We are so excited to continue our September theme of celebrating inspiring teachers with our interview featuring trombonist and educator, Natalie Mannix.
Natalie Mannix, principal trombonist of the Delaware Symphony, is an avid soloist, chamber musician, orchestral performer and educator. In fall of 2016 she began her current position as Assistant Professor of Trombone at the University of North Texas after teaching 8 years at Towson University in Baltimore. Previously, she was a member of the United States Navy Band in Washington, DC for over 9 years where she performed with the brass quintet, concert and ceremonial band.
She has appeared as guest artist and clinician at colleges and conferences throughout North America, including the 2016 and 2013 International Trombone Festival, the International Women’s Brass Conference, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and the American Trombone Workshop. In addition to frequent performances with the Baltimore Symphony, Natalie has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Opera and Kennedy Center Orchestras, the Washington Trombone Ensemble, the Monarch Brass, Stiletto Brass and several regional orchestras and brass ensembles. A new music advocate, she has commissioned several works for trombone and continues to perform and promote music by emerging composers.
Her recent recordings include a solo album, Breaking Ground: A Celebration of Women Composers and two chamber music CDs: the grammy-nominated Interchange: Concertos by Rodrigo and Assad with the Delaware Symphony and the LA Guitar Quartet; and Shadowcatcher: Music for Winds, Brass and Percussion.
As Euphonium soloist, Dr. Mannix won first place in the Leonard Falcone International Solo Competition and toured Europe as soloist with the Blue Lake International Band. She was also solo Euphonium for the Imperial Brass Band in New Jersey and a finalist in the International Tuba Euphonium Conference solo competition.
An avid brass pedagogue, Natalie has taught trombone at Shepherd and Georgetown Universities and has served on the faculty of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. She has adjudicated international and area solo and ensemble competitions and serves on the Board of Advisors and as chair of the Competition Committee for the International Trombone Association. She is also an active member of the International Women’s Brass Conference.
Natalie received her degrees from the University of Michigan, The Juilliard School and her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Catholic University. She is a performing artist for Edwards Instrument Company.
1. How long have you been teaching? What do you love about teaching trombone? Any favorite teaching moments?
I started teaching 5th and 4th graders private lessons when I was in 8th grade, and I have been teaching ever since. I started teaching adjunct at the college level while I was in the Navy Band about 15 years ago. What I love about teaching trombone changes with each age of the student. The younger kids improve so fast. It is really fun to see them surprise themselves by doing something they didn’t know they could do! The college students are really interesting people to talk to and get to know as people. Each of them has a different story and interests and challenges. Teaching private lessons can be like forensic science at times. The teacher has to do some sleuthing to find out what is wrong and try different techniques to help the student fix the problem. When something works, it is a great moment for both teacher and student! I love seeing the students perform. Their excitement when it all comes together and the energy on stage is contagious.
2. You wear and have worn many hats as a musician from your job in the Navy Band, to Delaware Symphony, and as a soloist with your recent CD – all while continuing to teach college students at Towson and now Univ. of North Texas. Any secrets of success to share for fellow teachers and students on maintaining a satisfying and diverse career as a performer and a teacher?
If you love what you do, it is always satisfying. I fell into most of this by just being open to opportunities. One job led to another. I didn’t start out wanting a military band job, but I took a chance and everything else followed that. There are many ways to piece together a comfortable living playing music, so seek out opportunities, create your own if none exist and keep working at improving. When I first graduated from Juilliard, I had a private studio of trumpet, horn and trombone students, worked part time as a data clerk for Frito-Lay, started my doctorate degree at Rutgers, took auditions and said yes to every freelance gig that came my way. It sounds like a lot, but only one of those things felt like work, because I was doing what I loved and was able to make a living while growing my resume and gaining experience.
3. 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?
I do, but that role has changed over the years. When I was younger, I felt that I needed to work harder and be better than men in order to prove myself as a woman. It was isolating and exhausting. Now that I’ve reached a point where I’m not as focused on advancing my own career, I enjoy being a positive example and role model for the younger generation, not as a female brass player, but as a brass player. In a perfect world, we would see equal numbers of women and men brass players and composers. We would not hear stories of sexism and sexual misconduct. Until that world is here, it is so important for women to have the International Women’s Brass Conference and to program music of women composers. Most of my motivation in performing at conferences and universities is to move in this direction. I continue to be approached by young women, especially those in other countries, who want to talk to professional women brass players because they don’t have any role models where they live. It can make a big difference in their world.
4. Do you see any specific challenges for musicians in today’s climate? How do you mitigate those on your own and for your students?
The market is so saturated with great players. It is so competitive. I encourage all of my students to be as well-rounded as possible. Take every opportunity to learn both jazz and classical styles and have a secondary area in a related field like education, performing health, or music business. Most trombonists will have to piece together a career in many ways: gigging in many styles, teaching, marketing and managing to name a few. When I graduated, I had to look beyond winning a job in a major symphony orchestra. Playing with the Navy Band led to a GI Bill that paid for my doctorate degree and great professional playing experience that I used for my college teaching resume. College teaching led to great opportunities to program my own recitals, travel to conferences, play in great ensembles and teach some incredible young trombonists. The path to success can look very different for each person.
5. 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 would have had more confidence as a younger player. I was limited by my own insecurity. I should have believed in myself and not let others tell me what I could or could not do. I also dressed down in order to fit in with my male counterparts. It took me a long time to be comfortable with my abilities and uniqueness and recognize that I could be competitive with just about anyone if I allowed myself to be. I would encourage younger female musicians to feel good about themselves. Support each other. Don’t let anyone make you feel less valuable. Seek out opportunities with other women, like the International Women’s Brass Conference. I have never felt more love and support than I have there.
6. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life etc.
I’ve done a lot of mental work for performing. I love My Lessons with Kumi by Michael Colgrass and Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. Sound in Motion by McGill was a really important book in my teaching and interpreting music. Alexander Technique has really helped me in proper body use and relaxation while playing. I’m sure there are so many recordings! I would be too afraid to leave any out by only mentioning a few, but I will say that my first classical music heroes were the Canadian Brass. When I saw them in concert as a kid, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.