Five Things I’ve Come To Terms With While Pursuing a Freelance Tuba Career

Allison Lazur has explored various aspects of the arts, including work in the art of baking as well as life on stage as a performer. After obtaining a degree in the pastry arts from The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, Allison baked for five years at various outlets throughout the tri-state area. She returned to school in 2011 to pursue life as a tubist, graduating with a degree in Tuba Performance from the Hartt School in West Hartford, CT.

Allison enjoys an active freelance career by performing with several groups including The New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, Smiling Rhino Theatre and Chatham, New Jersey’s Community Players. In March 2015, she premiered a tuba concerto with the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra written by Charles Menoche at Central Connecticut State University. 

She is currently the instructor of tuba at Wesleyan University, while also keeping a small studio of private students. Her most recent endeavors include a 1920s Dixieland Jazz group, French 75, as well as currently being a member of the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra (HICO), which performs new music throughout the state of Connecticut.

1. Financially Filling in the Gaps

As a former pastry chef, promotional girl, retail worker, insurance biller and current journalist, I’ll admit I’ve worked several jobs unrelated to tuba to fill in the financial gaps. I’ve always struggled with the idea of dedicating focused time and energy to jobs unrelated to playing my horn. I have felt as though I was cheating on music by flirting with jobs that weren’t nearly as fulfilling as playing tuba, but paid the bills. I would dabble in one field, then switch to another and then another until landing in a profession I could tolerate or maybe even enjoy while also pursuing music. And I’ve decided this is okay! I have finally found a balance between having a steady, weekly paycheck and wholeheartedly continuing to pursue my tuba career. I’ve learned to accept that at the end of the day, as long as you’re pursuing your purpose, everything works out.

 

2. Creating gig opportunities

Tuba might be the least popular instrument in the brass world. There’s only one of us in an orchestra (maybe two, depending on the piece), most people have the misconception that the tuba is only used for “oom-pahs” and often times when someone imitates what a tuba sounds like there’s usually a demonstration mimicking flatulence of some sort. However, despite the misconceptions tuba players face daily, I love this instrument. I believe the tuba is one of the most important instruments in any ensemble. The tuba often lays the foundation for the rest of the group, but in other scenarios can truly act as the solo instrument. Because I see the value of the tuba in an ensemble, I will continue to convince others of its value. I have accepted that I will oftentimes have to convince the one calling the shots that a tuba is needed. I can recall one specific situation where I had discovered there were several parts not covered in the pit for the show Oliver. Although there’s no tuba book for Oliver, I convinced the conductor I could cover several parts from different books all on tuba. With a bit of planning and arranging on his part and mine, it worked!

Create opportunities. Don’t take no for an answer and convince people of your worth.

 

3. Staying active on all fronts is a full-time job

I think I often get so caught up with learning the music, I forget that showing up at concerts, meeting new people and maintaining an online presence are all so crucial to a successful freelance career. The dixieland group, French 75 (www.facebook.com/F75music), was founded only about 2.5 years ago by myself and the clarinetist of the group. And over these last 2.5 years, I’ve learned a ton about what it means to really stay active. Our facebook is crucial. If not regularly updated, we look as though we aren’t on top of things. Our recordings on youtube also hugely contribute to our online presence. Finally, just showing up to venues as a group, even if we aren’t playing helps those who are booking gigs remember us, like us and book us!

 

4. Female tubists deal with nonsense

I’ve accepted that when I show up for a gig there will probably be at least one comment made about being a woman and playing such a large instrument. I’ve also accepted that there’s probably more than one individual at said gig who has already decided how I play before they even hear a single note. Instead of verbally acknowledging the obvious – that yes, I am female and yes, the tuba is pretty large – I just play. I don’t foresee the stereotypes that are associated with being a female brass player being eliminated from the minds of some anytime soon. So at the end of the day, all we can do is play our best, always.

 

5. Reveling in the small accomplishments is crucial

It’s incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re one, lonely, little, tuba player practicing day in and day out, hustling, working multiple jobs, navigating social stigmas and sometimes unable to figure out what the next step is towards your goal. So instead of giving in to feelings of defeat, acknowledge the small achievements and revel in those achievements. Even if it’s just finally mastering five measures of music, revel in that. Five measures of pure gold coming out of your bell, means your five measures closer to your goal.

Five Things I Need when I’m Headed out the door

JoAnn Lamolino is the Associate Principal Trumpet of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra following a successful national audition in February of 2018. She has performed with the Hawaii Symphony and the Honolulu Brass Quintet since the 2015-16 season. JoAnn is also a member of the Reading Symphony Orchestra in Reading, PA. For two seasons, she was a member of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in SC. Additional performance highlights include the Baltimore Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, American Ballet Theatre, State of Mexico Symphony in Toluca, MX, Czech Radio Symphony, Adele, Josh Groban, Taoramina Arte in Taoramina, Sicily, Spoleto USA,  and on Broadway shows. As a soloist, JoAnn has performed at the Trinity Concerts at One Series in Lower Manhattan, Bahamas Music Conservatory, RAI National Television of Italy, Charleston Symphony, throughout Europe with American Music Abroad and was a First Prize winner at the International Women’s Brass Conference.

