Five Books to Revamp Your Mindset and Motivate You on the Path to Success

As a teacher and a performer, I love reading books about performance psychology and business. Anything that challenges me to reevaluate ways I’ve been thinking and design smarter habits is great for both me and my students. I’ve been thinking for a while about which books I would choose for this post and it was actually been pretty difficult since there are so many great options. I decided to limit my choices to books that are not specifically about music but are still extremely relevant to musicians.

5TF Books

1. It’s Not How Good You Are, It‘s How Good You Want To Be, by Paul Arden

41PKj+kB6BL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_I have been reading this book for years since my parents gave it to me in high school and it is a great book for any creative person with goals in mind. We have all heard the story about the tortoise and the hare – about how persistent hard work will always prevail far beyond raw talent – but it is true!

One of the parts I enjoyed most about this book was its easy to read format; some pages even only had one sentence! Large print and easy legibility make the potentially intimidating ideas this book addresses approachable. The book starts out with these three sentences: “Nearly all rich and powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good – looking. They become rich and powerful by wanting to be rich and powerful. Your vision of where you want to be is the greatest asset you have.”

2. You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero

51ypp1C+97L._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_This was one of the first books I read after finishing my Masters degree and, wow, was it helpful!!

Being in music school is a very self-critical experience that can be very overwhelming, even if it is always focused on positive improvement and support. It is so easy to compare ourselves to our mentors and other people around us that may have entirely different personal circumstances and situations. Remember, especially on social media, we only see the everyone’s highlight reel of all of the best things happening. I really liked how this book helped me change my thinking and was exactly the motivation I needed to read after finishing school. Sincero includes actionable steps in each chapter to reevaluate your beliefs and your actions – and she helps you refocus them. This book is great for throwing perceptions back in your face, helping you to face your strengths and work to improve your weaknesses.  Here’s a great quote: “Our entire experience on this planet is determined by how we choose to perceive our reality.”

3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

51FexyX8WQL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_This book is so great for teachers and students or anyone that is actively involved in learning. This book identifies the fixed mindset and the closed mindset. The fixed mindset is believing that your qualities are carved in stone – leading to urgently needing to prove yourself over and over. The growth mindset is believing that your basic qualities are things that you can change on your own over time. These different outlooks translate directly into your daily actions and reactions to situations. For those of us who teach, these ideas can frame how we interact with students and how our students and children interact with each other.

For example, what if you are an orchestral trombone player and you get called for a gig you usually play, but one of the pieces has a big featured jazz solo in it? As an orchestral player, jazz may not be your strong suit. So, if you have a fixed mindset, you may believe that this is a situation that will expose your lack of talent and end up labeling you as a failure because you couldn’t possibly improve in that area. You simply are not that kind of musician. If you have a growth mindset, however, then you will react to the situation with motivation, confronting the problem, and believing that your efforts will make a difference in your playing. Of course, we are not all black and white with one mindset 100% of the time. There are almost always things about ourselves that we can feel strongly that we can’t change. And yet, with hard work and awareness of your mindset, anything is possible.

4. Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (for a Sexist Workplace), by Jessica Bennett

513dD03hR7L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Although this book is written for women in a typical business office structure, the way Bennett describes the difficulties women face in those situations feels all too familiar and relevant for musicians. Feminist Fight Club was a very quick read with a conversational tone and fun illustrations in the margins. This amusing style helps hammer some of the points home and makes a book that is primarily directed at people in business in a typical office environment much more relevant and applicable to freelance musicians.

For those who might worry that this book is just a complaining manifesto against men: don’t worry! The book is full of statistics, references from actual studies, quotes, and interviews that Bennett uses to back up her points. She outlines the problems that women face in the workforce by describing characters like the “Mansplainer” who condescendingly explains things to women who usually already know what the answer is. I am sure we have all experienced this. After illustrating each of these characters, Bennett describes ways to fight back and counter the behavior. She also includes problematic behavior that women sometimes display that unknowingly makes these stereotypes worse like the “Credit Defaulter” who upon receiving a compliment about a job well done will immediately respond, “Oh thank you, but I couldn’t have possibly done it without xyz” or will attribute recent success to luck or something else. Sound familiar? Of course it is important to be modest, but in a world where men are quick to point to their own innate qualities and skills it is important to take personal credit when deserved and value your own contributions!

5. The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

41hC5Pli3SL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I recently finished this book and I have to say, it has become my new favorite. In a way, The Slight Edge combines many of the ideas from the four previous books all into one. This book is about evaluating your everyday actions, thoughts, and decisions, and realizing how that all figures into your greater success (or failure). Olson identifies the power of the “slight edge” – the awareness of those daily choices – and how it can affect and impact all areas of your life. Here’s a great quote that summarizes many of the ideas he writes about: “Successful people do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether or not they feel like it.” This book has helped countless people, including myself, become happier and more productive, so check it out!

