clock radio cover web bannerMichael Davidson and Dan Fortin’s duo album Clock Radio.On Saturday, March 23, vibraphonist Michael Davidson and bassist Dan Fortin will perform together at the Canadian Music Centre in celebration of their debut duo album, Clock Radio, which will be released the previous day (Friday, March 22). This event marks a confluence of the new: a new project, with a fresh book of tunes; a new label, Elastic Recordings, helmed by Davidson and Fortin, of which Clock Radio will be the first release; a new direction for the CMC, which, until relatively recently, has primarily hosted performances by classical musicians. But it also marks a point of convergence in an ongoing history of collaboration shared by the two musicians, who experienced an immediate rapport when they first played together as students in the mid-2000s. Since then, they’ve appeared together with a wide variety of different projects, notably the band Stop Time, whose album Twice was released in 2011, and on the Fortin-led album Brinks, released in 2015.

The material that would form the basis of Clock Radio was primarily composed in the summer of 2017, during which time Michael Davidson spent two months in Berlin, studying with percussionist David Friedman. Following an inspiring first lesson, Davidson went to a coffee shop, wrote about the experience, and then started sketching out a musical idea on score paper. After his second lesson, he repeated the process. “Pretty soon,” as Davidson told me, he “had maybe 10 or 12 pieces, and an entire notebook worth of stuff.” As his time with Friedman came to a close, Davidson decided that the logical next step would be to actually play his pieces with other people, both to honour the music he’d written and as “a lovely way to document the experience of living in Berlin and studying with this person who was one of the people responsible for getting [him] into the vibraphone.”

Knowing that he had a significant collection of new work, Davidson booked a recording session at Canterbury Music Company as soon as he returned to Toronto from Berlin. But the music needed rehearsal time, and Davidson needed an ensemble that would be committed, as Stop Time had been, to a collaborative workshopping process that would give his sketches the necessary time and space to develop naturally into more structured pieces. The idea of playing in a duo format with Fortin occurred to him near the end of his stay in Berlin; when he got back, Davidson called him, saying “I have this idea, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’ve got to meet every week” to make it work. Fortin agreed, and they organized a series of intensive rehearsals leading up to the recording session. Davidson returned to Toronto in early September; by the end of October, they’d recorded Clock Radio.

Duo albums have long been part of the recorded jazz tradition, from the 1962 Bill Evans / Jim Hall recording Undercurrent to Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden’s Last Dance, released in 2014. There are, however, few duo recordings of vibraphone and bass. Hotel Hello, the 1975 Gary Burton / Steve Swallow album, is perhaps the best known, but, replete with keyboard overdubs, it is as much a showcase for Burton and Swallow’s studio prowess as it is for their improvisational abilities. With Clock Radio, Davidson and Fortin were working with a relatively blank slate, and few pre-conceived notions about what they should sound like. “Certain instrumentation,” says Fortin, “can come with certain baggage. With a piano trio, for instance, people come to expect certain things.” Without the pressure to contend with the conventions that attend a large body of work in a given instrumental format, the duo felt free to let the natural rehearsal and recording processes guide the album’s development.

Of the many qualities that make Clock Radio special, two stand out in particular. The first: the depth of the sounds on the recording. A duo recording, particularly one without any drums, invites a different kind of listening than a larger ensemble does; a larger range of an instrument’s timbral qualities suddenly become audible, as do the sounds of a musician’s hands moving through the air of the studio. With the freedom to hear more from each other, Davidson and Fortin felt an increased ability to engage in deeper, collective improvisation. “With a larger group, the ‘moment before something happens’ isn’t necessarily there as much, whereas in duo playing the moment before it happens is right there with you,” Davidson told me. “It’s beyond feeling it coming; you can actually hear the beginning of the sound. I can hear Dan’s finger just starting to touch the strings; my mallets are making a sound as they approach the bars. All this stuff is intense, and it gives me goosebumps as it’s happening.”

