Five Things Friday: Women’s Brass Ensembles in History

This week, we’ve taken Five Things Friday to highlight some amazing women’s brass ensembles in history. These groups are as different as they come and range from famous to barely-remembered. Nonetheless, every ensemble on the list proves how women have been playing brass for centuries!

1. The Hormel Girls

The Hormel Girls

After World War II, Jay Hormel, the owner of the Hormel Company, promised to give a jobs to those who had served in the armed services during the war. In fulfilling that promise, Hormel founded a touring women’s drum and bugle corps to promote his company, employing an original fifty-six women. The group, which became known as the “Spamettes,” was America’s first-ever professional all-female drum and bugle corps. They competed in the twenty-ninth American Legion National Drum
and Bugle Corps Championship Competition, becoming the first all-female group to compete in that competition. As the New York Times saw it, “for the first time in American Legion history, an all-woman drum and bugle corps composed of veterans of World War II [was] making ready to challenge male supremity.”

The group performed for seven years, eventually also producing a radio show, singing, and dancing in addition to their instrumental acts.

NB: Citations for each item are at the end of the post

2. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm

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In 1937, Lawrence Jones was looking for ways to raise money for the vocational school he ran a for poor black children and teenagers in Piney Woods, Mississippi. He started an all-girl swing band to tour the East coast raising money.

In 1941, the group began touring across the country, went professional, and severed ties with their school in Piney Woods. They shot to fame and, in 1944, they were named “America’s No. 1 All-Girl Orchestra” by Downbeat magazine. The first racially-integrated all-female band in the United States, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm had members of black, white, Chinese, Mexican, and Indian descent. The two white members passed as black to skirt Jim Crow laws in the south.

In 1945, they performed in Paris and Germany on a six-month European USO tour, and then the group disbanded in 1949 after 12 years of roaring success.

3. Aledo Ladies’ Cornet Band

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In 1882, a man named “Prof.” E.D. Wood moved to the town of Aledo, Illinois with the goal of starting a music store. Once the store was up and running in May of that year, he also started a “Conservatory of Music” ($4 per week with board and use of instruments), where he trained an all-female brass ensemble. The group trained for a year, performed for the town of Aledo on the Fourth of July, and then toured to Burlington, Fort Madison, and Keokuk, Iowa. Wood composed an original piece called “The Ladies Cornet Band March” for the ensemble. The band performed regularly around Aledo and surrounding areas of Illinois for about two more years, and then broke up when Wood unexpectedly died in 1885.

4. 1900s Damen Blasorchester und Damen Trompeterkorps

In Germany and Austria-Hungary in the early 20th Century, the widespread popularity of military bands gave rise to dozens of female brass or wind ensembles. Usually called Damen Blasorchester (“ladies’ wind bands”) or Damen Trompeterkorps (“ladies’ trumpet corps”), these groups proliferated in the dozens, perhaps always with a male bandleader and often with both male and female musicians despite their names. The bands performed professionally in public venues such as restaurants, spa towns, dance halls, and Biergartens. As evidenced by the large surviving number of photo post cards with their images, these ensembles were likely valued for their visual appeal and apparent incongruity as much as for their musical appeal.

5. Trinity Girls’ Brass Band

Trinity
[The following is adapted and largely quoted from the Trinity Girls’ Brass Band Website:] Trinity Girls Brass Band, based in Garswood, England, is a traditional British brass band comprised entirely of female members. The group was established in 1959 thanks to a local woman, Margaret Stokes, at a time when there were hardly any female brass players around, if any at all. Margaret, a local midwife, was at the time in charge of the local Girls Guildry and after hearing the ‘musical efforts’ of the local Boys’ Brigade, decided that ‘girls could make a better attempt’. She took the revolutionary step and set up an all-girls brass band. Although Margaret had no previous conducting experience, she was more willing to give it a go.

Two years later, the band broke away from the Girls Guildry to become an independent organisation under the name of the Girls Guildry Band. It later became The Trinity Girls Silver Band, named after the Holy Trinity Church to which it has originally belonged. People in the local village were very proud of the Girls band and their reputation as the only all girl band in the country soon spread.

The band began competing in 1970 and continues performing and competing to this day!

