Five Things I’ve Learned from Going to 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.

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. He spent his three days with us not just on notes and rhythms, but focusing on pulling emotion from us and urging us to play with feeling. Needless to say, my mindset and approach to how I interact with conductors has changed and I find myself seeking out every opportunity to introduce myself to these amazing individuals whenever I get the chance. I have learned so much about more than just music, but life in general.


2) Not every suggestion will work for you (take it with a grain of salt). These events typically include sectionals with professors from a nearby college of music. While it is incredible to meet these people and get a better idea for my future, it can also have a negative impact. They are all great teachers, but not every teacher is the right fit for every student. Frequently, I find myself overwhelmed and spending too much mental energy focusing on small aspects of my technique attempting to follow suggestions given to me. Input from different people can be very beneficial, you gain new ideas and perspectives from each fresh set of ears. While they’re goal is always to help you improve, when professors give conflicting advice it is challenging to figure out what works best for you, and inevitably harder to recenter your playing. Luckily, my horn teacher has always been there to help me come to the realization that it’s ok to take some advice and work really hard with it, but it’s also ok to brush some of it off and acknowledge that it’s not right for you.


3) It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. It used to go the same way every time, I’d walk in and hear everyone else warming up, and allow myself to feel intimidated and think that I did not belong there. When I finally realized that these were my nerves talking, it was very freeing and empowering. I remember the exact moment my attitude changed. I was in the group warm up room at a national honor band where everyone was warming up for seating auditions. I could see and hear all the horns (that already knew each other and were friends) showing off together. I was especially nervous because I did not know anyone there and was given an alternate spot and later accepted when a spot opened up, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. However, I walked into the audition the calmest I’d ever felt for one and decided to just play my best, and ended up earning second chair. The moral of this story is not that the horns in the warm up room were bad, it’s that I underestimated my own ability due to their ability. I later learned that some of them were intimidated by me, and from then going forward, I carry myself at these events with confidence in knowing that I do deserve to be there.
4) The problems you think that only you struggle with, are likely the same problems a lot of other people struggle with as well. I spent a week this summer at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music young musicians camp. I decided to take the elective “Brass Techniques”, and could not be more thankful I made that choice. That class was not just limited to playing techniques, it became an open discussion about brass playing and performing in general between high schoolers, college counselors, and two professionals. We spent an entire two hour class period discussing performance anxiety and ways we all experienced it and coped with it. I benefited a lot from hearing about other people’s ways for handling it, but also from hearing that everyone else experienced stage fright too, even the pros! I am still nowhere close to fearless performance, but I feel much more confident when I perform now, knowing that every other musician listening wants me to do well and understands what I’m going through.


5) Musicians are the most amazing people! To conclude, the most important thing I’ve learned from attending these events, is that all musicians, regardless of where they’re from, are incredible people with so much in common. I’ve attended camps and honor bands in Michigan, Florida, and Indiana and travelled to visit colleges all over the place, and still felt right at home. Not only do I feel comfortable, but I walk in knowing no one, and leave three days later with friends that I’m still in touch with and hope to remain in touch with for years to come. There is something very special about the bond that musicians can create with each other even if they’re only together over the course of five rehearsals and a concert.


Phoebe’s bio continued


As a member of the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, Phoebe had the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall in the summer of 2018 under the baton of Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson. She’s involved with several ensembles in the city, including the Columbus Youth Symphonic Band, Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, New Albany Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Connection, as well playing multiple leadership roles within her high school band and choir programs. Outside of her involvement in her high school and extracurricular ensembles, she has been accepted into the OMEA All-State Band and the NAfME All-National Band every years she’s been eligible, aa well as the Music for All Honor Band of America in 2018. She has attended both the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and the Interlochen Fine Arts camp and looks forward to more musical adventures next summer before her senior year. Her musical interest began in fifth grade with the violin and piano. She dropped both of those in sixth grade and joined band on horn and switched to bass in orchestra. She enjoyed many years playing both before deciding to make the commitment to focus all of her energy on horn. She has been playing horn for five years now and has spent four of them with her private instructor, David Nesmith, who is not only an excellent horn teacher, but also a highly regarded Alexander Technique instructor. She now spends all of her free time playing horn and singing in choir and is looking forward to taking her next steps towards a future in horn performance.


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

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

Five Post-Grad Lessons from Playing Trombone in College Marching Band

This week’s Five Things Friday post was written by Kristen Frank, an alumna of Lousisiana State University’s “Golden Band from Tigerland” who played the trombone in high school and college. She holds bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology with a minor in linguistics and an MS in psychology and currently currently teaches psychology at Baton Rouge Community College.

See the end of this post for Ms. Frank’s more complete biography.

The wand chooses the wizard, and the trombone chose me. Here are five things I have learned from playing since I graduated!