The second standout quality that makes Clock Radio special: the places where composition and improvisation overlap, and the blurred boundary between the two. Beyond each player’s considerable technical ability and their shared commitment to group improvisation, this particular aspect of their music speaks to Davidson and Fortin’s trust in each other’s musical sensibilities. Playing together for so long, terminology has emerged to explain certain aspects of their connection. A URO, I learn, is an ‘Unidentified Rhythmic Object’; as Fortin tells me, “we kind of feel time the same way. If the time is moving, we can follow each other really easily.” IBS, on the other hand, refers to the duo’s shared sense of harmony; it’s something that “you know is there, although you can’t always identify it, but it disrupts things and results in interesting choices.” Clock Radio’s mixing process was also a point at which the intersection of composition and improvisation was explored. Influenced by Toronto drummer/producer Jean Martin – whose label, Barnyard Records, serves as an influence for Elastic Recordings – and with the help of mix engineer David Hermiston, Davidson and Fortin used a number of post-production effects to highlight and extend their improvised material. This process was not ‘production,’ in the conventional sense, but rather one in which the duo followed, according to Davidson, “the wake of the potential thoughts and feelings that might have been involved in the improvisation.”

Clock Radio, as both Davidson and Fortin tell me, is not meant as a monument, but rather a snapshot – a tribute to a particular moment in time, and to the living history that the two share. Much like their approach to music-making, it is as much about has been as what is to come.

Michael Davidson and Dan Fortin’s Clock Radio will be released on Elastic Recordings on March 22, followed by a CD release on March 23 at 8pm, at the Canadian Music Centre, Toronto.

Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached through his website, on Instagram and on Twitter.

Oliveros cityhall TerryLimbannerThe February 17 performance of To Valerie Solanas And Marilyn Monroe In Recognition Of Their Desperation at the Toronto City Hall Council Chambers. Project initiated by Christopher Willes. Contributing artists: Anne Bourne, Allison Cameron, Victoria Cheong, Ishan Davé, Prices Easy, Ellen Furey, Thom Gill, Claire Harvie, Ame Henderson, Brendan Jensen, Germaine Liu, Bee Pallomina, Liz Peterson, Heather Saumer, Brian Solomon, Anni Spadafora, Evan Webber, Christopher Willes and others. Rehearsal direction: Kate Nankervis. Produced by Public Recordings and Christopher Willes. Photo credit: Terry Lim.In mid-February, the Music Gallery and other presenting partners created a weekend of events focused on the work and legacy of Pauline Oliveros and her partner IONE in a three-part form: a reading, a workshop and a concert.

The experience of Deep Listening, Oliveros’s core practice, was at the heart of all three activities, so I will begin with a look at the middle event of the three: a Deep Listening workshop presented by the Music Gallery and 918 Bathurst on February 16. Offered by Anne Bourne and special guest IONE, this opportunity for a hands-on experience of Deep Listening involved the creation and performance of a selection of Oliveros’ best-known scores, pieces she called Sonic Meditations earlier in her career. She later coined the term Deep Listening to mean “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.”

The scores we performed are one way to experience this way of listening, as they invite the audience to collectively create the piece while simultaneously listening and sounding. The workshop opened up with both body and vocal warmups, including intoning on different vowel sounds while being aware of different areas or energy centres of the body. The group began to cohere as one sounding body, within one resonating place – and this awareness of collective listening and sounding deepened throughout the afternoon as we moved from one score to another.

One of my favourite scores we performed that afternoon is entitled Extreme Slow Walk, one of Oliveros’s first pieces that I had experienced many years ago in the late 1970s when the Music Gallery was located on St. Patrick Street. This time, we were instructed to walk very slowly around the room, being aware of each micro movement necessary for placing one foot in front of the other. While walking, we were also to sing a favourite childhood song, sustaining each note of the song with each step. What emerged in the listening space was a full sonic texture of shifting pitches and harmonies that created a tapestry that one’s own sound was a part of. As discussed a bit later in the workshop, most participants found it almost impossible to hold the melody intact, even if the song were as simple as “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Despite this sensation of dislocation, it didn’t seem to matter so much, as the more collective goal of creating a shifting harmonic texture took precedence. Something else was at play.

