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My debut album “As I Am”

I just made an album. I am so excited to share it with you!

—this album features new music for trumpet by women composers—-

 

Sound interesting? You can read a formal description and buy the album HERE.

Would love to hear what you think!

 


A little over a year ago, in August 2016, I wanted to pick some rep for a recital and found a couple great pieces by women composers. I remembered hearing from a teacher at a summer festival about his CD prep (thanks Paul!!) and thought to myself…. hey why don’t I make a CD this year! I didn’t know too much about the process of making a CD and wow I have certainly learned a lot this year. (Will write a post on that later so stay tuned!)

 

 

 

 

So the first thing I did – was I picked the music!  My friend Jinhee Han was already writing a solo for me so I knew that would go on there. I asked my friend Ariel Marx to write a piece. My friend Ledah Finck also wrote a piece for me and flutist Louna Dekker-Vargas which also appears on their album — which you can check out here. My new friend Nicole Piunno and I met through instagram, I met Jessica Rudman after working on her piece and then performing at the Women Composer’s Festival. I was drawn to Alex Gardner‘s piece after reading about the unique instrumentation for trumpet, harp, and electronics and later learned we knew many of the same people in Baltimore through my time at Peabody. Lastly, a former teacher suggested I check out Jennifer Higdon‘s piece for trumpet and piano and I was drawn to it because it is also a piece for voice so the words are beautiful. So for about a year I had those 7 pieces that I was excited about and the title As I Am in the back of my head for the album.

 

But I felt something was missing.

 

So In September I decided to write myself a piece for the album for solo flugelhorn, entitled “As I Am.” To me, this piece has a sweet sort of longing, almost pleading, for someone to “take me as I am.” The whole album in a way is this same sort of gesture and reaction – although in a more positive way. Recordings are always snapshots in time and this is a great representation of me as an artist and composer – after finishing school and entering full time into the freelance life.

I’ve already started planning my next album but for now, it feels so great to say hello world! this is me at 25 years old, done with school, and living the dream in NYC

 

As I Am.

 

 

Leading a Warmup and presenting a Recital at the IWBC

Two weeks ago, I was very fortunate to lead a warmup class and present a recital at the International Women’s Brass Conference in New Jersey. This was my first time at a brass conference specifically focused on women and it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many great players.

 

The warmup class began at 8 am on Thursday June 9th. I chose to make it a combined warmup and mindfulness session, titling it “How to Start your Day on a Positive Leap for Success” We went through many typical warmup class activities, from mouthpiece buzzing, lip bends, Stamp exercises, and lips slurs yet we also touched on many important concepts away from our instruments. These included health and stretching, improvising, the importance of establishing a daily routine, and how to structure daily sessions to address weaknesses and best prepare for a varied day of playing. It was so exciting to have a mix of trumpet and French horn players in the room but most importantly, over 10 people showed up to warm up on their instrument at 8 o’clock in the morning. Inspiring!

 

On June 10th at 10 am, I presented my recital in the Boyd Recital Hall. Here is my program:

Kate Amrine – Anx
Jessica Rudman – Elegy
Nicole Piunno – Monterey Letters
Jennifer Higdon – Trumpet Songs (movements To Home and Threaded)
Jinhee Han – Yaygara

 

It was so nice to have another opportunity to perform selections from my upcoming CD, featuring music by women composers. This recital was particularly exciting also because it was the second performance of my own composition Anx. I am starting to compose more and this piece has served as a great opener for me in various recitals. It is exciting to delve further into composition and stay tuned for more on my future projects involving my own pieces!

 

I had a great time attending other presentations and recitals at the International Women’s Brass Conference but especially enjoyed the evening concerts. I heard the Athena Brass Band, Ashley Hall, Diva Jazz Orchestra, and Seraph Brass. I also really enjoyed the workshop on Alexander Technique and the Entrepreneurship Panel. While most of the workshops seemed more relevant for older musicians, throughout the conference I kept thinking how great this experience would have been for me and for younger students – especially those who may not have as much diverse representation in their own communities. To be able to see such strong extremely talented and successful musicians together in one place – who happen to be women – is especially inspiring and motivating, at any age.

 

Please check out these lovely videos of the concerts if you weren’t able to attend!

