Conference Report: 2014 International Women’s Brass Conference

bbb_iwbcAfter a 1600 mile round trip, we returned to Louisiana early yesterday morning from the 2014 International Women’s Brass Conference, hosted by Dr. Raquel Rodriguez at Northern Kentucky University. Our performance went well, and overall it was a great experience. For more details on our program – Music for Brass Trio by Women Composers – see this link. A big Thank You! and Bravo! are in order for co-hosts Raquel Rodriguez and Karen Koner. They put together a wonderful event. Because of our travel schedule and some other prior commitments, we were only able to attend a few days of the conference, but from what we observed everything ran smoothly and efficiently. Rehearsal space at conferences like this one are always at a premium, but we were allowed access to a large room complete with an organ (which we needed to perform Libby Larsen’s trio). We also had plenty of time for a sound check in the performance space, which is not always possible. After our performance we got some great feedback from audience members, including composer Dr. Lauren Bernofsky, who composed the final work on our program. It is always a special experience for the performers when the composer is in attendance, and we were honored that Dr. Bernofsky could be there. If you don’t know this very substantial work for brass trio, you can listen to it on this recording by the University of Maryland Brass Trio.

Although our time at NKU was limited, I did have a chance to check out the exhibit hall and speak with Dr. Randall Faust, Professor of Horn at Western Illinois University and owner of Faust Music. I have been slowly acquiring the horn-related publications in their library, and they are all highly recommended. On this trip I bought both volumes of The Advancing Hornist,written by Marvin Howe and edited by Randall Faust. Marvin Howe taught for many years at Eastern Michigan University and at Interlochen National Music Camp. While familiar with his name, I don’t know many details of his pedagogy, and am looking forward to working with these two books. I also got a chance to catch up with Dr. Stacie Mickens, Assistant Professor of Horn at Youngstown State University. Stacie and I have known each other since 2002 when we started our master’s degrees at the University of Wisconsin. She is doing some great things at YSU, and we hope to have her visit ULM soon for a recital and masterclass.

While I would have liked to attend more of the performances at IWBC, the ones I did make it to were excellent. Two that stand out in my mind were a performance of Ann Callaway’s Four Elements for Horn and Piano by Dr. Katie Johnson, Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of Tennessee, and a recital by Ava Ordman, Associate Professor of Trombone at Michigan State University. Sadly, we did not make it to the conference in time to hear Elizabeth Freimuth‘s recital (Principal Horn, Cincinnati Symphony), but we did get tickets to hear the Cincinnati Pops present a very brass heavy concert. I was familiar with this group through their numerous recordings with Erich Kunzel on the Telarc label, and they did not disappoint! Works on the program included Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Pines of the Appian Way from Respighi’s The Pines of Rome, and many more. Elizabeth Freimuth sounded fantastic, as did the rest of the horns and brass.

The 2014 International Women’s Brass Conference was a terrific event, and I highly recommend it to brass players of all levels. The site for the next IWBC in 2016 hasn’t been announced yet, but when it is be sure to check out their website for more details.

As usual, I’ll be taking some time off from writing blog posts, but will be working on some other projects as well as spending time with friends and family. Best wishes to everyone for a fun, safe, and productive summer!


Upcoming Performance: International Women’s Brass Conference

Although I have a number of projects to work on this summer, one big event will be a performance with Black Bayou Brass at the International Women’s Brass Conference, June 4-8 on the campus of Northern Kentucky University. I’ve never attended an IWBC, but have heard very good things about both the organization and the conference. This year’s conference will feature a number of renowned artists, including Elizabeth Freimuth, Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Symphony. While the title of this conference might suggest that participation is limited only to women, this is not the case at all. The mission of the IWBC is to educate, inspire, and encourage women brass players, and membership is open to all women and men who want to support these goals. For our part, we’ll be performing a program of music for brass trio by women composers. Here’s the lineup.

  • Engelberg: Trio for Brass and Organ, Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
  • Three Chorals for Brass Trio, Adriana Figueroa Mañas (b. 1966)
  • Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) Arr. James Boldin
  • Trio for Brass, Lauren Bernofsky (b. 1967)

As our presentation time is limited to 20 minutes, we will perform selected movements from the Mañas and Bernofsky. If you don’t know any of these works they are definitely worth checking out. For a more comprehensive list of brass trio (and other) music by women composers, visit the website of Dr. Lin Foulk, Associate Professor of Horn at Western Michigan University. I’ve also included a few program notes below for each of these works. We are very excited to perform at this conference, and as always are looking forward to hearing lots of great brass playing and catching up with colleagues and friends from around the country. On a related note, I just recently learned of a newly completed brass trio by Dr. Gina Gillie, Assistant Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University. This work was commissioned by Elliott Higgins for the New Mexico Brass Trio, and although we won’t be performing it at this year’s IWBC, our faculty trio here will definitely be reading it in the future.

If you are planning to attending the 2014 IWBC we hope that you can hear our performance, and look forward to seeing you there!

Program Notes

Libby Larsen’s Engelberg: Trio for Brass and Organ is based upon the hymn tune of the same name, composed by Charles V. Stanford, and perhaps most well known as the setting for “When in Our Music God is Glorified.” It was commissioned by Ray and Elsie Martin for the Zephyr Brass Trio, to commemorate the birthday of Raymond J. Martin, Sr. on November 5, 2006. Though firmly grounded in tonality, the work makes use of several non-traditional modulations.

Adriana Figueroa Mañas was commissioned to compose her Three Chorals for Brass Trio by Dr. James Bicigo and the Borealis Brass (University of Alaska Fairbanks). Since its premiere by that ensemble, Three Chorals has had numerous performances throughout the world, and has been recorded by the Borealis Brass on their CD Roman Holidays. Though the work does not directly quote any folk melodies from her native Argentina, Mañas has stated that it freely incorporates the colors and rhythms of folk music.

Originally scored for two sopranos and alto on a text of Heinrich Heine, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends (I wander in the evening forest…), depicts a melancholy reminiscence brought on by an evening stroll through the woods. Its chromatic harmonies and quasi-imitative texture are well suited to the brass trio medium.

Lauren Bernofsky’s Trio for Brass was commissioned by Mary L. Thornton for the Delmar Trio. The following notes are from the composer:

I wanted to write a piece that would be an exciting challenge for the performers (though not impossibly difficult). The piece is cast in three contrasting movements, following the traditional slow-fast-slow scheme. The overall duration is approximately fifteen minutes, which makes it a relatively long piece for this number of brass instruments; since there are only three in the group, allowing one to rest results in a duo texture, which is notably thinner than a trio texture (as compared to a brass quintet, where the resting of one voice leaves us with the full sound of four others still playing.). I made a real effort to “thin out” the texture in many places of especially the last movement, by which time the players would of course need it the most. I tried to create variety in the piece through different textures. The outer movements often alternate between sections of homophony, where the instruments all play the same rhythms together, and more complex-sounding contrapuntal textures. Much of the middle movement has a clear bass line, middle voice, and melody, and I wrote it as a necessary release from the more harder-to-hear outer movements. Most importantly, my intent was to write a piece that would be fun to play as well as to hear.


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