JoAnn received a Bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a Master’s degree in Orchestral Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. Principal teachers include members of the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


Since I started playing with the Hawaii Symphony three seasons ago, I’ve learned a lot about performing well while my body clock is displaced by 5 or 6 hours. I primarily live on the east coast and make an average of 7-8 round-trips from New York to Honolulu per season. It can take anywhere from 9-11 hours of non-stop flight time or 10-13 hours with a stop. I’ve always enjoyed traveling a lot and dealing with all of the particulars that go along with it. When the opportunity arose for me to play in Hawaii, I was very excited for a lot of reasons. I’ve compiled a list of my 5 Things I need when I’m headed out the door.

  1. Melatonin, Kava, CBD oil. Or as I like to say, the drug bag! I am typically flying during the day and I have to go to rehearsal at night after I have arrived. The best way to adjust to your new time-zone is to eat and sleep on that time ahead of time. My preparation starts when I wake up in the am before going to the airport. I drink water and do not eat anything. I don’t want my bodyclock to think we are going to be up for long. So, when I get on my flight at 8am in NYC, I look at the time in Honolulu. It’s typically a time when I would be sleeping, like 2am. I take a melatonin and maybe a drop of CBD and I go to sleep until it is a time I would actually wake up in Honolulu. By the time that happens we are over Nevada or California. Kava and CBD can also be used during other flights when you just want to chill. The worst feeling is having too much energy and you are stuck on a plane for hours. They take the edge off without falling asleep. Obviously everyone is different and these are what I have found to be helpful for my body. You may need to experiment to find the right fit for you.
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  3. Food and Water. When I am flying, I carry whatever meals I need. Usually breakfast and lunch. I do not eat on red-flights. I only eat at times that are normal times to eat in my new time-zone. I carry foods that won’t cause extra inflammation. Flying causes inflammation on its own and I can’t control that. I generally pack hard boiled eggs, an apple, a banana, a bunch of cooked vegetables or a salad and a small piece of meat. For a snack, it’s some kind of protein bar. I never have alcohol (unless I get that First Class upgrade!) or the free cookies. Too much sugar = inflammation. My chops feel puffy when I play later in the day and jet-lag lasts longer. Carry your own refillable water bottle and fill it up after security. No matter how many times the flight attendants come around with the small cups of water, it’s never enough. Your food and water intake will help you feel better and sustain your energy once you land and have to play well and be social.
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  5.  Practice-mute. Delays happen! Weather, mechanical, whatever…there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t complain and get agitated like most of the people on your flight. Go find a space to warm-up and practice in the airport. I’ve had success at an empty gate area, the chapel and a vacant space in an airline lounge. I once got stuck at the Zurich Flughafen for 8 hours. So after spending way too much money on lunch and buying a watch that I never wear, I got some good practicing in.
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  7. An old-school i-pod. I know it’s 2018, but I still carry it. I like to give my phone a slight rest a long trip. I use the phone if I want to check out a podcast. On my ipod, I keep 90% of my music and a sleep playlist that I use to sleep. When I hear the list and I’ve taken a melatonin, it helps me fall asleep faster and stay asleep until Nevada. Based on where I am on the playlist, I know roughly where we are in the flight and when I can get up, eat breakfast, drink coffee and start my day. After the sleep playlist, I do a guided meditation. I have a regular meditation practice and I am a firm believer that having that practice helps me stay grounded when I am taking such long flights and changing time zones as frequently as I do. Wherever I am, I am comfortable.
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  9. Your own entertainment. For me, that is always a book and a notebook. You never  know when there is going to be a problem with in-flight entertainment and you are completely bored. Again, don’t complain. All it does is put you in a bad mood and waste your time. I once had this happen flying 8hrs from Milan-JFK, I was so bored I drank 4 beers. It was fun until it wasn’t….Airplane flying helps you unplug. When you are reading a good book, it can entertain and stimulate new thoughts and ideas that you may want to write down in a notebook. It’s your own sanctuary of time. It’s kinda priceless.

Five Things I Learned About Myself while Sitting in the Pit

Kaitlyn Resler, 22, born in Orlando, Florida, is a master’s degree student at The Juilliard School and a recipient of a Kovner fellowship. Ms. Resler also received her bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Julie Landsman. Ms. Resler is currently an active player with Wicked on Broadway, The Colorado Symphony, the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra and the Florida Orchestra. Kaitlyn is Co – Leader of eGALitarian – a brass ensemble of women musicians in NYC dedicated to improving and inspiring the lives of women in the community. 


Pit life is one of the most fun playing experiences I’ve ever had. But as we all know… it does often require a significant amount of downtime, often with nothing to do but dwell inside our crazy, beautiful minds! These are five things I realized about myself in the past few months while I had those endless hours of pit contemplation.

1. You can’t win at music. Sure there are competitions, job auditions etc… but ultimately isn’t music all about sharing a story with the audience and impacting lives? When I put it into this perspective the concept of “winning” music seems a little silly.

2. No one is counting your mistakes but you. I find myself time and time again tallying up the number of cracked notes. It was a nice realization to come to that no one else was counting every single little blip in my playing but me!

3. Comparing yourself to others will never be beneficial. Different people are at different places in their lives. Live in the moment and acknowledge all the things you have going for you right now.

