Interview with the Team behind the Brass Bodies Study

By Rebecca Epstein-Boley and Kate Amrine, with Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger and Dr. Patricia Maddox

From https://www.stthomas.edu/artsandsciences/research/brass-bodies/, 25 September 2019

The Brass Bodies study is a cutting-edge research project led by Sarah Schmalenberger, PhD (Musicology) and Hornist, and Patricia L. Maddox, PhD (Sociology), at the University of St. Thomas. Based in an understanding that “women brass players are both an underrepresented and under-researched group in music,” the study investigates both the physical and social experiences of women who play brass instruments. On its website, the Brass Bodies researchers describe their project as follows:

Women brass players are both an underrepresented and under-researched group in music. Conventional practices in music teaching and performances are based on male physiology, which is significantly different from female physiology. Gendered bias in the music industry reinforces the idea that women are physically deficient and must “overcome” inherent limitations to play a brass instrument.

Despite assumptions of their inherent weaknesses, the number of female brass players in professional and avocational ensembles is substantial. And yet, female physical development differs from their male counterparts through unique experiences, ranging from menstruation to illnesses like breast cancer, and the gendered workplace of brass sections often creates stress that manifests in physical symptoms. 

First of all, yes, please. This is the sort of project that could really have concrete benefits for female brass musicians. Brass Bodies’ acknowledgement that female brass musicians have been under-studied and its intent to begin the work of fixing that makes it exactly in line with our blog’s goals. Concrete data on the experiences of female brass musicians as a group will enable us to understand our circumstances better and work more effectively to improve them in the future.

Suffice it to say, we were very excited to see the findings from the first phase of this study published in the sociology journal Societies this past March. Further publications are forthcoming. We had the chance to ask Dr. Schmalenberger and Dr. Maddox some questions about this first paper to come out of the study and what we can expect in the future:

Interview

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Reflections on IWBC 2019

By Kate Amrine

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:

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Interview with Bria Skonberg – Jazz Trumpeter and Vocalist

By Kate Amrine and Rebecca Epstein Boley, with Bria Skonberg

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?

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Five Trumpet Works by Living Women Composers

By Ashley Hedlund

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!

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.


Interview

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 count-off, but The Obamas 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