The Trombonist-Turned-Musicologist (No, this is Not a Joke): How Embracing my Past Defined my Future

We are excited today to share a guest post by Alyssa Wells about her path from playing trombone and baritone in bands to pursuing a PhD in Musicology. Thank you, Alyssa, for sharing your story!

Wells - Headshot.jpgAlyssa Wells is a Musicology PhD student and Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include: labor union and industry bands, protest music, the politics of sound and space, and communist and socialist composers. Before coming to the University of Michigan, she completed master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Musicology (M.M.) and German and Scandinavian Studies (M.A.). While at UMass, her research on Hanns Eisler and music festivals in the German Democratic Republic received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Alyssa also holds a B.A. in Music (trombone) and German Studies from Western Michigan University. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, telling terrible jokes, and making annoying puns.

If you would have told 19-year-old me that I am now just about halfway done with a PhD in musicology, I would have probably laughed…

Figure 1 – Alyssa, aged 19. Clearly enthused about musicology

…In fact, until the past year, musicology had never truly felt “natural” to me. The field was intriguing and inspiring enough to decide to devote my life to it, but what I studied simply did not furnish me with the same deep personal connection that I consistently witnessed my colleagues experiencing.  Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

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:

Jennifer Wharton writes: “Ladies Who Rock”

This is a re-post of Jennifer Wharton’s post on her own blog, View from The 4th Chair. Please check out our previous posts for more about Jen and her interview.

The International Women’s Brass Conference took place this past June in South Jersey at Rowan University. On top of meeting a bunch of ladies who rock, I was lucky enough to be asked to perform with Athena Brass Band, DIVA Jazz Orchestra and in Jeannie Little’s recital/presentation.

Athena was filled with professionals in service bands, brass bands and symphonies around the country and directed by my longtime friend, Jessica Sneeringer. I met Jess in the Disneyland College Band in 1999. (Read my article about it here.) After 5 extremely well-run rehearsals and a soundcheck, we took the stage. The music selection, the soloists, the level of sensitivity in the band – everything blew me away. We made some great music that night. In case you missed it, listen to the Athena Brass Band at the IWBC 2017 here.

My second performance was filling in for Leslie Havens in the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. DIVA is led by drummer Sherrie Maricle and has been around for decades and has been home to folks like Ingrid Jensen, Nadje Noordhuis, Jen Krupa, Sharel Cassity to name a few. It’s always really impressive how deep the “bench” is for DIVA – there are always new players that get some of their first big opportunities from Sherrie. I always feel like it’s an honor to be able to sub in the band and try my hardest to do a great job in Leslie’s absence. There are some tasty stuff for the bass bone to play in Scott Whitfield’s arrangement of 76 Trombones and on I’m Gonna Go Fishin’. The whole concert is can be viewed here. Enjoy!

Finally, on Saturday, I joined Carol Jarvis (Sting, Seal, London Symphony), Natalie Mannix (University of North Texas, Delaware Symphony) and Donna Parkes (Louisville Symphony) for Jeannie Little’s (Montana State University and loads of orchestras) recital/presentation. We played Jeannie’s arrangement of Getting Sentimental Over You and then she spoke about Tommy Dorsey and his influence on French music, specifically Tomasi. I wish I could’ve taken everyone with me back to NYC!

I didn’t get to see as much of the conference as I would’ve liked. I didn’t get to talk to Abbie Conant (who I met doing a Chinese Funeral in San Francisco but that’s a different story). I didn’t get to hang a lot afterwards. But what I did hear and see and the people I did meet will stay with me for a long while. Ladies, YOU ROCK!

Thanks Jen for letting us share your post and check out more of Jen here: