Interview with Sarah Belle Reid

Sarah Belle Reid is a Canadian performer-composer, active in the fields of electroacoustic trumpet performance, intermedia arts, music technology, and improvisation. She is a co-developer of the Minimally Invasive Gesture Sensing Interface (MIGSI) for trumpet: an open-source, wireless interface that captures performance data and provides real-time extended sonic and visual control for improvisation. Reid has presented and performed with MIGSI at institutions and festivals around the world including Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), the International Conference of New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME 2015: Brisbane, Australia), New Media Art & Sound Summit (NMASS 2017: Austin, TX), University of Oregon, UT Austin, and UC Irvine’s Women in Music Technology Symposium (2016), among others. Reid received a Bachelor of Music in trumpet performance from McGill University’s Schulich School of Music and a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts, where she is currently on faculty teaching music technology (Music Technology: Interaction, Intelligence, and Design), and music theory.


1.You have so many interesting projects, from composing, interactive media works, teaching, and your own performing. How do you keep track of everything and decide where to focus your attention?

I’m the type of person who always has a lot of different projects on the go. Over the last 6 years or so my practice has evolved from being exclusively focused on the trumpet to something that is much more interdisciplinary in nature: working with technology, incorporating different media, and exploring ways of presenting and interacting with sound-based performance that fall beyond  a typical recital hall or concert setting. I find that working this way—merging music and sound art with electrical engineering, computer programming, and some elements of theatre or performance art—truly enriches my creative output and feels most genuinely like me.

I guess what I’m saying is that I always have a lot of projects on the go because I am constantly inspired by things I don’t fully understand. That leads me to study and learn about something new, which then inspires me to create something with those new tools or skills. And from there it’s a very fortunate snowball effect—if you’re open to new directions and collaborations, you’ll always be busy!

Of course, there’s always a balance that needs to be struck, as time and energy are limited resources. One on hand, learning new skills and tools can enrich your creative practice and open new doors, but on the other hand, it’s necessary to focus your practice in order to develop your craft. The way I try to handle this is by checking in regularly on my priorities and goals as an artist (and as a human). Is this project really fulfilling to me? Is it distracting from other goals I have? It’s important to ask yourself these questions and to really try to trust yourself. What makes you happy? This is a very different question from, “What do others think I should be doing?”

Beyond this, I make a lot of to-do lists, and schedule my time meticulously. I’ve learned that if I don’t protect my practice time and studio time, it’ll get buried beneath a hundred other obligations, so I carve out time in my calendar every morning to make sure it happens. One approach that has been particularly helpful to me over the past year is time blocking. This is where you block out time in your calendar for particular areas of focus, rather than specific tasks (e.g. you might block out an hour each day to business-type tasks such as answering emails or updating your website, or you might block out a few hours each Saturday to dedicate to composing.) Then, separate from these time blocks, you maintain a detailed list of all the individual tasks that fall into these categories and you pull one out at a time to focus on for that time block. This approach helps me stay focused and know that I’m constantly taking small but steady steps toward my goals.

 

2. How did you get started writing music for yourself and others? Do you have anything coming up in the near future?

I started writing music for myself and others around the same time I started to get interested in working with technology. At the beginning, I felt intimidated by the word ‘Composer’ because I had no formal compositional training, and a lot of the work I was creating used systems, instruments, or modes of interaction that didn’t really fit into traditional Western notation. I resisted calling myself a composer for a couple of years (even though I was regularly creating work for myself and others to perform) because I felt like people wouldn’t take me seriously. I eventually decided that I wanted the same opportunities as people who called themselves ‘composers’ and wasn’t going to let a silly word get in the way of my goals. Sometimes you just have to jump in!

One of the first large works I created after this point was called Disonillum. The piece is a multimedia installation inspired by memory imprints, which incorporated hand-drawn graphic scores printed onto three-dimensional acrylic objects. The performance of the work took place over the course of a week, with one performer entering the space to interpret the scores each day. As they played, their sound was recorded and sent into a long term degenerative audio process. One by one the performances would be added into the room, layering on top of each other and gradually degrading until almost unrecognizable.

