOU to put creative tasks back into making music!

 

  1. 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?

I wish I’d known social skills were an integral part of life and of music and of freelance musician work in particular.

Secondly, I wish I’d been trained in sight reading and switching quickly between style/articulation more rigorously and to understand how important that is!

 

      6. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life, etc?

Silence changed my life.

 

 

Five Tips to Combat Impostor Syndrome – by Mariel Bildsten

Mariel Bildsten is a trombonist, based in New York City. Mariel works as a bandleader and side-woman in New York, playing in jazz big bands and small groups, as well as world and Caribbean music, classical, funk, r&b, and Latin music bands. She has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Caramoor Jazz Festival, Smalls Jazz Club, and Smoke Jazz Club, among other venues. Mariel has also performed alongside Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roy Hargrove, Wycliffe Gordon, Frank Lacy, Brian Lynch, Cyrus Chestnut, and Lew Soloff. Her own groups (ranging from duo to septet) have headlined jazz festivals, played around the country, and gig regularly in New York City. She graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in December 2015. During her time there, Mariel had the opportunity to study with fantastic teachers and mentors, such as Elliot Mason, Steve Turre, Vincent Gardner, Mike LeDonne, Reginald Workman, and Jane Ira Bloom.

Photo credit to Lauren Desberg

In 1978, psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes named impostor syndrome as a feeling of “phoniness or fraud in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Impostor syndrome presents itself through chronic self-doubt and feeling unworthy of opportunities. 

It is a thought-process that we all deal with, to varying degrees. Even as I’m writing this blog post, I’m telling myself “Mariel, who are you kidding? You’re not a writer, go and practice trombone!” 

Here are 5 tips to combat impostor syndrome. 

  1. Remember that you are there for a reason

Whether “there” is a gig, rehearsal, recording session, teaching position, or conversation, people who struggle with impostor syndrome will look around and say “How the hell am I here? I am a fraud. This must be a mistake.” 

I tend to place everyone else’s musicianship on a pedestal above my own, and believe that I’m only on a gig because no-one else was available and I was the 50th person they called.

However, if you truly brought zero value to a situation, you would not be invited because people don’t have time or energy to waste. You MUST believe this. Your voice on the instrument is unique and has characteristics that listeners enjoy, without the accompaniment of the bullshit in your head. An audience doesn’t know your journey as a musician: where you’re coming from or where you’re going. All they receive is your sound and stage presence. 

Your individual concept is valuable, and different from the other people in the room. You bring a positive energy. You interpret music in a playful way. You’re an excellent sight-reader. You’re an expansive improviser. Your sense of rhythm is incredible. You swing your ass off. You have a beautiful sound. You know every song under the sun. You push the other musicians around you. What’s your thing? 

          2. Bring your A game

This being said, do your job! Focus on bringing value to the situation.

Being prepared will help quiet those voices. If you did your best and leave each situation feeling proud of your work, that’s a win.

         3. Ask questions 

Use your impostor syndrome to fuel your curiosity. My fraudulent thoughts will run rampant when I think I don’t know enough about records, standards, or lack understanding of chord changes and theory, particularly around other jazz musicians. Rather than shutting up and shutting down to conceal my self-perceived inadequacies, I’ve started to ask more questions. 

“What’s this record?” 

“That’s a gorgeous tune, what is it?” 

“I don’t know the chord changes to this song, can you teach me?”

This does a few things: 

  1. You actually learn something!
  2. You make others feel good about what they do know
  3. You’re creating a situation where sharing and learning are welcomed 
  4. Others may be wondering the same thing. Thank God you had the balls to ask!

Along these same lines, how can we shift the perspective to be one of more gratitude? 

Self-gratitude for your own hard work and musicianship, and gratitude for the people that see your value. Be sure to get out of your head enough to say thank you. 

       4. Be a leader

Create more opportunities for yourself and the musicians around you. As I mentioned above, your musical voice is unique and needs to be heard. Dig into the music you love, create something, and go for it! This builds confidence, community, and a vision that is individual to you. As a bandleader, I’ve been able to play with my favorite musicians, employ them, and create a larger musical community. There are opportunities for every single musician in the world. Think globally and outside-the-box. 

As a side-person, know your value. If you have a special skill, bring that to the table when others hire you. Take the lead on that, others will be grateful. 

       5. Call a friend

Call a friend, mentor, family member, or someone you trust, and share how you’re feeling. Everyone has moments of insecurity, so don’t be afraid to share and ask for an encouraging word.