Bonus: Fordham Nuns’ Orchestra

Nuns Orchestra

This was a full orchestra and not a brass group, but this ensemble was too cool to leave out. In the summer of 1954, nuns who worked as schoolteachers convened at Fordham University’s School of Education for a professional development. As a part of the workshops there, each nun was instructed in the skills it would take to start and run a student instrumental ensembles. As those skills included knowing how to play a variety of instruments, each nun learned to play the trumpet and clarinet before choosing her favorite instrument to play in the All-Nun Orchestra concert at the end of the program. Along with spreading music education, this one-time concert and its feature in LIFE magazine provided some incredible photos for posterity!

16778082753_ba40390e50_o   Nuns at the Piano

Sources:

1.
Korenne, Elisa, and Barbara Gravel. “Hormel Girls.” Prairie Mosaic Shorts, Prairie Public, 1 June 2014, whut.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/75aed16f-2a2c-4188-923f-4f4ea01d0da0/elisa-korenne-hormel-girls/#.WZdHkCiGPIU.
Sullivan, Jill M., and Danelle D. Keck. “The Hormel Girls.” American Music, vol. 25, no. 3, 2007, pp. 282–311. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40071663.

2.
Benjamin, Winston. “International Sweethearts of Rhythm Jazz Band (1937-1949).” BlackPast.org, www.blackpast.org/aah/international-sweethearts-rhythm-jazz-band-1937-1949.
Beyerle, Mo. “Harmonie Als Utopie: The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1986) Von Greta Schiller Und Andrea Weiss.” Frauen Und Film, no. 52, 1992, pp. 7–14. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43500490.
McDonough, John. “America’s ‘Sweethearts’: An All-Girl Band That Broke Racial Boundaries.” NPR, NPR, 22 Mar. 2011, www.npr.org/2011/03/22/134766828/americas-sweethearts-an-all-girl-band-that-broke-racial-boundaries.
Tammy L. Kernodle. “International Sweethearts of Rhythm.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 18 Aug. 2017. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/A2235311.

3.
Boyd Finch, L. “A Tune of Their Own: The History of Aledo’s Original All-Female Cornet Band.” Illinois Periodicals Online, Illinois State Library, www.lib.niu.edu/2002/ih020706.html.

4.
Applegate, Celia. “The Necessity of Music: Variations on a German Theme.” The Necessity of Music: Variations on a German Theme, University of Toronto Press, 2017, pp. 234–235.

Brubaker, Mike. “Postcards of German Ladies Orchestras.” TempoSenzaTempo, 10ADAD, temposenzatempo.blogspot.ca/2011/10/postcards-of-german-ladies-orchestras.html.

5.
Trinity Girls, www.trinitygirlsbrassband.org.uk.

Bonus:
“Nuns’ Orchestra.” LIFE Magazine, 28 Aug. 1944, pp. 37–40.

Genghis Barbie – interview

1. What is it like being in “the leading post post-feminist feminist all-female horn experience?” Tell us about your experiences! How did you all get started?

Each Barbie had a unique musical journey that led us all to New York City. We all crossed paths whether at school, summer festivals, or freelancing. Eventually, the four original members converged at Freedom Barbie’s bachelorette party. I thought it was cool that four young women all essentially competing in the same music business were all good friends. I made a mental note, and months later, this idea popped into my head: I was in a rehearsal with Attila the Horn (Rachel), and I blurted out, “We need to have a horn quartet and play pop music!” It wasn’t long before we were setting up shows, making CD’s, and, most importantly, organizing photo shoots! (for a while we joked that we had done more photo shoots than performances…) From there it was a natural progression to where we are today. We’ve always striven to play music we love at the highest level, and have a great time playing and traveling together. -Velvet Barbie

2. What have you done as a group and individually to get to where you are today? Any secrets for success?

Obviously as individuals we have all put in countless hours of practice on the horn.  We all have a natural drive to make music as individuals and a group, so we all continue to keep ourselves at a level on the horn where we can fully express ourselves musically.  Each of our methods for doing that are different, but what it comes down to is finding your own daily routine. One of my former teachers, Chuck Kavalovsky, had his “Daily Dues,” which he passed down to me- things that I do everyday on the horn to keep me feeling good.  And I will say: always spend a little extra time on the things that you aren’t as good at!

