There is little doubt that sexism has existed in the trumpet world since the beginning. Just as racism and women’s equality in the work force have been a long hard battle, so has the female’s acceptance into the male dominated field of trumpet playing. With that said I will try to establish the history and background of this inequality and hopefully help the cause for its correction.
How it began
At the turn of the century (not this one, the previous one) it was the policy to have a piano in the home upon which the young ladies were expected to study and often entertain guests with their lady like, refined talents at the instrument. Young men were discouraged to perform on the instrument for it was considered too feminine an activity for a male. Thus, the assignment of male instruments and female instruments was established. This prejudice continued much longer than it should have and giving female’s a chance in the trumpet world was slow in coming. Typically the female instruments included the following, piano and the various woodwind instruments and strings. The males dominated the brass and percussion. I’m sure that I will be criticized for being too general in my opinions but please remember this is a short blog on a very large topic.
When did it start to improve?
When I first began my university teaching (1969) we had two full time trumpet instructors and of the 32 students studying trumpet only one was a female. At the present time at the same university, the trumpet enrollment stands at 21 and of that number 10 are females. Who and what was responsible for this adjustment? I have to give credit to the early few who stayed the course and entered the trumpet playing field to make their mark and begin to change history.
One such determined young lady was Barb Butler, formerly Professor of Trumpet at Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music and University of British Columbia. She was a high school student in Cedar Falls, Iowa and through my good fortune, I was able to know her and appreciate her determination to become a trumpet player. My first encounter with Barb was during a practice session before State Solo Ensemble contest. Her High School director asked me to give comments to his students before they tried out for contest. From the very first note, I knew that this student would be a leader in the movement. Barb’s playing was shockingly beautiful and I still remember what an impact it made on me. She was truly gifted and motivated even at that young age.
Another example of dedication and motivation would be the very talented trumpet player Susan Rider (currently a member of “The President’s Own” Marine Band), also from Cedar Falls. I first got to know and work with Susan while she was in high school. She was one of those students that was always concerned about others. She was/and is one of the kindest people I have known as well as being an outstanding trumpet player. From her earliest beginning she was focused on what she wanted and accomplished it to the highest degree.
Yet another woman from early years was Joan Force (award winning cornet soloist with the Eastern Iowa Brass Band) with the same background from Cedar Falls and similar success as a player. I would venture a guess that both Joan and Susan were influenced in some way by their predecessor Barb Butler. It is through the efforts and successes of these ladies that will and has continued to influence other young girls in their quest to become an accomplished and accepted trumpet player. My hat is off to the women such as these who have paved the way for other females in the trumpet world. Every state and country has similar stories and the movement continues to grow, as it should.
Is Bias Still Present?
The number of highly competent female trumpet players can never be established just as their male counterparts, but if you are interested in finding out more about this courageous and society changing niche of female players, you can begin with this small list- Alison Bolsom, Anna Callahan, Amy Schendel, Barb Buttler, Bette Eilers, Bibi Black, Bria Skonberg, Carole Dawn Reinhart, Cindy Bradley, Clora Bryant, Deb Wagner, Hilaria Kramer, Ingrid Jensen, Jane Sager, Jeanne Pocius, Judith Saxton, Karen Donnelly, Kiku Collins, Laurie Frink, Liesl Whitaker, Lina Allemano, Linda Brown, Marie Speziale, Rebecca Coup Franks, Saskia Laroo, Sherrie Tucker, Stacey Simpson, Susan Rider, Susan Sexton, Susan Slaughter, Takako Seimiya, the DIVA trumpet section, Tine Thing Helseth, Valaida Snow.
Branson Trumpet Ensemble