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…

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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 (of The Many) Great Things About My Teaching Job

Jessica Stein is a trumpet player and band teacher at the Haldane Central School District in Cold Spring, NY. Most recently Jessica played in the pit orchestra for Marist College’s production of Anything Goes. Jessica is a founding member of Millennial Brass, a brass ensemble that performs regionally in New York and Connecticut. Additionally, Jessica subs with The Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra.

During the summer of 2016, Jessica attended The Aspen Music Festival and School where she performed significant orchestral works alongside some of the countries’ top classical musicians. Jessica has played internationally in Graz, Austria as a member of the American Institute of Musical Studies’ professional festival orchestra. Upon beginning her graduate work in 2014 at SUNY Purchase, Jessica was a finalist in the Purchase College Concerto Competition performing the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto.

Jessica earned her Master’s of Music from SUNY Purchase under the tutelage of Raymond Mase. Additionally, Jessica holds a Bachelor’s of Music with a double major in Trumpet Performance and Music Education from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University where she was a recipient of the Sylvia Friedberg Nachlas Endowment Scholarship.


I have never spoken so openly about being a public school band teacher. I just started my job in September 2017, and I’ve been pretty quiet about it. As a professional musician, at first, I felt that having a teaching job was something to be ashamed of. However, in the past six months, I’ve realized that couldn’t be further from the truth. I think it’s time for me to speak out about how fantastic my job is. So without further ado, here are five (of the many) great things about my teaching job.  Continue reading

Five Music Lessons That Become Life Lessons

CaitlinIMG_1439 Jodoin is a Toronto based tuba player with a passion for music education. A graduate from the University of Toronto, Caitlin earned a Bachelor of Music in 2017. She is also currently enrolled in teachers college and excited to convocate in June 2018 with a Bachelor of Education. Caitlin has performed in the Hannaford Youth Band, the Weston Silver Band, the Toronto Community Orchestra, and Kingston Brass. She especially enjoys busking throughout the year with other musicians. To fulfill her passion for music education, Caitlin teaches privately, runs low brass masterclasses, and teaches at the National Music Camp of Canada.

You can find more about Caitlin on her Facebook or Instagram, @caitlintuba


For those who have been at a crossroads in life (like I am currently, about to finish up a teaching degree), understand that it is a transitional stage when you need to figure out a number of things. While brainstorming what I might do come September, I’ve been trying to re-evaluate and formulate my goals. Since music and the arts were created to reflect and express things about life, I’ve decided to write about 5 lessons that not only apply to music, but to life as well.  Continue reading

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Transitioning from School to A Freelance Career

beccaAfter graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2014 Rebecca Patterson moved to New York City and has become an active member of the the cities rich musical community. She can be heard subbing on the Lion King and Wicked on Broadway or someone around the city with her dynamic big band with co-leader Ron Wilkins that features some of her original compositions and arrangements comprised of some of NYC’s finest musicians. An album will be recorded in 2018. Since her move to New York she has had the opportunity to perform with a diverse range of ensembles on Tenor and Bass Trombones and Tuba including performances with: Christian McBride’s Big Band, Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, The Mingus Band, John Colianni Jazz Orchestra, Birdland Latin Jazz Orchestra, Steven Oquendo’s Latin Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Livio Almeida’s Brazilian Dectet, Chris Potter, Kansas, Marcos Valle, The Ed Palermo Big Band, Metro Chamber Orchestra, Billy Vera Jazz Orchestra, Mariachi Vargas, and San Antonio Wind Symphony. Rebecca also maintains a private lesson studio and makes guest artist appearances with schools and programs around the country. She is an artist for Shires trombones and Giddings mouthpieces. 


Transitioning from music school to the freelance world can be incredibly intimidating. When I finished my degree, I moved to New York City hardly knowing anyone. It took a mere few hours in my new apartment to realize I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.  Continue reading

Five Ways to Treat Your Instrument Right This Valentine’s Day

valentine'shorn1

Okay, so maybe your instrument isn’t the only figure in your life who’s important to you on Valentine’s Day. But maybe it is! Either way, our instruments stick with us through thick and thin and we owe them some gratitude. Show your horn you care this February 14th with a little TLC!  Continue reading

A Focused Approach: Interview with Donna Parkes

About Donna Parkes

donna parkes

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?  Continue reading

Five New Semester Resolutions and Challenges for 2018

877E13F4-8C01-400E-AE91-3A2669554237Casey Cronan, originally from Milford, CT, holds a bachelor‘s degree in French Horn Performance from New York University and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in French Horn Performance at Purchase College. She has been a member of Washington Square Winds, a woodwind quartet dedicated to performing and commissioning new works, since 2011. Casey recorded on Washington Square Wind’s 2014 album They’re Alive. She frequently performs in NYC with various groups such as Loft Opera, Chappaqua Orchestra, and the New York Opera Exchange.


In honor of the first week of my final semester as a student at Purchase College, I would like to share my New Semester Resolutions and Challenges for 2018:  Continue reading

Five People To Contact about getting More Gigs

Happy Friday! This post is a shortened and slightly altered version of a Facebook Live chat I did back in December about how I got started freelancing in New York City. It originally had over 200 views so I decided to upload it to Youtube so it lives there now 🙂

Do you find yourself wishing you were performing more? Perhaps you just graduated and you are looking to get your start in a new city. Or maybe you recently quit your teaching job to focus more on performing.  These points should be possible for you regardless of your instrument, point in your career, or location.

 
<< This pictures is a fun #fbf to one of my first gigs in NYC several years ago – playing with Pitch Blak Brass Band. Some of the people in that group I still play with on gigs today and I was originally put in contact with the group through one of the other trumpet players.
So, here are five people / organizations to contact that could get you more work. Hope this helps! 

Continue reading

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

Five Things I Learned About Freelancing After Having A Baby

This week’s Five Things Friday post comes to us from Philadelphia-based French horn freelancer, teacher, and community connector, Kristina Mulholland. Kristina’s is the first post of what we hope will become many on Brass Chicks which provides information for and aims to help women balancing motherhood and brass playing careers. Thanks to Kristina for sharing her experience! See the bottom of this post for Kristina’s full bio.

Kristina MulhollandI am so excited to be this week’s Five Things Friday guest contributor.  Sharing my perspective, throwing my two cents into the pot, adding more online content to this topic is so important for women who are freelancers and brass players.  You can balance family AND a brass playing career and it’s about time we celebrate!  Below I will be sharing my ideas related to freelancing and brass playing from my own new mommy angle.   My hope is that my article allows room for conversation among current brass mamas and provides avenues of support for future brass mamas out there.  

Without further adieu, the five things I learned about freelancing after having my first child:  Continue reading