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=international+womens+brass+conference+2017

CD Interview 5: Jin Hee Han

This post is the fifth in the series of mini interviews I am doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂

 

So far I have introduced two composers who wrote unaccompanied pieces (Nicole Piunno, Jessica Gardner), two composers who wrote pieces with electronics(Alexandra Gardner, Ariel Marx), two performers that make up The Witches (Ledah Finck and Louna Dekker-Vargas), and two other performers: harpist Peggy Houng and pianist Borah Han. I am very excited to present the last interview I will be doing for this CD – composer Jin Hee Han.

 

How did you first get into music?

I need to bring a short story of my mom first. My mom was always fascinated by Art and Music. Ever since she was young she had dreamed for arts loved the word Jin Hee, which is often referenced for Arts. Unfortunately her circumstances didn’t allow her to pursue the dream for music and always was burden in her heart. To remember the arts instead of signing with her name she always signed JinHee. For this reason, my mom had desired her daughter to have artistic gifts. So, even though I already had a given name from my grand parents, my mom named me as ‘Jin hee’. The story of how my name was decided would tell you and myself being composer was my destiny. My first experience of music was obviously from my mom. She used to bring me classical concerts and music conservatory since I was at age4, which was started my piano lesson. She loved to have a mini concert at home whenever friends and family visited us. However, I haven’t thought about being a composer when I was young. One day, influence of Christianity in belief lead me to decide to be a composer who is able to conduct every instrument with my own imagination, and I’ve started composed music at age 17.

 

What was your inspiration for this piece?

First of all, I was inspired by the sound color of trumpet itself, which is very strait forward instrument, and has great possibilities to explore unique timbres. At the same time, I was sure about that trumpet is enough to express my story. While I was considering writing a trumpet solo piece, I had a dramatic experience, which was related to terror in Turkey. So, I immediately thought that my story and trumpet would be fit perfectly to putting together on one piece.

 

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

I just got done with a string orchestra piece in Ukraine, and I have upcoming performance of a work is called, ‘Wounded dragon for violin and 8-string guitar, which I never tried before, and another performance of a piece for flute and harp so far. Also, I’m planning a concert by woman musicians in NYC in the first half of this year.

 
Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

I would say my first college composition teacher, Sunhee Cho. She is a very passionate composer, a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and a mom. (She recently became widow.) Most important of her life philosophy is love. As I described her, her personality and life are very respectful by not only me but also her students and every work place. Throughout her life, fifty-six years now, no matter what kinds of situations are happening, she never gave up as living a composer and raising her pupils primarily, and love people, and take care her family and friends so well. This figure of my teacher became my role model as a composer and human being. Her love toward me convicted me to be better person and musician! I’m still in a great relationship with her and doing concerts together sometimes although we live in different countries. I’m so blessed to meet with her in my life.

 

What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers?

Since I’ve been living in the US over for ten years, I’ve meet gifted musician and composers, who have not known visibly prominent. I believe that building the musical culture has lead by not only for the small amount of artists, but also music lovers, audiences, music educators, lots of passionate performers and composers. Also, women have powerful personality to grow our society including music field. While I was at Mannes, I found a small women-supporting group for the reason that I felt women musicians still had inequality so that I could start to share opportunity with other women composers primarily through creating concerts series. One important thing that I realized was doing together is strong movement to change something. However it takes time to be changed the music culture, but if we stick together for what we are passionate for, then I am sure we can change the music culture.

Recital at the Women Composers Festival of Hartford

I am very excited to be presenting a mini recital as part of the Music Marathon for the Women Composers Festival of Hartford!

This festival is the second festival I have performed at that is dedicated to women – from artists to entrepreneurs. It is truly an honor to be here among other composers and performers who are also passionate about performing music by women! I had a conversation with someone on my trip up here on the train and he asked me what the significance of women composers was – both for this festival and my own CD project. It is an interesting question and one that I of course have gotten before (yet usually in more hostile ways). As a non musician and someone who is semi removed from the NYC music scene, this person was genuinely interested and curious as to this connection. When I told him how women composers and performers in some cases were underrepresented in orchestras, music education, and many other situations, he connected with that statement – recognizing only a few women in his experiences working as an engineer. I am excited to be in a position with this festival and my own projects to contribute to raising awareness and changing the culture!