4. Learn to appreciate your mind! For the longest time, I hated the fact that I would overthink every single thing in my life. Sometimes I even go down the rabbit hole of overanalyzing my analyzation of my thoughts! Whew.. but as I’ve come to realize, these crazy minds are what bring people together. It’s what helps us create life long relationships and connections with people and ultimately is our #1 source for creativity!

5. Music is meant to be fun. – a last but certainly not least familiar, simple, and super cliche concept. I know we’ve all heard it a million times but every single day it is so easy to forget.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the stressful side of performing that I often find myself forgetting that this is supposed to be an art form that is enjoyable for us and our audience! We, as musicians, are so lucky that our “work” is something that we can be so passionate about.

Five Tips for Surviving during your First Year out of School

Émilie Fortin is a Montreal-based adventurous musician and teacher who explores every possible facet of the trumpet. A versatile performer, she is a freelancer for several ensembles and orchestras. She has contributed to the creation of more than a dozen works with various emerging composers in an effort to enrich the repertoire of her instrument. She currently plays with the Griffon Brass Band. Originally from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, she received a bachelor’s degree in classical performance with Lise Bouchard at the Université de Montréal. In the spring of 2017, she completed her Master’s degree at McGill University under the direction of Russell DeVuyst. Perfecting her craft with great masters, Émilie always seeks to excel in her personal practice. It is with this in mind that she has participated in brass workshops at Domaine Forget and Chosen Vale (Vermont). She was selected to be a member of the Montréal Contemporary Music Lab in the summer of 2016, as well as a participant for Soundscape Festival (Italy) in 2017 and for Banff’s Evolution Ensemble program for this summer. Firmly believing that pedagogy is an integral part of performance, Émilie is a teacher in various secondary schools in the region. She has also had the opportunity to teach the trombone, trumpet and music theory at an orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets (Haïti). During the 2017-2018 season, she developed her focus on community engagement and teaching with The Global Leaders program, where she was one of 35 people selected for an international cohort of enterprising young musicians.


  1. Play music that you like

You don’t have a jury to please anymore, or a specific format to fill (unless you’re participating in a competition). Play that sonata you always wanted to do but was too chop-tiring for a 60-minute recital, try that cool chamber music piece with your friends, or arrange some pre-existing works! It’s so easy to feel that playing music is a chore after being at music school that it’s essential to be back in touch with the pleasure of creating art. In my case, I made a list of people I would like to play with, teachers I would like to take lessons with, and music I would like to perform. After finishing school, I found this was a great way to help me keep me motivated and keep track of my goals. Rather than just playing gigs, I’m organizing my own concerts with the repertoire I want to play. I’m surrounded by musicians and friends who are willing to embark with me on crazy projects, so I’m always inspired. Don’t wait for opportunities; create them!

  1. Take risks!

Since I started university, I decided to spend my summers not working 40 hours a week to save money for the school year, but rather doing festivals instead, which means I was really careful with my money. In the same order of ideas, I often chose non-paid gigs instead of non-music related paid work, just because I knew that in the long run, it would pay off. I also dived into The Global Leaders Program, asking myself often if it was the smartest idea to do this right after my Master’s. Of course, there’s nothing stable about this, and my anxious nature suffered from it from time to time! But I do think that if we decide that music is our career, we have to accept all the ups and downs that are coming our way more often than in the life of “normal” people. While everyone’s economic situation is different (some have the privilege to take more risks than others), and one should always value their work and ask to be paid whenever possible, risk is simply a reality of the musician’s life that we have to embrace. Your life won’t be as consistent, especially financially speaking, than your non-musicians friends, but it’s worth it in the long run to accept artistic projects as much as you can and if they’re related to your long-term goals.

  1. Go out

Try to attend as many concerts as possible and go out of your comfort zone. Everything you read, listen or go to will feed you as an artist. I’m talking equally about concerts, art exhibitions, poetry nights, you name it. Not to mention that the after-concert hang is important as well; connections you will make at the bar afterward are a part of creating a network and learning to know the human beings under the musicians. I used to see this networking as just an artificial “business” aspect of the music and found it negative, but now I’m enjoying discovering and genuinely connecting with new people.

  1. Take a part-time job that is flexible

I know many people who can only attend one festival per summer because their job wouldn’t let them away from the office for a long time, or that they have to ask far in advance for days off and sometimes miss gigs because of that. My more “stable” day-job is to be an usher at a concert hall, which means I work more often during the evenings and have my schedule three weeks in advance. The majority of my colleagues are artists as well, so it’s really easy to trade my shifts and my boss understands if an opportunity comes up and I have to be away for some time. In the meantime, you are creating a network of artists and friends from different backgrounds, not only musicians. Find a job that is adaptable to a freelance schedule, or even many jobs that are easy to deal with. Don’t also neglect a job where you can do something else, like answering emails or learning your music. You’ll have more energy to practice when you’ll come back home. You may have less stable income but will be grateful when your colleague asks you to sub for an ensemble at the last minute and you can say yes! And not to mention, listening to concerts for free is a great perk!