We hope that everyone has a happy holiday season and is gearing up for 2018 with excitement and motivation. Hopefully these books will help!

NB: These are not Amazon affiliate links and we receive no payment for recommending these books. We just like them!

Five things I Learned from Desk Job to Freelance Life – Caitlin Featherstone

This week we are very excited to presentCaitlin Featherstone for Five Things Friday. Enjoy!


Caitlin Featherstone is a Southern California Native currently residing in Brooklyn where she is working as a full time freelance musician and teacher. Since moving to New York City three years ago, Caitlin has been playing consistently with a number of orchestras, churches, theater companies and opera companies. She has also recently joined The Brooklyn Conservatory working as a music teacher in several of their Public School music outreach programs. In addition to freelancing, Caitlin is the fifth and newest member of the “Deliciously Creepy Cabaret Sensation”, Orphan Jane. A locally famous music ensemble. In 2016, Orphan Jane released their second album, “The Traveling Everything Show”, on which Caitlin is featured. When she isn’t playing trumpet, Caitlin is a professional Dog Sitter in the NYC area as well as an aspiring Sommelier. Caitlin is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory where she studied under Roy Poper and received her Bachelor’s in Trumpet Performance and a Minor in Ethnomusicology.


This past March, I decided to make a crazy and seemingly stupid life change. I decided to quit my cushy day job of two years and dedicate myself to my trumpet career full time. This meant losing the stability of a weekly paycheck and my own personal office where I called the shots, and buckling down to finally take action and move my career in the right direction. However, it also meant finally having the freedom to take chances, having the time to take care of my mental and physical wellbeing, and actually feel like I was being proactive about something that gave me a purpose for being in New York! Continue reading

Five Things to Keep in Mind When You are Stressed and Busy

Hi fellow brass chicks! We didn’t forget it is Friday and hope you didn’t either! It is such a busy time of year with the holidays, school, and gigs and we certainly know things can get a little crazy. Hopefully this post will help 🙂

1. Perspective. 

This one may seem obvious but it is always important to keep in mind that many of the stressful things that we are worrying about may often be “first world problems” that not everyone has the pleasure of experiencing. For example, after a busy day of teaching and  playing, I walked into a cafe and ordered a small salad. The woman behind the counter yawned and apologized and I said, “Oh don’t worry, I am tired too.” But then she asked if I get to sit down at my job, because she was tired after standing all day – and as a musician, most of the time we are sitting so I definitely didn’t have anything to say back.

2. Be Grateful

This is very similar to keeping your perspective in mind when in the face of “first world problems” but more related to simply appreciating everything that you have. Do you have food, a place to live, family, friends, and something you are passionate about? That is a lot more than some people and certainly something to be grateful for.

3. Appreciate where you are and what you have done

Especially in stressful times, it can be easy to lose track of your own personal accomplishments and truly appreciate and recognize everything that you have done. We are getting increasingly closer to the end of 2017 and I’m sure there are some amazing things that have happened that you can be proud of. Make a list and look at it whenever you need an extra boost! This is even more helpful for times when you feel like you are treading water and not moving forward in ways that you may like.

4. Look forward to something in the future.

Many of my students just finished midterms and are now preparing for finals. Some of them have holiday concerts. I personally have many gigs coming up – many of which all seem to be on top of each other and can make maintaining a healthy sleep schedule difficult. One of my mentors recently told me to keep this in mind recently and it is super helpful as a motivating goal to get through a long day or a long rehearsal. And it can be anything from getting to sleep in tomorrow (yeah!), having ice cream at home after the gig, or planning a vacation next year. Always treat yo self and give yourself something to look forward to!

5. Self Care

It seems like we talk about this a lot here on the Brass Chicks but it is super important! Beyond the usual eating well and taking care of your body and mind, when you have a free moment – evaluate your schedule. Do you really need to take on that extra opportunity? Do you really have time to do that other project? Is your time better spent getting a head start on your work or going out with friends? Sometimes the answer might not what you think but make sure to always pay attention to what your body and mind need!

Do you have any other tips that we haven’t mentioned? We would love to hear from you, ei

Five Things I Learned After School

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Stephanie Hollander is an active freelancer in the NY Metro-Area. She recently collaborated with indie-pop singer Giselle Bellas on her new album “Not Ready to Grow Up” where she can be heard on the single “Canary”.  She has performed with many distinguished groups such as; Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Rocktopia, Patriot Brass, The South Florida Symphony Orchestra, Miami Symphony, Bard Conducting Institute, Washing Heights Chamber Orchestra, Bach Festival Orchestra, Vermont Mozart Festival, Albany Symphony, Newburgh Symphony and numerous others. In 2017 she was principal horn for the North East tour of the distinguished pop Italian group, Il Volo.

