interview with Natalie Cressman

We are so excited to continue our new series featuring women brass players who push boundaries and play outside the box of a standard path for a “conservatory trained musician.” Our first interview features trombonist Natalie Cressman whom I have met freelancing in NYC and it was such a pleasure to read her responses.
Possessing a voice as cool and crystalline as an Alpine stream, Natalie Cressman is a rising singer/ songwriter and trombonist who draws inspiration from a vast array of deep and powerful musical currents. Her new five-song EP Traces reveals her latest evolution, a sleek and sensuous electronica-laced sound with even a trace or two of dance floor sweat. Steadily evolving in many directions, the 25-year-old Cressman has already put down deep roots in several overlapping scenes. A prodigiously talented New York City-based trombonist, she’s spent the past seven years touring the jam band circuit as a horn player and vocalist with Phish‘s Trey Anastasio (and recently played with Phish at Madison Square Garden). Deeply versed in Latin jazz, post-bop, pop, and Brazilian music, she tapped the interlaced traditions on her first two solo albums, 2012’s Unfolding and 2014’s Turn the Sea. The Traces EP follows on the heels of 2016’s Etchings in Amber, a gorgeous duo album with guitarist Mike Bono that introduced Cressman as a formidable musical force without her horn. While the project focuses on songs featuring lyrics she wrote for several Bono compositions, Cressman also wrote words and music for three of her songs, contributing to the atmospheric suite of jazz-inflected, genre-bending tunes. With Traces, Cressman expands her creative reach into post-production, meticulously crafting soundscaped tracks. Her vocal work in increasingly intimate and rhythmically insinuating settings has revealed an artist who can thrive in any setting, from raucous, reverberant halls to packed and pulsing lofts and nightclubs. In an epoch marked by infinite musical possibilities, Natalie Cressman is a singular force who draws from an improbable breadth of sonic realms. Cressman is An artist endorser for King Trombones.



  1. From your background in jazz and latin music to playing in the jam band scene with Phish and Trey Anastasio band, it certainly seems like you are a well rounded musician. How did you get started with your own work as a composer/singer-songwriter?


I started writing in high school here and there but I didn’t get fully into it until I moved to NYC to go to college and had opportunities every week to bring in original music and hear it played by my combo. At first I was writing mostly instrumental songs in the modern-jazz vein, but incorporated a lot of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian rhythmic and harmonic ideas. Those elements just kinda flowed naturally into my music, even when I was arranging standards or doing something more straight ahead. At that time I also was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell and finding work by contemporary artists like Becca Stevens and Gretchen Parlato that took elements of more folk-based singer/songwriter styles and fused it with jazz. Being inspired by them is what really brought me into writing the way I do now, which is a lot more song-based and informed by the lyrics and vocal component.


  1. How do you balance touring/working as a side-woman with your own daily maintenance on the trombone and your work with your own music as a singer songwriter?  Any secrets of success for fellow musicians balancing diverse interests and busy schedules?


It’s definitely a struggle to find time to maintain a routine while touring. And sometimes even when I’m in town, if I’m deep into a writing project and have a deadline coming up, or have to learn 15 songs for an upcoming gig, it’s also easy to let my practice routine fall by the wayside. I also play some other instruments (guitar, piano, and bass) that I try to maintain and improve my skills on by shedding too so I’m often left with the feeling that I wished there were more hours in the day.


But with the trombone, I try to stick to similar exercises for a few weeks at a time and then change up my routine every month or so to keep finding new things to work on. I then try touch on those concepts every day even if I’m on the road. Even if my schedule is absolutely insane I make sure to get at least 30 min in before I leave my house or if I’m on the road, allow for at least 30min before soundcheck to have some time to myself to get properly warmed up. I know that’s not a lot, but it’s an achievable goal and so much better than skipping a day and going straight to a gig or rehearsal without feeling warmed up and centered.  Especially if I’m on tour with Trey Anastasio, we often soundcheck for 1-2 hours and the show is around 3.5 hours long, so I am also trying not to tire out my chops by over-practicing on show days. I also like to come up with a routine made up of exercises that kill two birds with one stone – for instance,  where I’m working on slide coordination but in the context of a scale, mode, or pattern, that could also be applied to improvising or theory.