I recently premiered a new concert-length work for augmented trumpet, modular synthesizer, and large metal objects called Timepiece. The metal objects are suspended throughout the performance space and are each outfitted with a contact microphone and surface transducer, transforming them into resonant feedback instruments. The trumpet I play has a custom hardware interface called MIGSI attached to it that I have been developing for the last few years. Using a number of different sensors, MIGSI captures gestural information from me and my trumpet as I play, and sends that data to a computer as control information. In Timepiece, data collected from MIGSI is used to control and interact with a Serge modular synthesizer.

The next performance I have coming up is a 45-minute solo set on trumpet with MIGSI as part of Moogfest (in Durham, North Carolina) on May 17th. I’ll also be leading two workshops on building interactive systems and performing with electronics throughout the weekend.

 

3. Tell us about your work on Patreon. How does that influence your process in terms of output of music, posting on social media, and more? Why did you decide to move to this platform and what do you hope to achieve from it?

Patreon is an online membership platform that makes it possible for people to support their favorite artists and creators. It’s a lot like a subscription to Netflix or a magazine: for example, if you like my music and the work I’m creating, you can become a patron by making a monthly pledge of $1 or more. In return, you can receive exclusive content, early access to releases, behind the scenes footage, mentorship, or other perks like free downloads and discounts. For independent artists such as myself, this platform makes it possible to grow and connect with your audience in a really meaningful way that might not otherwise be possible.

About a year ago I launched a patron-only collaborative project called The Postcard Project, in which I compose graphic scores on the backs of postcards and mail them to my patrons all around the world. They perform the piece in whatever way makes sense to them, and then create their own graphic score for me and mail it back, which I perform, and so on. It has been inspiring to see this project grow to over 20 collaborators spanning multiple countries, with more continuing to join in!

Even though my Patreon community is still relatively young, the motivation and support I have received from my patrons has been life changing. The monthly pledges I receive make it possible for new projects to come together (such as Timepiece and recent MIGSI developments) that would otherwise never be possible without external funding. It also means I can focus more time and energy on actually creating work and less on project-specific fundraising, pushing merch sales, and so on. I’ve been more productive than ever this past year and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I feel like I have a cheering squad behind me every single day!

 

 4. Do you think we have a specific role or responsibility as female brass players? How do you incorporate that (or not) into your own life as a musician?

As a woman who plays trumpet and works with technology, I am regularly at the receiving end of comments that downplay my accomplishments or question my expertise. Many of these come from more or less well-intentioned audience members who don’t realize that comments about someone’s body (“how can such a small girl produce so much air?”); gender (“I never knew a woman could make noise music”); or technical ability (my personal favorite: “who coded/built/set all of this up for you?”) are draining, offensive, and damaging to self-confidence. Unfortunately these biases exist within our community as well. I was recently hired to play in an all-women band for a high-profile artist. Upon sharing the exciting news, I was told by a male colleague that it could have been a success for my career, had there been men in the band too—as though the presence of men would somehow legitimize the job and my position within it.

I know I’m not alone in facing these types of issues, and regrettably, I see many of my students grappling with very similar challenges. While we have certainly have made progress toward equality in this field, there is yet work to be done. As an artist and teacher, one of my main goals is to create a space where students feel excited and empowered to explore new things, whether that’s learning new repertoire, programs, tools, or creative interests. I think it’s important to recognize that we all have the capacity to be role models for the next generation of musicians and creators. We all have the capacity to promote confidence, hard work, and self worth in our students, and to foster an educational environment that is rigorous while being supportive and inclusive.

 

5. 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 one of the most important insights I’ve gained over the years is that it’s okay to be different (in fact, it’s good to be different). I struggled as a student because although I loved playing the trumpet, I felt disconnected from the repertoire I was studying. At the time I didn’t feel confident enough to admit that I didn’t love every aspect of what I was studying, so I pushed myself to keep going. I didn’t recognize this at the time, but I became unnecessarily stifled and nervous as a result. My performance suffered as a result, and my progress on the instrument plateaued. But when I started to improvise, build my own instruments, and integrate elements of theatre into my work, I immediately felt as though I had found my voice as an artist. I remember the first time I stood in front of an audience performing a work that truly spoke to me. I had been playing trumpet for my whole life, but it felt like my first honest performance—I never looked back.

