By Rebecca Epstein-Boley and Kate Amrine, with Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger and Dr. Patricia Maddox
The Brass Bodies study is a cutting-edge research project led by Sarah Schmalenberger, PhD (Musicology) and Hornist, and Patricia L. Maddox, PhD (Sociology), at the University of St. Thomas. Based in an understanding that “women brass players are both an underrepresented and under-researched group in music,” the study investigates both the physical and social experiences of women who play brass instruments. On its website, the Brass Bodies researchers describe their project as follows:
Women brass players are both an underrepresented and under-researched group in music. Conventional practices in music teaching and performances are based on male physiology, which is significantly different from female physiology. Gendered bias in the music industry reinforces the idea that women are physically deficient and must “overcome” inherent limitations to play a brass instrument.
Despite assumptions of their inherent weaknesses, the number of female brass players in professional and avocational ensembles is substantial. And yet, female physical development differs from their male counterparts through unique experiences, ranging from menstruation to illnesses like breast cancer, and the gendered workplace of brass sections often creates stress that manifests in physical symptoms.
First of all, yes, please. This is the sort of project that could really have concrete benefits for female brass musicians. Brass Bodies’ acknowledgement that female brass musicians have been under-studied and its intent to begin the work of fixing that makes it exactly in line with our blog’s goals. Concrete data on the experiences of female brass musicians as a group will enable us to understand our circumstances better and work more effectively to improve them in the future.
Suffice it to say, we were very excited to see the findings from the first phase of this study published in the sociology journal Societies this past March. Further publications are forthcoming. We had the chance to ask Dr. Schmalenberger and Dr. Maddox some questions about this first paper to come out of the study and what we can expect in the future:
A trumpet performer for over 20 years, Mary Galime has enjoyed the last 10 years of her career back home in Chicago. In addition to her performance schedule in the Chicagoland area and Alliance Brass Quintet, Mary is part of the marketing department with Dansr, Inc., the North American importer of Denis Wick and Vandoren products. As the Artist Manager and product specialist for Denis Wick USA, as well as a Denis Wick Artist herself, Mary works together with performing artists, teachers, students, schools, and businesses, striving to promote music performance and education in communities across the nation.
Brass Chicks: Tell us about what you do! How did you get involved with Dansr/ Denis Wick?
Mary Galime: I went to school determined to become an orchestral musician. I received both my bachelors and masters degrees in music performance. The year after I finished my graduate degree at DePaul University, I started freelancing, teaching, performing with a brass quintet, and playing with a competitive British style brass band, Chicago Brass Band. The brass band and brass quintet won my heart, and suddenly I realized that playing in an orchestra was not what I really wanted to be doing. Since a career in chamber music did not seem lucrative enough to cover the bills, I found a job running a local music store. One of our distributors was Dansr, Inc, North American distributor for Denis Wick Products and Vandoren. I had met one or two of their reps and at the time I decided I did not want to run a music store any longer, a sales position was opening at Dansr, Inc. Working with Denis Wick, and Dansr, gave me great people to work with, and really expanded my understanding of the music industry. And as the icing on the cake, gave me plenty of flexibility to continue a trumpet performance career on the side. Though I started in sales, I later became the Denis Wick Artist Relations manager, and Event Coordinator. A couple years ago I took over the marketing responsibilities/product specialist in addition to managing the Denis Wick Artist Group. Continue reading →
We are thrilled to have had the chance to interview Carol Jantsch, tuba! Carol is an incredible musician and, as her interview responses make clear, she is also a thoughtful, engaging person (with an astonishing number of projects going on)! Thanks to Carol for making the time to respond to these questions.
Praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer as having “a sound as clear and sure as it [is] luxurious,” Carol Jantsch has been principal tuba of The Philadelphia Orchestra since 2006. She won the position during her senior year at the University of Michigan, becoming the first female tuba player in a major symphony orchestra. In addition to her duties in the Philadelphia Orchestra, Ms. Jantsch is a renowned tuba soloist. She also teaches masterclasses internationally and is on the faculty at the Yale University School of Music and Temple University’s Boyer College of Music. See the end of this post for her full-length bio.
Brass Chicks: From ultimate frisbee to tuba throwing, marathon running to yoga, you have tried a broad variety of forms of exercise over the course of your professional tuba career. How have different kinds of athletic activity influenced or related to the way you play?
Carol Jantsch: Listing them all like that makes me seem a bit like a crazy person, which may in fact be the case—although I go rock climbing more often than tuba throwing these days! Playing any instrument is a physical endeavor, so staying generally active and healthy helps with ease of playing and longevity. Yoga has probably been the most applicable to brass playing for me, in that it teaches a higher level of bodily awareness and more specific muscle control. Continue reading →
Nicole Piunno (b. 1985) is a composer who views music as a vehicle for seeing and experiencing the realities of life. Her music often reflects the paradoxes in life and how these seemingly opposites are connected as they often weave together. Her harmonic language and use of counterpoint mirrors the complexity of our world by acknowledging lightness and darkness, past and present, beauty and brokenness, confinement and freedom, chaos and order, spiritual and physical, life and death.
