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.


–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:

-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!


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
More posts and interviews coming soon!

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.