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.


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.

Joanna Hersey – interview

We have enjoyed celebrating the International Women’s Brass Conference through our interviews with Jennifer Wharton and Nicole Abissi and their individual blog posts. We are so excited to present our final interview of the month – featuring Joanna Hersey. Thank you again for sharing  your thoughts with the Brass Chicks community!

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

Many ask how I began to play the tuba, and I always say it was totally meant to be, I started playing tuba during my eighth grade year in a small Vermont town in the mountains, twenty-seven miles from the Canadian border. East Haven, population two hundred and ninety-eight, had two schools, kindergarten through fifth grade in one small building, and sixth through eighth grades in one classroom next to the town clerk’s office. My eighth grade graduating class was the biggest the school had ever had…nine!

The afternoon came when we were given instrument rental forms to take home and discuss with our parents. I decided that I wanted to play the violin, however, since no high school anywhere nearby had an orchestra, my mother encouraged me to pick a band instrument. Not seeing anything on the list which struck my fancy, I returned to school the next morning having decided not to play anything. Seeing my lack of enthusiasm for the instrument list, the teacher offered me the chance to play a sousaphone which was not being used in a nearby school. This seemed like a great solution, because I did not know what a sousaphone was.

The rest, as they say, is history. He brought it for me, and it was white, plastic and bumpy. “Okay, blow into it,” he instructed. I gave a tentative puff in general the direction of the mouthpiece. Nothing happened. Mr. Hueling uttered the now immortal words, “You’re going to have to blow a lot harder than that if you want to play the tuba.” I took up a large breath and let go with all my might, a large blast rang through the building, students in class looked wildly over their shoulders in alarm, and I had begun to play the tuba.

From then on, I have spent my days in a room with the instrument, trying to figure out how to do it better, and help other people do it better, driving and flying it all over the world.

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

One very special thing that I am so proud of is that I have become involved with the International Women’s Brass Conference, an organization which helps provide scholarships,  and presents conferences for men and women, featuring many female brass soloists and educators. The group is made up of both men and women, and the mission is to educate, develop, support and promote women brass musicians while inspiring continued excellence and opportunities in the broader musical world. So while we want to showcase women in performance, we also want to involve men as well as young male and female students in our educational outreach events, to try and break down separation by gender for all instruments.

As President, I am able to give back to an organization which has given me so much at a crucial time in my young career, having attended the very first IWBC conference in 1993 as a young military musician.  I see my role as a director of sets of people, committees and groups each working on smaller pieces of the puzzle, such as membership development, new composer commissions, educational outreach, etc. I can see the big picture and where things can overlap, and direct forward motion. We just completed the 25th anniversary 2017 conference at Rowan University in NJ, and our next one will be in May 2019 at Arizona State University, my alma mater!

3. 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?

Most of us sit in sections as either the only female brass player, or one of a small minority. We sit in those sections for our whole lives, our whole careers. Even with wonderful male colleagues, many of us feel we can never miss a note or be imperfect without putting on the line the rep of every single woman in the field. So we sit under the pressure of that at every single gig we play. Every conductor comment, every glitch, under a microscope.

Perhaps because of this, young women go into the career in lower numbers. They’re not willing to put up with the teasing and feeling different (young people want to fit in!) and don’t see it as something for them. I recently taught a set of tuba masterclasses to 94 tuba players from the nation’s top performing high school programs, schools with super supportive booster groups, great leadership and budgetary support. Even in a group of this level, only 11 of those tubas were female. So still 88% male in our most supportive American programs in 2017. Last year I taught a studio of 27 college tuba and euphonium majors, only three of which were female.

One of our challenges is we see that in the past we were not okay with regard to race and gender equality, but we think it’s fixed now. People often ask me if I teach male and female students differently, and I don’t, but I do teach some students differently. I divide them in my mind into two categories (that don’t have to do with gender). There are the students who are very driven and ready to find challenge and are pro-active. These students need help with balance and staying focused on fewer tasks, keeping from becoming overwhelmed, etc. The other group of students, especially with tuba, are the students who love it, but are not used to being super-challenged there in the back of the band, and are approaching life waiting for things to happen to them. This group needs different teaching, they need to be reminded about being proactive instead of reactive, and goal-setting and advanced planning would be helpful. Both groups need support but in different ways. As the teacher I have walked their path already, gotten bruised and disappointed, had the way blocked, but kept going…and now I can help them along, just as my teachers did with me.

We also can work on featuring women and minority composers in our performances, and there are a lot of terrific resources out there for us. I have an upcoming series with Cimarron Music Press, called the St. Cecilia Series, featuring music I’ve arranged by historic women and minority composers for brass. Michael Parker and I just recorded an album with JAM – Joanna and Michael that featured several new works in this category for solo, duo and quartet. My albums O quam mirabilis (2010), Prelude and Groove (2012), and Zigzags (2015), are places to find repertoire. There is a great set of databases on the International Alliance for Women in Music website ( on where to find music in various genres, featuring a  link to a brass music database complied by Monique Buzzarté.  Following young composers on social media is a great way to become informed about new works. Finding music for any genre by women and minority composers takes an extra step of research but opens up so many connections with new colleagues and can inspire a who new set of composers to start working.

4. Do you see any specific challenges for musicians in todays climate? How do you mitigate those on your own or when teaching?

The music world is very different that when we, the middle-aged professor generation I’m in, were trained, and it is so important for us to recognize and embrace that. My degrees are all in performance for example, but I have to excel at various aspects of music education, music business, entrepreneurship, marketing, accounting, booking, management, grant writing, etc. I have had success because I figured out this mattered and got my act together and learned it, and I am flexible and adaptable as things change. A great way for people to stay informed is to listen to podcasts, I’ll mention a few of my favorites below. But stay flexible, and don’t be too tied to what you thought you’d be doing before you got to the place you are now.

One challenge we face as musicians, is our world is divided too much by race and gender. While this is a part of regular life, we can start to change that by becoming aware when we do it. Things such as how we treat people in positions of authority, as professors in a university setting, as colleagues in an orchestra or brass band, how we react when the person in authority is a women or a minority, how we hire new people, etc. We can develop young leaders when we teach with this in mind. Women and minorities are promoted in smaller numbers, in university settings and in performance, and people unconsciously have an image associated with what success in the field of music looks like. If you don’t match that image, you are at a disadvantage. Luckily though, this can change and if it matters to enough people, we can fix it.

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?”

I wish I had done more clear advanced planning when I was younger.  Some type of 5 and 10 year out type of planning is very helpful. As we begin our careers things can seem overwhelming, and I have seen people take on projects that don’t match their goals, then get mired down and off track. The way I deal with that is I have a dry-erase board hanging above my desk. It’s divided into boxes, one for each of the next four years, then a future box. I color code the projects and spread them out, for example recording projects need to be started a year or two out. This helps me see what’s coming up and then I can decide to add something new, or put it in an upcoming year, and stay focused on what I enjoy. If I find myself feeling overwhelmed I can reorganize the chart without feeling like I am out of control. Now…color coding boards won’t be everyone’s thing, but it works for me, and that’s the key, find what works for you and stick to it. Goal setting time is one of the most beneficial aspects of your week.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came at a time when I was gathering courage to begin a new phase of my life.  I had decided to leave my position as Principal Tubist with the United States Coast Guard Band, and begin studying at New England Conservatory with Chester Schmitz, then Principal Tubist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Visiting my grandparents to break the news that I was leaving a steady job to study performance full-time, their next door neighbor stopped by.  Lt. Leonard Godfrey lived for forty years next door to my grandparents, and was navigator of The Great Artiste, a B-29 bomber which flew the Nagasaki bombing mission during World War II. He returned from that mission very much changed, having seen too much of the consequences of war. As I nervously explained my dreams to them, he looked across at me, a young woman who played the tuba, and said “Security is a myth.”  He, a gentle, elderly man seeing me through his vast vision of human experience, saw that I should go for it. I’ve never forgotten that, and look back at his support as one of the most important moments of my life. It reminds me that we have chances every day to look at young people and either encourage or discourage them with how we react to their vision and dreams.

Also…it really is true…long tones. Every day.

6. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings etc.
I am a big fan of listening to podcasts when I exercise or on a long drive, and here are some of my favorites:

The Brass Junkies, Lance LaDuke and Andrew Hitz (

The Entrepreneurial Musician, Andrew Hitz (

The Young Musician’s Guide, Aaron Campbell (

Online Marketing Made Easy, Amy Porterfield (

Daily Meditation Podcast, Mary Meckley (


Thanks again Joanna Hersey for this amazing interview! For more about Joanna, check her out here:


Introducing Joanna Hersey!

We are so excited to present our last guest of the month: Joanna Hersey. I met her last month when I was performing at the International Women’s Brass Conference and I knew she would be great to feature on Brass Chicks. Stay tuned for her amazing interview featuring many helpful resources and interesting experiences — posted later this week!

Joanna Hersey

A native Vermonter,  tuba and euphonium soloist Joanna Ross Hersey studied with Dan Perantoni at Arizona State University, received a Master of Music in Tuba Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music studying with Chester Schmitz, and earned her Doctor of Musical Arts in Tuba Performance from the Hartt School.  As Principal Tubist with the United States Coast Guard Band, Joanna performed throughout the country as a soloist and clinician after winning the position at the age of nineteen.  Joanna has played for three U.S. Presidents, performed at numerous state functions for visiting dignitaries, and has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America.  In her freelance career she has performed with artists including Placido Domingo, Roberta Flack, Marilyn Horne, Arlo Guthrie, Michael Bolton, Lee Greenwood, Arturo Sandoval and Jack Nicholson.  Joanna is a founding member of the Athena Brass Band, a group which has been featured at the Brass Band Festivals in Danville, Kentucky and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with Joanna as soloist.  Joanna is currently Principal Tubist with the Carolina Philharmonic and the Carolina International Orchestra.

As a member of the Alchemy Tuba-Euphonium Quartet, Joanna performs throughout North America and Europe and can be heard on the group’s recordings Village Dances (1997) and Prelude and Groove (2012).  For thirteen years Alchemy has been in residence each February at the Horn-Tuba Workshop in Jever, Germany where the group performs recitals, gives master-classes and conducts ensembles.  The quartet also has performed recitals in Linz, Austria as part of the International Tuba Euphonium Conference, and was featured in the outdoor Fest der Natur on the banks of the Danube River. Together with Michael Parker, Joanna is also part of an exciting new duo JAM: Joanna and Michael, who have just released their first CD, featuring tuba, euphonium, cimbasso, and electronics.

Joanna has produced two solo albums, O quam mirabilis (2010) and Zigzags (2015), featuring music by composers including Hildegard von Bingen and Libby Larson in combination with her own compositions.  Joanna’s research interests focus on brass history and women in 20th Century American music, and her work has been published in the International Tuba Euphonium Journal, the International Women’s Brass Conference Newsletter, the Historic Brass Society Journal, the North Carolina Music Educator’s Journal and the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. In collaboration with Parker Mouthpieces, Joanna has debuted the Hersey Artist Model Tuba Mouthpiece, featuring a three component stainless steel design. Visit for more information.  Joanna is President of the International Women’s Brass Conference, Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and a Yamaha and Parker Mouthpiece Performing Artist.

Nicole Abissi writes about IWBC

This is a re-post of Nicole’s post from her own blog, City Trombone Lessons. Please check out our previous posts for more about Nicole and her interview.

At the start of this month, I had the privilege to be a part of the 25th International Women’s Brass Conference. In addition judging some of the competitions, I performed with the Monarch Brass Ensemble. Every time I play with these incredible musicians I feel inspired and re-energized. The support for one another is palpable on the stage as well as in the audience. The way that we feed off of this energy is in our musical risk taking.

It is often the case that a performer expects the audience to be looking for things she or he does wrong. As if each audience member is actively ticking down marks for each missed note. After a lifetime of auditions to get into summer festivals, schools, competitions, and jobs, it’s not a surprising response. At IWBC, the overwhelming feeling in recitals is that people are there to hear what you do well. We want to know what we can like about yoour performance rather than trying to find things wrong with it, or trying to judge how we measure up to one another. I’m not sure why this is so strongly the case here and not as much elsewhere, but I do know that we should keep this in mind when each of us is an audience member in the future. Attend a performance to see what you can admire about the musicians. What can inspire or move you? Send thoughts of support and respect out into the world when someone is brave enough to put themselves out there. These acts will come back to you when you are the one on stage, and I promise you will be grateful for it.

For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are some live videos of the evening performances.

Athena Brass Band:

Diva Jazz Orchestra:


Monarch Brass Ensemble:

Seraph Brass Indiegogo has 1 day and 2% left to go!

The incredible all-female brass quintet, Seraph Brass, has almost reached its crowdfunding goal on Indiegogo. The group aims to raise $25,000 in order to fund their first album, which they will release in early 2018. It will only take a few more donations to push them past the $25,000 mark — could some generous Brass Chicks make the difference?

From the fundraiser page:

“Seraph Brass began in 2014 and is in high demand, presenting over 50 domestic and international concerts in the 2016-17 season. We are a dynamic brass quintet drawing from a roster of America’s top brass players. Committed to engaging audiences with captivating programming, we present a diverse body of repertoire that includes original transcriptions, newly commissioned works, and well-known classics. Recently, we commissioned and premiered “Wolf” for solo soprano and brass quintet from Philadelphia-based composer, Joseph Hallman and have had several arrangements made by Utah Symphony trumpeter Jeff Luke and composer Thomas Oltarzewski. Through our mission to commission and premiere new works by American women composers, we hope to continue to encourage women of all ages to study and love brass music. We have performed a number of masterclasses at universities, high schools, and middle schools. Seraph Brass is on the Allied Concert Services roster, performing tours throughout the United States. Seraph is managed by Manhattan Music Ensemble.”

introducing Nicole Abissi – guest Brass Chicks blogger

Kate – I am so excited to present Nicole Abissi – our next featured guest Brass Chick blogger, who also performed at IWBC. We have played together in NYC and I was really interested to hear her responses to our interview questions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the Brass Chicks community!