The other part of our success in our individual careers and as a group is that we are all true to ourselves and what we want in our lives.  I think we all truly enjoy our careers as musicians, the type of work we do, and how it fits into our lives.  The same goes for us as a group.  We have always focused on things we wanted to do and then executed them together.  We made this group because we wanted an outlet to play music with friends and to be able to unleash some creativity and share our joy of performing together.  All of the recordings, traveling, and business partnerships have all been towards the goal of making the best music we can together and sharing the love of music we have with others.  -Attila the Horn

3. What do you love about being a female brass player?

Recently I spoke at a “Women in Music” symposium. A young student asked, “What are the advantages of being a female brass player?” First, I laughed, and said “None!” One thing I do appreciate about being a female brass player is, I suppose, that it is more accepted for us to be sensitive, emotional players (on the flip side, we are often unfairly judged for our perceived “aggressive” playing or behavior…). What I really love about being a “female brass player,” though, is really just being myself. Part of what makes Genghis Barbie such a fun group to be a part of is the fact that we are four very individualistic people who enjoy coming together into one unit. We each bring our own personality, strengths (and weaknesses!), artistic preferences and expressions, etc. Playing in any ensemble should be the same way, no matter how big or small. In a perfect world, one’s gender wouldn’t play a role in how we are viewed and heard, but in the struggle to that point, we should continue to recognize the imbalances and biases that currently exist in our field. -Velvet Barbie

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?

Being a female brass (especially horn) player is not uncommon anymore.  I was raised in an environment in which I was told that with hard work and perseverance, women can accomplish as much as men, if not more. For long as I can remember, I truly believed this, and still do.

I don’t know if I have a specific role or responsibility as a female brass player. I’d like to believe that I have a specific role and responsibility as a citizen of the world and as a professional in my workplace. I believe that relentless hard work, persistence, kindness, focus, integrity, open-mindedness, authenticity, patience, passion, and most of all positivity, are the drivers in my quest to feel fulfilled and to contribute my best to my group and my world. Man, woman, or anyone beyond the binary, I believe it is our responsibility to emphasize our energy towards strengthening these qualities in order to continue making strides towards genuine and rightful workplace equality.

It’s a shame that in 2017 we even have to discuss gender equality but I acknowledge our society and the business we work in still has a long journey ahead. In the New York Philharmonic, Orin O’Brein was the first woman to join the orchestra in 1966. Fast forward 51 years, and now the women outnumber the men. The numbers of women in the brass world are growing each year. The future is where it’s at. -Freedom Barbie

 

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 musicians?

Music matters! The greatest horn players were and are artists in addition to expert instrumentalists. Being a great technician, especially on an instrument like horn that has such a rich, distinctive tone, can only take you so far, whether in an audition or any performance. I spent way too much time as a student focusing on accuracy (i.e. not missing notes) and using that as the only criteria when evaluating the success of my performances. Now I see things in term of the bigger picture: Am I deeply committed to musical intent in what I’m playing? Making my best sound possible? Trying to create a shared experience with my audience versus protecting my own ego by playing it safe? And since these have become my primary considerations, my accuracy and fluency on the horn have actually increased. It’s easier to be in a flow, and for natural, easy execution to occur when you get your focus off not making mistakes and play with a desire to be an expressive and effective communicator. And in the end, beautiful, compelling music counts for a lot more in the minds of audiences and audition panels than a few missed notes!

DON’T WAIT to take chances or put yourself “out there” until you think you are ready! I am so grateful to my teachers and classmates who encouraged me to just go for it, be it an audition or a solo competition, and not worry about whether I was in the perfect place to suceed 100%. I started taking professional auditions while still in undergrad because I knew I wanted a career as an orchestral musician. I definitely wasn’t qualified for those first few jobs I auditioned for, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of them for anything! When it really counted, I had lots of previous experiences and test runs under my belt by virtue of taking those, not to mention familiarity with the way auditions are run. And in my case, it took me 20+ professional auditions (with summer festival, grad school, concerto competition auditions NOT included) to “crack the code” and land my job. If I had waited until I thought any of those attempts was a sure thing, I would probably still never have taken any audition 😉 The one caveat is, be sure the repertoire you’re preparing is within your skill level to play solidly and correctly, and prepare like you mean it! Don’t do it by half-measures even if you think the job is a moonshot. Some day, it won’t be if you start taking tangible steps toward your goal now! -Cosmic Barbie

 

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

Tonal Energy app – a metronome, tuner, drone generator, sound recorder, and tonal analyzer all in one! I use it every day.

– Blow Your OWN Horn! by Fergus McWilliam of the Berlin Philharmonic. A collection of common sense yet fresh-feeling observations about the horn and pedagogy.

Recordings:

–Shared Reflections – The Legacy of Philip Farkas, specifically the eponymous track “Shared Reflections for Four Horns” by Douglas Hill. I applied and ended up attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Doug on the basis of hearing that piece!