Appropriately, it was Valentine’s Day when IONE offered a reading from her book Pride of Family: Four Generations of American Women of Color, a memoir that is clearly a work of passion and love for the astonishing and accomplished women in her family’s lineage, including her mother, grandmother, great-aunt and great-grandmother. Reading at A Different Booklist on Bathurst Street, at an event co-presented with Art Metropole, the Music Gallery, and Public Recordings, IONE began the evening talking about the important role that both Toronto and the Bathurst Street area played during the days of the Underground Railroad, and shared that one of her uncles used to own a railway, a history she’s currently researching. She began working on Pride of Family in the late 1960s, around the same time that Pauline was composing the piece that was performed on the February 17 concert – To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation – an interesting detail given that the two had not yet met one another. IONE had been very involved in the burgeoning feminist movement of the late 1960s and 70s and published some of her research in Ms. Magazine. She spoke about the how these feminist gatherings helped change her “from a negro girl to a black woman, going from wearing bangles to combat boots.” She began raising questions of whether she felt at home as a black woman in America and realized that the lives of her female ancestors were shrouded in mystery.

In the preface to her book she wrote: “From the moment I read the words [my great-grandmother] Frances Anne Rollin wrote in Boston on January 1, 1868 – ‘The year renews its birth today with all its hopes and sorrows’ – she became my beacon, the foremother who would finally share with me our collective past.” And so she began her search for the stories of these foremothers, a term she coined as she researched and wrote. What she would eventually discover was a lineage of extraordinary, educated and accomplished women. Her mother was a journalist, actress and composer; her grandmother was a proprietor and chef of a well loved restaurant; her great-aunt was one of Washington’s first black female physicians; and her great-grandmother played a significant role in the feminist and abolitionist movements of the late 19th century, writing the biography of black statesman Major Martin Delany, the first full-length biography written by an African American, with her own diaries being the earliest known diary by a southern black woman.

IONE’s book was published in 1991. She remarked during the Q&A that this was during the same time period that Pauline released her Deep Listening CD (1989), recorded in a water cistern located in Washington State. The term ‘deep listening’ began as a joke when Oliveros reflected on the music she and her colleagues had just completed several feet below the earth’s surface. As IONE and Oliveros embarked upon their life journey together, IONE became a regular performing partner, at first by reading poetry as part of the musical performance, and later on allowing words and sounds to spontaneously arise in the moment.

That Sunday, February 17, I was honoured to sit beside IONE during the performance of Oliveros’s To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation, a collaborative effort from Public Recordings and the Music Gallery that took place at the heart of Toronto’s political life – the City Council Chambers.

It is difficult to find the adequate words to describe the experience, as was often the case after listening to Pauline perform. She wrote the piece in 1970 after reading the Scum Manifesto by Valerie Solanas, who argued that men have ruined the world, and that it is up to women to fix it. In a note passed on to me by Christopher Willes and Anne Bourne, who were both involved in the city hall performance, Oliveros stated: “Intrigued by the egalitarian feminist principles set forth in the Manifesto, I wanted to incorporate them in the structure of a new piece that I was composing. The women's movement was surfacing and I felt the need to express my resonance with this energy. Marilyn Monroe had taken her own life. Valerie Solanas had attempted to take the life of Andy Warhol. Both women seemed to be desperate and caught in the traps of inequality: Monroe needed to be recognized for her talent as an actress. Solanas wished to be supported for her own creative work.”

