Brass Chicks

Five Books to Revamp your Mindset and Motivate you on the Path to Success

Here’s another repost of a post I wrote for Brass Chicks last Friday. Enjoy!

As a teacher and a performer, I love reading books about performance psychology and business. Anything that challenges me to reevaluate ways I’ve been thinking and design smarter habits is great for both me and my students. I’ve been thinking for a while about which books I would choose for this post and it was actually been pretty difficult since there are so many great options. I decided to limit my choices to books that are not specifically about music but are still extremely relevant to musicians.


1. It’s Not How Good You Are, It‘s How Good You Want To Be, by Paul Arden

41PKj+kB6BL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_I have been reading this book for years since my parents gave it to me in high school and it is a great book for any creative person with goals in mind. We have all heard the story about the tortoise and the hare – about how persistent hard work will always prevail far beyond raw talent – but it is true!

One of the parts I enjoyed most about this book was its easy to read format; some pages even only had one sentence! Large print and easy legibility make the potentially intimidating ideas this book addresses approachable. The book starts out with these three sentences: “Nearly all rich and powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good – looking. They become rich and powerful by wanting to be rich and powerful. Your vision of where you want to be is the greatest asset you have.”



2. You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero

51ypp1C+97L._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_This was one of the first books I read after finishing my Masters degree and, wow, was it helpful!!

Being in music school is a very self-critical experience that can be very overwhelming, even if it is always focused on positive improvement and support. It is so easy to compare ourselves to our mentors and other people around us that may have entirely different personal circumstances and situations. Remember, especially on social media, we only see the everyone’s highlight reel of all of the best things happening. I really liked how this book helped me change my thinking and was exactly the motivation I needed to read after finishing school. Sincero includes actionable steps in each chapter to reevaluate your beliefs and your actions – and she helps you refocus them. This book is great for throwing perceptions back in your face, helping you to face your strengths and work to improve your weaknesses.  Here’s a great quote: “Our entire experience on this planet is determined by how we choose to perceive our reality.”

3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

51FexyX8WQL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_This book is so great for teachers and students or anyone that is actively involved in learning. This book identifies the fixed mindset and the closed mindset. The fixed mindset is believing that your qualities are carved in stone – leading to urgently needing to prove yourself over and over. The growth mindset is believing that your basic qualities are things that you can change on your own over time. These different outlooks translate directly into your daily actions and reactions to situations. For those of us who teach, these ideas can frame how we interact with students and how our students and children interact with each other.

For example, what if you are an orchestral trombone player and you get called for a gig you usually play, but one of the pieces has a big featured jazz solo in it? As an orchestral player, jazz may not be your strong suit. So, if you have a fixed mindset, you may believe that this is a situation that will expose your lack of talent and end up labeling you as a failure because you couldn’t possibly improve in that area. You simply are not that kind of musician. If you have a growth mindset, however, then you will react to the situation with motivation, confronting the problem, and believing that your efforts will make a difference in your playing. Of course, we are not all black and white with one mindset 100% of the time. There are almost always things about ourselves that we can feel strongly that we can’t change. And yet, with hard work and awareness of your mindset, anything is possible.

4. Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (for a Sexist Workplace), by Jessica Bennett

513dD03hR7L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Although this book is written for women in a typical business office structure, the way Bennett describes the difficulties women face in those situations feels all too familiar and relevant for musicians. Feminist Fight Club was a very quick read with a conversational tone and fun illustrations in the margins. This amusing style helps hammer some of the points home and makes a book that is primarily directed at people in business in a typical office environment much more relevant and applicable to freelance musicians.

For those who might worry that this book is just a complaining manifesto against men: don’t worry! The book is full of statistics, references from actual studies, quotes, and interviews that Bennett uses to back up her points. She outlines the problems that women face in the workforce by describing characters like the “Mansplainer” who condescendingly explains things to women who usually already know what the answer is. I am sure we have all experienced this. After illustrating each of these characters, Bennett describes ways to fight back and counter the behavior. She also includes problematic behavior that women sometimes display that unknowingly makes these stereotypes worse like the “Credit Defaulter” who upon receiving a compliment about a job well done will immediately respond, “Oh thank you, but I couldn’t have possibly done it without xyz” or will attribute recent success to luck or something else. Sound familiar? Of course it is important to be modest, but in a world where men are quick to point to their own innate qualities and skills it is important to take personal credit when deserved and value your own contributions!

