A Focused Approach: Interview with Donna Parkes

About Donna Parkes

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Australian trombonist Donna Parkes has been Principal Trombone of the Louisville Orchestra since 2008 and has been Principal Trombone of the Colorado Music Festival since 2009. Prior to this year she played the 2012-13 season with the Utah Symphony and the 2007-8 season with the San Francisco Symphony. Miss Parkes was a member of the Virginia Symphony from 2001-2007 and was a member of the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas for two years. She has performed with many orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Oregon Symphony, National Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, Sydney Symphony and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Miss Parkes has performed at the Arizona Musicfest, the Malboro Festival and the Grand Tetons Festival and in 2016 toured with the Australian World Orchestra.  Solo competition successes include winning the Australian National Trombone Competition, the Brisbane International Brass Competition and finalist in the Jeju Brass Competition in Korea. She has appeared as a soloist or clinician at the International Women’s Brass Conference, International Trombone Festival and the Melbourne International Festival of Brass. Miss Parkes received her Masters Degree studying under Charles Vernon at DePaul University and other primary teachers include Michael Mulcahy and Ron Prussing.

Interview

1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. What do you love about being an orchestral trombonist?

I am Principal trombone of the Louisville Orchestra and the Colorado Music festival orchestra during the summer. I also love chamber music and teaching but my primary focus is orchestral performance. There are many parts of orchestral playing I love, it is such a unique and awesome feeling to be a part of the sound of a full symphony. To be surrounded by and contributing to music-making of that magnitude is fantastic. Another part of the orchestra I enjoy the most is the low brass section and how we function together as a team. I have fantastic colleagues in my orchestra and we are constantly striving to improve ourselves while supporting each other and that is very gratifying for me. Having players beside you that you respect and admire, then working together to have the best low brass product we can is so rewarding and fun!

2. 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?

As female brass players I think our primary role is to be the best musicians and human beings we can. I have tried to simplify my approach and focus less on being a great female musician but rather to gain respect as a great musician and colleague. There is no doubt the role of being a woman brass player has many challenges and I believe everyone has to find their own path. It looks different for all of us but each woman should feel confident and supported to be her true self. I love that during my career I am seeing more women players and as there are more role models, that will only continue and grow. In the current climate of gender equality awareness I am encouraged that younger women will deal with less of the issues of the past. I strongly believe we need to support one another as women and be brave enough to speak up when situations are not acceptable. Our responsibility is to stand for what is right for yourself and for others every time. To strive to live the principles you believe in – for me that is being a dedicated, respectful and kind musician.

3. Tell us a little about what you do to stay motivated and focused in your job as a musician. How does this relate to your experiences running? (You’ve talked before in an interview with The 8th Position about the physical and emotional benefits of running to you as a person and a trombone player.) Do you feel running marathons has an impact on your daily life as an orchestral musician?

I find holding myself to high standards regardless of the situation has kept me motivated and focused. I try my best to make the best sound I can and to be the most sensitive musician I can – no matter what the environment. Having standards that you expect of yourself means you’re not as affected my all the variables that come up. I love to challenge myself by mixing up my musical diet – chamber music, recitals – anything to keep me fresh and striving for new goals. There is no doubt that for me running has a huge impact on my life as a musician. Purely from a physical standpoint there are benefits, when I am in great running shape I breathe better and playing is just easier. The mental benefits are even greater – running keeps me relaxed and energized. It requires true discipline which as musicians we all have , if you don’t put in the training miles the race will not be a fun day! Distance running in particular challenges your mental grit and having that skill developed is always valuable – if you can get through the last 4 miles of a marathon and stay positive you can achieve just about anything. For me the one the great lessons from running is to run YOUR race for that day – to focus on your best efforts and appreciate that as a success. Losing the attachment to comparisons to other runners and being able to trust your training and run the best you can, for me directly relates to being the best trombonist I can every day.

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

There are challenges for the today’s climate and it is continuing to change. Much greater flexibility is required and musicians need to be able to be far more proactive in their approaches. There are no guarantees especially in the orchestral world so having  a wider skill set and being open to different career paths is vital. I encourage all my students to be open minded and try to learn many parts of the musical spectrum. Today you can not wait for gigs to fall in your lap – you need to make opportunities and be excited to try new things. The benefit of this climate is there are now many more ways to have a career in music if you are prepared to put in the time and energy. If you truly love it you can find a way to make it happen.

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 female musicians?

It sure would have been nice to know I was going to have the opportunities I have – but the competitive nature of the orchestral world certainly motivated me. I would have given my younger self a confidence boost of assurance that time and experience has taught me. For younger musicians I would say work as hard as you can – it always pays off sometime down the line. The hours of dedication are invaluable and will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment you can’t get from anything but focused practice. The practice room is the most important place and you need to enjoy the art of the craft itself. Love what you do passionately but remember you are not your instrument – it does not define you. Success and failure are both just lessons to be taken in stride. I would encourage every young woman to find the support to be her authentic self and to speak up loudly when situations are not acceptable. Find mentors and career heroes and ask them all the questions – take in all the information you can. Be true to your principles – because at the end of the day the only opinion that truly matters is yours.