 

You find out more about the rest of the festival here: http://womencomposersfestivalhartford.com/2017-wcfh-music-marathon/

My program features the following pieces:

“Red Sky – I. Awakening” by Peri Mauer
“Monterey Letters” – Nicole Piunno
excerpts from “Trumpet Songs” by Jennifer Higdon
“Elegy” – Jessica Rudman
“Yaygara” – Jin Hee Han

I am so excited to feature some of these pieces on my upcoming CD. You can find out more about that in previous blog posts and here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

 

CD Interview 4: Borah and Peggy

This post is the fourth in the series of mini interviews I am doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂


So far I have introduced two composers who wrote unaccompanied pieces (Nicole Piunno, Jessica Gardner), two composers who wrote pieces with electronics(Alexandra Gardner, Ariel Marx), and two performers that make up The Witches (Ledah Finck and Louna Dekker-Vargas). I am very excited to introduce the last two performers on my CD: harpist Peggy Houng and pianist Borah Han.

 

How did you first get into music?

Borah: My parents enrolled me into a piano school in Korea when I was about 6 years old (I know, shocker.) Even though I hardly practiced, I knew I wanted to be a concert pianist from a young age. I never thought once that I’ll stop playing the piano. Even when my first teacher used to hit the back of my hands with a ruler for not curving them correctly. When my mom forced me to quit (due to lack of practice therefore wasting her money), I begged her for months to let me take lessons again. I couldn’t be a pianist stopping lessons at age 9! She budged and years later, after studying with so many wonderful teachers (my honorary moms and dads for life), countless hours in practice rooms, being inspired by other musicians and peers, etc., I’m here in NYC living my dreams.

Peggy: I first got into music when I was in kindergarten by playing the piano. I watched my older sister start playing the piano before me and I couldn’t wait to start playing on the huge upright piano in the living room. From then on, both of us picked a second instrument when we were a couple years older. I picked the harp, and I’m still studying it to this day, earning my graduate performance diploma (GPD) in Harp Performance at Peabody.

 

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Borah: Besides these beautifully layered short songs by Jennifer Higdon we will be recording (can’t wait to share our interpretation), working on being an “honorary mom” one day (see above) to all my piano students in Brooklyn and doing “weird” things inside the piano and what not (yes, extended technique!) in an unusual ensemble (voice/double bass/percussion/pre-recorded electronics/piano) at Roulette this June 22. The haunting and beautiful song cycle “I am the Beggar of the World” was composed by lovely Gemma Peacocke, set to beautiful and heartbreaking stories by Pashtun women. Check it out! https://www.gemmapeacocke.com/wavesandlines

Peggy: As a first year GPD student, I am currently preparing for my first degree recital in April, as well as a couple of interesting upcoming performances. I hope to travel to attend and present two performances with colleagues at the World Harp Congress in Hong Kong.

 
Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

Peggy: As of recently, I have been especially inspired by my sister. As my older sister and I have approached our mid-twenties, we’ve encountered some rather challenging decisions: what to study in school, what career to pursue, and what goals to set for the next five years of our lives. While I am still seeking inspiration and aspiring to become a professional harpist of some kind, I watched as my sister tried various career paths in the span of just a couple years. I hope I can be as brave as my sister and try my hand at lots of different things, so I, too, can find my dream career.

 

What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers? 

Borah: I’m not sure. Besides not treating anyone any differently because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class, perhaps by checking your own mindset and actions first. Not judging others, trying to understand where everyone is coming from, going for the root of the problem, etc.
 

Peggy: This is an interesting question for me, as a harpist, since my field is dominated by women. Men have actually become the minority in the harp world, but that doesn’t stop them from pursuing a career in the field. There are amazing harpists, both male and female, and of all races. I think anything is possible, as long as you don’t get stuck in just one mindset. Dear minorities: go ahead and show the world what it’s missing! Don’t let what other people say get you down and fight for what you want.

 

 

CD Interview 3: Ledah and Louna

This post is the third in the series of mini interviews I will be doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂


So far I have introduced two composers who wrote unaccompanied pieces and two composers who wrote pieces with electronics. Today I am very excited to introduce Ledah Finck and Louna Dekker-Vargas. Ledah composed Hill and Holler and both Ledah and Louna make up a duo called The Witches.

 

How did you first get into music/composition?

Louna: Music was always playing in my home growing up. My parents would play everything from Ali Farka Touré to Toto la Momposina, to Mozart to pop music and I loved it all. When I started to play flute in elementary  school it was incredibly fun and challenging both physically and creatively. Because of its intellectual and emotional challenges music to me is a space of growth and exploration for the interpreter as well as the listener, and I am passionate about sharing this with as many as I can.

