Friday, November 4, 2011

My New Website!

Hello, Readers! Please visit my new site to view my new blog/website setting. I'm new to Wordpress, so I will be making updates gradually. Thanks for your patience and thanks for reading!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Dr. Jill Sullivan's New Book!

I have found Dr. Sullivan's research on the contributions of women's military bands during WWII to be extremely insightful and helpful in bringing to light a subject that has remained untouched for quite some time.

Dr. Sullivan left a comment on this blog recommended her new book, released September of this year, to you, faithful readers. It is entitled Bands of Sisters, and it would be a great resource and read for anyone interested in American wind band history. More than that, as female brass musicians, learning about our history is an important step towards achieving empowerment and confidence in our fields.

Follow this link to order Dr. Sullivan's book: Bands of Sisters

So far, it has received rave reviews-- I can't wait to order my copy!

"Bands of Sisters presents a wonderfully informative look at the long-overlooked contributions of women's military bands during World War II. Jill Sullivan's careful and exhaustive research provides both a great read and an invaluable addition to our wind band legacy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to all who are interested in the history of bands and band music in America."—Paula A. Crider, Professor Emeritus, The University of Texas
"Jill Sullivan's diligent research brings to light a previously undocumented and unique contribution to the war effort. Her Bands of Sisters is a fascinating read which finally credits the efforts of thousands of women military musicians during World War II."—Colonel John R. Bourgeois, Director Emeritus, The United States Marine Band, "The President's Own"
"Dr. Jill Sullivan gives voice to a significant part of history that has up to this point remained untold. Not only is this an important completion of the historical picture of the American wind band, but, and perhaps more importantly, these stories empower young female musicians who will now know they are part of a strong lineage of accomplished women musicians. As a woman band conductor myself, I plan to recommend this book to any young woman who wishes to pursue a career as a conductor, performer, or teacher, and anyone interested in a more complete knowledge of the history of the wind band."—Dr. Diana M. Hollinger, Project Coordinator, California Music Project, San Jose 
"Dr. Sullivan has written an intriguing, thoroughly documented account of the largely neglected role of women in military bands during World War II. Using numerous oral interviews, primary and secondary written accounts, and photographs, this meticulously prepared narrative reinforces the important role that these all-female groups played in boosting morale, raising money through bond drives and even performing for injured soldiers returning home for recuperation. This is a must read for anyone interested in the history of bands in America."—William Davis, Ph.D., Professor, Music Therapy, Colorado State University 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The fall concert series for iHearIC has already begun.  I am excited to say that Low Trio will be performing at the next concert!

Low Trio consists of me on trombone, Dan Spencer on horn, and Kate Wohlman on tuba.  We will be performing John Stevens' Triangles.  The concert will be on October 3, 2011 beginning at 9:00 at the Englert Theater in Iowa City. Bring your friends-- it's free!

To learn more about iHearIC, visit Zach Zubow's blog.  Thanks, Zach for organizing this great event! 

I have really enjoyed playing in this group-- not only are Dan and Kate close colleagues and friends, but they are wonderful musicians.  We have encountered some challenges as far as transitioning from the typical brass quintet mentality, but these challenges have opened new doors and have been quite refreshing.

International Women's Brass Conference 2012

Greetings, all! Take a look and browse through the new website for the International Women's Brass Conference 2012-- to be held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It's a great site with lots of info and resources. I am crossing my fingers that I can go this year-- my low brass trio is going to apply for a performance spot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Women in the Orchestra

In the jazz world, much of the discrimination against women was discrete—much went unsaid, and many women, even those with great talent, were simply ignored.  The orchestral scene was a bit more overt about discrimination towards women.  Perhaps it was America’s long-standing traditions with European orchestral models that prolonged this discrimination, but it wasn’t until the 21st century that real progress was made with women joining professional orchestras.  Antiquated Victorian ideals as well deluded ideas of a woman’s physical limitations to playing musical instruments professionally fueled this discrimination.  As quoted from Gustave Kerker in the Musical Standard journal in 1904:
 Nature never intended the fair sex to become cornetists, trombonists, and players of wind instruments.  In the first place they are not strong enough to play them as well as men; they lack the lip and lung power to hold notes which deficiency makes them always play out of tune…Another point against them is that women cannot possibly play brass instruments and look pretty, an why should they spoil their good looks? 

Sexual discrimination is still a major issue in the orchestral scene as well as the music conservatories that train musicians.  While this news may be disheartening, the fact that awareness has been raised, research is being conducted, and women are taking advantage of musical opportunities now more than ever are all signs that progress is being made. 
In conclusion, it was a matter of American traditions and culture that shaped women’s roles in music.  The fact that women were excluded from mainstream musical scenes forced women to unite and form new, all-women groups.  The United States military was rooted in service and duty—women’s involvement in military bands mirrored these ideas and helped to shape the band tradition in America as well as music education.  Popular music like the Blues sparked the formation of America’s true art form: jazz.  Singers like Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and Bessie Smith sang of the hardships that African American females faced and gave the American public a needed dose of stark reality.  All-women jazz groups like the Ingenues and the Harlem Playgirls, though perceived as “novelty” acts, allowed women to engage in professional music careers in jazz—careers that would become more prominent in the future.  While sexual discrimination in the orchestral music scene has been the most prevalent and is still at a state today that requires attention, changes are being made in the right direction for female musicians.  American conductor Leopold Stokowski said, “What a poof economy it is to take it for granted that women are not ready to enter the world of art, are not capable of becoming fluent channels for the expression of genius…We are sacrificing accomplishment to tradition.”  

