Tag Archives: brass

Through the Door: A Horn-Player’s Journey

Dave Krehbiel’s fast-moving memoir, Through the Door: A Horn-Player’s Journey, relates the adventures of a young musician who uses his musical talents to cover up his scholastic shortcomings. In so doing, he finds himself, miraculously, in the career of his dreams—playing principal horn for Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco symphony orchestras. With intelligent humor, Krehbiel, of Local 6 (San Francisco, CA), inspires us to face, without fear, whatever lessons are on the other side of the doors the universe opens to us.

Through the Door: A Horn-Player’s Journey, by Dave Krehbiel, self-published.

Horn Playing from the Inside Out

Horn Playing from the Inside Out: A Method for All Brass Musicians

Horn Playing from the Inside Out

This book by Eli Epstein, of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA), presents brass pedagogy informed by scientific evidence gleaned from real-time MRI films of the interior movement patterns of the world’s finest horn players. Epstein offers tried and true methods to learn and teach these exemplary biomechanics that promote not only beautiful and easeful playing, but also career health and sustainability. Available in print from poperepair.com and digital format from Apple Books.

Horn Playing from the Inside Out, A Method for All Brass Musicians,
Third Edition, by Eli Epstein, www.eliepstein.com.

mute caddy

Longoria Mute Caddy

Find Your Mute

mute caddy
The Longoria Model is in the foreground, behind is the latest version of the Artist Model.

The Mute Caddy’s new “Longoria” model helps trumpet players keep track of their mutes. Lightweight and portable, it slides securely onto the ledge of a music stand and has no moving parts. Organize your mutes and keep them at eye level. The Longoria can accommodate up to four mutes, and will also house three mouthpieces and a pencil—or take out a mute and you’ll have space for a beverage cup.


female brass musicians

Physicality of Female Brass Musicians

Flexible, Adaptive, Resilient: Findings From the Brass Bodies Study on the Distinctive Physicality of Female Brass Musicians

In seventh grade, I discovered the horn and found my musical voice. The camaraderie of the boys in the brass section felt comfortable to my tomboy nature. Being a girl didn’t seem a drawback to playing the horn, but my mouth full of braces sure did. Not until adulthood would I realize that the ever-changing female body could profoundly affect brass playing.

The distinctive physicality of female brass musicians became increasingly evident to me the more I interacted with my freelance peers. A hornist sitting next to me on an orchestra gig wet her pants going for a fortissimo high note. She was eight months pregnant, and the core abdominal pressure she engaged to nail the part pushed down onto the baby and her vulnerable bladder. The members of our entirely female horn section had no experience with pregnancy; our collective awkwardness compounded our colleague’s embarrassment. A female trumpeter shared that she took a pill to suppress her monthly periods. The side effects of the medication were worth it, she proclaimed, because she was determined to banish cramps, low energy from bleeding, and time changing pads from her commitment to keep the grueling schedule of her beloved drum corps. I, along with others, have hidden side effects from breast cancer treatments on jobs, driven to go “on with the show” for fear of looking weak and losing work.

In the fall of 2018, I launched the Brass Bodies Study to explore more thoroughly how female brass musicians experience changes to their playing due to catalysts affecting their physical functionality. Collaborating with sociologist Patricia Maddox, PhD, we designed a survey and an interview guide for gathering data to help us describe and understand the experiences of female brass players. Over 500 qualified participants completed the survey. At this writing, we are finishing our telephone interviews of 50 survey participants who volunteered to provide additional, in-depth information. The data we have collected so far is stunningly revealing for all that has been overlooked in research and practice regarding the occupational well-being of female brass musicians.

Gender informs a spectrum of physical and psycho-social attributes that have, to date, not been documented as distinctly female perspectives on playing a brass instrument. Our study findings seek to broaden the profile of brass playing to include considerations that have been dismissed as either irrelevant or deviating from a persistent, masculine-grounded narrative of this instrument family. Our data suggests that female-embodied experiences offer new understanding of how stamina, flexibility, creativity, adaptive response, and resilience factor into playing a brass instrument.

The survey for the Brass Bodies Study queried participants about changes to their brass playing from several different catalysts, beginning with female life-cycle events: menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Most who reported changes in playing from these catalysts ranked their effects on brass playing as moderate, with some ranking the change as severe to debilitating. The survey also asked whether they received any supportive help from a teacher/mentor, peer, or friend.