–New York Philharmonic with Kurt Masur, playing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad” – a live recording of a piece I played as an impressionable 15-year-old at summer camp.

–Hilary Hahn playing the Barber Violin Concerto with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The first classical recording I remember being truly obsessed with! -Cosmic Barbie

 

-Mastering the Horn’s Low Register by Randy Gardner – such well thought-out detail!

– This youtube video of Eli Epstein talking about vowel sounds and breathing. So much gold in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArerPfHbkEk

-The Efficient Approach: Accelerated Development for the Horn by Richard Deane

-Check out the Pathways podcast hosted by Adam Wolfe and produced by Siegfried’s Call. I might be biased, since I was a recent guest…! 😉  -Velvet Barbie

Introducing Genghis Barbie!

We are so excited to present our first guest of August: Genghis Barbie! Genghis Barbie has changed the game for chamber music ensembles, inspiring countless younger musicians with their character, musicality, and unrepentant sense of fun. It was an honor to feature them in an interview. We heard from each Barbie and cannot wait to share their amazing responses with you later this week!

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GENGHIS BARBIE, the leading post post-feminist feminist all-female horn experience, is the most innovative and energizing chamber ensemble of its generation and beyond. With a combined 24 years of conservatory training, Genghis Barbie delivers to you a visceral and unadulterated musical adventure. Performing arrangements of pop music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and today, contemporary commissions, and classical works, they are the most versatile and expansive group on NYC’s classical/pop/rock/jazz/indie/alternative/punk/electro-acoustic scene. Genghis Barbie was incepted in a unique moment of ingenuity when Freedom Barbie, Cosmic Barbie, Velvet Barbie, and Attila the Horn converged and vowed to create distinctive, interactive and personal performances. In addition to their busy New York City performing schedule, the ladies of Genghis Barbie have performed as Contributing Artists at the 2011 International Horn Society Symposium in San Francisco, played Schumann’s Konzertstück with the Southern Methodist University Wind Ensemble, and appeared on America’s Got Talent. In May 2012, Genghis Barbie made their Carnegie Hall debut in the premiere of a new concerto for four horns, commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony. As educators, they have toured numerous universities presenting workshops, masterclasses, and lectures on musical entrepreneurship. They have released four studio albums: the self-titled debut album, the holiday album “Genghis Barbie: Home for the Holidays,” “Genghis Baby: Songs for Noa,” and the newly released “Amp it Up!” Genghis Barbie aspires to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show within one calendar year.

 

5 Things Musicians should know getting out of school and getting into the Music Industry – Lessie Vonner, 8/11

We are so excited to present Lessie Vonner for our first Five Things Friday guest Brass Chick blogger!

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A Grand Prairie native, Lessie Vonner’s love of music began at a young age when she picked up the trumpet at eleven. Lessie’s passion encouraged her to pursue a music education at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. While in high school, Lessie started her first quintet that had the honor of being the opening act for jazz violinist Diane Monroe at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters.

With aspirations to pursue a career in the music industry primarily as a professional trumpeter, composer, and educator, Lessie chose to continue her education at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Since arriving to New York, she has had the privilege of studying under many outstanding and experienced musicians, some of which including Cecil Bridgewater, Charles Tolliver, Jimmy Owens, Tanya Darby, Ingrid Jensen, Reggie Workman, and Bobby Sanabria. Along with her studies, she has also gained some teaching experience as a private instructor for the Jazz Big Band’s trumpet section at Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts in Queens during her first years of college. She currently teaches at Upbeat NYC, a local non-profit that uses the pursuit of musical excellence and ensemble performance to bring about positive change in the lives of South Bronx children.

Presently she performs in many venues throughout New York City and has performed at other music scenes across the world. She also performs in numerous groups around the city, and Lessie has worked with many artists such as Beyoncé, the BET Black Girls Rock All Star Band, Jessica Care Moore, the Tokyo Jazz Orchestra, Kathy Sledge, Space Captain, and many more.

Thanks Lessie for sharing your thoughts with the Brass Chicks Community! Check out her post:

Congrats, you’ve just graduated from music school! That in itself can be a difficult task, and now you have to prepare for an even harder one – getting into the music industry. Now, if you had the opportunity to study in a city such as NYC, hopefully you’ve already started making the steps towards integrating yourself into whatever scene you want and already have an idea of what to expect on your journey. But if (for whatever reason) you haven’t, there are several things that might be good to know going in. Here’s a quick overview of some things I have come to learn over the years on my own journey in the jazz and contemporary music scenes.

1. You Aren’t Owed Anything Just Because You Went To Music School

I know, I know – this can be a difficult thing to hear. You’ve spent all this time and money – maybe even took out a second mortgage – to get your degree. Now after all that, you realize that this sheet of paper doesn’t guarantee you gigs? For some, it can be a tough pill to swallow. It doesn’t make it any less true. Don’t get me wrong, graduating from college will always be a good look – it shows that you got some level of commitment for your craft. But at the end of the  day, people don’t really care about what degree you have or where you went to school. What they do care about are things such as if you’re a good player, how well you can execute the music, how well you work with others, etc. Which brings me to my next point:

2. You Have to Be Able To Do Your Job

It seems to go without saying, but you’d be surprised how rare it is to find musicians who do their jobs in their entirety. If you get hired, it’s safe to say your can play the music. But will you have put in the time and effort to know the music inside and out? Will you show up to the hit on time and maybe even (god forbid) early? Can you act professional and get along with anybody while you’re on the gig? Can you do the very thing the band leader/conductor/MD hired you to do? What’s the use in being able to play a thousand licks over hundreds of chord progressions if you can’t play the five notes exactly where they want to hear them? In this industry, there are literally thousands of people who can do what you do, and being able to do your job in the fullest will make you stick out. I’ve learned that anybody can get the call for a gig – not everybody will get the callback.

3. There Are Politics All Throughout the Scene

Politics, racism, sexism, bias – you name it, I can guarantee it happens. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how great of a musician you are or how professional you are – there will be spaces that will not welcome you no matter what you do. As a Black female trumpet player, this is one of the hardest things that I’ve had to come to terms with. My saving grace has been finding my community. The people who are always in my corner and will always look out for me. Finding your community can be one of the most important things you can do when getting into a scene. Once you do so, you can begin to create your own spaces and scenes. Never underestimate how far a good support system can take you, and NEVER forget to give support to others!

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Branch Out Musically

One of the things I wish people would let go of is the notion that you should only stay in one genre of music. I mean, if you only want to do one thing, then godspeed, you do that thing to the best of your ability. However, if you like several different genres, why not branch out? Some of the best musicians that everybody loves have had their hands in several different music pots (insert Miles Davis, Chaka Khan, and Queen Latifah here). I was the type of girl who studied and played jazz music all day and night, and would then come home and turn up to some good ole R&B, Funk, and Hip-Hop. For the longest, I allowed myself to be influenced to think that if played anything other than jazz, I wouldn’t be respecting the music or I’d be “selling out.” However, once I opened myself up to the idea that it was ok to play music outside of jazz, I couldn’t believe the opportunities that opened up to me. Not only was I able to work more, but I’ve been able to come across so many beautiful people who I can add to my network. I find that it has also served to broaden my creativity. The world of music is so broad – why limit yourself?

5. Stay In Your Lane

It can be easy to compare yourself to others, especially in the NYC music scene. You have such a melting pot of musicians of all ages, backgrounds, and levels, and it all can be a little overwhelming at times. You may notice that so and so may be gigging more than you or certain things seem to come easier to others than it does to you. Though it may be hard, you can’t focus on what other people are doing/saying. You owe it to yourself to know what your goals are, and to actively work towards them. Trust the process – if you know that you are truly doing everything in your power to reach your goals, know that you will eventually reach them, no matter the time it takes. Understand that there will be ups and downs in this line of work and that we’re all going through it, no matter how it seems. Stay in your lane, and keep your eyes on the prize!

Five Tips for a Productive Practice Session ! – Kate Amrine 8/4

Since we are still gathering Five Things Friday posts from guests (please reach out to us if you want to be involved!!) I will be writing the post for today 🙂

Here are my five tips for a productive practice session! And the best part? These are all things you can do away from your instrument 🙂 I have done my fair share of traveling, touring, and various things where getting physical time on the instrument can be difficult. Maybe you are tired from a string of gigs or a summer festival but know you still have material you need to work on. Some of these things you can do instead of a practice session or can take place before and during a session. See what works for YOU! So here we go:

1. Take care of your body! This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and having coffee or tea if that is what gets you going in the morning. But most importantly: stretching and exercise. There is a reason that many successful people start their day with yoga, other exercise, or meditation. Interested more in the power of a morning routine? Check out these tips collected from hundreds of conversations with top performers by entrepreneur Tim Ferris!