  1. 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?


That’s a great question. I do feel some sense of personal responsibility for whatever reason to prove preconceptions about female musicians wrong. Whether it’s from within the band, or the sound guy, or band management, or the audience, there are a lot of instances where my ability is underestimated or my knowledge/experience challenged and I have to say I’m pretty positive it’s because I’m a girl. So I guess I feel this responsibility to be as good as I can be and try and deal with those situations as gracefully as I can. I hope that by modeling professionalism I can change the stereotypes and make it easier for the next generation of female brass players to feel like they’re only being judged on their musical ability and not other superficial factors.


  1. Do you see any specific challenges for musicians in today’s climate? How do you mitigate those on your own or when teaching?


I think it’s incredibly difficult to make a living playing music, unless you’re interested in commercial and electronic music (and even then, though the path to success may be a little more defined, it’s still hard).  The music business today is so much more about image, social media engagement, and appeal to key demographics than the music that it can be kinda disheartening when starting your own project. But I’ve found opportunities to still be able to stay true to who I am musically while making a living by diversifying the kinds of music I play. I was trained to be a jazz musician, but I studied a lot of funk and rock repertoire and stylings and now I get a lot of work playing as a sidemen and special guest in more established bands, which allows me to fund my solo project and play shows with my band that might be more for the music’s sake than any kind of financial gain. I think especially for horn players this is a really great approach, but it kind of goes against what I was taught in music school, which was that it is better to be the best at 1 one thing/genre. I’ve found that being stylistically versatile has opened a lot of doors for me, though I may not be “the best” at any one thing. Everyone is different, as is everyone’s definition of success. For me, success is being able to make the music that makes me happy and the most inspired while being able to pay my bills and have a well-rounded life.


  1. 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 wish that I had given myself permission to branch out from jazz a little earlier, and I attribute that largely to the institutional bias that jazz is the most sophisticated and therefore the best genre. That sense of musical superiority held me back from learning about other important American music not to mention musical traditions from outside of the U.S. It took me a couple years of being in NYC to readjust this value system I had been taught in music school and realize that there’s a LOT of really high quality music out there that has nothing to do with jazz. Harmonic sophistication is just one element out of so many ways that music can be rich and run deep and looking at the music world as a whole with an open mind only brought me to a greater variety of opportunities.


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


Laurie Frink’s teaching method really changed my life in terms of brass technique. I was lucky to study with her while she was still alive but I know a lot of teaching materials about her method are floating around the internet and I really recommend checking it out. It helped me play in a healthy balanced way where I was able to endure long and loud gigs without hurting or burning out my chops. Her technique made it possible for me to maintain good technique no matter what the musical situation or nature of the music, so I could go straight from a New Orleans brass band gig to playing Brazilian choro for instance without any chop readjustments.


An Interview with Lori Eure

This week at Brass Chicks, we are pleased to share an interview with Lori Eure. Lori is a singer, actor, musician, and dancer, who also doubles on a variety of instruments. In the recent Cabaret national tour, she performed on trumpet, horn, euphonium, and accordion, in addition to singing, acting, and dancing. A true quadruple threat, Lori has a unique perspective on musicianship and artistic life.

About Lori Eure

headshot 3 .jpgLori Eure, originally from North Carolina, currently lives in New York, NY. Lori is a singer, actor, musician, and dancer. Some theatre credits include: Broadway: Cabaret (at the infamous Studio 54) Sally Bowles understudy/Kit Kat Girl. National tour: Cabaret. Regional Theatre: Ring of FireThe Buddy Holly Story, Wonderland, We Will Rock You (Las Vegas Cast), Beehive at The Kennedy Center, Annie, and Guys-n-Dolls. TV credits include: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Spin City. Lori gives much thanks and love to her family and friends. “Life and love go on… Let the music play!”

From Ravelle Brickman’s review of Cabaret in DC Metro Theatre Arts:
“…Some of the stand-outs are Lori Eure, who cavorts on a bannister while playing a mean French horn, plus a gaggle of sax players, horns and strings, clarinets, accordions and drums and even a banjo.”