Ledah: I started playing violin when I was 4. Shortly after that I was introduced to fiddle music, and growing up in the Appalachian mountains, my musical growth always included the community-oriented, highly expressive, world of fiddle playing. This sense of the joy of playing music with, for, and as a community has always kept me captivated by what it means to be a musician.

I’ve been writing fiddle tunes since middle school, but never thought of this as “composition”; it wasn’t till I was about 17 that I started writing more in a classical style, and when I went to a summer festival where some of the students were composers, it occurred to me that composing was something that alive people did, and indeed studied as youths. This kind of blew my mind and gave me the confidence to start writing in earnest, and showing it to people.

 

What was your inspiration for this piece?

Ledah: My grandmother. I recently began exploring her poetry and found that it encapsulated the many things which I have always treasured about her, in particular her connection with nature. This piece celebrates that connection, inspired by my memories both real and imagined of her wandering her property in rural West Virginia.

 

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Louna: I am currently in two chamber groups, a duo called The Witches and a trio called Trio Jinx. We have concerts and performances planned in El Paso, Texas in April. The Witches are currently working on a CD of new music for our duo called “Behind the Curtain”, each piece honoring a woman and her story in the world. I am so excited to share this music! Both groups have unusual instrumentations (flute/violin – The Witches, and flute/viola/bass in the trio) so we are constantly having to reinvent pre-existing music and create new music for our groups to play.

Ledah: I’m finishing up a piece right now for flute, viola, and double bass, which is the instrumentation of my trio, Trio Jinx. We’re hard at work on a program of new works and our own arrangements, which we’ll be touring in March and April 2017. Next I’ll start working on a string quartet that was commissioned with the intent of building appropriate but exciting repertoire for intermediate students, a project that I’m really excited about, and on expanding a solo viola piece I wrote recently. I’m also working on new sounds for my experimental duo The Witches.

 

Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

 Louna: Some of my all-time inspirations that also happen to be women are Erykah Badu, Assia Djebar, Malala Yousafz, Wangari Maathai,  and Claire Chase. These women have all crossed boundaries fearlessly in their art whether it be in music, social activism, environmental protection and literature. Coming into contact with their voices and visions has undoubtedly shaped me into who I am today.

Ledah: Some women musicians I continually go back to are Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, Joanna Newsom, Bjork, Caroline Shaw, Rhiannon Giddens; all women whose artistry spans an incredible breadth of poeticism and expression that speaks to me deeply, and who have cultivated powerful communities around the music they create which are far greater than just the sound and performance. Non-musical, I right away find myself thinking of (of course) my grandmother Paula, and of Maude from the movie Harold and Maude; the latter is fictional, but I very much believe in her and think we have an incredible amount to gain from listening to our matriarchs.
 
 
What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers?
 
Louna: I think that inclusivity organically comes about from healthy artistic communities where the production of art is not tied up with hierarchies of power and prestige, which are predominantly spheres dominated by men, but rather in the quality of the artistic work. If systems of artistic support truly rooted themselves in the development and support of excellent work, resources would more consistently be allocated to female and other, more marginalized groups, such as people of color. I do not mean to confuse excellence, however, with the narrow precepts of  of the Western tradition, which is inherently biased to white male forms of expression and experience, but refer instead to excellence in the rigor of expression, the authenticity of the work and the palpable vibration of a truly transformative artistic voice. These traits should be the focus and priority. I think if that were the case, women’s voices and other marginalized voices would naturally take their place front and center by virtue of their intrinsic quality.
 

Ledah: This is definitely something I am still pondering. I think that the culture is set up to self-perpetuate male-centricness, given that Western music curriculum idolizes those “dead white guys” as gods and has little to no room for anyone else. Like most histories, classical music’s was written by those who had the power. Therefore, it’s necessary to make a conscious effort to seek out music-makers of all types. The pool to be drawn from is made up largely of white males, so unless you’re very conscious of this, the people you choose work with are likely going to represent that demographic.  (The “you” I address here is people like me, who are marginalized only because of their gender). This does not have to mean highlighting an artist “only” because they are female, a person of color, etc: those artists are entirely as likely as white males to be wonderful artists, but there are fewer who have been encouraged and given resources to practice their art. “Classical music” is beginning to have an increasingly broad definition, but we can continue to look and listen actively within and outside of our communities, rather than relying on institutions that by default perpetuate exclusion.

 

CD interview 2: Alexandra Gardner and Ariel Marx

This post is the second in the series of mini interviews I will be doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂

Last week I introduced two composers who wrote two unaccompanied trumpet pieces that will featured on my CD. Today I am very excited to introduce Alex Gardner and Ariel Marx, both who wrote pieces for this CD featuring electronics.

How did you first get into music and composition?

Alex:I grew up playing piano and singing in my school chorus, so I’ve always been into music, and I love all kinds of music. But I didn’t start composing until college—I signed up for an electronic music course my freshman year, and became completely obsessed with making my own sounds. I was hooked from day one!

Ariel: Born to musical parents, I fell in love with music at a very young age listening my mother and father sing and play guitar and piano. There’s video evidence of me “composing” at a very young age, constantly singing about everything that came to my mind. Another way I feel in love with music was how it helped tell stories in film. One thing led to another, and I pursued my masters in composition at NYU with a concentration in Scoring for Film and Multimedia.
 

What was your inspiration for this piece?

Alex: Ituri was inspired by the following quote, from an unknown author, which I found (completely by accident) on a scrap of paper lying in the street in Baltimore, Maryland:

When bad times befell the inhabitants of the Ituri forest in Central Africa, they assumed that their misfortune was due to the fact that the benevolent forest, which usually provided for all their needs, had accidentally fallen asleep. At that point, the leaders of the group would dig up the sacred horns buried underground, and blow on them for days and nights on end, in an attempt to wake up the forest, thus restoring the good times.

Ariel: This past year a dear friend introduced me to audio NASA released called “Celestial Music” — a recording of sound waves emitted from several stars and planets. This inspired me to create a piece using this audio, as well as trumpet and electric guitar.

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Alex: I am currently writing a new piece for saxophone quartet with electronics, and I look forward to a composer residency with the Seattle Symphony in 2018. I will be composing a new work for the orchestra, as well as leading their Young Composer Workshop, and doing some community-based music-making with LGBTQ youth.

Ariel: I’m currently working on several short films, and have just started a feature film. 

Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

Alex: I have several, but one of the most important ones is my composition teacher from college, Annea Lockwood. She has led an adventurous and uncompromising life, and is one of the best people I know in the world. Another hero is Pauline Oliveros (speaking of adventurous lives!). I love the way she was always able to shed light on all of life’s creative possibilities.

Ariel: Kaija Saariaho for her sonic exploration and imagination, Mary Oliver for her words of wisdom and inspiration, Amelia Earhart for fearlessness determination. 
 
What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers?
 
Alex: HUGE question! I think we as artists must do everything possible to “be seen and heard” in the musical world, by serving as good musical citizens and positive role models for all other artists.  I think our musical culture is hampered by a general scarcity mindset, and I’d love for it to be more focused on creativity than upon competition. Visible role models as well as a shift in cultural attitude might help attract more young women to the field.
 

Ariel: Keep active in discovering new musicians and composers, create a team of collaborators that represent all minorities, create, find, and share work (such as creating this album) for and with all of our sisters. 

 

CD interview 1 – Kate w/ Jessica Rudman and Nicole Piunno

This post is the first in the series of mini interviews I will be doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂

I am so excited to introduce the first two fabulous composers who are featured on my upcoming CD: Jessica Rudman and Nicole Piunno.

Jessica Rudman: Elegy
Nicole Piunno: Monterey Letters

Both of these composers were the first ones who I reached out to in regards to this project and I recorded their pieces last week at the first recording session for their CD. They were also both gracious enough to link to other interviews that they had done in the past so check those out as well.

 

How did you get into music and composition?

Jessica: Meg Wilhoite included a profile of me in her New Music Blog, which goes into details about this:  https://megsnewmusicblog.wordpress.com.

Nicole: I usually say that composition found me instead of saying I chose composition.  I say this because I had strong aspirations of being an orchestral trumpet player until 2007 when I suffered a severe lip injury that ended my career.  Looking back now I can see signs of becoming a composer all the way back to childhood.  It has always interested me and I did take composition lessons during my undergraduate years even while pursuing my performance goals.  

 

What was your inspiration for the piece?

Jessica: I did some of my graduate studies at Hartt, and there were four other MM student composers who started at the same time as me. We did a couple group pieces where each composer would write a movement that was 2 minutes or less for a given instrument and they would be performed as a suite on one of the student composer concerts. “Elegy” was originally written for one of these projects, a suite intended for euphonium. I later adapted the piece for trumpet, and that version has been performed more frequently. 