Nicole Abissi is a member of the renowned Stiletto Brass Quintet since 2013. She frequently plays with many of the country’s fine orchestras, as well as on Broadway. Nicole received her Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School and Master of Music degree from Stony Brook University.

In 2007, Nicole began a fellowship with The New World Symphony in Miami, Florida. There, she had the opportunity to work with the premier conductors of our time, as well as receive lessons and coaching from many of the finest brass players in the world today. Nicole won her first professional position as the Second Trombonist of the Alabama Symphony in 2009. In September of 2012 she joined the Colorado Symphony as acting Principal trombonist for the 2012-2013 season. In addition to her performance experience, Nicole is a passionate teacher. She has given clinics at many universities as well as music festivals, such as, Georgia State University, University of Alabama, Interlochen Arts Camp, and Youngstown State University. Her students have gone on to study trombone performance at such schools as The Juilliard School, Northwestern University, New England Conservatory and Lynn University.

Listen to Nicole here:

Want to find out more?

Mini Interview:

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

I am a trombonist with a varied career. I was primarily an orchestral player until joining the Stiletto Brass Quintet in 2013. Now I play chamber music, Broadway, orchestra, brass ensemble, new music, and commercial music. I love to teach almost as much as perform and my blog has given me an outlet to share my ideas with a wider audience.

2. 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?

I wish I had let go of perfectionism in the practice room at a much younger age. Striving for perfection isn’t helpful because it does not exist. We need to not be complacent or accept mediocrity, but we also need to practice self-love and acceptance. Where I am right now as a musician isn’t where I always want to be. But in order to get where I want to be, I need to put in a lot of honest practice time and self-loathing is not going to help me achieve my goals.

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

I think every musician should follow the Bulletproof Musician blog. It has so many helpful posts about performing and practicing. I also always recommend Golf is Not a Game of Perfect to people. It focuses a lot on the mental aspect of performing and essentially the phenomenon of mind over matter. 

4. Lasting thoughts / tips / ideas / comments?

There is a lot more to what we do than just practicing the notes on the page. Explore what you can do to improve your mental game and never underestimate the importance of being kind and respectful to your colleagues. I still work with people I met when I was 14 as an Intermediate camper at Interlochen Arts camp. One of those people is currently a member of the New York Philharmonic and came to my son’s first birthday party. Another is a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and more play in the National Symphony and other orchestras around the world. Every person you meet should be treated with respect and consideration, because you will probably work with them for the rest of your career. 



Five Things Friday – Kate Amrine 7/21

I am so excited to create the Brass Chicks community and have the opportunity to showcase incredible stories and musicians. In addition to guest posts and interviews, there will be a variety of other posts – some themed and some not.

Announcing our new series called Five Things Friday!

This new series of posts will allow for many other guests to contribute and highlight their own individual perspectives. The list format is also a little different than our other posts so it may be easier to catch up with Brass Chicks related news on the go!

For this first Five Things Friday post – I wanted to share 5 reasons that I am happy to be involved in the Brass Chicks community and why this project is so important.

1. Awareness

I am currently on tour with an orchestra in Japan and on our flight the other trumpet player and I realized one of our flight attendants just started learning trumpet in Japan. We invited her to our concert and she said she would try to attend. Here is a picture we took together:

IMG_6128She told us that her teacher in Japan told her that due to her body structure and gender that lip slurs and other techniques would be very challenging for her. This was unbelievably shocking to hear for many reasons and we were quick to inform her that this wasn’t accurate information. She was surprised to learn that there are so many female brass players who are doing incredible things and hopefully this gave her a different perspective moving forward. This blog is for her and anyone else who may be in a situation where exposure to these powerful perspectives from women in the brass community can be extremely transformative.

2. Network

Even though I live in NYC (the center of the universe 😃) I realize that there are many other perspectives and stories worth sharing from all parts of the world. We can learn so much from everyone and I hope that Brass Chicks can be helpful in facilitating this process. So far Brass Chicks has been viewed in over 10 countries which is unbelievably exciting!

3. Inspiration

When I was younger, I didn’t realize how many inspiring women brass players were out in the world doing incredible things. I didn’t realize how many different ways there were to make a living as a musician. I hope that Brass Chicks can provide some inspiration to younger musicians – at a time when it can be most valuable.

4. News

There are a few other organizations that are great for brass related news – and our monthly theme is after all, the International Women’s Brass Conference, so we are very thankful for this organization and others. We hope that we can provide a space for updates and announcements in the women’s brass community – everything from upcoming CD releases to performances and more. If you have news to share – please reach out to us! We will post a monthly news update and we would love to feature your project.

5. Passion

I love bringing people together – especially those with like-minded interests. It is an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of Brass Chicks and create content to benefit the women’s brass community. I feel so lucky to interview some of my favorite people and feature them on our site. I hope that through Brass Chicks we can continue to positively impact the women’s brass community and create a more diverse and supportive musical environment.