2. Make a plan! Most successful performers have practice journals and specified goals to work towards – including concrete steps to get there. This can be super focused like “I want to work on playing loud second trumpet excerpts today” or or a little broader like “I want to continue to improve my lead trumpet playing” or “I want to win an orchestra job” but the most important thing is how you get there. Check out this great website on how to set goals that are SMART!

3. Sing or play another instrument! This is a great one for when we are in long car rides or traveling or on a hike or going through a playing injury or any situation where you can’t actually physically play your instrument but still want to get stuff done! We are all so lucky to have our voices with us at all times and we can always sing through pieces, scales, other exercises, or sing along with music. Playing another instrument like piano is great because it brings you closer to that child-like discovery and fascination you first had with music (but more on that later). Practicing on another instrument can even make your primary instrument skills stronger because it builds your greater musicality and will strengthen your ear.

4. Listening and mental practicing! Can’t get your hands on another instrument or sing? No worries! Turns out there is actual scientific research that says when we mental practice we are actually activating the same parts of our brain as when we physically practice. Crazy! Check more out here and here. Mental practicing can be great when you are physically tired in the practice room but want to keep working – maybe you can even alternate running through a passage in your head with actually playing it. And listening? There is so much to say about the power of listening for musicians – everything from listening to our heroes and what we want to sound like to listening to pieces we don’t know to learn them. One important thing about listening is that it can be great to expose yourself to music and styles you aren’t familiar. You never know when you could get called for a gig or be in a situation where knowledge of Indian classical music or another ‘not typically studied in standard music school’ style could be helpful!

5. Last but not least: Inspiration! What made you excited about your instrument in the first place? What are you looking forward to playing later this year or later in your career? What group would you LOVE to play with? What group do you want to start or solo piece do you want to learn? Hopefully if you are organized with your goals and your planning these are all things you are thinking about daily but keep them in check in the practice room as well! It can be so easy to get bogged down by scales and very specific technical practice that we can lose sight of the child-like wonder we had when we first picked up the instrument. We get to make music and spend lots of time every day trying to do that even better. How exciting!

Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page about this post and anything else that might be relevant. We would love to hear from you!

We want YOU to join the Brass Chicks community !

We have received some great feedback from our readers and we are so excited to gear up for another month of Brass Chicks interviews. Since we are still putting everything together, we can’t announce the theme for this month just yet but please stay tuned 🙂 Brass Chicks is now on Facebook so please follow/like us and invite your friends to check out the page!

We are opening our arms and blog for YOU to be a featured writer for our Five Things Friday series. As you can see from our first two Fridays – the possibilities are endless for you to write about- anything from 5 things I learned last summer at an orchestra festival to 5 recordings that changed my life as a trumpet player. We would love to hear from our female-identifying friends in the Brass Chicks Community. If you are interested in writing a post or getting involved in any way, then please reach out to us at

brasschicksblog@gmail.com
More posts and interviews coming soon!

Five Things Friday – Rebecca Epstein-Boley, 7/28

I’m excited to write Brass Chicks’ second-ever Five Things Friday! Because I have struggled a lot over the years with performance anxiety, I have had to work to find functional solutions. In this post, I will share five of my favorites. I hope they will help other musicians as much as they have helped me!

1. Breathe Deeply

The number one thing that helps me with nerves is controlled breathing. Slow, mindful breathing exercises. Not only does deep breathing release stress-inhibiting neurohormones, it also reminds me how my air should feel when I play.

2. Perform Before you Perform

The only real way to practice for a performance situation is by performing. I like to play for people as much as possible, in order to make myself more comfortable doing it. Even playing an excerpt or two for family (or a pet!) can help.

3. Wear Flats

Disclaimer: I see other badass women wearing heels and performing wonderfully all the time. Their work is amazing and hugely impressive.
Personally, though, I don’t ever wear shoes with high heels. To me, they’re just another sexist way to keep women uncomfortable. Even if I did wear them, though, I would never wear heels and then stand to perform! At a time when I already feel shaky and posture is crucial, unstable shoes are the last thing I need. My concert oxfords are my best friends.

4. Eat a Banana

I’m not sure if the “bananas combat performance anxiety” thing is true, but the placebo effect is real. You can’t argue with results! I like to have a banana about 45 minutes to an hour before a big performance.

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5. Have a Plan

My biggest anxiety symptom is that my mind wanders in performance and I become easily distracted. When I have a detailed plan for every note, bar, and phrase in a piece, I can focus on that instead of the kids talking in the audience or what I’ll eat for dinner.