 Ms. Hollander holds a B.M from the University of Cincinnati, CCM, and a M.M from the Eastman School of Music where she was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship. She also holds an Artist Performers Certificate from Bard College Conservatory and a Professional Studies Certificate from the Manhattan School of Music as a recipient of the 2016-2017 Richard E. Adams Scholarship. Her teachers have included; Barbara Currie, Javier Gandara, Randy Gardner, Peter Kurau, Jeffrey Lang and Julia Pilant.

 Currently, Ms. Hollander is on faculty at the Dutchess Community College Community School and Hartwick University and has been a guest speaker for the SUNY Purchase horn studio, on the topic of, “Graduation, now what”.

In Ms. Hollander’s spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband, she is fluent in Spanish, loves salsa dancing, biking and snuggling with her three beautiful cats.  Continue reading

Interview with Tiffany Hoffer


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

5 Things I’ve Learned While Traveling with My Trumpets

We are pleased to welcome trumpeter Katie Clark as this week’s Five Things Friday guest writer!

KatieClarkWhen I first set out on my trumpet travels this fall, I was asked if I would like to write a piece for “5 Things Friday” on Brass Chicks about what I’ve learned or discovered while curating my own education this year.

I’ve been blogging about my travels, trumpet, and being gluten free on my blog, Katie’s Trumpet Travels (, so feel free to find out more about me and my story there!

I voluntarily withdrew from my doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia last spring to attend the University of Toronto’s Master of Teaching program. However, after attending Chosenvale: The Center for Advanced Musical Studies in June, I realized that I needed to make the trumpet my career; I love it. So I was unsatisfied with my doctoral program, no longer wished to attend teachers college, and was forced to come up with a plan. I’ve always said that studying abroad would be a dream come true, but I was hesitant to spend two to four years abroad as I am very comfortable living in Canada and wish to work there one day. For some reason, I did not see it as a road block to spend one year abroad. I guess when you’re determined to make something happen, it happens.

I then decided that I didn’t need a school. I had spent the past seven years in music schools and really just wanted to expand my trumpet technique and proficiency. I needed teachers. I then considered the many teachers that I’ve met throughout the past few years whom I’ve learned a lot from and drafted out a travel plan. In doing this, I was also lucky to stumble across the news of a conservatory needing an extra trumpet performer for a concert in March and found a base point for my European adventure. Considering I was not going to be a full time student, I had a lot of free time to schedule lessons and other classes across Europe during my time abroad. I was also very lucky to have a friend who was taking a gap year between her undergraduate and graduate degrees join me on this adventure because travelling with someone is a lot more fun than travelling alone.

Anyways, too much rambling! I am now five weeks into my seven weeks of trumpet travel in Europe, am a contract student at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag, and have learned many new things about trumpet, travel, and myself that I will attempt to organize into a clear list. Please note that these are the most valuable things that I have picked up while travelling and curating my own education and that they may be different for you!  Continue reading

Interview with Adrienne Doctor

I 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.


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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Five Things I Learned While Making My First Album

Alright – I’ve been saving this post for a little while but now it is officially time since my album came out this week on Tuesday November 7th. Throughout the whole process of making my album, I have learned so much while making “As I Am” and a lot of people have asked me great questions about  the process so I thought it would be great to organize my thoughts into a blog post.

First: for those of you that don’t know me too well: here is a super quick background 🙂 A little over a year ago, I wanted to pick some rep for a recital and found a couple great pieces by women composers. Rather than doing another recital, I knew that I would be graduating with my Masters in May and I thought that an album featuring music by women composers would be a great thing to graduate with…. so here we are! I commissioned about half of the composers featured on the album and found the rest of the pieces on my own. I also crowdfunded about 80% of the costs for the album which was unbelievably helpful. The album would not have been possible without those contributions so if you were one of the 150+ people who helped make the album possible, thank you so much!!

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Here’s a formal description:

As I Am is my debut album featuring new music for trumpet by women composers. This album includes a wide range of contemporary trumpet playing, from lyrical melodic lines to improvisation to extended techniques. The album includes music for solo trumpet, flugelhorn, trumpet with electronics, trumpet and piano, trumpet + electronics + harp, and flute + violin. As I Am presents music by Alexandra Gardner, Ariel Marx. Jennifer Higdon, Jessica Rudman, Jinhee Han, Ledah Finck, Nicole Piunno, and Kate Amrine.  Continue reading

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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Five Books Every Entrepreunerial Musician Should Read

This post is from pianist Eunbi Kim‘s own blog and yes, it is our first honorary Brass Chick guest post (Eunbi plays the piano). We saw her post and just thought it was so relevant to the Brass Chicks Community so we had to repost it and share it with you. 

Next to music, reading and books have been a great passion of mine, and I’ve been a serious reader my whole life. They provided a huge escape for me while I was growing up. My favorite writers are Haruki Murakami, Junot Diaz, Banana Yoshimoto, Julia Alvarez, Wally Lamb, and Margaret Atwood. Stories and books have the ability to expand our humanity and raise our consciousness. I also read a ton of business and music business books, and I’ve listed below some of my favorites (not in any order).

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