  1. Take into consideration your own progress

It is so hard to have the feeling that everybody else’s life is going so well, that they have so many gigs, while when people are asking you what your projects are, you don’t know what to answer. But please, remember that social media is not a mirror of real life! (I’m not always able to follow my own advice, here, by the way…). Write down your short-, medium- and long-term goals, then work toward them in everything that you’re doing. Be proud of the evolution you achieve, and don’t be distracted by the successes of your colleagues. Like life, the music world isn’t fair, and there will always be somebody better than you in some aspects, and there’s always an aspect of luck and circumstance in others’ success. So, focus on what makes you different and worthwhile, on why people would like to work with you. Take time for yourself, find what makes you feel good, and do it every day. Never forget: the musician in you is just one aspect to your personality; you have to nurture the other sides to feel complete as a human being. Balance is essential.

Five Tips for Thriving on a Touring Show

Today’s Five Things Friday post was written by trumpet player Christi Wans.

Christi is a freelance trumpet player and soloist based in the Oklahoma City area, and is currently traveling with the national/Asia tour of Kinky Boots. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in music education and trumpet performance from Central Washington University, as well as a Masters and DMA (ABD) from the University of Oklahoma.

 


For the last year, I have been traveling with the North American tour of Kinky Boots. The show has a great message, the music was written by Cyndi Lauper, and I’m getting to see parts of the country I never thought I would see. Most importantly? I have a full time job, with benefits, where all I have to do is play my trumpet.

That being said, it’s not always the most glamorous life. There are several things I have learned to help me survive:

1. Develop a routine early on.

This doesn’t just apply to playing your horn. When you’re traveling all the time, food options can be very limited, traveling is exhausting, and it can be easy to fall into the rut of laying in bed playing Candy Crush all day. Staying healthy became necessary for my sanity.

If you start out your tour active and making good decisions, it will be a lot easier to maintain. I like to run, so I decided to sign up for races ahead of time in the different cities we visited. Some people would hit the gym like clockwork as soon as we got to the hotel. Exercise becomes even more important for the musicians, because we are sitting in one place for three hours while the cast is running around burning calories on stage. Set yourself an alarm to be out of bed by a certain time on non-travel days so your internal clock isn’t completely backwards.

Try to resist the temptation to go out and drink every night. Some of this is important for building relationships, but it gets expensive and your body will hate you. Also, eating gas station food and McDonald’s all the time will drop a sodium bomb on your body. We would make the occasional bus stop at a Walmart or Whole Foods, and during these times I would try to stock up on healthy options (protein shakes, tuna fish packets, etc.) I also travel with a small bullet blender so I can make myself green smoothies (kale, apple, lemon, cucumber, chia seeds). Everyone has their own diet they need to follow, but one universal truth is that nobody can live on cheeseburgers.

Lastly, one of the biggest perks of traveling nonstop is that you get to see all different parts of the world. Do some research and plan ahead to see what there is to see (unless you’re in Flint, MI…nothing to see there). Plan a quest for the best cheesesteak in Philly, go for a hike in Alaska, tour the Alamo in San Antonio. Take lots of pictures.

2. Keep an organized suitcase.

On Kinky Boots, we were each allowed ONE fifty pound bag and then a small carry-on size bag (which I wasn’t able to bring because my case is my carry-on…sound familiar?). While we did have a few layoff weeks, I never went home during them because I have a boyfriend who is also a touring musician. All of these considerations combined meant that I literally had one suitcase of clothes for 9 months of tour.

My BIGGEST recommendation would be to buy a set of packing cubes. If you aren’t familiar, these are small rectangular nylon/mesh pouches that work to compartmentalize your suitcase. It transforms one large catch-all into essentially a dresser, providing separate spaces for everything, so when I inevitably couldn’t find the one shirt I wanted I only had one section of the suitcase to blow up instead of my entire belongings. I’m sure they’re all very similar; I like these ones because they are cheap, come in lots of sizes, and I can use the shoe bag as a small laundry sack for my dirty socks and underwear:

Gonex Rip-Stop Nylon Travel Organizers Packing Bags Red https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9R0CC1/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_q3jiBbAWPPJ7W

A few other useful suggestions for packing: as you find yourself not wearing certain things even when they’re in season, ship them home in flat rate boxes and save yourself the extra poundage. Keep Tide pods in a ziplock bag to spare yourself the need to buy new detergent in every city (not to snack on, silly kids). Invest in a handheld luggage scale so you don’t have to repack at the airport and slow your group down.

3. Find ways to keep your playing fresh.

If you rely solely on playing the show to keep your chops up, you’re going to end up with issues. In our setup, I am surrounded by plexiglass covered in acoustic foam panels. We each have an individual Aviom and in-ear monitors, which is a curse and a blessing: even though I was completely deadened and blocked off from everyone, I could make my own mix in my ears and add back that reverb I was missing. We all hate playing with ear plugs in, but at least you can pipe back in your own sound (and protect your hearing). I adjusted to this all fairly well, but whenever I had the opportunity to play naturally it took a chunk of time to find my center again.

My absolute favorite thing to do is play piccolo trumpet and soprano cornet, and there is none of that on this show. While I feel like the show has helped further develop my lead playing, I found myself really missing what I was passionate about. Somewhere in the middle of tour I decided to start plugging away at the Charlier book again, and that helped. I would meet up with fellow trumpet players and play with them, trading off on flow studies, flexibility, articulation. We are heading to Asia in a month, and I just purchased a little single picc case so I can take it with me as a personal item and work up some repertoire in my free time.