IMPORTANT BONUS! Diversity

A reality is that some opportunities come specifically because we are women. Whether it is an all-woman band/horn section or an organization is looking for more diversity, it will happen. We work in the entertainment industry and for some, image matters. I feel it as a woman, but everyone deals with this. People are often hired based on their age, race, gender or identity, culture, pregnancy, and/or disability. Sometimes the intention will be crystal clear, other times not. Obviously, some situations are to be avoided, and we all have varying levels of comfort with that dynamic. 

I hate feeling like the only reason I’m hired is because I’m a woman. It feeds my impostor syndrome. However, once you’re in the room, prove them wrong. Play your ass off, be prepared, be professional, know your stuff. Perhaps your gender got you in the door, but now you’re there as a musician. 

I hope these tips will help your mindset. Good luck and keep on keeping on!

For more about Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes’ research on impostor syndrome check it out here.

Five Questions to Recent Music Graduates – by Kate Amrine

Today’s post is by our very own Kate Amrine – she felt inspired to do some end of semester reflecting after seeing so many friends, colleagues and students graduating. 

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 a tour of Japan with the New York Symphonic Ensemble, a solo recital in Mississippi at the Music by Women Festival, and an opera at BAM with string ensemble A Far Cry. Upcoming performances include new music with orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Miller Theater, a workshop of a new off Broadway show by Duncan Sheik, a concerto in her hometown in Maryland, and a concerto and orchestra tour to Japan. Kate is extremely dedicated to commissioning and performing new music, premiering over 30 pieces both as a soloist and a chamber musician. Her debut album was released in November 2017 and features new music by women composers. Kate also frequently performs on Broadway and in other regional musical theater productions both in and outside of the NYC area. As an educator, Kate enjoys teaching in several after school music programs and teaches private trumpet lessons as an Adjunct Instructor at New York University. 

 


  1. What do you want to do?

This is perhaps the most obvious question of them all. I am sure we have all heard this from friends, family, teachers, and even people at the grocery store. But it is super important to think about – even if what you want is “unrealistic.” Thinking about your version of an ideal career can open your eyes up to what is possible, what would be the best case scenario, what you are willing to do to get here, and what you don’t want to be doing at all.. Also, don’t be afraid to think big – what would be the best case scenario for your career – it could be something like winning a job, playing with a certain famous musician, or giving recitals across the country. Similarly, don’t be afraid to think “small” – sometimes what you want to do could be as simple as recording an album in the year after graduating or starting a group with friends. Having goals of different sizes aimed for different points of your career is definitely the way to do it.

One more thing about goals – they should be SMART. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

So for example, my goal of playing with the New York Pops isn’t a SMART goal because it isn’t something that I have any control of the Time aspect. A goal of making an album of music for kazoo and slide whistle (completely just made this up) is SMART though because all of the factors would be in your control – including what you record, when it is released, who is involved, how you will measure its success, and how it will all come together.

 

  1. Is this Aligned with my Goals and What I want to be doing?

I’m not sure where I first heard this but just to state the obvious, without a plan you’ll end up somewhere that you don’t want to be. I had this experience when I finished my undergrad and I don’t recommend it. Most people when they graduate from music schools with a degree in their instrument come out of school saying something like “I just want to play” or “I’m down to work in any musical scenario.” While you may be eager and these statements may be true for you, hopefully you’ll realize from the previous point that these aren’t SMART goals. Of course we want to take every gig that comes our way – but after a certain point, our time gets more and more valuable and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. So when faced with these decisions, you will have to answer this question – does this new opportunity align with my goals and what I want to be doing? As I wrote about in my recent blog post, we aren’t always able to make every decision with our goals 100% in mind. Sometimes there may be a situation that comes up where you really want to take a certain gig yet have to stay in and teach because you need the money to cover student loans or your monthly expenses. Being financially stable is a very important goal and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked when going for our musical goals.

 

  1. Who is on your team to help you get there?

As a recent graduate, presumably you have a good relationship with your teacher, other professors, recent colleagues, friends, and family. These are all people that can help you accomplish your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, bounce ideas off of friends, or have these tough talks with people who are on your side. On the other hand, there may be times that the only person that knows what is best for your career is YOU. Your parents or friends can’t possibly understand everything that you are trying to do in your career or be able to understand and accept tough situations like how taking a low paying gig with a better future opportunity might be better than a short term higher paying gig. There are also many more resources available to help you get where you need to be. Here in New York City, the Musicians Union and Actors Fund both have many career workshops, financial counseling, and other wellness events. I also sought out a coach – Karen Cubides –  to help me focus on my career and get everything in order. Don’t be afraid of asking for help when needed!