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Five Ways to Keep Your Chops in Shape After College

This post from tubist Genevieve Blesch has some great tips on how to keep your playing up after graduating and even features a bonus Five things to cover in each practice session.

Genevieve Blesch is a freelance tuba performer and educator in the tri-state area. After spending her freshman year at The Ohio State University studying with James Akins, she received her bachelor’s degree in music education and master’s degree in tuba performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where she studied with Alan Baer. Genevieve frequently performs with orchestras, quintets, school ensembles and marching/pep bands. Noteworthy clients include The Pennington School and Patriot Brass Ensemble. Genevieve teaches private and small group lessons in central New Jersey. Orchestras that Genevieve has performed with include Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonietta Nova and Gateway Classical Music Society. Outside of music, Genevieve teaches Japanese and pursues her interest in technology.

Thanks Genevieve for sharing your thoughts with the Brass Chicks community!  Continue reading

An Interview with Caroline Steiger

This week, we are excited to share an interview with Dr. Caroline Steiger, Assistant Professor of Music and Artist/Teacher of Horn at Texas State University.  We love her thoughts on education and the changing nature of the music world!

About Caroline Steiger

Dr. SteigerDr. Caroline Steiger is an active teacher, clinician, and performer both in large and small ensemble settings. Caroline grew up in Southeast Michigan and went on to study at the University of Michigan, earning a B.M. in Horn performance with Teacher Certification in 2010, Penn State University where she earned her M.M. in Horn Performance, and the University of Michigan, earning her D.M.A. in performance in 2015.

Dr. Steiger is currently the Assistant Professor of Music and Artist/Teacher of Horn at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. She has held positions at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music (Visiting Assistant Professor of Horn, 2014), Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (Horn Instructor, Summer 2017), Penn State University (Teacher Assistant), and the University of Michigan (Graduate Student Assistant). Several of her students have gone on to study music at the undergraduate and graduate level, while her high school and middle school students have participated in State Solo and Ensemble (MI) as well as the Michigan Youth Arts Festival. While at Penn State University, Caroline was the Assistant Director of the Penn State Horn Ensemble and helped plan tours that included performances at the Pennsylvania Music Educator’s Association (PMEA) conference, Lancaster, and Hershey, PA.

Dr. Steiger’s work as a musician includes regular performances with the Mid-Texas Symphony and Round Rock Symphony Orchestras. She has played with the San Antonio Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra during their 2015 US tour. In addition, Caroline has held Principal positions with the Dearborn Symphony (Dearborn, MI), Adrian Symphony (Adrian, MI), Rochester Symphony (Rochester, MI), Oakland Symphony (Rochester, MI), Orchestra of Northern New York (Potsdam, NY), and the Northern Symphonic Winds (Potsdam, NY). Caroline has performed in great halls across the country, including Carnegie Hall, Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, and Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, getting a chance to work with conductors such as Valery Gergiev, Leonard Slatkin, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Stefan Sanderling, Lio Kuokman, Karina Canellakis, and Giordano Bellincampi.

Committed to chamber music, Caroline has played with the Potsdam Brass Quintet, faculty quintet-in-residence at SUNY Potsdam, the Emblems Woodwind Quintet, an Ann Arbor-based quintet focused on performing new and underrepresented works, and in 2015 participated in a chamber music residency at the University of Michigan with New York Philharmonic principal winds where she performed with Philip Myers.

Dr. Steiger’s main teachers include Adam Unsworth, Bryan Kennedy, Lisa Bontrager, Soren Hermansson, and Corbin Wagner. She has also studied with and participated in masterclasses with Gail Williams, Fergus McWilliam, David Krehbiel, Robert Ward, Bernhard Scully, and Jeffrey Lang.

