Date: Sat, 13 Mar 2004 22:51:24 -0600
From: Karen Gustafson <>
Subject: [TPIN] Female trumpeters

Dear trumpeters,

The question is 'why are there not more female trumpet players who make it past high school/college to go on and play professionally?" The answer is: there are lots of female trumpeters who go on playing! Just to name a few: Susan Slaughter, Maria Speziale, Liesl Whittaker, Stacey Simpson, Karen Donnelly, Judith Saxton, Susan Rider, Susan Sexton, Linda Brown, Amy Schendel, Takako Seimiya, the DIVA trumpet section, Ingrid Jensen...and of course, myself. This is a very, very small list of people I thought of off the top of my head. If you log on to the IWBC (International Women's Brass Conference) web site there are more listed. There are no physical limitations that keep women from playing the trumpet.

In fact, there were many women in history who played, too. Johanna Von Hoff was a trumpeter in the court of the Emperor Leopold I of Vienna in 1655, Sophia Weiss was a travelling 'gigger' in Switzerland and France in the early 1800's, J. Heneage Carter had an all-girl brass band in New England in the 1860's, and from then on more and more women have played. Marie Speziale was the first women to break into the major American symphony orchestra world in 1964 by winning a position with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The history of women in trumpet playing was the topic of my doctoral dissertation, by the way.

It is true that often women get discouraged early on in a playing/teaching career if they are not lucky enough to have a mentor(s) who is encouraging and supportive or strong enough in themselves to carry on. It is a dog eat dog world out there for everybody. Unfortunately, in society, it is still not totally accepted (yet) that a women can play the instrument. I can't tell you how many times I have had to deal with discriminating conductors, colleagues, and fellow brass players. It is not fun. However, it is their problem, not mine. But I choose (at least I try all the time) to be positive and think of myself as a trumpeter rather than a women trumpeter. This is something I try to instill in my students all the time. We are all trumpeters no matter if we are male, female, black, white, or are trans-sexual with purple and white polka dots!!! It just doesn't matter what we look like. What matters is how well we play and how we deport ourselves. Yes, sometimes we feel like we are beating our heads against a brick wall, sometimes we are. The world doesn't change in one fall swoop, but each baby step helps.

I am a trumpeter by profession. I value my colleagues who accept the fact that I am a women player and don't have a problem with it. I value even more my colleagues who don't even think about it. To the others, I can't change them but I feel sorry for them because they are missing out on colleagues and friends who have a different perspective on life and playing. Yes, I almost quit playing as a young women because it is a daily struggle to keep your head up and move past the obstacles. I found mentors in Vince Cichowicz, Armando Ghitalla, Ramon Parcells, Louis Ranger, and Marie Speziale who all inspired me to keep going in one way or another. From the men, they never once told me I couldn't play or treated me differently because of my sex and Cichowicz always said he loved working with women because they have a greater sensitivity to the musical aspects. I love playing the trumpet and I love playing music even more. It is our love, not the fear, that keeps us going. And it is scary sometimes!!! For everybody.

The good news is: the world is changing. Baby steps. We can all take one.

Karen Gustafson, DMA