Last week I was able to attend the International Women’s Brass Conference for the first time, and it was an experience of a lifetime. In a nutshell, I met some of my heroes, made some new ones, connected with old and new friends, competed against some top-class performers (3rd place- not too shabby!), heard amazing performances by individuals and groups alike. Here’s a little breakdown of what I took away:
- Prelims for the solo competition- I performed movements I and II of the Rota Concerto and was awarded 3rd place for my age category.
- Heard soloists Ashley Hall, trumpet, and Velvet Brown, tuba, perform with the Rowan Uni wind ensemble, helped honor the conference’s Pioneer Award winners
- At the opening reception, met and talked with one of my inspirations, Abbie Conant, and worked hard to stay collected and calm. 🙂
- Recitals by Natalie Mannix and Ava Ordmann, trombones (all music by female composers!), and Donna Parkes, trombone (AMAZING rendition of the Sulek)
- panels by Debra Taylor (on focal dystonia and recovery) and Stacie Mickens (on practice habits and tricks)
- evening performance by Athena Brass Band (new life goal: get in this ensemble!), an all-female British-style brass band.
- Panels on Alexander Technique with Lori Schiff (Julliard School) and racism in the music world with Marquita Reef (St Louis educator)
- Recitals by Julia McIntyre, bass trombone (some of the loveliest playing I’ve heard in a long time), and Ashley Hall, trumpet (incredible sounds!)
- Heard my dorm-mate Kaitlin rock her finals performance for the competition
- Played duets out of my new duet book with Gabe
- Knockout evening performance by DIVA Jazz Orchestra
- Panels: “Who Gets the Gig”- social psychology and music by Maureen Hogan, Georgia Tech, and “Entrepreneurship” with several working musicians in different fields
- Jeannie Little, trombone, presented a lecture-performance on the Tomasi Concerto and the influence of Tommy Dorsey- her performance of the Tomasi was superb.
- Recital performances by Velvet Brown (MOJATUBA- with dance and percussion), and JAM- Joanna and Michael (tubaeuph/cimbasso duet)
- Final evening performance from Monarch Brass, the signature group of the IWBC. Such. Sounds.
Some slight organized thoughts:
- It’s so inspiring to see all these women working at a high level. Meeting the heroes of the earlier generation and mingling with those of mine- it’s great to see how far we’ve come
- That said, we have ages to go. The competitions, open to all genders, were mostly won by men. I have thoughts about how they could be structured different, but in the meantime- what will it take to get women into those winning spots more frequently? Is it confidence? Training? Access?
- I would like to see more rest/social time built into the conference schedule. It was jam-packed, and everything was interesting, so we were exhausted at the end of each day.
- I would also like more time to play and network with my colleagues. Reading sessions with all the trombones, or ad-hoc brass quintets. Anything to get us out of our cliques and talking to new friends.
- The conference, like much of the music industry, is still very ‘job-oriented’, focused on winning that orchestra job or finding the tenure-track college position (that will disappear in the next 10 years anyway). I wanted more from freelancers, non-conventional performers, and educators building careers in their communities using all the strategies available to them. How does the younger generation find work in a changing economy? How do we all stay happy and healthy as musicians, whether we’re top dog or working like one?
All in all, it was a week to remember. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have gone, to have had the chance to compete, and to make new connections. I’ll have lots to sustain me for the next few months, and I’ll be back for the conference at ASU in 2019 (hopefully with my own panel/performance, and with Brass Lassie in tow!)!