5. The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

41hC5Pli3SL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I recently finished this book and I have to say, it has become my new favorite. In a way, The Slight Edge combines many of the ideas from the four previous books all into one. This book is about evaluating your everyday actions, thoughts, and decisions, and realizing how that all figures into your greater success (or failure). Olson identifies the power of the “slight edge” – the awareness of those daily choices – and how it can affect and impact all areas of your life. Here’s a great quote that summarizes many of the ideas he writes about: “Successful people do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether or not they feel like it.” This book has helped countless people, including myself, become happier and more productive, so check it out!

We hope that everyone has a happy holiday season and is gearing up for 2018 with excitement and motivation. Hopefully these books will help!

NB: These are not Amazon affiliate links and we receive no payment for recommending these books. We just like them!

Five Things to Keep in Mind When You are Stressed and Busy

Here’s another repost from Brass Chicks –  a timely post for the end of the semester and busy holiday season.

Hi fellow brass chicks! We didn’t forget it is Friday and hope you didn’t either! It is such a busy time of year with the holidays, school, and gigs and we certainly know things can get a little crazy. Hopefully this post will help 🙂

1. Perspective. 

This one may seem obvious but it is always important to keep in mind that many of the stressful things that we are worrying about may often be “first world problems” that not everyone has the pleasure of experiencing. For example, after a busy day of teaching and  playing, I walked into a cafe and ordered a small salad. The woman behind the counter yawned and apologized and I said, “Oh don’t worry, I am tired too.” But then she asked if I get to sit down at my job, because she was tired after standing all day – and as a musician, most of the time we are sitting so I definitely didn’t have anything to say back.

2. Be Grateful

This is very similar to keeping your perspective in mind when in the face of “first world problems” but more related to simply appreciating everything that you have. Do you have food, a place to live, family, friends, and something you are passionate about? That is a lot more than some people and certainly something to be grateful for.

3. Appreciate where you are and what you have done

Especially in stressful times, it can be easy to lose track of your own personal accomplishments and truly appreciate and recognize everything that you have done. We are getting increasingly closer to the end of 2017 and I’m sure there are some amazing things that have happened that you can be proud of. Make a list and look at it whenever you need an extra boost! This is even more helpful for times when you feel like you are treading water and not moving forward in ways that you may like.

4. Look forward to something in the future.

Many of my students just finished midterms and are now preparing for finals. Some of them have holiday concerts. I personally have many gigs coming up – many of which all seem to be on top of each other and can make maintaining a healthy sleep schedule difficult. One of my mentors recently told me to keep this in mind recently and it is super helpful as a motivating goal to get through a long day or a long rehearsal. And it can be anything from getting to sleep in tomorrow (yeah!), having ice cream at home after the gig, or planning a vacation next year. Always treat yo self and give yourself something to look forward to!

5. Self Care

It seems like we talk about this a lot here on the Brass Chicks but it is super important! Beyond the usual eating well and taking care of your body and mind, when you have a free moment – evaluate your schedule. Do you really need to take on that extra opportunity? Do you really have time to do that other project? Is your time better spent getting a head start on your work or going out with friends? Sometimes the answer might not what you think but make sure to always pay attention to what your body and mind need!

Five Resources for Audition Season

Here’s another repost from Brass Chicks from my post on September 1st. We are approaching the beginning of the semester and the beginning of the freelancing season! I hope you have all had a great summer and are now gearing up for something exciting this year. Maybe that might include an audition! Here are five resources that might be helpful to you this year and beyond throughout your audition path – whether it is a school placement audition or your first orchestral audition.


1. Bulletproof MusicianI know this website has been mentioned before on Brass Chicks but Noa Kageyama does a great job at outlining many helpful tips related to performance anxiety, music, and mindset. This article includes tips for future auditions related to your preparation beforehand.

2. Audition Hacker – This is a great website that addresses many aspects of audition preparation – from practicing tips to concerns about what happens during the audition. Check out the articles here.

3. Crushing Classical Podcast featuring Denise Tryon – Denise Tryon (former Fourth Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra) is a master of the low horn and orchestra auditions. This interview describes her audition path and includes several helpful tips! Denise Tryon also runs an audition workshop to help students prepare with mock auditions, masterclasses, lectures and more. Check that out also!