The concert performance of this work on February 17 lasted well over an hour, yet time passed as in the blink of an eye. In my own experience, I felt as if I had entered into a sonic trance, the sound acting as a carrier wave to create a gestalt-like experience. Instead of listening to lines of activity as in many musical performances, I experienced being within a solid sphere – a space defined by sound and awareness that encompassed and surrounded me, with a continuous invitation to enter within. The 20+ instrumentalists gathered for this particular performance included violin, cello, double bass, several percussionists, voice, flute, trombone, electric guitar, electronics, synthesizer, and an orange traffic cone. With no conductor, the piece’s three sections were marked out using lighting cues, and other key points in the score were demarcated using strobe-like white flashes. Each performer came prepared with five chosen pitches which were to be played as very long tones, at times with modulations or changes to volume, timbre, or other possible ways within the instruments’ abilities. (In preparation for the performance, there were two public rehearsals held, one at OCAD university and the other at U of T’s Faculty of Music.) And the chosen performance space – a place where democracy is played out (in varying degrees of success) – was the perfect setting for this work of high-stakes politics.

Oliveros once said, in response to being questioned about what musical ideas she was working on: “Well, I haven’t been working with musical ideas for a while, but I’ve been working on my consciousness, on my mode of consciousness, and the result of the mode is the music.” For me, this is the essence of her work – to offer the opportunity for people to experience another paradigm or way of being with sound that stands in stark contrast to the traditional Western European classical music model. Given the conflicts currently playing out on the world stage, it is my opinion that any form of resolution or movement forward can only be accomplished through the act of listening – and how we participate in and deepen our skill with listening, and with understanding our modes of consciousness, is a critical aspect of being and living within the present.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

Article and photo credit updated on March 15 at 3:20pm to better reflect the participating artists and intent of the author.

JNorman 1 banner Alexander Neef and Jessye Norman in conversation. Photo credit: Kenneth Chou Photography.The newest laureate of the Glenn Gould Prize, legendary soprano, activist and educator Jessye Norman brought her regal countenance to TIFF Bell Lightbox on February 12 for an engaging 90-minute conversation with Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef.

Neef began by asking about Norman’s early memories of music in her life.

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam was my big number when I was four [and singing in the church choir],” she said. At nine, she was given her own radio and the chore of cleaning her room (“What drudgery!”) on Saturdays. But she had just discovered Milton Cross and the Met broadcasts, so cleaning her room lasted as long as the opera.

“I was very lucky that I didn’t have my first voice lesson until I was 17 at Howard University,” she said (although she did take piano lessons when she was younger).

Hearing Marian Anderson singing Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody with Charles Munch impressed her deeply: “I had never heard a voice so low with such timbre.”

By age 24 she was onstage with Deutsche Oper Berlin as Elisabeth in Tannhauser; it was her professional debut. Notified in the spring of the coming December date, she spent five months at Duke University in between studying conversational German. It was an early indicator of her devotion to the importance of text in singing: “I don’t sing a language I don’t speak.”

In her extraordinary masterclass at U of T on February 15, she put that axiom into practice by going over the pronunciation of the text of each of 12 songs with the six U of T singers who performed for her. Sometimes she would speak a word into her mic just before or just after it was sung; occasionally she would have the singer say each word of the text for her after the first run-through. As she pointed out in her introduction to the capacity crowd: “What we’re doing is a work in progress; we’re correcting, thinking, improving … to make music.”

She was an active participant in the process, mouthing the words of an aria, conducting with her left hand (or both hands), moving her fingers as if she were the collaborative pianist, even letting a word or two escape into the Walter Hall air through her mic. Frequently she would exhort the singer to “Go on!” or “Take your time.” Or comment in French: “C’est pas facile ce phrase.” Or German: “Wunderbar.” Her joy was infectious; sometimes it felt as if she were performing the piece herself.

She learned from Laurence Olivier no less, to keep the opera’s drama on the stage and leave it behind once you’re off the stage. Questioned by Neef about how she saw her legacy: “I hope I would inspire artists to step beyond our professions – to be concerned with the welfare of other people. I cared,” she said. “And it showed.” In answer to a question from the audience about how to deal with the onset of a career: “Preparation is the first part of success,” she said. “Learn a new piece; preparation and opportunity will give you success.”

