Five Tips for Diving into the Freelancing Scene

Diana Allan is a current NYC based freelancer. She recently graduated from Mannes School of Music in 2015 with her M.M. Studying with David Jolley. Previously she obtained her B.M. in Music Education K-12 from Mansfield University and studied with Rebecca Dodson- Webster. In the midst of gaining both degrees, she doesn’t stop there. Diana is currently working on her professional Studies degree at Mannes where she will graduate next spring 2019 with her third degree.

At the beginning of this year Diana was the founder of the NYC based horn quartet, Quartado. They will be making their debut recital this upcoming June at Darling coffee. Also this past year, Diana was Co-founder of the group 13th and Broadway. Musicians gathered to read through different broadway shows. They will also be making their debut cabaret recital this upcoming May at The Mannes School of Music.

  1. Introduce yourself

Whether you’re in school or not, introduce yourself to new people; tell them what you play, what you do and what you’re about. You’ll be shocked that months later you might get an email or phone call from them for a potential gig or project.

        2. Ask Questions

Find people who are freelancing and playing the gigs. How they got they, who connected them, are they looking for players or subs? Obviously ask within reason, but the questions are endless and important to carving your path.

        3. Learn from the spotlight

Take lessons from people who are doing what you want to do. ie, broadway pit musicians, The Met, a well know quartet or trio etc.

        4. Have a calendar

One of the most important things that I’ve come to realize in my every day life is my agenda. It’s like my bible. There’s always the debate digital vs paper. Personally I use both. Both it’s so important to at least have one spot where you wrote all your gigs down and the rehearsals/performances that come with them. Nothing’s worse than double booking yourself.

          5. Unpaid or cheap gigs? Take them at first. Make connections.

That’s where it all starts. From there you’ll create a network. You’ll start to realize even though NY is a big city, the community is small and well known.

A Five Minute Flow for Five Things Friday

This week’s Five Things Friday post comes to us from Dr. Kate Umble Smucker, who you may remember from her post, Five Yoga Poses to Release Neck and Shoulder Tension, on Brass Chicks last October. This week, she has produced a great video of a five-minute evening yoga flow!

IMG_0345-2Dr. Kate Umble Smucker is a trumpet player and music educator based in New York City. She currently plays with Calliope Brass Quintet and teaches trumpet at the Music Conservatory of Westchester. Kate is also a 200 hour registered yoga teacher. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge of yoga with fellow musicians so they too can experience the benefits she has enjoyed by incorporating yoga practice with trumpet practice. 

Kate is a dreamer who loves to bring big ideas to life. Working with Calliope Brass, Kate assisted in the development of the educational show, “What’s Your Story?” She is a founding member of Spark Brass, a brass and percussion ensemble dedicated to promoting the positive impact of music education. She is also the founding artistic director of Lancaster New Sounds, a concert series that showcases new music by living composers. Her love of jazz prompted her to put together and lead the 18-piece King Street Big Band which is still active in Lancaster, PA.

Kate holds a Doctorate in Trumpet Performance from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, a Masters of Music from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor of Music Education (K-12 instrumental) and a Bachelor in Trumpet Performance from the University of Northern Colorado. Her primary teachers were Dr. Keith Benjamin, Professor Keith Johnson and Dr. Robert Murray.

Hello Brass Chicks!

For this Five Things Friday, as your brass musician/yogi in residence, I decided to create a five minute flow you can use to unwind at the end of a long day. Think of it as a way to give your body a hug and say, “Good job body! You’re amazing! Keep up the good work!”

I really enjoyed making this video and I hope you find it helpful. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any requests for poses to release or strengthen certain areas. I am also available to travel to you for a private customized yoga session, or to work with you and a few friends. You can get in touch via email:

Namaste ?
Kate Umble Smucker

Five Tips for a Productive Practice Session


Horn player Kelsey Ross is an active performer and educator currently based in New York City. Prior to moving to NYC, Kelsey earned both her M.M. and B.M. degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, as a student of Denise Tryon (former fourth horn, Philadelphia Orchestra). While in Baltimore, she recorded the music of Kevin Puts and Aaron Jay Kernis under the direction of Marin Alsop and has recorded pieces by emerging composers with the Peabody Wind Ensemble for Naxos Records. She was also a founding member of both the Brassanova Brass Quintet and Harbor City Wind Quintet which performed at venues throughout the Baltimore area.

Recently, Kelsey made her Carnegie Hall debut performing with the New York String Orchestra under conductor Jaime Laredo. Kelsey has also participated in the Domaine Forget summer festival in Quebec and the Barry Tuckwell Institute in Colorado. She has played in master classes with David Cooper, Radovan Vlatkovic, Frøydis Ree Wekre, Gail Williams, Barry Tuckwell, Abel Pereira, and the American Horn Quartet.

1. Have clear, specific goals

I’ve found that the best way to keep myself productive is to be as specific as possible with my goals. When I first got to school, there were so many different parts of my playing that I wanted to work on, and I did not know where to begin. Thankfully, my teacher helped me define goals to work towards so that I was focusing on just a few things at a time. For some people, these goals could be anything from cleaning up articulations to strengthening loud playing in the high range. For many people, the goal is as simple as winning an audition. Whatever your goal is, write it down.

2. Create a plan – and stick to it

Now that you have your goals in mind, it’s time to create a plan of action to reach them. If your goal is to win an audition, what do you need to do to get to that point? Figure out how much time each day you will dedicate to your audition excerpts, how far in advance you will start working on the excerpts, at what point you will start playing mock auditions, and how many you will play each day/week. Schedule out each step leading up to your goal and again, write out your plan so that every time you start a practice session you know exactly what to work on. No more aimless practicing.

3. Find a friend to keep you accountable.
Sometimes it can be hard to keep up the motivation, which is why I like to partner with a friend to keep me accountable in sticking with my plan. While I was in school, my friends and I would keep each other motivated to wake up early and practice before most of our peers were even awake. Knowing that my friends were also waking up and getting work done motivated me to do the same. Surround yourself with positive, hard-working people who inspire you, and you’ll be motivated to be as productive as they are!

4. Eliminate distractions

The more focused you are, the more productive your practice session will be. If possible, find a quiet place to practice and put your phone on airplane mode so you’re not tempted to check your notifications. If you can’t resist your phone, put it outside of your room and use a separate tuner/metronome to practice. Figure out what time of day you are the most focused. For me, this is early in the morning and late afternoon. Therefore, I try to schedule most of my practicing during those times to maximize my focused energy.

5. Record yourself  

It can be difficult to evaluate the larger picture of your own playing, especially when you are focusing on specific details of your technique. Recording is a great way to hear your playing from someone else’s perspective. When you record yourself and listen back, you can notice things that you might not hear while you are playing your instrument. I’ve found that recording myself every day has made my practice sessions more efficient because it helps me pinpoint exactly what I need to work on, which allows me to set specific goals for my practice sessions.

P.S. Every so often, take a step back and notice your improvements. Remember to celebrate the small wins!

Five Ways to Bring JOY Back Into Your Playing

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Reverend (Rev.) Kiah Abendroth is an ordained interfaith minister and a third generation female trumpet player. She holds her Master’s Degree in Music from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, specializing in Classical Trumpet Performance. Her instructors include renowned trumpeters Judith Saxton, David Washburn, and Dean Boysen – as well as her father, Roy Abendroth (and of course the influence of her mother and grandmother, Lori Abendroth and Beverley Shearer). Although Rev. Kiah’s training is classical, she also enjoys playing free improvisation, jazz, world, sacred music, and more!

Rev. Kiah freelanced as a performer and educator in New York City for three years. While she was there, she was the producer and soloist for a show at the Lincoln Center Institute entitled, “Introspection.” Kiah is a 2011-2012 Kenan Fellow with Lincoln Center Education, having completed a fellowship in arts education and imaginative learning.

Rev. Kiah Abendroth recently relocated to the island of Kauai where she is now exploring songwriting and creating original music. To Rev. Kiah, music is uplifting and healing. It is her aspiration to work with the power of the creative arts to help support and cultivate community: bringing us together – within ourselves, between one another, and with our world. Please don’t hesitate to visit her online at or In addition to performing, Rev. Kiah offers trumpet lessons and empowerment coaching in person and online.

If you’re wanting to bring more joy and PLAY back into your playing, it is my sincere hope that by reading about some of my journey, you may be inspired further on your own.

  1. Take a Break. Much of my early progress came with my dedication to play everyday, even if it was just a little bit or very late at night (Sorry mom!). Although taking breaks can be controversial, it has become very valuable to me to check in regularly with my body and heart: How am I doing right now? Body, how are you? Heart, can I help you in any way? In listening and caring for these parts of myself, I am suddenly more available to bring my full presence back to the practice room or stage. Sometimes, what I needed was one guilt-free day off to go frolic in the woods, or sleep, or do some “meaningless” activities. These things can be so refreshing and rejuvenating to me! After a break, I often find that my playing is fresher, lighter, and simply more pleasant for everyone. I try to remind myself to be gentle. Treating myself well ultimately helps my playing.


  1. Nature. It can be refreshing to practice outside. Even when I lived in Manhattan, I went ahead and marched down the hill outside to go play some sonatas in Central Park. There have been many studies about the healing effects of spending time in nature. Playing with a flower right in front of me or making up a little ditty to play for one of my favorite trees can be so enjoyable, and help remind me of how connected we all are. When I’m in a beautiful and calm environment, my playing becomes more beautiful and calm as well.


  1. Be ridiculous. Playfulness is a natural part of being human. Sometimes, in my adulthood, I can forget how to be playful. One of the fastest ways to break out of my shell, is to do something utterly ridiculous. I went to an open mic once and ended up doing the whole performance upside down, leaning backwards over a large wood block. It was terribly uncomfortable, and definitely hard to play, but it brought such a sense of lightness and playfulness to the performance that I still smile when I think about it today. As I look for opportunities to do something out-of-the-box, I find that my approach is infused with more curiosity and lightness. Note: please be careful if you decide to play upside down!


  1. Priorities. It can be easy, after playing for so long, to lose touch with why I started. What were my favorite things about playing when I was young? What was it about trumpet that I loved? Connecting back to my child-self, I remember the simple joy of playing, the wonder of the music. Bringing it back to the present, I ask myself: What are the most important things to me in life right now? How are these things supported by, or expressed through, music? When music and the rest of my life feel connected, my values and priorities can be expressed more easily. The music itself can feel more fulfilling and enjoyable.


  1. No Wrong Notes. I know as a classical performer, this can be a stretch. “What do you mean, no wrong notes? Tell that to the conductor, thank you very much.” Probably the most healing part of my own journey back to a joyful relationship with music, was allowing myself to improvise. I took a couple months off of my regular practice routine and started playing by ear. I explored how the notes don’t really go “up” and “down” like the images on the page, but exist more or less in the same place – right at the tip of my lips. I started wondering where the music really comes from (feel free to write me about that one!). I found that I perceive the music first through feel, then visually, and lastly orally. I redefined what it was to make a “mistake,” seeing those moments as opportunities to get outside of my normal ruts and discover new sounds. All of this helped me understand myself better as a musician and ultimately find a way of playing that works for me. Through improvising, I was able to shift my view of music. I found myself dropping back into my heart, where that childlike wonder still lived, and enjoying the present-moment adventure of simply being alive.