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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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