At the end of the day, here’s the most important point: Find that thing that makes you feel utterly and completely fulfilled, and own it. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not important, not marketable, not serious enough, or any of that nonsense. Just be you. It takes a huge amount of work, dedication, and perseverance, but if you’re focused and inspired, you can do it. People will notice your passion, and they’ll listen.

 

6. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life, etc?

I learned about time blocking from Suz at Rock/Star Advocate, who is a wonderful resource for musical entrepreneurs and freelancers.

For anyone who’s interested in getting into technology:

Interview with Hana Beloglavec

DSC_3893-Edit1.jpgPerformer and pedagogue Hana Beloglavec has always had an interest in chamber music. Currently she is a member of Seraph Brass, a dynamic chamber ensemble drawing from a roster of highly talented women across the United States. With Seraph Brass, Beloglavec has recorded an album, Asteria, and has been a guest artist at the Lieksa Brass Week and the International Women’s Brass Festival. Also interested in trombone quartet chamber music, she competed in the finals of the 2014 International Trombone Quartet Competition with the Lakeside Quartet. She also was a member of The Handsome Dan’s Trombone Quartet, which won the 2013 Eastern Trombone Workshop’s Trombone Quartet Competition as well as the 2013 Yale Woolsey Concerto Competition.

Also deeply interested in orchestral music, Beloglavec has performed as a substitute trombonist most recently with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. While living in Chicago, Beloglavec performed as a substitute with the early-music ensemble Music of the Baroque and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Hana Beloglavec received her DMA from Northwestern University, where she studied with Michael Mulcahy, Douglas Wright, Timothy Higgins, Randall Hawes, and Christopher Davis. She completed her MM at Yale University and her BM degree at Western Michigan University, where she studied with Scott Hartman and Steve Wolfinbarger, respectively. Hana Beloglavec is currently the assistant professor of trombone at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


1.  How long have you been teaching? What are your responsibilities at the school? What do you love about teaching? Any favorite teaching moments?

I have been teaching private lessons for a long time (since I was an undergraduate student, maybe even earlier), but I have been teaching at the university level for the past three years. At LSU, I teach applied tenor and bass trombone students, trombone studio class, and trombone choir. I also coach brass quintets and teach the trombone portion of a brass pedagogy class for performance majors and masters students. Outside of my teaching, I serve on committees and recruit students, and I have my “research,” which includes performances with Seraph Brass, personal solo recitals, orchestral performances, etc.  Continue reading

Interview With Sarah Culp – NJ High School Band Teacher

To celebrate both Women’s History Month and Music in Our Schools Month, we are so excited to interview some fabulous music educators who are making an impact on their students across the country. I went to a summer festival with Sarah and I have always loved reading her posts about teaching… and I knew she would have great things to share with the Brass Chicks community.  – Kate Amrine


sarah culp.jpgSarah Culp is the current Director of Band’s at Manchester Township High School in Manchester Township, NJ. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from William Paterson University of New Jersey where she studied Classical trumpet and minored in classical voice. In addition to overseeing the jazz band, concert band, pit Orchestra, and other small ensembles at her school, she is enrolled in the Master of Music in Music Education program at Rutgers University. She also holds the position of Principal trumpet in both the Toms River Municipal Band and the Central Jersey Wind Ensemble. She resides in Toms River, New Jersey.

1. How long have you been teaching? What are your responsibilities at the school? What do you love about teaching? Any favorite teaching moments?