4. Maintain your contacts at home.

This was something I worried about a lot – you spend so much time building a freelancing career and making those relationships, and if you are out of the picture opportunities can vanish very quickly. It’s not at all impossible, but very important, to keep in touch with your home network and keep them updated on your schedule. A few weeks before a layoff, call the church you used to frequent and see if you can arrange something. Set up a meal with your old professor. I’ve been busy filling my break with meaningful performance experiences that also help pay the bills and keep me in the loop – I just finished up a concert series with the Sacred Winds ensemble in Kentucky, and next weekend I get to play the Haydn Concerto with the Oklahoma Haydn Festival! It’s been great to have a goal to practice for.

5. Be fearless.

As a musician and a person! The commercial music and theater industry is very heavily dominated by men. People are going to look down into the pit and be shocked to see a female musician (we were lucky enough to have two in ours). Do everything you can to break that stereotype. One of my old teachers was actually convinced that women were not physically capable of achieving the same power on the trumpet as men because he had encountered so many timid female players. Shocking, right?

The best thing I learned in graduate school was to stop worrying about how I looked, worrying about not being ladylike, worrying about missing notes, worrying about what everyone else was thinking. Trumpet is an inherently masculine instrument in that it takes a powerful and aggressive approach, but that does not prevent anyone from lighting it up on stage. All it takes is confidence and hard work.

To quote Kinky Boots, “you’ll change the world if you change your mind.”

Five Tips to Combat Impostor Syndrome – by Mariel Bildsten

Mariel Bildsten is a trombonist, based in New York City. Mariel works as a bandleader and side-woman in New York, playing in jazz big bands and small groups, as well as world and Caribbean music, classical, funk, r&b, and Latin music bands. She has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Caramoor Jazz Festival, Smalls Jazz Club, and Smoke Jazz Club, among other venues. Mariel has also performed alongside Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roy Hargrove, Wycliffe Gordon, Frank Lacy, Brian Lynch, Cyrus Chestnut, and Lew Soloff. Her own groups (ranging from duo to septet) have headlined jazz festivals, played around the country, and gig regularly in New York City. She graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in December 2015. During her time there, Mariel had the opportunity to study with fantastic teachers and mentors, such as Elliot Mason, Steve Turre, Vincent Gardner, Mike LeDonne, Reginald Workman, and Jane Ira Bloom.

Photo credit to Lauren Desberg

In 1978, psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes named impostor syndrome as a feeling of “phoniness or fraud in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Impostor syndrome presents itself through chronic self-doubt and feeling unworthy of opportunities. 

It is a thought-process that we all deal with, to varying degrees. Even as I’m writing this blog post, I’m telling myself “Mariel, who are you kidding? You’re not a writer, go and practice trombone!” 

Here are 5 tips to combat impostor syndrome. 

  1. Remember that you are there for a reason

Whether “there” is a gig, rehearsal, recording session, teaching position, or conversation, people who struggle with impostor syndrome will look around and say “How the hell am I here? I am a fraud. This must be a mistake.” 

I tend to place everyone else’s musicianship on a pedestal above my own, and believe that I’m only on a gig because no-one else was available and I was the 50th person they called.

However, if you truly brought zero value to a situation, you would not be invited because people don’t have time or energy to waste. You MUST believe this. Your voice on the instrument is unique and has characteristics that listeners enjoy, without the accompaniment of the bullshit in your head. An audience doesn’t know your journey as a musician: where you’re coming from or where you’re going. All they receive is your sound and stage presence. 

Your individual concept is valuable, and different from the other people in the room. You bring a positive energy. You interpret music in a playful way. You’re an excellent sight-reader. You’re an expansive improviser. Your sense of rhythm is incredible. You swing your ass off. You have a beautiful sound. You know every song under the sun. You push the other musicians around you. What’s your thing? 

          2. Bring your A game

This being said, do your job! Focus on bringing value to the situation.

Being prepared will help quiet those voices. If you did your best and leave each situation feeling proud of your work, that’s a win.

         3. Ask questions 

Use your impostor syndrome to fuel your curiosity. My fraudulent thoughts will run rampant when I think I don’t know enough about records, standards, or lack understanding of chord changes and theory, particularly around other jazz musicians. Rather than shutting up and shutting down to conceal my self-perceived inadequacies, I’ve started to ask more questions. 

“What’s this record?” 

“That’s a gorgeous tune, what is it?” 

“I don’t know the chord changes to this song, can you teach me?”

This does a few things: 

  1. You actually learn something!
  2. You make others feel good about what they do know
  3. You’re creating a situation where sharing and learning are welcomed 
  4. Others may be wondering the same thing. Thank God you had the balls to ask!

Along these same lines, how can we shift the perspective to be one of more gratitude? 

Self-gratitude for your own hard work and musicianship, and gratitude for the people that see your value. Be sure to get out of your head enough to say thank you. 

       4. Be a leader

Create more opportunities for yourself and the musicians around you. As I mentioned above, your musical voice is unique and needs to be heard. Dig into the music you love, create something, and go for it! This builds confidence, community, and a vision that is individual to you. As a bandleader, I’ve been able to play with my favorite musicians, employ them, and create a larger musical community. There are opportunities for every single musician in the world. Think globally and outside-the-box. 

As a side-person, know your value. If you have a special skill, bring that to the table when others hire you. Take the lead on that, others will be grateful. 