U of T masterclass participants and faculty with Jessye Norman. Photo credit: Kenneth Chou Photography.At the conclusion of the three-hour masterclass, and before she was greeted by scores of admirers who filled the Walter Hall stage in search of a few words or an autograph, Norman answered questions from that audience. “Take a deep breath to relieve tension,” she told one singing student. As to how she dealt with negative criticism, she brought down the house: “First you have to consider where the criticism is coming from. As my grandmother used to say, ‘Consider the source.’”

Her advice to a young dramatic soprano: “Sing a lot of Handel and Mozart to keep the oils running and keep the weighty voice agile,” she said. “Mozart and Handel will save your life.”

And finally: “Sing truly what suits you, what you love. Don’t allow someone to label you. Listen to other singers.”

“Be brave,” she said.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

Sir Andrew Davis with the TSO and TSYO on February 6. Photo credit: Jag Gundu.Sometimes an email subject line helps a bunch of different ideas to fall neatly into place. Such was the case a day or so ago. Old meets new as Tafelmusik unveils 2019/20 Season” the subject line read. More about the Tafelmusik spin on the “Old Meets New” theme in the upcoming March issue, but for now, upcoming February concerts by Toronto Consort and Art of Time Ensemble, and a recent evening at the TSO, all fit the theme rather nicely.   

February 15 and 16 at Trinity-St. Paul’s, Toronto Consort’s "Love Remixed" features only 20th- and 21st-century music for early instruments and voice, the first time in the ensemble’s four-and-a half decade history that the ensemble has presented an entire program such as this. The concert features Juno-nominated James Rolfe’s Breathe with text by librettist Anna Chatterton, followed by David Fallis’ Eurydice Variations, the story of Monteverdi’s Orfeo told from the point of view of Eurydice.

Breathe Front CoverWriting for period instruments is not a new adventure for Rolfe. He dipped his toes in these waters as far back as 2003, for Toronto Masque Theatre, in partnership with André Alexis (the 2010-11 Giller Prize winner for his novel Fifteen Dogs). Their first collaboration was a piece titled Orpheus in the Underworld, paired up with Charpentier’s La Descente d'Orphee aux Enfers. Their next was Aeneas and Dido (paired with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in 2007). Their Orpheus then returned to Toronto Masque Theatre in 2011, to close Toronto Masque Theatre’s season that year.  

The creation of Breathe has also taken place in layers, over time. It had its premiere performance in 2011, in St. Anne’s Anglican Church, as a Soundstreams commission for the  Norwegian a cappella ensemble Trio Mediaeval and the Toronto Consort. In it, Chatterton’s libretto is interwoven with the writings of 12th-century poet and composer Hildegard of Bingen. Rolfe’s music also has a medieval bedrock. As Globe and Mail writer Robert Everett Green described it at the time, “with voices and instruments attuned to medieval sonorities (or what we think they were), [Rolfe] used drones, interlocking patterns and melodies as simple as plainchant, sometimes running them as live loops against each other … [finding] a distinct gait and tone for each section of the text. … Between Hildegard's visionary, sensual description of "divine mysteries" and Chatterton's breath-centred evocations of love, the text exuded the same kind of sexy spirituality as the biblical Song of Songs.”

Since then the work has seen life as the opening track of an eponymous  Centrediscs release of James Rolfe’s music, Breathe, nominated for a 2018 JUNO Award. In her review of the disc in The WholeNote in October 2017, Dianne Wells described it as “in its performance here, by far one of the most extraordinarily beautiful recordings experienced in recent memory.”

As for David Fallis’  Eurydice Variations, “the story of Monteverdi’s Orfeo told from the point of view of Eurydice” which closes the program, for many in the Consort’s audience whose oldest memories of the group are inextricably interwoven with David Fallis’ recently concluded 28-year tenure as artistic director, it will be really intriguing to hear what he’s been doing with all that new-found time since relinquishing the reins at Toronto Consort.  