This is currently my 5th year of  teaching. I did 2 years in Paterson, NJ Teaching k-8 general Music and marching band, 1 year in Clifton NJ teaching 7th and 8th grade band and assisting on the High School Marching band and this is my second year running a full high school program. I currently run the concert band, jazz band, marching band, pit Orchestra, and small chamber ensembles at Manchester Township High School. What I love most about teaching s giving kids a safe place to be where they are loved and accepted by all, and a place where they can express themselves. My students are a family and they all take care of each other. We also get to make great music and I love seeing them improve through the years. It’s the most rewarding thing to see a student change and develop as a person and as a musician. There are moments when my band nails a piece or nails a run of their field show and my heart is so full that I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Continue reading

A Focused Approach: Interview with Donna Parkes

About Donna Parkes

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Australian trombonist Donna Parkes has been Principal Trombone of the Louisville Orchestra since 2008 and has been Principal Trombone of the Colorado Music Festival since 2009. Prior to this year she played the 2012-13 season with the Utah Symphony and the 2007-8 season with the San Francisco Symphony. Miss Parkes was a member of the Virginia Symphony from 2001-2007 and was a member of the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas for two years. She has performed with many orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Oregon Symphony, National Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, Sydney Symphony and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Miss Parkes has performed at the Arizona Musicfest, the Malboro Festival and the Grand Tetons Festival and in 2016 toured with the Australian World Orchestra.  Solo competition successes include winning the Australian National Trombone Competition, the Brisbane International Brass Competition and finalist in the Jeju Brass Competition in Korea. She has appeared as a soloist or clinician at the International Women’s Brass Conference, International Trombone Festival and the Melbourne International Festival of Brass. Miss Parkes received her Masters Degree studying under Charles Vernon at DePaul University and other primary teachers include Michael Mulcahy and Ron Prussing.

Interview

1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. What do you love about being an orchestral trombonist?  Continue reading

Making Statements: An Interview With Abbie Conant

We are thrilled to have been able to conduct an interview with the fabulous Abbie Conant. Abbie famously fought the Munich Philharmonic for 11 years in court to be solo trombone and now performs groundbreaking multidisciplinary works. She has been a pleasure to work with on this interview!

About Abbie Conant

abbie clearAward-winning Performance artist and Juilliard-trained trombonist Abbie Conant is somewhat of a legend in the international orchestral brass world. The story of her epic fight and ultimate victory against egregious gender discrimination in the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, where she won the position for principal trombone at a screened audition in 1980, inspired author Malcolm Gladwell to write the NY Times Bestseller, Blink, where Ms. Conant’s story is detailed in the last chapter. The 11-year-long court battle was documented by composer/musicologist/activist, William Osborne, in an article entitled “You Sound Like a Ladies’ Orchestra.” The document is supported by actual court records and experiences in the orchestra with 89 footnotes. This source document has generated countless newspaper and magazine article (Der Spiegel, {the German analog to Time Magazine}, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, etc.) as well as a documentary film, (Abbie Conant, Alone Among Men by Brenda Parkerson), a play produced at the Landestheater Linz, Austria by Award-winning British playwright, Tamssin Oglesby called, Der (eingebildeter) Frauenfeind, (The [Concieted] Misogynist) and a screen play for a feature film in the works by Canadian writer/producer Dale Wolf.

After winning her lengthy court case, Ms. Conant won a full-tenured Professorship at the University of Music in Trossingen, Germany and left the orchestra in 1993. Abbie Conant has performed instrumental music theater works with surround sound electronics in over 150 different cities around the world. She has given masterclasses in as many esteemed music institution such as The Juilliard School, The Eastman School, New England Conservatory, Yale School of Music, Indiana University, Royal Northern College of Music, the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg, Sweden, DePaul, CalArts, McGill, Oberlin and many others. In collaboration with composer/husband William Osborne, the pair has created a new genre of chamber music theater. They have produced five evening-length chamber operas for singing/acting trombonist.

Interview

1. Your story of battling sexism and discrimination in the orchestra world with the Munich Philharmonic is unbelievable, yet your strength and determination (and great playing of course!) paved the way for many discussions and policies on sexism in the brass world. Have your thoughts on that experience changed in any way? Especially in light of recent events in classical music and political culture with harassment and this kind of behavior being less tolerated in the public eye? Continue reading

Auditions, Caruso, and Music From the Heart: A Conversation with Julie Landsman

We are excited to have recently conducted an interview over the phone with the incomparable Julie Landsman! Julie was a joy to speak with and offered, unsurprisingly, a wealth of advice and information informed by her career.