       5. Call a friend

Call a friend, mentor, family member, or someone you trust, and share how you’re feeling. Everyone has moments of insecurity, so don’t be afraid to share and ask for an encouraging word.

IMPORTANT BONUS! Diversity

A reality is that some opportunities come specifically because we are women. Whether it is an all-woman band/horn section or an organization is looking for more diversity, it will happen. We work in the entertainment industry and for some, image matters. I feel it as a woman, but everyone deals with this. People are often hired based on their age, race, gender or identity, culture, pregnancy, and/or disability. Sometimes the intention will be crystal clear, other times not. Obviously, some situations are to be avoided, and we all have varying levels of comfort with that dynamic. 

I hate feeling like the only reason I’m hired is because I’m a woman. It feeds my impostor syndrome. However, once you’re in the room, prove them wrong. Play your ass off, be prepared, be professional, know your stuff. Perhaps your gender got you in the door, but now you’re there as a musician. 

I hope these tips will help your mindset. Good luck and keep on keeping on!

For more about Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes’ research on impostor syndrome check it out here.

Five Questions to Recent Music Graduates – by Kate Amrine

Today’s post is by our very own Kate Amrine – she felt inspired to do some end of semester reflecting after seeing so many friends, colleagues and students graduating. 

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 a tour of Japan with the New York Symphonic Ensemble, a solo recital in Mississippi at the Music by Women Festival, and an opera at BAM with string ensemble A Far Cry. Upcoming performances include new music with orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Miller Theater, a workshop of a new off Broadway show by Duncan Sheik, a concerto in her hometown in Maryland, and a concerto and orchestra tour to Japan. Kate is extremely dedicated to commissioning and performing new music, premiering over 30 pieces both as a soloist and a chamber musician. Her debut album was released in November 2017 and features new music by women composers. Kate also frequently performs on Broadway and in other regional musical theater productions both in and outside of the NYC area. As an educator, Kate enjoys teaching in several after school music programs and teaches private trumpet lessons as an Adjunct Instructor at New York University. 

 


  1. What do you want to do?

This is perhaps the most obvious question of them all. I am sure we have all heard this from friends, family, teachers, and even people at the grocery store. But it is super important to think about – even if what you want is “unrealistic.” Thinking about your version of an ideal career can open your eyes up to what is possible, what would be the best case scenario, what you are willing to do to get here, and what you don’t want to be doing at all.. Also, don’t be afraid to think big – what would be the best case scenario for your career – it could be something like winning a job, playing with a certain famous musician, or giving recitals across the country. Similarly, don’t be afraid to think “small” – sometimes what you want to do could be as simple as recording an album in the year after graduating or starting a group with friends. Having goals of different sizes aimed for different points of your career is definitely the way to do it.

One more thing about goals – they should be SMART. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

So for example, my goal of playing with the New York Pops isn’t a SMART goal because it isn’t something that I have any control of the Time aspect. A goal of making an album of music for kazoo and slide whistle (completely just made this up) is SMART though because all of the factors would be in your control – including what you record, when it is released, who is involved, how you will measure its success, and how it will all come together.

 

  1. Is this Aligned with my Goals and What I want to be doing?

I’m not sure where I first heard this but just to state the obvious, without a plan you’ll end up somewhere that you don’t want to be. I had this experience when I finished my undergrad and I don’t recommend it. Most people when they graduate from music schools with a degree in their instrument come out of school saying something like “I just want to play” or “I’m down to work in any musical scenario.” While you may be eager and these statements may be true for you, hopefully you’ll realize from the previous point that these aren’t SMART goals. Of course we want to take every gig that comes our way – but after a certain point, our time gets more and more valuable and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. So when faced with these decisions, you will have to answer this question – does this new opportunity align with my goals and what I want to be doing? As I wrote about in my recent blog post, we aren’t always able to make every decision with our goals 100% in mind. Sometimes there may be a situation that comes up where you really want to take a certain gig yet have to stay in and teach because you need the money to cover student loans or your monthly expenses. Being financially stable is a very important goal and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked when going for our musical goals.

 

  1. Who is on your team to help you get there?

As a recent graduate, presumably you have a good relationship with your teacher, other professors, recent colleagues, friends, and family. These are all people that can help you accomplish your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, bounce ideas off of friends, or have these tough talks with people who are on your side. On the other hand, there may be times that the only person that knows what is best for your career is YOU. Your parents or friends can’t possibly understand everything that you are trying to do in your career or be able to understand and accept tough situations like how taking a low paying gig with a better future opportunity might be better than a short term higher paying gig. There are also many more resources available to help you get where you need to be. Here in New York City, the Musicians Union and Actors Fund both have many career workshops, financial counseling, and other wellness events. I also sought out a coach – Karen Cubides –  to help me focus on my career and get everything in order. Don’t be afraid of asking for help when needed!

 

  1. How are you going to leave the scene better than you found it?

I realize that this might be a bit of a dark topic to address in a post intended for college graduates but life is short! We aren’t going to be around forever and now is a good time to think about things like the kind of impact you want to make and what would happen if you weren’t alive anymore. I like thinking about it in relation to a campground – that old saying, leave your surroundings cleaner than you found them – it totally applies here. What are you going to do that goes beyond playing gigs and focuses on serving others and making the world a better place? This doesn’t have to be a huge grand gesture because there are many little ways that we can go beyond in the world around us. Things like offering a free masterclass at an organization with financial problems, performing in senior centers, teaching, and so many others – these are all totally doable things that you can try and see what works best for you. How do you want to be remembered?

