Women of Brass

color photo of the members of Monarch Brass standing outdoors and holding their instruments
Jan Duga / myiwbc.org

“The monarch butterfly is fragile and yet can fly 2,000 miles to get from point A to point B,” said Susan Slaughter, former principal trumpeter with the St. Louis Symphony, in a recent phone interview. “It’s beautiful to look at, and the sound that we want to make is a beautiful sound.”

As the first woman ever appointed principal trumpet in a major American orchestra, Slaughter knows all too well how far point A can be from point B for many aspiring professional women brass musicians. She founded the International Women’s Brass Conference and Monarch Brass to help women brass instrumentalists on their sometimes treacherous journeys in the profession.

color photo of the members of Genghis Barbie with their horns
Spencer Lloyd / genghisbarbie.com

It’s 2009, and the Great Recession is draining bank accounts and devouring dreams everywhere. In New York City, four freelance French horn players suddenly find themselves out of work and wondering what to do next.

“It kind of came to me in this random moment—I was like, ‘Oh, my God, we have to have a horn quartet with these four people and play pop music.’” 

color photo of the feet of the members of Stiletto Brass - all in red high-heeled shoes
stilettobrass.com

"I think there are some assumptions about the ability of a female brass player versus a male brass player," said Stiletto Brass Quintet hornist Misty Tolle, in a recent phone interview, "and that when you walk in as a woman, part of what you walk in with is this knowledge that you have to be that much better than the person that you’re competing against if they are a man."

Assumptions like this one are what the all-female Stiletto Brass Quintet is helping to dispel by simply existing—by being a professional women’s brass ensemble that reaches school-age and adult audiences with music ranging from classical to jazz and beyond.

color photo of the members of Seraph Brass dressed up and sitting with their instruments on a sofa
seraphbrass.com

“How cool would it be to have an all-female brass group that’s touring? And imagine young musicians seeing that on the stage.”

That’s the question that inspired trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden to start the all-women’s brass ensemble Seraph Brass.