Nicole: My inspiration for Monterey Letters is a bit different from the majority of my other work.  The piece was born in Monterey California when I took a trip to work with the Principal Brass Quintet of the NY Phil for a couple weeks in the summer.  The first movement portrays the energy I felt exploring a new place, mixed with peaceful moments of gratitude for being there.  The second movement was inspired by a work I encountered at a museum in Monterey by Salvador Dali.  The third movement received it’s title from my favorite street and intersection.  I am a fitness enthusiast and I searched for the street with the largest hill I could find to run up on my first morning in Monterey.  I later rented a bike and visited this same street to challenge my climbing abilities on the bike.  Without fail, every time I felt the urge to quit while climbing up the hill on Prescott Avenue I would look to my left and see Grace St. The name of that street inspired me to keep going and finish my climb. 

 

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Jessica: I am about to start writing a chamber opera about Marie Curie.  The libretto is by musicologist and poet Kendra Leonard, and uses dialogue between Marie and her daughter as well as Marie’s recollections to paint an intimate portrait of the scientist.  It delves into the struggles she faced as a woman working in a male-dominated field as well as a Polish immigrant living in France.  So even though this year is the 150th anniversary of Marie Curie’s birth, her story remains very relevant today.  

Nicole: I am currently finishing another set of unaccompanied trumpet pieces (I have fallen in love with writing unaccompanied works!) as well as a Euphonium solo.  Then I need to put all my focus on writing a high school marching band show.

 

Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

Jessica: Musically, I look up to composers like Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Libby Larsen, Joan Tower, and my teachers Tania Leon and Gilda Lyons.  They all create wonderful music and have built great careers.  Their artistry, professionalism, and dedication to their craft has been very inspiring to me.  I also have looked up to other women who have been pioneers in their fields.  Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was an early hero of mine.  I remember as a child we had to dress up as a famous person for school, and I chose to go as her.  

Nicole: I would have to say Elisabeth Elliot.  She was a strong woman of character. The way she spoke was very direct and to the point. I love and admire that. She seemed very certain of her calling in life and devoted herself to wholly that.  She lived with a deep sense purpose and also served others graciously.   

 

What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers? 

Jessica: Despite the progress that has been made so far, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement in that area, and there is no simple solution.  Rather, there are many different steps that need to be taken by different groups of people.  For one thing, people who are curating concerts, recordings, textbooks, anthologies, etc. need to make the choice to seek out and include women and people of color.  Opportunities that highlight such groups should be viewed as necessary and celebratory.  There’s a misconception that those types of activities – where people are included based on gender, race, etc. – are ghettoizing and support music that is not of the same quality as that found in activities open to anyone.  Having been involved in programming the Women Composers Festival of Hartford (www.womencomposersfestivalhartford.com) for over 10 years, I can say there is an abundance of fantastic music by these underrepresented groups.  It just takes more effort to find it, and performers, educators, and audiences need to make a commitment to doing so.  
 
There are also a lot of subtle, systemic obstacles to overcome.  Many women composers are only exposed to – or at the very least have most of their interactions with – male composers and colleagues.  For that reason, people don’t necessarily realize something is wrong when a concert or entire season includes only music by white men.  We need to call attention to the lack of women and people of color, and we need to keep doing so until people notice it on their own.  
 
We also need to build supportive communities of women composers so that students can see that women do compose and are able to have viable careers.  Personally, I also think it is important as a woman composer to make myself as visible in my community as possible – participating in outreach events, being available to talk to students about being a composer (in general and being a woman composer), and being active as an event organizer.  We need to look at how we are promoting our field and opportunities within it.  I teach programs for pre-college composers at the Hartt School Community Division in CT, and every time we make publicity materials, I have to work to find pictures that include girls and students who are not white.  I think small things like that are important though, because they can give students the subconscious message that people like them do (or do not) do a certain activity.  
 
I’m sure there are lots of other steps we can take, both small and large and both individually and together.  At the very least, continuing to talk about the issue is a vital piece of the solution.
 

Nicole: For women composers the answer is simply to write good music. Keep going and keep communication open with conductors and performers as much as it is in your power to do so.For performers and conductors, I would say to be mindful of your programs.  Are you ever including less prominent composers on a program?   If you find the answer is no, then I would encourage you to seek out a work by someone less known. 

There seem to be few prominent female conductors. I think I’d like to see that changed before anything else.  

 

Support

I am a part of this fabulous workshop where we discuss the connections between art, music, and activism and work on our own personal projects in a community of like-minded people. Here is my blog post after one of our recent sessions.