 

  1. How are you different than everyone else?

This is another question that you might have heard before. Many music business and entrepreneurship texts often focus on building up as many skills as possible so that you are “marketable” or “hirable” or filled with added abilities to make you more attractive to work with. These things aren’t wrong – but it can be unrealistic to think about being a master at your instrument, teaching, the technology aspect, and all of these other facets of being a musician. You don’t have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades – but being able to offer a bit more than just someone who can show up and play will help you in the long run. I remember when I was in school someone told us to look around and that the room was filled with our colleagues for life – people who would hire you and be on your side – so we should all be careful how we come across to others, even at a young age. As a recent graduate, hopefully you have already made these smart choices – but if not, no better time like the present 🙂 These people graduating with you are able to hire you when they need someone but also remember they may be your competitors. This goes back to the question – how are you different than everyone else? This goes far beyond how you are in a playing situation and relates much more to how you are personally to work with and everything you completely bring to the table.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments! I would love to start a conversation about these things 🙂

Five Subtle Sexist Things You’ll Encounter in Your Career (and how to address them)

Lauren Husting, trombone, is a low brass teaching artist working in Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota. She performs on tenor trombone with the jazz-infused Scottish/Irish traditional band Brass Lassie, plays bass trombone with the Adam Meckler Orchestra, and is a freelancer in all genres from classical and chamber to jazz, pop, and contemporary. Adjunct faculty at Hamline University in St Paul, Lauren also manages an active studio of learners ranging from beginner to advanced, middle school to adult, and works to provide private lesson opportunities for low-income students in her region. She is committed to building community among women in the local and regional music scene, and encouraging all her students to develop healthy and creative ways to make music in their lives.

Lauren received her Masters in Trombone Performance from the University of North Texas in 2007, and her Bachelors in Trombone Performance from the University of Wisconsin in 2003. She can be found online at laurenhusting.com and is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Thanks Lauren for sharing this post with us!


I’ve talked to very few women musicians in my life who claim to have never experienced bias or sexism while at work or in training. Most of us, at some point, will be on the receiving end of chauvinistic behaviors ranging the gamut from subtle to severe. In many cases it may just be a person unaccustomed to speaking to professional women, or an older colleague with a slightly outdated mindset who doesn’t really mean any harm. But even the smallest offenses can be exhausting and discouraging for us.

There are ways to fight back, if you can recognize the symptoms. Here are five categories of bias that I’ve encountered in my career, and ways in which I’ve managed the situation. In no way is this an exhaustive list; let’s keep the conversation going!

 

  1. Patronizing comments/disbelief in your competence AKA “You play pretty good for a girl”

The classic. Someone just can’t seem to get over the fact that you play well, and they want to know exactly how you got your skill. It might be just an offhand comment or an awkward way to start a conversation with you, but sometimes it can manifest as utter disbelief in your ability. When that happens, it can feel pretty insidious and disconcerting. Sometimes it feels like they don’t think you actually understand how you got there yourself, or that it’s all luck or talent.  I’ve usually answered with responses that are a variation on “here are my credentials” (and sometimes with a snarky “Well, I’ve got lungs and arms and a pair of ears, so…”). The best way to fight it is with action: continue to play your best, speak your opinion, and act professionally. Continue reading

Five Lessons from my Embouchure Change

This week’s Five Things Friday post comes to us from trumpet player and recent high school graduate, Katherine Idleman. Katherine recently decided to undertake an embouchure change, and has chosen to share what that transition has taught her. Thanks to Katherine for writing!

Katherine's HeadshotKatherine Idleman is 18 years old and will be majoring in music education at Bucknell University this fall. She plans to join the many ensembles at Bucknell and hopes to become a band director for a middle and/or high school. She has played trumpet for 8 years and is learning trombone, clarinet, and saxophone as well. Katherine was a member of the Intermediate Wind Symphony and Jazz Band at Interlochen Arts Camp
in 2015. In 2016 and 2017, she was a member of the World Youth Wind Symphony and trumpet institute at Interlochen. Katherine was chosen to conduct the famous Interlochen Theme. This summer, she is going to be a camp counselor at Interlochen. She was also a member of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra for two years. She became a member of MYSO’s flagship orchestra, the Senior Symphony, her second year. She was a member of her high school’s concert, jazz and pep band and conducted her high school band for a band arrangement of the Finale
from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite at her last concert. She is an avid advocate for music education and currently volunteers her time raising money for and teaching music at the Albert E. Kagel school in Milwaukee, shadowing band directors throughout Wisconsin and playing for churches in her community.


“You need to change your embouchure:” These are words no brass player ever wants to hear. I had gotten used to hearing it, though, and it made me upset every time. I knew that changing my embouchure meant I was going to sound like a beginner again but I could never find a convenient time to take a few weeks up to many months to go through this process. However, one day I told myself, you know what, it’s either now or never, and I am so glad I did.