Art of Time, February  22 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, has dedicated itself to playing off old against new, and vice versa, for all of its 20-year history under the artistic direction of Andrew Burashko. This particular concert, titled The Classical Program, is sandwiched between two performances, Feb 21 and 23, of a complementary, more contemporary,  program titled “The Songs Program.” This one, for me, gets to the heart of Art of Time’s mission to break down artificial, genre-bound barriers among music lovers. It’s innovative “Source & Inspiration” format “pairs a Franz Schubert piano trio with songs written and performed by Danny Michel, John Southworth, and Martin Tielli, along with performances of chamber music by Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss, and more.”

Danny MichelAudiences for whom the core Art of Time ensemble (Andrew Burashko, piano; Jonathan Crow and Mark Fewer, violin; Shauna Rolston, cello Barry Shiffman, viola) are already old musical friends may will meet three new ones  in singers Martin Tielli, Danny Michel, and John Southworth, whose respective songs, inspired by the Schubert Trio, are at the heart of the program. And for those who come precisely because they know who Tielli, Southworth and Michel are, the bridges will be built in the other direction.

Postscript: Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Wednesday February 6: I was sitting in the RTH  balcony with music writer Robert Harris, 20 minutes before showtime. (Harris is mentoring this year’s  Emerging Arts Critics enrolled in a joint TSO/COC National Ballet program, where they write and submit reports and reviews to The WholeNote, Opera Canada, and Dance Umbrella magazines, for publication on our respective websites.)

Anyway, Harris and I were scratching our heads looking at the sea of chairs on the stage – twice as many as one might expect for the Brahms concerto for violin and cello, or the Dvořák sixth symphony to follow. Even for a pizzing contest between Strauss and Wagner it would have been a hell of a lot.

All was revealed when Sir Andrew Davis, the TSO’s interim artistic director, and conductor for the evening, mounted the podium and explained that if we were wondering about the chairs this was the occasion of the TSO’s annual “side-by-side” performance where members of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the TSO, rehearse and perform together. (Not the whole concert, but in this case Oskar Morawetz’s crackling Carnival Overture which kicked off the evening’s proceedings.)

Old meets new? Davis made his TSO debut in 1974, the year before commencing a 13-year tenure as the TSO’s music director; the TSYO was founded, by Victor Feldbrill, in the very same year. And ten of the current members of the TSO were, at one time or another, members of the TSYO. (Toronto Consort was two years old at the time!)

A big deal? No. But nice. Very nice.

karendonnelly mfasa bannerTrumpeter Karen Donnelly of the NAC Orchestra. Photo credit: Dwayne Brown.In an article last October, Quartz examined the workplace demographics of 22 of the world’s top orchestras. “This fall,” that article begins, “the world’s great symphony orchestras will open their 2018/19 seasons. And just as they have for decades, many of them will be sharply segregated by gender.”

The study was (of the authors’ own admittance) rudimentary and, when it came to guessing the gender identities of orchestra members based on names, images and bios, highly speculative. But at the same time, it proved a valid point: that when it comes to determining who should play which musical instruments, old habits die hard. In those 22 orchestras, 94% of the harpists were female, while all of the trombone and tuba players across the board were men. Of the 103 trumpet players listed as full-time musicians in those orchestras, only one—Anne McAneny, of the London Philharmonic Orchestra—was a woman.

For many brass players, it’s a familiar problem. Part of it comes from the history of brass instruments in hunting, industrial bands, and the military. Part of it also has to do with which instruments have historically been seen as delicate and suitable for domestic performance—a category where instruments like trumpet and trombone rarely landed. Either way, when instrument choice is so segregated in this way, it affects everything from teaching practices, to gendered divides in pay grades, to how leadership and musicianship are negotiated in the industry.