Study participants who reported changes to their brass playing from menstruation often described a temporary decrease in physical stamina. Some reported that cramping pain diminished their breath support, while others noted a temporary decrease in mental focus. For some, periods changed the way the mouthpiece felt against their lips. Few participants received help for adjusting to these monthly changes. They didn’t reach out; they felt embarrassed; they didn’t want to be perceived as slacking. Periods for these brass players were an annoyance to be ignored and contained.

At a presentation of this data to the International Women’s Brass Conference, I asked how many in the room had a particular remedy to alleviate period symptoms. Several raised their hands. However, many of those hands lowered when I asked whether they ever shared these remedies with a peer. One participant remarked that she would “never ever” divulge to her male teacher that menstruation affected her trombone playing. Isolation thus continues to stigmatize menstruation.

Pregnancy and childbirth, two other life-cycle events explored through the Brass Bodies Study, also affected participants. A tubist who’d given birth to twins reported that her diaphragmatic strength ebbed to nearly nothing by full-term. A hornist had to figure out new posture and breathing regimens to accommodate pelvic prolapse, a postpartum condition that occurs frequently from multiple births. Pregnant brass players often reported struggling with bladder control during standard union rehearsal schedules and having to negotiate the carriage and weight of their instrument.

Similar to the catalyst of menstruation, these participants received virtually no support from others in adapting to the changes in their bodies. They figured out for themselves how to manage with less air, less energy, less coordination, less time. Out of these seeming restrictions, however, came new insights into more efficient breathing, more creative use of limited practice time, and a heightened sense of pragmatism.

Hormonal changes among aging female and transgender brass players who participated in the Brass Bodies Study provided rich, insightful information to the data. Thinning lips from decreased estrogen due to menopause actually improved one trumpet player’s high chops. A transgender tubist immediately felt the effects of hormone treatments on large muscle groups in their shoulders and arms. These study participants presented particularly resilient attitudes in facing ongoing, often unexpected, bodily changes. Their perspectives encapsulated an emerging, female-centered wisdom regarding the benefits of developing long-term adaptive responses to change.

Functionality on the emotional and mental planes certainly influences the physical. Thus, the study asked whether participants experienced changes to their brass playing due to issues of gender inequity, particularly sexual abuse and harassment. Exactly half of the study participants described their workplaces as having equitable gender representation. However, studies show that hostilities can emerge in environments where traditionally hegemonic cohorts (i.e. all-male brass sections) are diversified by members from different population groups. A hostile workplace, understandably, can undermine a musician’s optimum physical functionality.

For study participants who reported changes to their brass playing due to sexual harassment and abuse, the prevailing symptom of their distress was a dramatic change in breath intake and support (shallow breathing), as well as diminished concentration. Feeling abandoned by peers or isolated as a target for discrimination, some study participants described a physical sense of pulling inward affecting their playing.

We’ve been sharing data from the Brass Bodies Study, notably in two published articles describing our survey data. I recently shared selected interview data at a conference of the Performing Arts Medicine Association, as part of feature a panel, “#MeToo In the Teaching Studio.” Performance psychologist and author Patrick Gannon, percussionist and author Patti Niemi, Longy School of Music president Karen Zorn, and I addressed the topic from our areas of expertise, discussing systemic facets of sexual harassment and abuse within music institutions. Our collaboration sought to promote continued dialogue on making music safe and equitable for all.

There is no single experience of “female-ness.” The study data suggests this can be an asset, indicative of a thriving diversity of experiences informing musical practice. Female brass players embody—literally—a collective wealth of resources on adapting to change. They are uniquely poised to lead initiatives that build strong, inclusive models of health and well-being in the brass world.

Odyssey ‘Symphonique’ Eb Soprano Cornet

symphonique cornet

The new Odyssey ‘Symphonique’ Eb Soprano Cornet offers a silver-plated lightweight brass body offset with gold lacquered parts. It includes an adjustable tuning lead pipe and short travel tube to the third valve. To help you keep it in good shape, it also includes gloves, a cleaning cloth and oil, and a plush-lined canvas-covered wood case. The Odyssey Symphonique is lightweight and comfortable to play, even for musicians with large hands.

Ryan Anthony: CancerBlows

With His Foundation, Trumpeter Starts a Movement for Cancer Research

A world-class trumpeter and soloist, former Canadian Brass member, and principal trumpet for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Ryan Anthony is used to the rigor of performance. But for the last few years, his perspective on and off the stage has been severely tested.

