Staff Sergeant Tiffany Hoffer earned a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. Prior to joining The U.S. Army Field Band in 2016, SSG Hoffer was an active freelancer in New York City, performing with various ensembles such as the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, Richmond County Orchestra, and the Patriot Brass Ensemble. She has attended music festivals around the country, including Spoleto Festival USA, Aspen Music Festival, Chosen Vale International Trumpet Seminar, and the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute. She has also been a semi-finalist several times in the National Trumpet Competition’s high school, undergraduate, and graduate solo divisions. SSG Hoffer’s primary teachers include Vincent Penzarella, John Rommel, and her own father, Gil Hoffer.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. What group are you in? How long have you been in it?
My name is Tiffany Hoffer, and I play trumpet in the U.S. Army Field Band. We travel all over the country playing concerts, and our mission is to spread the Army’s message through music. I’ve been in the band for a little over a year.
2. What do you love about being a musician in the military? What about being a female brass player?
Personally, I absolutely love being a musician in the military. I enjoy playing a huge variety of music with some of the best musicians and most wonderful people I’ve ever known. I won’t take it for granted a day in my life.
3. Having a stable and rewarding job playing for a living is something many of us strive for. Have your goals changed since you joined the group? Any future plans or projects you are a part of in addition to the group?
It is absolutely different to be in the job than it is to still be auditioning. And yes, I’d say my goals have shifted. For so long, my one and only goal was to win a job, and I dedicated the majority of my time and financial resources toward that endeavor. Now that I’ve been lucky enough to reach that goal, I don’t really have one big goal any more, but tons of really small goals, both within and outside the organization.
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?
I think the most important thing I had to learn was how to stay focused on my craft, even in the face of judgment and/or negative treatment. As women, we tend to experience a slew of different issues in this traditionally male-dominated field. After repeated negative experiences, it’s only natural to become a little defensive, and to feel the need to prove ourselves to those who judge us. For me personally, that mindset hindered my progress. When I gave myself permission to ignore outside opinions and just focused on me and my own progress, I truly started to move in the direction I wanted. If you stay focused on yourself and continually improve your craft, you will prove yourself to others just by doing what you do. This isn’t necessarily a gender-specific idea, but given what we experience as women in this field, I think it’s especially important to keep this in mind.
5. Do you have any suggestions for fellow Brass Chicks interested in a career in a military band or an orchestra who are going on the audition path?
Record yourself. A lot. And not just for the audition tapes. Record your practice and listen back. If you can, record your auditions and listen back. The recorder never lies, and listening back to your own playing gives you a very accurate picture of everything that’s going on. Not only will you figure out exactly what needs work, you’ll also hear the things that are going well, and that can be a great confidence boost.
Listen to great musicians! Any time you are preparing something for an audition, listen to multiple professional recordings of it, and use those recordings as a reference for style, tempo, phrasing, etc.
A couple other things…this sort of echoes what I said before, but, stay focused on your own progress. Try not to pressure yourself to go out and win a job tomorrow. Go to the auditions, give 110% every time, and keep track of your improvement. If you’re improving each time, you’re going in the right direction.
And if you’re going in the right direction, let yourself celebrate that. It can be very easy to get discouraged. Rather than thinking of each experience that doesn’t result in gainful employment as a failure, think of it as a learning experience. Take what you can from it to make the next time better. And if you DO make next time better, that’s a success. Let yourself feel good about that.