This week at the University of Toronto, the Canadian Women Brass Collective is presenting ‘That’s What She Said’—a 5-day conference dedicated to gender diversity in brass music. Running from Jan 15 to 19, with masterclasses, workshops, competitions, concerts and roundtable discussions, ‘That’s What She Said’ aims to celebrate and support women brass musicians, from the student to professional levels—and realize new understandings of who, and how, brass players can be.

For Canadian trumpeter Karen Donnelly, working towards a professional career as an orchestral musician meant facing that gendered dynamic firsthand.

“When I was a young player studying in the late ’80s, there was one woman that I knew of in an orchestra job. Joan Watson was Associate Principal Horn at the Toronto Symphony at that time,” Donnelly explains over the phone, “That was the only woman I knew. And then later, when I was a student at McGill, there was a trombone player: Vivian Lee joined the Montreal Symphony. So, then there were two women—two women who made me believe that, oh my God, I can do this. Because there was that one person who was already doing it—and now there’s two.”

It was a realization that worked for her. Now midway through her 22nd season as Principal Trumpet of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Donnelly is a driving force behind the Canadian Women’s Brass Collective, and the upcoming U of T conference—the organization’s first-ever event.

“Basically about a year ago, I emailed friends and colleagues and asked: ‘Would you be interested in doing a project like this?’” Donnelly says. “And basically, not one person wrote back with a negative response.”

Other artists of the collective featured at the conference include tubist Karen Bulmer, trombonists Megan Hodge and Vivian Lee, trumpeters Amy Horvey and Merrie Klazek, horn player Catherine Turner, and conductor and trumpeter Gillian MacKay. Several other musicians and arts workers are involved in the conference project in other capacities, and several others still, says Donnelly, weren’t available—but everyone who she contacted expressed support for the project and mission.

The conference, which hosts events at U of T each afternoon and evening from Thursday, January 17 to Saturday, January 19 (as well as an opening masterclass that took place on January 15), features an orchestral excerpt competition, as well as several masterclasses, talks and clinics geared towards early-career players—and a final ensemble concert on the 19th that will bring together artists of different abilities and levels from across the country.

“Thirty-nine women brass players and percussionists, coming from 7 different provinces, 9 different orchestras, and 4 different military bands, including 5 or 6 student apprentices up there playing with us—and musicians from Newfoundland and the University of Victoria,” says Donnelly. “Coast to coast.”

As a model, Donnelly looked to the International Women’s Brass Conference (IWBC), an existing US-based project founded by Susan Slaughter, the former Principal Trumpet of the St. Louis Symphony, in 1993.

In a 2017 interview with Jennifer Hambrick of WOSU Public Media, Slaughter describes the feeling of those earliest IWBC meetings, where women brass players were able to meet and share their experiences with one another—in many cases for the first time.

“At the time, most (orchestra) brass sections, when there was a woman in it, there was only one,” Slaughter says. “And [there were] things that we could never say to our colleagues, because we were put in situations that if you said something back, you could pay for it later, or you were considered not one of them or something like that. So you just kept your mouth shut. But when you came to our conference, we would go out afterwards and people could start talking—'What do you do in this situation?'"

For Donnelly, Slaughter’s work at the St. Louis Symphony and IWBC, and the community of musicians that she helped to create, served as an inspiration—first as a young trumpeter, and now as a teacher and organizer of an analogous Canadian project. In that vein, things have come full circle: the IWBC is serving as a sponsor for this week’s ‘That’s What She Said’ conference, while Donnelly hopes that from this event forward, the Canadian Women’s Brass Collective can begin to build a similar community of mentorship and support that’s more accessible for Canadian artists and students—connecting local early-career musicians with professionals in the field who are doing the work.

“I think that aspect of the conference is the most important part of it,” she says. “Creating a mentoring situation—one that is a positive, inclusive, joyful experience.”

‘That’s What She Said’, presented by the Canadian Women’s Brass Collective, takes place from January 15 to 19 at the University of Toronto. More information can be found at www.canadianwomensbrasscollective.com.

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