Abbie Conant and William Osborne

Abbie Conant in a scene from Miriam

I recently served on the thesis defense committee of Dr. Jessica Butler, whose document is entitled The Creative Identity of Women: An Analysis of Feminist Themes in Select Chamber Music Theater Works by Composer William Osborne for Trombonist Abbie Conant. This document focusses on three works that Osborne wrote especially for Abbie Conant: Winnie, Miriam: The Chair, and Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano.

Conant was the victim of egregious sexual discrimination by the Munich Philharmonic and endured years of harassment and litigation, ultimately winning her case. Her husband, William Osborne wrote this series of “Chamber Music Theater” compositions for her, and her playing, singing and acting is quite impressive. These visceral works are an artistic reaction to the sexism Conant faced, but highlight the widespread misogyny that is sadly part of our musical heritage. These works make you think, challenge you, inspire you, and strive to make a significant impact on the audience. You can view videos of Conant’s performances on Osborne’s YouTube channel or visit their website.

What strikes me is not just the unique character and power of the performances, but the fact that Conant memorizes 30 minutes of singing, acting, and trombone playing – all done with unbelievable ease.

For more about the story of Conant vs. the orchestra, read Osborne’s article: “You Sound Like a Ladies Orchestra” or the L.A. Times article Trombonist’s Battle Gives ‘Miriam’ a Voice.

They are currently preparing for an upcoming premiere of their new work Alethia in September at University of Victoria hosted by tuba Professor Eugene Dowling.

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Online Tuba Discoveries

Mademoiselle Tuba

I have recently run across a number of interesting tuba and music related things on the internet lately that I thought I would share:

Limelight the “classical music and arts website” from Australia. This online version of the magazine features news, articles, reviews, events, galleries and more.

Not to be confused with the Meridian Arts Ensemble, the Meridian Brass (Quartet) have a very interesting and interactive website. Be sure to check out their new online interactive promo for their new recording “Once Upon a Time” on Prezi. Really cool interface, but I could do without the birds.

Jesse Chavez has a blog called “Longtones: The Pursuit of a Life in Music“. Check out his Sightreading Sundays posts and his posts on practicing with titles like Why Your Degree Title is Wrong and Well Rounded or Specialized?

Another tuba-centric blog is Mademoiselle Tuba maintained by Rachel Matz, principal tuba with the Tallahassee Symphony. Check out her post I’m using my F tuba, and no, I’m not transposing.

Another fun and interesting blog is Sousa Central with the description “Sousaphone and Tuba news, reviews, pictures, interviews and everything.” It’s loaded with photos, videos, and stories all related to tuba.

If you are interested in “BAT” (big ass tubas), check out Barth’s Brass Blog which has posts on his travels with his company Big Mouth Brass.

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New School of Music wins award!

ImageArchitzer recently announced that the Suspended Theatroacoustic System for the new University of Iowa Concert Hall has won their A+ award (celebrating architecture’s relevency) in the fabrication category.

To say we are excited about our new building would be an understatement. Due to open in 2016, the new Voxman School of Music will be a state-of-the-art modern masterpiece uniting once again our faculty staff and students under one roof for the first time since 2008.

View images and information about the new building here at the LMN Architects website. (To scroll through the images, look for the << / >> at the top left of the page.)

Here is a diagram of how the system will work:






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Tubas in the News – March 2013 Edition

ImageA great gallery of photos of the “biggest tuba in the world” from the Houston Chron

Check out this story about a Norwegian “Ice Musician” in Turning a Glacier Into A Tuba from NPR.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class by tuba player and business student Andrew Schwartz from CNN.

Read about the new work by composer Michael Daugherty, Reflections on the Mississippi for Tuba and Orchestra from Broadway World.


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Atlantic Brass Quintet Recording


Last week, the Atlantic Brass Quintet did a recording session at Enlow Hall at Kean University in New Jersey. We recorded a album of jazz and Balkan music that we are very excited about. The title and label of the recording has yet to be determined, but here is the program, in no particular order:

Jazz Set:
Passages by Patrice Caratini (five movements)
Private Music by Dave Douglas (two movements)
Jazz Suite by Dmitri Shostakovich (three movements)
Kopi Luwak by Alan Ferber
Luteous Pangolin by Ben Monder

Balkan Brass Band set with Jon Wikan on percussion:
Zvonce Kolo

We’ve been performing this music for a while, so we were thrilled to record it in an amazing hall, and with Andy Bove – a fantastic engineer. With the help of Yelp and our friend Jim Leff, we also visited a few great restaurants and bars in the area. (Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House in Jersey City,  and Coppermine Pub in North Arlington, NJ)

The night before our first day of recording, we were in need of a rehearsal space (since our hotel wouldn’t allow us to rehearse there) and we found Wagon Wheel Rehearsal Studios. If you are ever in the Newark/New York City area looking for a rehearsal space, I’d recommend it.

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Flood Recovery Funding Secured!


We received some great new today regarding the progress of our plans for our new School of Music. According to this Iowa City Press-Citizen article,

“Federal officials are dropping their opposition to a decision to send million in reconstruction funds to the University of Iowa campus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had committed funds to rebuild a handful of campus buildings ruined by flooding in 2008. But earlier this year, federal auditors called some of that money into question, saying the projects didn’t qualify for reconstruction support. Wednesday’s announcement ensures those projects will move forward as planned.”

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Alloy Orchestra Plays Nosferatu

Tonight, my wife and I enjoyed a rare night out. We went to the Englert Theatre in Iowa City to watch the Alloy Orchestra perform their original live soundtrack to the classic silent film Nosferatu.

To start the night off, we went to Molly’s Cupcakes in Iowa City. They have a ridiculous variety of flavors, including Boston Cream, Pumpkin Spice, and Peanut Butter Nutella – which we brought home for our daughter. They also serve an impressive array of espresso drinks.Prior to the performance, the staff at the Englert told us that this was the Centennial of the theater and of the many special events being held to celebrate it.

They also recognized their many volunteers and has a very special surprise gift for their head usher, Ken, who just marked his one thousandth show since the theatre’s reopening in 2004. Ken is known for personally greeting every single person who enters the theatre in his tails.  They presented him with a custom-made had and coat, similar to those worn by fancy doorman at expensive hotels. The whole ceremony and community atmosphere of the movie made us feel happy to be part of this city. As a surprise, we were treated to the recently restored colorized version of A Trip to the Moon. Created by Georges Méliès in 1902, this silent classic was the centerpiece of the recent film Hugo. The version we viewed included a recorded soundtrack by the French group “Air”.

Also present were the founders of Film Scene, a local nonprofit “dedicated to enhancing the cultural vitality of the Iowa City area through the presentation and discussion of film as an art form.” They have some exciting plans for the future and are one of the cultural gems of Iowa City.

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