So, let us form new traditions for women in the American music scene!  I have really enjoyed this research and have realized that there is so much out there on this subject. I plan on researching these topics more this summer-- after I finish Tina Fey's new book Bossypants, of course. Ladies and gents, read this-- it is hilarious. (and may supply me with a few blog posts!) Oh, and also check out this handout from Lin Foulk's site-- the quotations will surely enrage you :)  

Gustave Kerker, “Opinions of Some New York Leaders on Women as Orchestral Players,” Musical Standard, Vol. 21 (April 2, 1904).

Leopold Stokowski, “Women in the Orchestra,” The Literary Digest, Vol. 52 (Feb. 26, 1916) p. 504.

All-women Jazz Groups: novelty or necessity?

Just as all-women groups were popular in the military band tradition, so were all-women vaudeville and jazz groups.  Both black and white all-women groups formed as a result of the difficulties women had joining well-established male ensembles.  These all-women “girl bands” were actually quite popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but unfortunately much of their popularity stemmed from the fact that such groups were seen as novelty acts without much musical integrity in the jazz world.  According to scholar Linda Dahl in her book Stormy Weather:
Given the popularity of female-as-sex-object as a promotional device in entertainment, the many serious and capable women musicians who formed all-women groups were all too likely to be lumped together with the “all-girl” bands   of the “Look, Ma, no hands variety.

The women in these groups were portrayed in a way that played up the visual aspects of their femininity and blended them into one generic woman. Two groups of note are the all-white girl group, The Ingenues, and the all-black girl group, The Harlem Playgirls. The women in these groups were truly talented, but the novelty aspect of their performances is undeniable.  While these women surly wanted to be treated as musicians, setting gender aside, that was unfortunately not an option at the time.  With regard to the sex, Linda Dahl states:
 But whether they [women] liked it or not, it [sex] was an issue, and an important reason for the scarcity of women in established bands.  The women players who   eschewed the all-women groups had few options; if their music remained    “respectable,” their careers quite often remained marginal.

It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that women could partake in more professional jazz roles, and the 1990s was when women became more integrated and accepted into the jazz world.  Groups like The Ingenues and the Harlem Playgirls lost their popularity during the Depression, and many women became disheartened by the “novelty acts” and decided to foster their solo careers or start their own bands.  


 Linda Dahl. Stormy Weather: the music and lives of a century of jazzwomen. Hal Leonard Corporation (New York: 1996) p. 47.

 Kristin A. McGee. Some liked it hot: jazz women in film and television, 1928-1959. Wesleyan University Press (New York: 2009) pp. 34-35.

 Linda Dahl, 48.

American Heroines: Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith

I've devoted quite a few posts on military bands, so I decided to research something a little different. I recently took a seminar at the University of Iowa regarding American Music, so the next few posts will come from some of my research in that class. While this post doesn't deal with brass playing, one of the first performance opportunities that women had in jazz were as vocalists. On a cool side note, I did my undergrad in Columbus, GA, and the Schwob School of Music had in its possession 'Ma' Rainey's piano.

While all-female military bands and their related municipal descendants were rooted in service and education, another American idiom addressed both social and political injustices as well as entertaining the masses. This is perhaps the most American form of music: jazz and the blues. Richard Crawford suggests in America’s Musical Life: A History that 1920s and 1930s blues artists Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and Bessie Smith paved the way for the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Their blues lyrics addressed the “experiences of the black working-class women in ways far removed from the songs aimed at the white middle class.” Also, the love that was sung about in the blues was not an “idealized realm where dreams for future happiness were stored,” but rather, “were often linked with possibilities for greater social freedom.” In addressing the unromantic realities of life’s hardships, singers like Rainey and Smith brought to light many of the issues that African American women were dealing with—issues like death, disease, homosexuality, poverty, infidelity, depression, prison, alcohol, and abandonment.

  Born 1886 to a musical family in Columbus, Georgia, Rainey made a name for herself at a young age singing in a talent show in the Springer Opera House. She soon began traveling and performing with vaudeville and minstrel shows. Often called the “mother of the blues,” Rainey was known for her raw, raspy voice, her “moaning” style of singing, and her exceptional phrasing. She often sang of the pains of jealousy, poverty, sexual abuse, and the tribulations of black sharecroppers in the South. Rainey is also known for mentoring the young blues singer Bessie Smith. In 1912, Smith joined Rainey on tour in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dubbed the “Empress of the Blues,” Smith soon became one of the most popular Blues singers of the 1920s. In fact, her rendition of “St. Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong is considered by many critics to be one of the best recordings of the 1920s.