6. Any resources you recommend? Books, podcasts, recordings that changed your life, or anything else?

I have found the Bulletproof musician website to be a great resource and an area we often don’t get enough guidance or help with as a musicians. For me, hearing new players and wildly different interpretations is inspiring. I am also loving all the new great blogs and resources online – there is great information and motivation to be found!

Making Statements: An Interview With Abbie Conant

We are thrilled to have been able to conduct an interview with the fabulous Abbie Conant. Abbie famously fought the Munich Philharmonic for 11 years in court to be solo trombone and now performs groundbreaking multidisciplinary works. She has been a pleasure to work with on this interview!

About Abbie Conant

abbie clearAward-winning Performance artist and Juilliard-trained trombonist Abbie Conant is somewhat of a legend in the international orchestral brass world. The story of her epic fight and ultimate victory against egregious gender discrimination in the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, where she won the position for principal trombone at a screened audition in 1980, inspired author Malcolm Gladwell to write the NY Times Bestseller, Blink, where Ms. Conant’s story is detailed in the last chapter. The 11-year-long court battle was documented by composer/musicologist/activist, William Osborne, in an article entitled “You Sound Like a Ladies’ Orchestra.” The document is supported by actual court records and experiences in the orchestra with 89 footnotes. This source document has generated countless newspaper and magazine article (Der Spiegel, {the German analog to Time Magazine}, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, etc.) as well as a documentary film, (Abbie Conant, Alone Among Men by Brenda Parkerson), a play produced at the Landestheater Linz, Austria by Award-winning British playwright, Tamssin Oglesby called, Der (eingebildeter) Frauenfeind, (The [Concieted] Misogynist) and a screen play for a feature film in the works by Canadian writer/producer Dale Wolf.

After winning her lengthy court case, Ms. Conant won a full-tenured Professorship at the University of Music in Trossingen, Germany and left the orchestra in 1993. Abbie Conant has performed instrumental music theater works with surround sound electronics in over 150 different cities around the world. She has given masterclasses in as many esteemed music institution such as The Juilliard School, The Eastman School, New England Conservatory, Yale School of Music, Indiana University, Royal Northern College of Music, the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg, Sweden, DePaul, CalArts, McGill, Oberlin and many others. In collaboration with composer/husband William Osborne, the pair has created a new genre of chamber music theater. They have produced five evening-length chamber operas for singing/acting trombonist.

Interview

1. Your story of battling sexism and discrimination in the orchestra world with the Munich Philharmonic is unbelievable, yet your strength and determination (and great playing of course!) paved the way for many discussions and policies on sexism in the brass world. Have your thoughts on that experience changed in any way? Especially in light of recent events in classical music and political culture with harassment and this kind of behavior being less tolerated in the public eye? Continue reading

Auditions, Caruso, and Music From the Heart: A Conversation with Julie Landsman

We are excited to have recently conducted an interview over the phone with the incomparable Julie Landsman! Julie was a joy to speak with and offered, unsurprisingly, a wealth of advice and information informed by her career.

About Julie Landsman

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Principal horn with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 25 years, Julie Landsman is a distinguished performing artist and educator. She achieved her dream of becoming principal of the MET in 1985 and held that position until 2010, and has served as a member of the Juilliard faculty since 1989.

Landsman is a current member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and has performed and recorded with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Additionally, she has performed as co-principal with the Houston Symphony, as substitute principal with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and recently with The Philadelphia Orchestra as associate principal, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra as principal.

Her students hold positions in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, San Francisco Opera and Ballet Orchestras, Washington National Opera Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, and the American Brass Quintet. She recently received the “Pioneer Award” from the International Women’s Brass Conference and was a featured artist at the International Horn Society Conference in 2012 and 2015. Her recent series of Carmine Caruso lessons on YouTube have led to further fame and renown among today’s generation of horn players. Landsman currently resides in Nyack, New York.

 

Interview

Brass Chicks: Your career has been incredible and has taken you all over the world. What was the process of winning your position at the MET and becoming the first woman in the brass section of that orchestra like?

Julie Landsman: Winning an audition at the MET was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The audition was 100% behind a screen – anonymous – and it’s documented in a very famous book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The last chapter describes the details of  my audition. The men who voted for me had no idea who I was or that I would become the first female brass member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

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Interview with Trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis

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Combining cinema sweep, transportive emotion, and rich melodic grandeur, Australian-­born trumpeter/composer Nadje Noordhuis possesses one of the most unforgettably lyrical voices in modern music. Her deeply-­felt, clarion tone and evocative compositional gift meld classical rigor, jazz expression, and world music accents into a sound that is distinctively her own. Noordhuis was one of ten semi-­‐finalists in the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition and was selected as a Carnegie Hall Young Artist to undertake a weeklong residency with trumpet great Dave Douglas in 2010. Recent engagements include a yearly week-­long run at New York’s Village Vanguard with Rudy Royston’s 303, performances with the Grammy-­winning Maria Schneider Orchestra, performances at jazz festivals in Europe, Canada and Brazil with Grammy-­nominated Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, and regular appearances with her group at the historic 55 Bar in Greenwich Village.