4. Angela Beeching’s blog. Angela’s blog is so incredibly helpful on a wide range of topics including performing, speaking, marketing, and networking. Since the earlier points in this post are more about the physical aspects of playing and how/what to prepare, I knew a post on how to boost productivity would be super helpful to make sure we all stay on track in our preparation.

5. Find out what it’s like on the other side of the table — the panel! If you know someone in the organization, you might be able to find out an extra tip or two about what they could be looking for. Set up a mock audition with friends and alternate who is on the panel taking notes. You will learn SO much from being on the other side of it. Here’s a very interesting interview featuring Maxine Kwok-Adams – 1st violinist (I know, I know…this is Brass Chicks) in the London Symphony Orchestra. This interview with Maxine describes what it is like from her point of view on the panel – everything from what they may be looking for, common mistakes, and other tips.

Happy practicing and audition preparation 🙂 Got any other good audition tips? Reach out to us on our Facebook page and let us know. We would love to hear from you!

Five Tips for a Productive Practice Session

This is another repost from Brass Chicks from August 4th. I hope to write more helpful posts like these. Let me know if you like it!


Here are my five tips for a productive practice session! And the best part? These are all things you can do away from your instrument 🙂 I have done my fair share of traveling, touring, and various things where getting physical time on the instrument can be difficult. Maybe you are tired from a string of gigs or a summer festival but know you still have material you need to work on. Some of these things you can do instead of a practice session or can take place before and during a session. See what works for YOU! So here we go:

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Brass Chicks: Five Reasons Why I am happy to create and be a part of this community

Here is a post I originally wrote back on July 21st for my blog Brass Chicks. Brass Chicks is a blog celebrating the women’s brass community through interviews, news, and providing a space for fellow Brass Chicks to their their stories. We started a series called Five Things Friday for the blog so I am reposting some of my Five Things posts here.


I am so excited to create the Brass Chicks community and have the opportunity to showcase incredible stories and musicians. In addition to guest posts and interviews, there will be a variety of other posts – some themed and some not.

Announcing our new series called Five Things Friday!

This new series of posts will allow for many other guests to contribute and highlight their own individual perspectives. The list format is also a little different than our other posts so it may be easier to catch up with Brass Chicks related news on the go!

For this first Five Things Friday post – I wanted to share 5 reasons that I am happy to be involved in the Brass Chicks community and why this project is so important.

1. Awareness

I am currently on tour with an orchestra in Japan and on our flight the other trumpet player and I realized one of our flight attendants just started learning trumpet in Japan. We invited her to our concert and she said she would try to attend. Here is a picture we took together:

IMG_6128She told us that her teacher in Japan told her that due to her body structure and gender that lip slurs and other techniques would be very challenging for her. This was unbelievably shocking to hear for many reasons and we were quick to inform her that this wasn’t accurate information. She was surprised to learn that there are so many female brass players who are doing incredible things and hopefully this gave her a different perspective moving forward. This blog is for her and anyone else who may be in a situation where exposure to these powerful perspectives from women in the brass community can be extremely transformative.

2. Network

Even though I live in NYC (the center of the universe 😃) I realize that there are many other perspectives and stories worth sharing from all parts of the world. We can learn so much from everyone and I hope that Brass Chicks can be helpful in facilitating this process. So far Brass Chicks has been viewed in over 10 countries which is unbelievably exciting!

3. Inspiration

When I was younger, I didn’t realize how many inspiring women brass players were out in the world doing incredible things. I didn’t realize how many different ways there were to make a living as a musician. I hope that Brass Chicks can provide some inspiration to younger musicians – at a time when it can be most valuable.

4. News

There are a few other organizations that are great for brass related news – and our monthly theme is after all, the International Women’s Brass Conference, so we are very thankful for this organization and others. We hope that we can provide a space for updates and announcements in the women’s brass community – everything from upcoming CD releases to performances and more. If you have news to share – please reach out to us! We will post a monthly news update and we would love to feature your project.

5. Passion

I love bringing people together – especially those with like-minded interests. It is an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of Brass Chicks and create content to benefit the women’s brass community. I feel so lucky to interview some of my favorite people and feature them on our site. I hope that through Brass Chicks we can continue to positively impact the women’s brass community and create a more diverse and supportive musical environment.