About Julie Landsman

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Principal horn with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 25 years, Julie Landsman is a distinguished performing artist and educator. She achieved her dream of becoming principal of the MET in 1985 and held that position until 2010, and has served as a member of the Juilliard faculty since 1989.

Landsman is a current member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and has performed and recorded with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Additionally, she has performed as co-principal with the Houston Symphony, as substitute principal with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and recently with The Philadelphia Orchestra as associate principal, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra as principal.

Her students hold positions in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, San Francisco Opera and Ballet Orchestras, Washington National Opera Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, and the American Brass Quintet. She recently received the “Pioneer Award” from the International Women’s Brass Conference and was a featured artist at the International Horn Society Conference in 2012 and 2015. Her recent series of Carmine Caruso lessons on YouTube have led to further fame and renown among today’s generation of horn players. Landsman currently resides in Nyack, New York.

 

Interview

Brass Chicks: Your career has been incredible and has taken you all over the world. What was the process of winning your position at the MET and becoming the first woman in the brass section of that orchestra like?

Julie Landsman: Winning an audition at the MET was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The audition was 100% behind a screen – anonymous – and it’s documented in a very famous book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The last chapter describes the details of  my audition. The men who voted for me had no idea who I was or that I would become the first female brass member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

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Interview with Trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis

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Combining cinema sweep, transportive emotion, and rich melodic grandeur, Australian-­born trumpeter/composer Nadje Noordhuis possesses one of the most unforgettably lyrical voices in modern music. Her deeply-­felt, clarion tone and evocative compositional gift meld classical rigor, jazz expression, and world music accents into a sound that is distinctively her own. Noordhuis was one of ten semi-­‐finalists in the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition and was selected as a Carnegie Hall Young Artist to undertake a weeklong residency with trumpet great Dave Douglas in 2010. Recent engagements include a yearly week-­long run at New York’s Village Vanguard with Rudy Royston’s 303, performances with the Grammy-­winning Maria Schneider Orchestra, performances at jazz festivals in Europe, Canada and Brazil with Grammy-­nominated Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, and regular appearances with her group at the historic 55 Bar in Greenwich Village.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I’m a trumpet player and composer, mainly in the jazz realm. Continue reading

Interview With Tiffany Hoffer

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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?  Continue reading

Interview with Adrienne Doctor

Kate originally met Adrienne on a gig in the DC area and it was so great to hear from her in this interview. Adrienne has been doing great things in the DMV area and we are so excited to feature her here with the Brass Chicks community.

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Adrienne Doctor is a trumpet player residing in the Washington DC area where she is a member of a premier military band. An active freelance musician and teacher, she has performed with Monarch Brass, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond IN Symphony Orchestra, the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, and the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra. She has given masterclasses at Duquesne University, Columbus State University, the University of Maryland, and various high schools around the country. Doctor has performed as a soloist at the Music For All National Summer Symposium, with the Seven Hills Sinfonietta, and the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra. She attended the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in 2010 and 2011 and the Bar Harbor Brass Institute in 2013. Her primary teachers include Philip Collins, Alan Siebert, and Roger Sherman. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband and two cats.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. What group are you in?

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An Interview with Alaina Alster

We are so excited to start featuring interviews from members of military groups across the country! Our first interview is with trombonist Alaina Alster who is a member of the West Point Band here in New York. Thank you Alaina for sharing your time and thoughts with the Brass Chicks community!

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Trombonist Alaina Alster has been a member of the West Point Band since 2013.

Prior to joining the West Point Band, Alaina was an active freelance musician in New York City where she enjoyed a career performing a wide range of musical genres.  She is also a music educator and has worked as a teaching artist for the Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children, as well as a private music instructor.
Originally from Long Island, NY, Alaina began playing the trombone at the age of nine, but shortly after beginning switched to Euphonium.  When she turned twelve she picked up trombone again and began pursing both instruments.  In 2002 she was accepted  to the University of Michigan as a double major in trombone and euphonium performance where she studied with David Jackson and Fritz Kaenzig.  Alaina received her Masters in trombone performance from the Manhattan School of Music in 2010 and studied with Stephen Norrell.


1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. What group are you in? 

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