Monday, March 29, 2010

Lin Foulk lectures on women in music

On March 24, 2010 I attended a lecture presented by hornist Lin Foulk entitled New Standards: Women in Orchestras in the 21st Century.  Lin Foulk is the horn instructor at Western Michigan University, and she has done extensive research on women in music.  As you can imagine, I was thrilled to learn that she would be giving this lecture.  Lin Foulk is a great role model for any woman brass musician-- she is an exceptional musician, articulate speaker, and genuinely nice person.

I took notes on her lecture, which I will share (if I can read my handwriting!), but you can also find many of Foulk's quotes and sources on her website under PDF Downloads

Women have experienced open discrimination in the music world, which was rooted in the Victorian woman concept.  In this era, women mainly played the piano and sung-- the reason being that they could engage in this activity while staying at home as a "woman of leisure."

By WWII, women began filling the empty spots in the orchestras/bands of the men who had left for war.  While this was a big step, the men regained their positions after returning from the war.

By the 1960s-70s, a second wave of feminism occurred, which resulted in more inclusion of women in orchestras.  This was achieved by publically announcing vacancies in orchestras and holding blind auditions.

Foulk presented many graphs and statistics that described the relationship of women in the orchestra to the well being of the ensemble. 

In an orchestra with 10% or less women, the women generally keep a low profile and behave accordingly to the orchestra norm.

An orchestra in transition (10-40% women) will develop gender boundaries and cross-group stereotyping, which results in conflict.

In a balanced orchestra (40-60% women) will form inter-group relationships and allow both gender goups to feel legitimate. 

An analysis of these results would indicate that since women do have orchestral careers, it would be in the orchestra's best interest to generally be gender balanced.  This is complicated, though. I don't think that an unfair advantage should go to women as oppposed to men.  I think the underlying issue has to do with society's view of women and their roles.  Perhaps women aren't audtioning as much as men for orchestral jobs.  If this is the case, then it would be hard to achieve this balanced proportion.  As Foulk said, "Changes in society change the fabric of music." 

Foulk discussed many other topics such as women conductors and composers.  She also engaged in a question and answer session with the audience. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Current Topics Paper

The International Women’s Brass Conference: Educate, Develop, Support, Inspire

    Pursuing a career in music is not an easy task for anyone.  Doing so takes an enormous amount of dedication, hard work, and talent.  In a field historically dominated by men, women brass players pursuing careers in music have an even more arduous task before them.  Today, more women are entering the professional music world than ever as both performers and educators.  In a society preoccupied with gender roles, the International Women’s Brass Conference seeks to educate, develop, support, and inspire those brave women who do pursue professional careers in music. 
    The International Women’s Brass Conference is a relatively young organization of just seventeen years.  The first conference was held in 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The first pioneers of this organization were Betty Glover, Melba Liston, and Leona May Smith.  The IWBC occurs every three to four years, so the second conference was held in 1997 in St. Louis Missouri and was hosted by Susan Slaughter.  In 2000, the conference was held in Cincinnati, Ohio and was hosted by Marie Speziale.  In 2003, the conference was held in Normal, Illinois and was hosted by both Dr. Sharon Huff and Dr. Amy Gilreath.  The last conference was held in 2006 in Normal, Illinois and was hosted by Gail Robertson, Dr. Sharon Huff, and Dr. Amy Gilreath.

    The IWBC’s mission is fairly simple: to provide opportunities that will educate, develop, support, and inspire all women brass musicians who desire to pursue professional careers in music.  Another goal of the IWBC is to promote the composition of new music by women composers.  Many new works for brass ensembles are commissioned at each conference.  The latest works, which premiered in 2006, were Stella Sung’s Towards Light for Brass Ensemble, Kim Archer’s Fiddlydee for Euphonium and Piano, Joelle Wallach’s In a Dark Time for Horn and Piano, and Gail Robertson’s A Eupher’s Dream for Euphonium Ensemble.  

    The IWBC produces a biannual newsletter, which highlights the important news in the women’s brass playing world.  Many issues feature interviews of women musicians and composers, recent job winners, and reviews of new recordings and music.  These newsletters are mailed to members, but non-members may access all issues predating 2008 through the IWBC website.  This is a great resource for all brass players and educators. 

    The next IWBC will be held this year in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from June 16-20 at Humber College.  More than 300 brass musicians, educators, and adult amateurs are expected to attend this year’s conference.  Commissioned works will feature the compositions of Elizabeth Raum, Augusta Read Thomas, and Alice Gomez.  There are more than forty guest artists who are scheduled to perform and host master classes. A brief overview of artists includes trumpet: Bella Tromba, Kelley Watkins, and Lina Allemano; horn: Lin Foulk, Lisa Bontrager, and Allene Hackleman; trombone: Abbie Conant, Bones Apart, and Natalie Mannix; euphonium: Gail Robertson, Bonnie Denton, and Sharie Huff; tuba: Carolyn Johns, Deanna Swoboda, and Joanna Hersey.  The 2010 Susan Slaughter International Solo Brass Competition is open to all women and men brass players and offers significant prize money.  This year’s IWBC conference is scheduled to the brim with endless choices of master classes featuring topics such as Orchestral Excerpt Auditions, The New Reality of Music, Injury Prevention and Recovery, Women in Vaudeville, Improv Boot Camp, and The 21st Century Orchestra.  The conference will end with a grand finale concert in downtown Toronto by the Hannaford Street Silver Band, featuring soloists Bonnie Denton, Susan Rider, Joan Watson, and Gail Robertson.