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

I’m a trumpet player and composer, mainly in the jazz realm. Continue reading

Interview with Tiffany Hoffer

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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

Interview with Adrienne Doctor

Kate 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.

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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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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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An Interview with Mariachi Flor de Toloache: NYC’s First and Only All-Women Mariachi Group

We are excited to continue to interview trailblazing female musicians who continue to push boundaries and inspire musicians everywhere. This group has been on my radar for a while and it was so great to hear from Mireya from Mariachi Flor de Toloache – about her experiences with the group and changing the musical landscape.

Latin Grammy Nominees Mariachi Flor de Toloache make New York City history as its’ First and Only All­-Women Mariachi Group. Founded in 2008, Mariachi Flor de Toloache is lead by singers Mireya I. Ramos (founder) & Shae Fiol (founding member). Reminiscent of the early days of mariachi the group started as a trio, Harp, Violin and Vihuela. Today, Mariachi Flor De Toloache performs as a full Mariachi ensemble. The members hail from diverse cultural backgrounds such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Australia, Colombia, Germany, Italy and the United States. This defines their unique flavor and sound. The result of this cultural bouquet is an edgy, versatile and fresh take on traditional Mexican music. They coalesce as would a band of sisters, with a grace and vibrant beauty that casts a spell over their audiences not unlike the legendary Toloache flower still being used in Mexico as a love potion. While working to preserve centuries old traditions of Mariachi, their melange of the traditional and the modern pushes the boundaries of the genre and brings Mariachi music to new audiences.

Read their complete bio here 

1. From the Latin Grammy nomination to the upcoming and recent tours, Mariachi Flor de Toloache is extremely impressive as NYC’s first and only Mariachi group. Tell us about your experiences! Anything coming up soon?

It has been quite a beautiful and empowering adventure. We started in 2008 knowing we wanted to experiment with the tradition of mariachi which had been passed down by my dad. Little did we know that by being persistent, playing for tips, playing in the subway in the middle of winter, dealing with much criticism for not following the tradition as is, it would all lead to being nominated for our first self produced album then recently nominated again for our second album. It’s definitely mind blowing how much you can accomplish when you’re persistent, true to yourself, passionate and follow your vision. More important than the recognition of an award, is the continuous inspiration we spread to young girls and boys. Seeing them singing along to our songs and connecting to our music is priceless!

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Interview with Natalie Cressman

We are excited to continue our new series featuring women brass players who push boundaries and play outside the box of a standard path for a “conservatory trained musician.” Our first interview features trombonist Natalie Cressman, whom Kate has met freelancing in NYC and it was such a pleasure to read her responses.

7302c6_07ff388914e74c3ba9455dac1d0f20f3Possessing a voice as cool and crystalline as an Alpine stream, Natalie Cressman is a rising singer/ songwriter and trombonist who draws inspiration from a vast array of deep and powerful musical currents. Her new five-song EP Traces reveals her latest evolution, a sleek and sensuous electronica-laced sound with even a trace or two of dance floor sweat. Steadily evolving in many directions, the 25-year-old Cressman has already put down deep roots in several overlapping scenes. A prodigiously talented New York City-based trombonist, she’s spent the past seven years touring the jam band circuit as a horn player and vocalist with Phish‘s Trey Anastasio (and recently played with Phish at Madison Square Garden). Deeply versed in Latin jazz, post-bop, pop, and Brazilian music, she tapped the interlaced traditions on her first two solo albums, 2012’s Unfolding and 2014’s Turn the Sea. The Traces EP follows on the heels of 2016’s Etchings in Amber, a gorgeous duo album with guitarist Mike Bono that introduced Cressman as a formidable musical force without her horn. While the project focuses on songs featuring lyrics she wrote for several Bono compositions, Cressman also wrote words and music for three of her songs, contributing to the atmospheric suite of jazz-inflected, genre-bending tunes. With Traces, Cressman expands her creative reach into post-production, meticulously crafting soundscaped tracks. Her vocal work in increasingly intimate and rhythmically insinuating settings has revealed an artist who can thrive in any setting, from raucous, reverberant halls to packed and pulsing lofts and nightclubs. In an epoch marked by infinite musical possibilities, Natalie Cressman is a singular force who draws from an improbable breadth of sonic realms. Cressman is An artist endorser for King Trombones.

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

I started writing in high school here and there but I didn’t get fully into it until I moved to NYC to go to college and had opportunities every week to bring in original music and hear it played by my combo. Continue reading

An Interview with Lori Eure

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

About Lori Eure

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

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

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