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:

Favorite parts:

  • Huge variety of presentations
  • Warm weather of Arizona and beautiful environment
  • Hanging in the Airbnb with my group
  • Meeting other brass players I know tangentially from social media
  • Amazing performances and workshops

Least favorite parts:

  • Dry air = bad environment for my lips to feel comfy when playing
  • Hard to juggle practice time and seeing every presentation
  • Switching between some of the further rooms and missing the beginning of presentations

And now for some more controversial opinions / real talk: The concerts were all amazing, but there were definitely some I enjoyed more than others. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that several of the pieces by women that my group was playing, as well as many pieces by women that I hadn’t heard of, were sprinkled throughout the program on other group’s concerts. Especially for those attending the conference who may not live in a big city or attend a big conservatory that is in tune with diversity in programming, this is a big moment and opportunity to expose the audience to music by women+ composers.

However, I was unfortunately surprised that several groups – including some of mostly men – chose to play programs of all-male and all-white composers. Several years ago (and for literally hundreds of years) this wasn’t a big concern in the music world. Even now, most people attending or looking at a concert program may not even realize when the composers are all men. I don’t think it should be a requirement for IWBC to have groups with a diverse program or only accept these sorts of groups. That sort of restriction might limit ensembles from picking the music that is most accessible to perform in terms of acquiring the parts and the music being of the appropriate level. However, I do believe though that moving forward the change has to come from the soloists and groups themselves to make it a priority to find pieces by composers of color and women+ composers. All of the performers and presenters at the conference have the opportunity to create the sort of positive change that will benefit women in many facets of the music world, and it was tough to see these opportunities repeatedly overlooked and passed over. Without attempts to create a more diverse environment both for the musicians and the music itself, we will continue to program the same composers and not propel the future of brass music forward in any way.

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