 

  1. How are you going to leave the scene better than you found it?

I realize that this might be a bit of a dark topic to address in a post intended for college graduates but life is short! We aren’t going to be around forever and now is a good time to think about things like the kind of impact you want to make and what would happen if you weren’t alive anymore. I like thinking about it in relation to a campground – that old saying, leave your surroundings cleaner than you found them – it totally applies here. What are you going to do that goes beyond playing gigs and focuses on serving others and making the world a better place? This doesn’t have to be a huge grand gesture because there are many little ways that we can go beyond in the world around us. Things like offering a free masterclass at an organization with financial problems, performing in senior centers, teaching, and so many others – these are all totally doable things that you can try and see what works best for you. How do you want to be remembered?

 

  1. How are you different than everyone else?

This is another question that you might have heard before. Many music business and entrepreneurship texts often focus on building up as many skills as possible so that you are “marketable” or “hirable” or filled with added abilities to make you more attractive to work with. These things aren’t wrong – but it can be unrealistic to think about being a master at your instrument, teaching, the technology aspect, and all of these other facets of being a musician. You don’t have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades – but being able to offer a bit more than just someone who can show up and play will help you in the long run. I remember when I was in school someone told us to look around and that the room was filled with our colleagues for life – people who would hire you and be on your side – so we should all be careful how we come across to others, even at a young age. As a recent graduate, hopefully you have already made these smart choices – but if not, no better time like the present 🙂 These people graduating with you are able to hire you when they need someone but also remember they may be your competitors. This goes back to the question – how are you different than everyone else? This goes far beyond how you are in a playing situation and relates much more to how you are personally to work with and everything you completely bring to the table.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments! I would love to start a conversation about these things 🙂

Interview with Audrey Flores: Horn Player in NYC

Professional HeadshotAudrey Flores is a freelancing horn player in New York City. She attended the Juilliard School and the Mannes College of Music, and regularly plays in Broadway productions and with orchestras in the tri-state area. Formerly Principal Horn of both the Allentown Symphony and Symphony in C in Camden, NJ, Audrey has also played with the New World Symphony, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Mariinsky Orchestra, and the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble. She was a musician in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Orchestra in 2011 and 2012, and in the New York Spectacular in the summer of 2016. She released her first solo album in June of 2017.

Audrey also enjoys a full teaching schedule in addition to pursuing a varied career. She is a Teaching Artist for Midori and Friends, an organization in New York City that works in tandem with the Department of Education to supplement and provide music instruction for public school students. She taught beginning and intermediate brass at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Palestine in 2006, and coached chamber music for the Juilliard Pre-College Program in 2005. She specializes in teaching beginning brass students.

When she isn’t working, Audrey enjoys cooking, swimming, traveling, and being home with her family. She is married to Steven Behnke, a horn player whom she met in New York Youth Symphony. They have a two-year-old son and a baby daughter. They also have a perfect rescue pug named Rocky!


  1. You have a considerable web presence in the form of your Facebook Live series “Musicians of Now” and your blog. We really admire your blog’s honesty and candid tone, writing about many aspects of being a musician that are often not discussed. How did you choose the topics you wrote about? Why did you start the Facebook live series?  

I’m glad you (editors note – Kate Amrine) were one of the first guests on the series!  I actually got the idea to start doing this from an NPR series I was listening to in passing.  It focused on the stories of corporations that started from nothing, went through some tough times, and ended up being wildly successful.  I realized that I was uncomfortable listening to it, and it’s because of the simple reason that while we were hearing about these big companies, there were many others who made better product that didn’t have the big money number to hook any outside interest.  There are many companies with similar stories that we’ll never hear about, and they might be great people, and have great stories, but because they haven’t hit the traditional mark of success, no one will care about their plight.

I’ve had unofficial, full-time employment as a classical musician, and I didn’t know how to reconcile myself as a figure for change and positivity in that role.  The times when I’ve felt the most alive and useful as a musician have been those random concerts where the conditions aren’t fabulous, but the audience is excited.  After you play for them, you know that you’ve encouraged them to go to those big concerts of musicians that are traditionally thought of as the authority figures in our field.  I think that these freelancers are really the ambassadors of our art, and it’s imperative and exciting to appreciate and examine them as they are now, and not some years down the line when they’re no longer freelancers.