Nicole holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition and a Master of Music degree in theory pedagogy at Michigan State University. Her composition teachers were Ricardo Lorenz and Charles Ruggiero. She earned a Master of Music degree in composition at Central Michigan University, studying with David Gillingham. She has also worked with Jason Bahr, David Ludwig, and Tony Zilincik. Nicole earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education and her emphasis was on trumpet. Her music has recently been performed by the Principal Brass Quintet of the New York Philharmonic, Athena Brass Band, University of Akron Faculty Brass Quintet, and the Michigan State University Symphony Band. Her music has also been performed at the Orvieto Musica TrumpetFest in Orvieto, Italy, the OWU/NOW Festival of New Music, the Women in Music-Columbus concert, the SCI Student National Conference, and multiple International Trumpet Guild Conferences.
Nicole suffered an injury to her orbicularis oris during her fourth year at Ohio Wesleyan. After completing a semester at the University of Michigan where she was pursuing an MM in trumpet performance, she left to have embouchure surgery. She receives calls from brass players seeking advice on injury and the process of rehabilitation. She has overcome this surgery and rehabilitation process and now enjoys playing, teaching, and sharing her experience with others.
Brass Chicks: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. How did you get started as a composer?
Nicole Piunno: I love beauty and reality and I try to reveal those things through music.Continue reading →
Sara McDonald is a vocalist/composer living in Brooklyn New York. She recently graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music with a degree in vocal jazz. Soon after graduation she went on to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and then headed to Germany to record this big band record. In February she was named the winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award.
1. Tell us about your band the NYChillharmonic and what you have coming up!
The NYChillharmonic is a 22 piece progressive-indie-jazz ensemble that I write, arrange/sing for and lead. Continue reading →
Jen Baker, trombonist/composer, has collaborated with artists all over the world in site-specific mixed media performance, concert halls, solo and chamber commissions. As an improviser she is featured on the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World. She has performed internationally in festivals and has toured with Arijit Singh, Karole Armitage, and Mansour, and new music ensembles S.E.M., TILT brass, and the mobile ensemble Asphalt Orchestra (founding member). Her forthcoming book, Hooked on Multiphonics aides composers and trombonists in understanding and executing the deep complexities of multiphonics. She currently teaches trombone and composition at Sarah Lawrence College and also Brooklyn Conservatory, through which she goes to after school programs in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn for trombone classes (New York City does not fund public school music education, so this program is a vital way of bringing music to kids who wouldn’t have it otherwise.). She loves improvised vegan cooking (10 years and counting!), teaching, listening to animals, and long meandering walks.
Tell us about your project, Silo Songs. How was the process of recording and putting it together different than that of your previous albums like Blue Dreams? How did you balance that with all of your other responsibilities in NYC?
The fundamental inspiration for both projects came from physical surroundings of the family farm where I grew up. At the time of Blue Dreams I was intrigued by the beauty of slow motion decay and decomposition many disused barns were undergoing (and continue to do): rusting roofs, peeled paint, weathered wood, bent rebar, piles of orange twine knotting together, entire barns leaning impossibly far but not falling. Silo Songs was developed entirely inside one of the buildings on the farm- a large concrete grain silo, completely empty since the 80s.Continue reading →
Audrey Flores is a freelancing horn player in New York City. She attended the Juilliard School and the Mannes College of Music, and regularly plays in Broadway productions and with orchestras in the tri-state area. Formerly Principal Horn of both the Allentown Symphony and Symphony in C in Camden, NJ, Audrey has also played with the New World Symphony, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Mariinsky Orchestra, and the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble. She was a musician in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Orchestra in 2011 and 2012, and in the New York Spectacular in the summer of 2016. She released her first solo album in June of 2017.
Audrey also enjoys a full teaching schedule in addition to pursuing a varied career. She is a Teaching Artist for Midori and Friends, an organization in New York City that works in tandem with the Department of Education to supplement and provide music instruction for public school students. She taught beginning and intermediate brass at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Palestine in 2006, and coached chamber music for the Juilliard Pre-College Program in 2005. She specializes in teaching beginning brass students.
When she isn’t working, Audrey enjoys cooking, swimming, traveling, and being home with her family. She is married to Steven Behnke, a horn player whom she met in New York Youth Symphony. They have a two-year-old son and a baby daughter. They also have a perfect rescue pug named Rocky!
You have a considerable web presence in the form of your Facebook Live series “Musicians of Now” and your blog. We really admire your blog’s honesty and candid tone, writing about many aspects of being a musician that are often not discussed. How did you choose the topics you wrote about? Why did you start the Facebook live series?
I’m glad you (editor’s note – Kate Amrine) were one of the first guests on the series! I actually got the idea to start doing this from an NPR series I was listening to in passing. It focused on the stories of corporations that started from nothing, went through some tough times, and ended up being wildly successful. I realized that I was uncomfortable listening to it, and it’s because of the simple reason that while we were hearing about these big companies, there were many others who made better product that didn’t have the big money number to hook any outside interest. There are many companies with similar stories that we’ll never hear about, and they might be great people, and have great stories, but because they haven’t hit the traditional mark of success, no one will care about their plight. Continue reading →
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:
Performer 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 →
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 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 →