    This year’s IWBC conference will surely be a success, for a lot of work went into planning this event.  The numbers of guest artists and vendors are vast, and the topics of the clinics and master classes are extremely diverse and applicable.  With a mission rooted in education, development, support, and inspiration, the International Women’s Brass Conference is definitely a resource to all brass players, men and women alike.

International Women’s Brass Conference, 2009. IWBC, (accessed     March 20, 2010).

International Women’s Brass Conference Toronto 2010. IWBC, (accessed March 20, 2010).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A look back at the IWBC

I've been doing a little research on the International Women's Brass Conference.  This relatively young organization began in 1993, and the first conference was held in St. Louis, Missouri. The 2010 conference will be held in Toronto, Canada. According to the IWBC's mission statement, it is their goal to provide opportunities that will educate, develop, support and inspire all women brass musicians who desire to pursue professional careers in music.

Meet the IWBC's first pioneers.  The following photos and information are from the IWBC website

Betty Glover  retired in 1992 after 40 years as a faculty member of the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She had been Conductor of the Brass Choir from 1969-1992. Ms. Glover was Bass Trombone and Tenor Tuba player with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Opera (1952-1985). She was Conductor of the Brighton Brass Band, a group of professional musicians sponsored by Local #11, A.F. of M (1987-1992), and Instructor of Brass and Conductor of the Band and the Brass Choir at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio (1950-1952). Previously, Ms. Glover served for five years as Principal Trombone with both the Kansas City Philharmonic and the Columbus (Ohio) Philharmonic orchestras.

Melba Liston, a pioneering jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, died April 23, 1999. She was universally known as the first female brass player to make an impact in jazz, playing in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. A stroke in 1985 partially paralyzed her, ending her performing career. But she continued to arrange and compose for musician Randy Weston, with the help of a computer.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Liston met the trombone at age seven. By age eight, she was playing on a local radio station.  In 1937, Liston’s family moved to Los Angeles. At 16, she joined the musicians’ local and was writing and playing in the pit orchestra of the Lincoln Theater and later joining the band of trumpeter Gerald Wilson.

In 1949, she went on tour with Billie Holiday in the Southern United States. But it disillusioned Liston. She quit music, working for the Los Angeles Board of Education for three years, and was a movie extra plucking a harp in ‘The Prodigal’ and ‘The Ten Commandments.’

In 1955, Gillespie asked her to join his big band touring the Middle East and Asia for the State Department. A few years later, Quincy Jones formed a band to tour Europe with ‘Free and Easy’ and asked Liston to be his musical director and trombonist.

In the ’60s Liston freelanced as a player, but gigs were few. She began arranging music for MoTown performers, the Buffalo Symphony and was encouraged by Weston to compose.

In the ’70s she taught at the University of West Indies and the Jamaica Institute of Music, and in 1987, two years after her first stroke, she was awarded a Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1993, she shared billing and the cover photo with Weston on their CD, ‘Volcano Blues.’

Leona May Smith made her first public trumpet performance at the age of nine on WNAC radio in Boston. At 11 she appeared as a soloist with Goldman’s Band, and at 14 played First Trumpet with the Boston Women’s Symphony. Ms. Smith went on to perform with numerous bands, including Fred Waring’s, and was the first woman trumpet soloist ever to play at Radio City Music Hall. Her frequent performances as a soloist throughout the northeastern US and Canada included appearances with the National Orchestral society and the Chautauqua Festival Symphony.

In the late 1940’s, Ms. Smith and her husband, composer and conductor George w. Seuffert, founded a summer ‘Music for Youth’ program in Newport, Vermont. Known for its teaching excellence, the music center drew talented young performers from all parts of the US and abroad. Reflecting her lifelong interest in providing musical opportunities for children, Ms. Smith has taught trumpet privately and in the Schenectady, New York, public schools. With her husband, she founded, funded, managed and promoted the Seuffert Band in New York City, which offered free concerts to the public, and she performed as its soloist and assistant conductor. Ms. Smith has played First Trumpet with the Brooklyn Symphony under Sir Thomas Beecham, and for 17 years was Extra Trumpet for the Metropolitan Opera. She was also featured in an NBC music education series narrated by Olin Downes.

Bones Apart Celebrates 10 Years

The all-female trombone quartet Bones Apart is celebrating their tenth anniversary.  By performing commissioned works and new arrangements, this multifaceted group aims to widen the scope of the trombone as a serious chamber instrument.  The ladies that make up this group are Becky Smith, Jayne Murrill, Helen Vollam, and Lorna McDonald.

Check out this clip of Stars and Stripes Forever from their new album entitled ten

Congrats, ladies- you sound fantastic!

Brazen Brass!

Brazen Brass is Columbus, Ohio's premier all-female brass quintet.  Formed in 2006, this group includes recent graduates of Ohio State University, Capital University, and Miami University. Members of the group include:

Melissa Bontempo, trumpet
Melissa Patridge, trumpet
Holly Bowman, horn
Annalisa Ventola, trombone
Carrie Frederick, tuba

After reading the bios of these ladies, I can say that this is quite an eclectic group!  Many of the members teach and perform professionally, play many instruments, and are employed in various professions other than music.  What a refreshing realization: you can be in a professional music group while simultaneously pursuing other goals!

Check out their website at