 

12/2/2016 Art and Activism Workshop ::

At our final session for 2016, shortly after the presidential election, we had many things to discuss, especially in terms how to best promote diversity and marginalized groups. Although the theme of our session was women composers and performers, the underlying message was for support and awareness. How can we increase support and diverse representation for young classical musicians of color? How can we encourage more women to pursue collegiate studies in composition when there are less women teaching at universities? We certainly didn’t solve these problems in one meeting, but through our conversations, we opened the door towards greater support, recognition and awareness.

Before our session, we examined the writings of three composers: Amy Beth Kirsten (The Woman Composer is Dead), Alex Temple (I’m a Trans Composer. What the Hell Does That Mean?), and Ashley Fure (Reflections on Risk). Each composer described their own relationship to being a woman composer and considered whether or how this impacts their work. Some composers, like Ashley Fure, embrace the label “woman composer,” yet recognize the difficulties with speaking out about inequalities in the music world. Others, like Amy Beth Kirsten, do not want to be limited by this description or have anything to do with events that focus on gender.

We also discussed an interview with Björk, in which she describes how women artists are expected to only write about relationships and “womanly things.” When women artists write about other subject matter or other personal ideas, we often need to say something five times louder just to be heard and recognized, yet men are still falsely credited for our work. In the same way that we are trying to increase awareness of women in STEM fields, the same work needs to be done for women composers and performance, who often face questions like, “you created the electronics yourself?” and “I thought you were just a singer”.

Much of the conversation was spent evaluating the comments on Amy Beth Kirsten’s article and the realizations that Ashley Fure had in her experience at Darmstadt. Because of the issues with being pigeonholed – as a woman composer, activist composer, or Persian composer – we questioned whether we should make these distinctions, and whether they are more beneficial or hurtful. Despite the various opinions on this, in the articles and in our discussions, nobody disagreed about the lack of gender and racial diversity among composers and performers. The Metropolitan Opera just programmed an opera by woman composer for the first time in over 100 years, and frankly this is so embarrassing! How did we let The Met go that long without recognizing that perhaps there was a lack of representation? Even the recently announced programming for the NY Philharmonic’s next season only includes one piece by a woman and six living composers.

After discussing these issues, we addressed possible solutions and ways of increasing representation. Anonymous score submissions and blind auditions are great, because they allow us to simply focus on finding and promoting excellent music. If we want to better represent women composers and artists of varied genders and racial backgrounds, I don’t believe it’s possible to do so silently, or by hoping that we are seen as composers/performers and not composers/performers who are women for example. It is very easy to not want to be defined by our appearance, gender, or race, yet most of us don’t have that luxury. We should be celebrating our differences and increasing support for these groups, because until there is more equal representation and support for these artists, we haven’t solved the problem. On the other hand, calls for scores and other programs that target certain backgrounds are only helpful if we have people who are applying and meeting the criteria.

In an interview about her new opera at the Met, Kaija Saariaho reflected on how tired she was of being asked questions about gender, and wished “that we could speak about my music and not of me being a woman.” While insightful and understandable, even Saariaho recognized that her statement needed to be revised after realizing that women are still facing the same issues and lack of representation today that she faced many years ago. When speaking about these problems and gender barriers, Saariaho declared, “maybe we, then, should speak about it, even if it seems so unbelievable. You know, half of humanity has something to say, also.”

Interview with Bugles Media

Hi everyone!

I was recently interviewed for the Bugles Media. Check it out here!


http://www.buglesmedia.com/interview-kate-amrine/

Ginny Coleman: In the two years since you graduated from NYU, you’ve worked in a wide variety of roles throughout the music business, from playing to coordinating to teaching. Is there one job you’ve held in particular that you believe helped to jump-start your career?

Kate Amrine: I can think of three transformative experiences that I feel really pushed my career forwards. When I first started school at NYU, I was working for Jeremy Pelt and I quickly became much more organized and inspired. However, it wasn’t until I went to Europe as his Tour Manager that I felt like things were beginning for me. It was a great experience that showed me what can happen when you really work hard, play well, and have your own vision. I felt the same way when I was working for John Rojak because I was at another transitioning time – this time approaching the end of my undergrad. Both experiences were enlightening because they expanded my view of what it really means to be a successful musician and how I want to be. Since I graduated, I have been teaching private lessons to non-music majors at NYU and it has been an incredible experience to work with intelligent students with different backgrounds and career paths. Seeing how I can make music relevant, fun, and transformative for them continues to make me stronger as both an educator and a musician.