Photo of Katherine playing in 2016, with the rim of her mouthpiece clearly set inside her top lip
(Picture from Summer of 2016)

March 2017: I couldn’t wait to get my braces off; I had them for five years, for goodness sake! I learned how to play trumpet with them, which means I did not know what playing without them felt like… or HOW to play without them. Nevertheless, my unrelenting optimism had me believing once these bad boys are off, everything is going to be perfect! Boy, was I wrong.

Although I struggled with the process of adapting to a new way of playing, the difficulties of deciding to change my embouchure and going through with that change have taught me more than just where to put my mouthpiece. The following are five lessons I learned through having to change my playing again and again:

Lesson #1: Change is the only constant. As brass players, our mouths are everything. However, we have to remember that the mouth is a part of our body and our body is always changing. I became acutely aware of the role of my mouth and the change it was undergoing when my braces were removed. These incidents can make playing much more difficult or even force you to stop playing for a few days or months. It can be easy to put yourself down while going through a rough patch while everyone else around you seems to be happy and playing just as easily and beautifully as the day before. No matter what happens with your playing physically or psychologically, it is important to embrace change and accept the hard parts of the process. This leads me into the second lesson I learned:

Lesson #2: Don’t be so hard on yourself. On March 12th 2017, I got to see, hear and meet one of my absolute favorite trumpet players and role models, Tine Thing Helseth, perform. The next day, I got my braces off. The first thing I did when I got home was bolt up the stairs and rip my trumpet out of its case. I eagerly placed the mouthpiece in the leadpipe and put it up to my lips in the standard correct position, which I had never used. Oh geez, uh, this doesn’t feel right, I thought. I buzzed my lips and could not make a sound. What?! This isn’t what this was supposed to be like!! I tried again and produced an obnoxiously loud splat noise that left me appalled. This wasn’t my playing!

I started questioning if I was still a trumpet player; all of a sudden, I could not play the trumpet. I wanted people to hear me play but I didn’t want people to see my odd embouchure.  I started thinking negative thoughts and convinced myself that people saw me as a ditsy blonde who had no idea what she was doing. I really believed that I was let into groups, winning awards, and earning more challenging parts because people felt bad. I wish I knew then but I definitely know now, that is completely untrue.

My embouchure would not have been such an issue if I were a beginner or just playing for myself, but, being someone who absolutely loves music, I had joined as many musical groups and gigs as possible. How could I explain my sudden inability to play trumpet, which I would need months to fix, to those groups? I had no idea, so I avoided the issue by switching right back to my old embouchure—just without the barbed wire fence in my mouth this time. If I switched to the new embouchure, I would lose all of my control, range, tone, everything… but if I kept the old one, I could keep all of that and at the time, I didn’t care how improper it was, I just wanted to play. Over the next year, I made changes to improve my embouchure and at the beginning of 2018, I thought I had found a lifetime embouchure. It worked wonderfully, judges no longer pointed it out and, yes, it still looked a bit different. But everyone’s does. This brings me onto my third lesson.

Photo of Katherine playing at her recent recital, with her old embouchure
(Picture from my senior recital from this April 2018)

Lesson #3: “Suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” I stumbled upon this quote by Jim Rohn a little over a week ago. While my old embouchure worked well for short periods of time, I was playing on the red of my lip and I got fatigued quickly. This forced me to compensate in other ways. My band director, through my stubbornness, suggested once again that I really should change my embouchure. I was frustrated; I felt like I was at the top of my playing, everything was going fantastic and I could not be happier; Why would I change it again? He told me that this was the last time he would give me that advice. I could either take it or leave it. I didn’t know right away what I would do. I didn’t even want to touch my trumpet that day, I was so conflicted. As I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I stumbled upon the above quote. I decided to be disciplined. I no longer wanted to postpone my embouchure change, convincing myself that everything was fine the way it was when I could improve. On May 3rd of this year, a day after speaking with my band director, I wiped the slate clean. I worked on fundamentals, playing chromatically from the G below the staff to the G in the staff and Clarke technical exercises. The difficulty I had in those first few days gave me flashbacks to middle school beginning band and my scale preparation for my college auditions. I am finding my voice on the trumpet again, and, thanks to this embouchure change, my playing is so much better than it was before. I’m finding that I can play more effectively, with much better intonation and it simply feels easier. Other than the fact I have a lot of range and overall control to build back up, I am so happy I made the decision to change my embouchure and actually change it this time. I can see and hear now that the reward is really worth the wait.  

Photo of Katherine playing with her new embouchure
(Picture from May 12th 2018)

Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid to admit when something isn’t working. One of my greatest challenges in this process was just admitting to myself that something really needed to change. Once I accepted that my old embouchure was holding me back, I was able to begin the process of finding something that would work better. It is easy to get stuck in your ways or to fear change. Our self-worth can get tied up in how we see our playing, and acknowledging a fault or room for improvement can be daunting. However, acknowledging weaknesses is the only way to get better.

Lesson #5: Reach out for support when you need help. Times of transition can be tricky, and can feel impossible when we approach them alone. Without the help of my band director and trumpet teachers, I never would have changed my embouchure. I had thought, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, however, it took the urging of my wonderful teachers to see that, it really was broken and needed fixing. Additionally, I have leaned on the support of my friends and family as I have worked through this change.

 Transition is hard, but sometimes necessary. Believe in yourself and never give up!

Thank you for reading! My Instagram is @katherineidleman
I would absolutely love to connect with you!