In covering the life of the modern freelancer in an honest way, I find it necessary to share both the good and the bad.  Historically I think we’ve all been told to put on a brave face because it’ll make you look busier, which attracts more success.  However, I really believe that there’s less work now, and if you’re generally thought of as busy, the calls are more likely to go to someone that is just as talented, but not as lucky as you’re coming off.  Most of us just want to know that we’re ok, and I’m trying to cultivate a new way of thinking, one blog post at a time. I really feel that we’re all going through the same doubts and fears, on every level, but we use our Carnegie Hall photos and our social media as bandaids for those sentiments.

  1. Tell us about your recent album and your inspiration behind it. How did you balance recording an album with freelancing in New York City and your other responsibilities?

My first real love for the horn came from listening to hours and hours of solo horn CDs.  I learned a lot from that intense listening, and I knew that I always wanted to give back to the next generation of horn players that were following their passion.  I put it off for many years because I didn’t think that anyone would listen to it it I didn’t have a big orchestral job. In all honesty, I went ahead and made it because I wasn’t getting a lot of work, and I wanted it to be known that I had talent on my instrument, if it happened that I never got called to play anything professionally again.

I had many rehearsals with Manon Hutton-DeWys, who has now completed her doctorate!  It was tough to turn away paying work for those rehearsals, but I’m so glad I prioritized that time.  I chose pieces that I was excited to play, and I looked forward to coming home after teaching classes to sit down and play through them.  The actual recording happened on two dates, so it’s quite easy in early February to block out entire days and record for four hours. I was fortunate to fund the project entirely by myself, so I didn’t have to depend on availability of halls that I was getting for free, and wasn’t at the whim of a recording engineer who was donating time, as I know many musicians have had to do.

  1. Do you think we have a specific role or responsibility as female brass players? How do you incorporate that (or not) into your own life as a musician?

(such a great question!)  I think we as brass players, regardless of gender, steel ourselves when we walk into a brass group with a mentality of “I have to keep up” or “I’m gonna let everyone know I’m Alpha because I can play loud” or “It’s time to be tough”.  We probably associate this more with men because they historically have occupied the brass section, and it has definitely been an uphill battle for the women that have paved the way for us. I’ve definitely heard things like “you can play surprisingly loud as a woman”, and I’ve been hit on in the workplace, or referred to as “babe”.  Our responsibility as female brass players is to create, and not to respond to the music, and external pressures, around us. Most female musicians I know approach music from the big picture in, and that grace is something we can share with everyone around us. Having had children, I have seen first-hand twice-over the awesome creative powers of women.  In every major professional situation I’ve been in, I have been judged solely on my talent and cooperative nature by men, and I am sure that we will lead the next generation by example.

  1. Do you see any specific challenges for musicians in today’s climate? How do you mitigate those on your own or when teaching?

I think musicians now have less fixed opportunities to play, but almost too many opportunities to think big.  Everyone can use social media to their benefits and exploit technology for the novelty of it, but there’s a decline of talent and refinement.  Playing live for other musicians keeps you honest in your trade, but playing over a computer with bad speakers leaves us less accountable for the way we sound and play in real time.  A major priority of mine is to sound and play as well as the people I love to listen to, and sometimes I think younger musicians neglect that. When I teach, I emphasize two things: listen to the colleagues around you and use your sound to make the group better, and never work to be better than the people around you, but play to be as good as the people you admire.

  1. 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?

I wish I had known that the level I play at isn’t necessarily going to make me successful.  You can do all the right things and check off the right boxes, but the opportunities that come your way will be very different from those of someone else’s, and talent can sometimes have very little to do with it.  Constantly comparing yourself with your colleagues will just lead to envy and depression. The musicians with the longest careers stay in the business because they love the life, and couldn’t imagine anything else.  I wish I hadn’t gotten caught up in where I measured up against everyone else.

I think female musicians, or even female professionals, are quicker to self-correct than men, and sometimes this leads to us feeling incompetent when we are around men who aren’t so hard-wired to think the same way.  My advice is to combat that doubt with ability and determination. Be better and know that you are because of the practice hours you’ve put in. Be confident in the voice that you’ve found on your instrument through those precious hours you’ve spent with your instrument.

  1. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life etc.

Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

NYP/Bernstein Mahler Recordings from the 60s

Learning Mahler Symphonies from Scores before recordings

Emerson String Quartets complete Schubert Quartets, Shostakovich Quartets

Ariadne auf Naxos, R. Strauss