Ten years ago, I was in the 10th grade, my instrument of choice the flute. I loved it: It was pretty, small and lightweight, and the same instrument my aunt had played in her high school band. She had gone on to play piccolo in her college days, and I thought I would do the same. Two years later, however, my flute was sharing the stage (literally: my last concert in high school saw me switch back and forth at least twice, not to mention the jazz band sections) with the trombone. The trombone was big and awkward, and, at first, I couldn’t buzz, much less play, to save my life. A year later, though, I had gotten into my college’s marching band on trombone. This was amazing, given that I had basically taught myself and only been playing a year. It was tough: the hours were much longer than in high school—band camp itself was a week from about 8 am to 8pm—and I was in a section full of guys, which I was not used to. I grew to love my section-mates, however, and the next three years flew by. Now that I’ve been out of college for a while, some important lessons from that band and from playing the trombone stay with me: Continue reading

Five Tricks for Handling Multiple Projects at Once

This Friday, we at Brass Chicks are feeling a bit overwhelmed. There always seems to be so much to do – and so little time to do it! Nonetheless, we (like many in the music field) do the work we do because we love it. Although the topic of this post is not as explicitly musical a subject as what we usually discuss here, these skills can be invaluable for musicians in the era of the portfolio career. The advice below might seem basic, but these steps, combined with a little discipline, can turn too many things to do into a road map to your next set of accomplishments. If you, too, are feeling the strain of juggling more responsibilities than you feel you can manage, we hope the following five tricks for handling multiple (or many) projects at once can help:

1. Make a List

This may seem obvious: we are all familiar the ubiquitous to-do list, and we all know how to make one. You probably enough lists every day that it feels like there’s nothing special about the medium. Even this post is a list! Additionally, to-do lists frequently fail and can cause stress. Nobody wants tons of uncompleted tasks hanging over her head!  Continue reading

Five Ways to be a Better Colleague

Today’s post is written by our very own Kate Amrine. Check out her bio on her site here.  

A passionate and creative performer, Kate Amrine is a prominent trumpet player balancing a multifaceted career from developing new repertoire and curating concerts to freelancing with many different groups in the New York City area. Recent performances include an off Broadway workshop of Duncan Sheik’s new musical “Alice by Heart,” an orchestra tour to Japan to perform Torelli’s “Concerto in D,” and Rite of Spring for two trumpets. Upcoming performances include several dates with new ensembles eGALitarian and Wavefield and more!

1. Be prepared

It is very important to have a strong handle on your performance before addressing any other aspects of being a successful musician and a good colleague. Have you practiced all of the music, written in any needed cues, and listened to multiple recordings when possible before your rehearsal? Are you showing up with all of the relevant mutes, pencils, and hard parts already figured out ahead of time? It is normal to want to ask the conductor or section leader a question about phrasing or something unclear in the part but often times these questions are things that could be figured out before the rehearsal over email or in person beforehand.  Continue reading

Five Things to Help Work Through the Challenge of Braces

Alyssa Richards is a trumpet player hailing from Southern Pennsylvania. She was raised by two very musical parents, and her favorite childhood memory is watching her dad direct his high school marching band. Inspired by him, she decided to learn the trumpet in the fourth grade. Alyssa knew from a very young age she wanted to study music, but it wasn’t until high school she took it seriously.

Braces are any brass players worst nightmare. When I got braces as a junior in high school, I was terrified. I was angry that the one thing I loved more than anything in the world was momentarily taken away from me, and I thought that my life was basically over. I was in multiple groups as a lead player and determined not to make a fool of myself. I forced myself to get better, working until I physically could not play (which is one thing I would not recommend) just so I could regain my playing abilities again. Unlike the readers here, I had nobody who understood to help my adjustment and I had to sort through a lot of bad advice. Here are five things to help you work past the challenges braces can create.

1. Return to the basics

Anytime you go through a major transition it is important to return to those long tones and technique exercises we so often avoid. I personally practiced exercise number 47 in the Arban’s method book every single day because it helped me rebuild a foundation for my upper register. This may have worked for me,but may not work for you, so do not be afraid to experiment with different exercises until you find one that works for you.  Continue reading

Five Things to Stop Stressing About and Start Appreciating as a Human and a Female Musician

Julie Passaro Krygsman is a musician and aerialist based out of the northern NJ/ NYC area. Julie has been playing trombone for over twenty years performing in various entertainment companies, orchestras, brass bands, quintets and concert bands including Imperial Brass, Music in the Air and the NJ Sackbut Ensemble.  

See the end of this post to read Julie’s full-length bio.


1. The substance of art

If you’ve ever suffered from imposter syndrome you’ve asked yourself “Why am I doing this in front of people. Am I a hack?” The origin of those questions is rooted in your passion. You care so deeply that you don’t want to do poorly at your craft. Take a moment and embrace that.  Continue reading

Five Popular Songs with Women Playing Brass

This week, we’re sharing a Five Things Friday post on the lighter side. How many of these songs have you heard before?

1. Beyoncé — Blow

Known for touring with an all-female band (Suga Mama), Beyoncé stayed true to form and recorded “Blow” with an all-female horn section: Katty Rodriquez, Adison Evans, and Crystal Torres.

2. Talking Heads — Blind

This 1987 single, written by David Byrne, is a “parody of partisan politics.” If you listen to the track closely, you can hear the work of Laurie Frink, trumpet!

3. Kool & The Gang — Good Times

This track from Kool & The Gang’s 1972 album by the same name includes the work of Sharon Moe, horn.

4. Radiohead — Codex

This 2008 track from Radiohead’s eighth album, The King of Limbs, includes the flugelhorn playing of Yazz Ahmed. (If you watch Westworld, you may recognize this song from the season 2 finale!)


5. Lorde — Sober (Vevo Series)

On the re-orchestrated, acoustic version of “Sober” Lorde recorded for Vevo at Electric Lady Sound Studios in New York, she featured three horn players: Rachel Drehmann, Jenny Ney, and Kaitlyn Resler!