GC: Here at Bugles Media, we are firm believers that a diverse set of skills is necessary for success in the musical world, and judging by your impressive resume, it’s clear that you think the same way. Was there a point in your career where that realization occurred to you, or were innovation and flexibility always part your plan?

KA: My parents own their own business so I have always grown up knowing that it pays to be diverse and more opportunities are available that way. I played in jazz bands and orchestras growing up and started playing in musicals and a rock band because I heard they needed trumpet and someone recommended me. Since coming to NYC, I have been fortunate to have some very diverse playing experiences. I’ve played with rock bands, salsa bands, hip hop brass bands, a DJ at a rave, wedding bands, cabaret gigs with aerialists, and more – all because I said yes and because I wanted to play. I never wanted to be passed over for something because I couldn’t swing or hang in that style of music. Having a diverse schedule certainly keeps things interesting and I’ve had so much fun. After being in the city and freelancing for a couple years, I still firmly believe that being flexible stylistically and musically is the best way to be working as much as possible.


GC: I see you’ve done a lot of work on the administrative side of music. When did you realize you had strengths in this side of the business?

KA: I actually worked for my parents when I was younger so I knew at an early age that this was also one of my strengths. My brother (who is in business school actually) and I grew up filing and sorting forms as well as reconciling the monthly bank statement – which was always double-checked by the accountant of course! When I came to NYU, I had a series of part time jobs where I became more organized and skilled at managing different people and tasks. It wasn’t until a friend asked me to hire the pit orchestra for a run of West Side Story that I got into contracting and realized I like that side of things as well.


GC: It seems that much of your success ties in to your ability to play in a large variety of settings, from orchestral to chamber to musical theatre. How do you tailor your practice sessions to meet the needs of each gig?

KA: In terms of tailoring my practice session for each gig, I honestly think more about how much time I have than what I have to do for each gig. Sometimes if I only have an hour or two then it is usually more important to work on fundamentals (sound, articulation, style, etc) than to play through the music on the same day before the gig. If I am playing a show or something with a lot of lead playing then I will warm up with those things in mind and play some excerpts in those styles to get my ears and playing in that mindset. I have definitely been in positions where I have to practice orchestral excerpts, something like A Chorus Line, and music for a rock/funk gig. There usually isn’t enough time in the day or enough chops to do all of those things as much and hard as I may need to so I have to be selective. Sometimes I will listen to something on the train or sing my part instead of playing through everything. The other things I try and live by are always keeping things fresh so for example, I try and play my piccolo trumpet frequently, even if I don’t have a gig on it for a while – and the same goes for major pieces that I may encounter every so often. Similarly, once I know I will have to do something next month or whenever, I start preparing as early as I can because I may get busy and run out of time closer to the gig.


GC: You have a good amount of pit experience! Is there anything in particular that drew you to musical theatre, and are there any shows that you hope to have the opportunity to perform?

KA: I love musicals! It is fun to be a part of something so big and Broadway is so classic – everyone can relate to it and share an experience of it. Shows that I would love to perform are: A Chorus Line, Book of Mormon, In the Heights, Legally Blonde, Something Rotten, Gypsy, On the Town, and Ragtime (technically I have already played it but it was a new orchestration). There are also a lot of classics such as 42nd Street and My Fair Lady that I would love to play as well.


GC: A lot of musicians talk about having a moment of “arrival”, where they feel like they’ve made it in the music business. Do you believe in that line of thinking, or have you had any moments like this?

KA: I have had tiny moments like this where I am playing a great gig with great people and I know this is exactly where I want to be – exactly what I want to be doing. In terms of a greater arrival point in the scene, I don’t believe in that line of thinking. I know I am continuing to get better and I am always looking towards the next thing – always reevaluating what I can contribute and what I have to say. I don’t ever want to feel like I have arrived. I always want to continue to create and make an impact.


GC: Do you have any big projects in the works?

KA: I just redid my website (kateamrine.com) and throughout the summer I am planning on adding some new recordings, videos, and pictures. After publishing my brass arrangements, I plan on revising some of my current ones and writing more – hopefully to publish those and a teaching/duet book in the future as well.


GC: On one last fun note, do you have any hobbies or passions outside of your music career?

KA: I actually double majored in trumpet and Psychology so human behavior is always one of my interests, and I like reading books in that area. I also love cooking!