In 2012, at 43 years old, Anthony of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Fort Worth) was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that typically appears in patients 65 and older. Following a stem cell transplant, while in recovery, he received a deluge of support from the music community.

Doc Severinsen of Local 802 (New York City) and Local 47 (Los Angeles) called to ask how he could help. Anthony replied, “When I’m healthy again, I’d like to share the stage with you one more time.” During his long recovery, Anthony heard from trumpet players across the country offering support. He would joke, “When I’m well, we’ll all play a concert and call it ‘Cancer Blows.’” 

The concert not only happened three years later, it brought together a veritable who’s who of the brass-playing world. Anthony and his wife Niki thought that if a single concert could draw this much support—raising more than $1 million for cancer research—they could do more. They officially established The Ryan Anthony Foundation, specifically for cancer research, with proceeds going to the Baylor Health Care Research Foundation, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and other similar organizations.

CancerBlows concerts have taken off and have become the foundation’s premier event, featuring notables like Severinsen, who has been one of the organization’s most vocal supporters. Anthony says, “What’s amazing is the list of artists who surrounded me, who wanted to donate their time to make a difference.”

Key players who regularly participate are Local 47 members Arturo Sandoval, Wayne Bergeron, Wycliffe Gordon, Rashawn Ross (of the Dave Matthews Band), Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) member Lee Loughnane, and former Canadian Brass players Joe Burgstaller, Jens Lindemann, and Ronald Romm. Others include Allen Vizzutti, Vince DiMartino of Local 554-635 (Lexington, KY), Michael Sachs, David Bilger, Tom Rolfs of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA), and Chris Martin and Randy Brecker of Local 802.

Known as a charismatic performer with a range of virtuosity, Anthony became principal trumpet of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2006. He had already embarked on an illustrious career as a 16-year-old prodigy, winning several national awards, including Seventeen Magazine/General Motors Concerto Competition’s grand prize. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), followed by a trumpet professorship at Oberlin Conservatory.

For three years, he was a member of the esteemed Canadian Brass. From there, he began a wide-ranging career, encompassing coast-to-coast performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Colorado Symphony, and the brass sections of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic.

Brass legends line up for a CancerBlows concert to support the Ryan Anthony Foundation. Photo: Ryan Anthony Foundation

Anthony is heartened by the sheer number of musicians who have participated in his foundation’s concert. “Ironically, that’s what seems to be making the biggest difference in patients,” he says. “They’re seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of other musicians affected; they’re not alone.”

He has heard from cancer patients who say they are pressing on because of him, citing a piece that’s become the foundation’s anthem, “Song of Hope,” written for Anthony by his friend, British composer Peter Meechan. “[Patients] would begin and end their days with it,” he says. “It just changed their mental outlook, and therefore physical outlook. It started changing their numbers. And, remarkably, they started doing better.”

Another young patient, a musician, who had been hospitalized twice following suicide attempts, heard about the foundation and picked up the violin again. During a particularly grueling week for Anthony—after a change in medication—he was discouraged and thought it might be time to quit. But after a concert, he heard from the children of a patient who was in the audience that night. Their dad was resigned to living out his last years with no treatment. After hearing Anthony play, he had a change of heart.

In addition to funding medical research, the foundation serves the fine arts. Master classes are incorporated into each concert where students, some of whom have never been to the symphony, are introduced to the arts. Anthony says, “Other groups around the country are now doing concerts, raising funds and donating to CancerBlows.” This past year, he says “We’ve been getting requests and donations from groups and events in Europe and Australia. Some have called it a CancerBlows movement.”

Last month, a Dallas-based trumpet player and other musicians and volunteers biked across Nebraska for CancerBlows, kicking off the event with a pops concert in Lincoln, with another at the finish line. For five years, Lone Tree Brewing Company in Denver has hosted a fundraiser, crafting a special brew for the occasion.

For his work with patients—helping them manage their illness through music—Anthony received the Spirit of Hope award in 2016. In 2017, he received the Courage and Commitment award from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). In July, he was awarded the prestigious International Trumpet Guild’s Honorary Award.

An extended hospital stay prevented him from attending the guild convention, so his children accepted the award on his behalf. “Doc made a big speech and we FaceTimed so I could be there as the whole audience yelled out and congratulated me,” Anthony says. “There was this feeling of support and love.”

The AFM Dallas local has been essential in working toward important long-term disability options. “They’ve looked into the case, connecting us with people. They’ve been right by our side and behind us, and ready to go to bat when we need to,” Anthony says. “They even brought in outsiders more familiar with long-term disability issues. We’ve been able to lean heavily on the union, in these past few months, especially.”

