Staying Healthy at Brass Chix 2020

It’s that time of year again. The mid winter shuffle of Fellow Female identifying Brass Players to the once a year event we like to call, Brass Chix.

The theme this year was Women’s Health as it pertains to brass playing. This year was a bit different for me as well because I got to help plan it!

Before I yammer on about the event, if you are wondering what the heck Brass Chix is and why the fish would woman Brass players gather for this seemingly “girls only” club, please refer to last years blog Post , where I explain it all.

When Sarah Schmalenberger and I met to begin planning this a few months prior, we realized that there were many facets to women’s health that go beyond just the obvious physical aspects. We could include spiritual health, emotional well being, instrument health, and go well beyond the usual advice of exercise, eat and sleep well.

The day started out with a Mindful Start, led by Sarah where we focused on breathing together without a conductor and thinking about our awareness as musicians. She led us in another mindfulness exercise where we assembled into two circles and were instructed to face one another. Upon the resonant cue of Tibetan singing bowls, we were to introduce ourselves on one tone, and silently looked each other in the eyes for a brief moment, before rotating the circle to introduce yourself to the next person on the next tone. It was an effective way to make each other aware of the other’s energy and existence as well as help break the ice among these multi generational women.

We then broke into our usual instrumental groups. The low brass session was led by my Colleague, Lara Dietrich. She led the low brass in some warm-ups, talked about preventing injury, and thoughtfully ended with a reminder that, for emotional well being, it is ok to say NO to things.

After concluding the session, we scuttled down to the presentation room where Sarah shared a fascinating lecture which featured her and Dr. Patricia Maddox’s research on Women’s Health and brass playing- The Brass Bodies Study. She and all of us had a candid discussion about how our bodies at different stages of life- down to years weeks, and days, can and do effect our brass playing due to our unique physiology. Rather than complain that “the men just don’t understand”, she opened up the discussion to encourage women to help each other and shed light on the realities that exist. An article featuring her research can be found here and is well worth the read regardless of how you identify.

Lunch was a fun bit of show and tell.

(a bit of backstory……During our planning session, we came up with an idea to showcase both Brass chix Business owners, who run their own repair shops on opposite sides of the cities; Laurel Chapman and Melanie Ditter. In order to do this, the suggestion came up to make a video that they could also use beyond this and would give them a chance to show off their shops, skills, and teach the Brass Chix how to better care for their instruments. Thanks to my coordination skills (learned in Toastmasters), my friend and talented Filmmaker Jason Shumacher’s assistance (ok, he shot and edited the whole thing 🙂 ), and the amicable agreement of Laurel and Melanie to allow us into their shops and interview them, two videos were produced and shown at lunch. ) People now know about the crud that lies in their instruments if you don’t clean them regularly or eat a hamburger before playing- tee hee.

The after lunch session was a split of two types of networking events. We had the younger (high-school and college aged) group, talk about healthy networking -led by Emily Green and the “Mature/ Experienced” group speed dating activity where we mentioned what we needed and what we could offer. It was fairly helpful and I even met a fellow SAI sister.

The penultimate event was a talk led by a panel of Women- who also had a part in planning this event, and of which I was invited to be a part of as well. This consisted of Me, Lara Dietrich, Allysin Partin, and Tina Cavitt, and each of us talked about an aspect of life that we overcame – or at least learned how to better manage. The subject that I was requested to speak about was…being different. I will admit, while I was humbled yet excited to be asked in the first place, the topic left me initially taken aback. After all, other than being a composer, how am I different enough to justify speaking about this?

My approach was to talk about how I, like everyone else, took my own path, and how due to my circumstances and personality which does not quite fit in with the norm of my chosen field (I’ve always been a paradoxical free spirited introvert, too humble for their own good at times), I had to find other ways to get to where I am today and learn to accept myself just the way I am. I tried to help my audience realize that everyone has things that make them unique which is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and that they should love themselves just the way they are, akin to what Mr. Rogers tried to teach in his lifetime. It must have worked because several of the young (high school aged) girls surprisingly opened up after this. This was the highlight of my day.

Lastly, we ended the day with a good ol’ session of brass choir experience and the Brass chix salute. Overall, it was a good year and I feel that a lot of good will be carried out beyond this day.

If you are a fellow brass Chick , I hope to see you next year where we meet at Schmitt Music in Brooklyn center to focus on……..Gear!