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Five Things I’ve Learned about Working in a Male Dominated Profession

Alia Kuhnert pic'15.jpgAlia Kuhnert began playing trumpet at age ten in her home town of San Francisco, going onto  major in trumpet at the San Francisco School of the Arts High School. Alia attended the Summer Brass Institute in ’12 and ’13. As a fellow she collaborated with Joseph Alessi, principal trombone of the New York Philharmonic, Øystein Baadsvik, international tuba soloist, and Thomas Hooten, principal trumpet of Los Angeles Philharmonic. Alia is a graduate of the New England Conservatory where she majored in Trumpet Performance and performed with NEC’s Philharmonia, Wind Ensembles, Opera, Jazz and Chamber Orchestras. Committed to education, Alia teaches trumpet at the Harmony Program, a program whose mission is to reach underserved communities in New York City public schools. She is the trumpet faculty at Cazadero Music Camp in California. Her principal teachers include Catherine Murtagh, Michael Sachs, principal trumpet of the Cleveland Orchestra, Ben Wright of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tom Siders of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Kevin Cobb of the American Brass Quintet. Alia is currently pursuing her MM and DMA in trumpet performance at Stony Brook University, studying with Kevin Cobb.

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Five Habits Musicians Should Practice Daily – Michelle Bingheim

This week’s Five Things Friday reveals a new perspective in the Brass Chicks community – featuring a post from Michelle Bingheim, a trumpet player and music therapy student, on five habits we should all practice every day.


Michelle Bingheim is currently a senior at Western Illinois University. Michelle comes from a musical family and developed a love for music at a young age.  She began her music study with piano, but the trumpet eventually won her over.  Michelle continues to study trumpet and participate in ensembles while earning her degree in music therapy.  She enjoys performing with a variety of ensembles and has developed a special love for playing in brass ensembles/bands.  Michelle plans to become a board certified music therapist upon graduation and serve clients in a special education setting while still pursuing her love of playing trumpet. Outside of music, Michelle enjoys consuming coffee, binge-watching Netflix, spending time with her family, being active at her church, and giving back to her community.

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Interview with Bella Tromba

We are so excited to continue last month’s theme of interviews with inspiring women-led ensembles and feature the London-based trumpet quartet Bella Tromba.

Portrait shoot. East Dulwich. Sunday 5 June 2016.

Bella Tromba hold a unique position in the UK’s chamber music scene, offering a pioneering performance style and a commitment to programming outstanding brass repertoire.

Bella Tromba have presented recitals at Cheltenham Music Festival, South Bank’s Purcell Room and recorded for BBC Radio. Opening night concerts at the St David’s Cathedral Festival, Cambridge Music Festival and Wymondham Abbey Music Festival were performed to sell out audiences and they have been featured on the cover of Classical Music Magazine and Brass Herald.  Continue reading

Five Tips for Contemporary Chamber Music-Making: Amanda Ross

This week’s Five Things Friday is from trumpeter Amanda Ross, on her experiences with her contemporary chamber ensemble, Girlnoise. Thanks to Amanda for sharing her thoughts with us!

Amanda Performs with her chamber ensemble, Girlnoise

Girlnoise is an mixed chamber ensemble specializing in contemporary music and improvisation. Founded in 2015 in Ann Arbor, MI Girlnoise has collaborated with several local composers and musicians and has performed at UMMA, Canterbury House, and University of Michigan’s School of Music. In January 2017 Girlnoise held its first collective gathering, Meditation on Water, to help raise awareness for the Flint Water Crisis. As well as playing trumpet and arranging for Girlnoise, Amanda Ross is a doctoral student in trumpet at the University of Michigan. Continue reading

Interview with Natalie Mannix

We are so excited to continue our September theme of celebrating inspiring teachers with our interview featuring trombonist and educator, Natalie Mannix. 

Natalie Mannix, principal trombonist of the Delaware Symphony, is an avid soloist, chamber musician, orchestral performer and educator. In fall of 2016 she began her current position as Assistant Professor of Trombone at the University of North Texas after teaching 8 years at Towson University in Baltimore. Previously, she was a member of the United States Navy Band in Washington, DC for over 9 years where she performed with the brass quintet, concert and ceremonial band.

She has appeared as guest artist and clinician at colleges and conferences throughout North America, including the 2016 and 2013 International Trombone Festival, the International Women’s Brass Conference, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and the American Trombone Workshop. In addition to frequent performances with the Baltimore Symphony, Natalie has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Opera and Kennedy Center Orchestras, the Washington Trombone Ensemble, the Monarch Brass, Stiletto Brass and several regional orchestras and brass ensembles. A new music advocate, she has commissioned several works for trombone and continues to perform and promote music by emerging composers.  Continue reading