During his recent 40-day hospitalization, the nurses heard a lot about Anthony and his work. They started sharing CancerBlows concerts with patients and were treated to private performances as Anthony tried to keep his chops. He now serves as principal trumpet emeritus and is visiting professor of trumpet practice and chair of the Winds and Brass Division at Southern Methodist University. He will also be a visiting professor of trumpet at the University of Texas this coming school year.

“If I can help others have a more positive attitude, get them to the next place and using music to make that change—if there is a good scenario— we’ve created one,” he says. “What’s so incredible is the whole idea of using music as a vehicle. I’m witnessing, even beyond the musicians, but truly with the general public—we’re seeing the power of [music] and the number of other people getting behind us.”

For more information on the Ryan Anthony Foundation, visit cancerblows.com.

cleaning your wind instrument

Cleaning Your Wind Instrument Could Be Life or Death.

cleaning your wind instrumentCleaning your wind instrument isn’t just a matter of aesthetics, it could be a matter of life or death. According to an article published in the journal General Dentistry, many woodwind and brass instruments are heavily contaminated with bacteria and fungi. Through the act of merely blowing into an instrument, you are creating the perfect warm, moist environment for germs, mold, bacteria, and microscopic organisms.

Every time an infected instrument is played, contaminants enter the lungs. If they do not cause an infection, they can cause an immune system reaction that results in inflammation of the respiratory system, and eventually, hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

In one study published in The International Journal of Environmental Health Research, Tufts University scientists tested 20 instruments and found that all of them harbored living bacteria, mold, and yeast. Wooden reeds and mouthpieces had the most contamination. While that study was focused on student instruments, there have been many well-documented cases of instrument-caused illness in adults, even professionals.

The journal Chest reported on a 35-year-old trombone player whose 15-year cough went away after he began disinfecting his instrument with rubbing alcohol. The same journal reported on a 48-year-old saxophone player with lung disease. The molds ulocladium botrytis and phoma sp. were discovered in his saxophone. 

And there’s the well-known case of English bagpiper John Shone who suffered a near fatal infection caused by fungus growing in his bagpipes. “Failing to clean my pipes led to me becoming critically ill,” he reported in Piping Times. Shone, of Wiltshire, England, who has been playing since childhood, was hospitalized twice. Doctors were stumped until they learned he was a bagpiper. They tested his instrument and discovered deadly fungi, including rhodotorula and fusarium, which typically kill half the people they infect. 

One AFM member and trombone player suffered from asthma for 15 years, until he noticed that, when he was away from his instrument, his symptoms improved. “I had a horrible barking cough—especially when I played trombone,” he explained in a 2010 National Public Radio interview. 

When doctors at the University of Connecticut, where he was teaching at the time, took a culture from inside his trombone, they found the mold fusarium, as well as a type of bacteria called mycobacterium. He admitted he was once lax about cleaning his instrument, is now diligent about cleaning. “I use a rod with a cloth and I use alcohol—rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol,” he says. 

All wind instruments should, at the minimum, be swabbed on the inside after each use. In most cases, mouthpieces can be safely washed in warm water and dish soap. Brass instruments should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned according to manufacturer suggestions every couple months, depending on use.

Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters

Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters

Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great MastersZig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters, by R. Dale Olson, is an account of the lineage of the great masters of American brass musical instrument making, culminating in the story of Zig Kanstul. Olson walks the reader through the history of significant brass design innovation and manufacturing in the US from 1824 to 2016.

Zig Kanstul: Last of the Great Masters, by R. Dale Olson,
Kanstul Musical Instruments, www.kanstul.com.

George Garzone Signature Mouthpieces

JodyJazz Giant Tenor George Garzone Signature Mouthpieces

mouthpieceMonumental Mouthpieces

Constructed of anodized aluminum, the JodyJazz Giant Tenor George Garzone Signature models are the first saxophone mouthpieces to combine the shape of a hard rubber mouthpiece with the precision of metal. Larger tip openings, like those found on these models, allow the reed to vibrate further generating more harmonics. Generally, mouthpieces with larger tip openings are more difficult to play, requiring more control and practice, but Jody’s facing curve makes these larger tip openings easier to play. “The colors in the sound of the Giant are amazing and I love the way I can lean into it to shape my sound,” says Garzone. The Giant Tenor George Garzone Signature models are available in sizes 9 and 10.