Data + Science
Paving the Way: An Interview with Marie Speziale
In the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about women in the field of analytics. For example, many people have talked about the number of women speakers at conferences or the number of women participating in various events and competitions. I have attended several related events and conferences over the past few years, most notably the Data + Women meet-up at the Tableau conference and the Women in Analytics conference. In reflecting on this topic, I thought back to my first career as a professional musician, and something hit me. I’ve had six trumpet teachers, beginning in the third or fourth grade and up through my Master’s Degree. I’ve had lessons with many others, but those six teachers were my primary, regular teachers. What struck me was that three of those six teachers happened to be women. Thinking back on that fact, that’s pretty remarkable. Why? Because during that time, the field was utterly dominated by men. Even today, there are far more men than women filling the trumpet and trombone sections of the symphony orchestras.
Only 3% of the trumpet players in the top 20 American orchestras were women, according to a November 2014 analysis.
If you would like to examine the differences in gender in the various position of American symphony orchestras, be sure to check out Graphing Gender in America’s Top Orchestras by Suby Raman.
As I thought about this, I thought about the parallels between the trumpet world (actually the brass world in general) and the field of data and analytics (and the broader STEM fields). My trumpet professor at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music was Marie Speziale. This remarkable woman was a pioneer, paving the way for countless others. I wanted to get her perspective and she was gracious enough to allow me to interview her for several hours back in January and February.
What follows is a long conversation, but it is a conversation that I think is very important.
Marie Speziale was the first female trumpet player in a major symphony orchestra. She joined the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1964 and retired in 1996 after 32 years with the orchestra. Her tenure with the CSO included playing with the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Pops. She has performed under the batons of Igor Stravinsky, George Szell, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Eugene Ormandy, Eric Leinsdorf, Max Rudolf and countless others. At age 15, she appeared on the Today Show. She has also performed with jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, including an appearance on The Tonight Show. She has done studio recordings for the television series Star Trek: Voyager and Deep Space Nine, at Paramount and 20th Century Fox studios. She has served on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Indiana University and Rice University.
Marie Speziale (MS): Your list of questions prompted me to do some soul searching and thinking about some of the responses that I gave Kelly Watkins in her interview for the Brass Herald (page 17). I still stand behind those responses but as I read through your questions, I’m keenly aware of the fact that there was more to it than just naiveté. I guess I’d call it blind trust. Maybe even blissful ignorance. I wanted to play trumpet! Somewhere deep in my soul, I must have felt this assurance that I would always be able to play the trumpet.
Jeffrey Shaffer (JS): It was almost sheer determination, that’s what I would call that. You knew you were just going to do it no matter what got in your way.
MS: Right. Exactly! It’s true that I did experience some discrimination, but compared to some other horror stories that I’ve heard about women in our industry, mine was relatively mild.
JS: If I think about the era when you were in the symphony, especially your early years in the symphony, there just weren’t that many women in the brass sections. Cincinnati may have been different because I know Betty Glover was in the section for some of that time. Correct? [Betty Glover was also my brass choir conductor in college]
MS: Yes. Betty Glover was one of the first women trombone players in a major symphony orchestra.
JS: That’s kind of unusual for most of the symphonies in that era. Even today, trumpet sections, trombone sections and the tuba are still dominated by men overall. So in your early years, women in those sections was really unheard of, right?
MS: Absolutely! She was bass trombonist in the Cincinnati Symphony, after having come from the principal trombone position with the Kansas City Orchestra back in the 40’s. So she was a real pioneer. I was really fortunate to have wound up in Cincinnati where a woman brass player was working in a major symphony orchestra and teaching at a music conservatory. On so many levels, Betty was a real mentor. I felt as though somebody upstairs was looking out for me, Jeff. I seriously have the feeling, that no matter what, I had a guardian angel.
JS: You grew up in the Tampa area. You discussed in another interview about your musical family. How did you end up picking trumpet?
MS: The group that my dad played in quite often rehearsed in our home. You know what that’s like?
JS: [I grew up in a musical family too.] I do. And there was a trumpet player in that group?
MS: There sure was. Three of them. It was a Cuban group, a conjunto. The Cuban conjunto was basically 3 trumpets, piano, bass, and a rhythm section with all sorts of percussion instruments — bongos, congas, timbales, maracas, etc, There were generally 2 to 3 singers, usually a woman and one or two men. The men would usually double on guitar or any of the percussion instruments.
So the first time I heard a trumpet live was in our living room. For me, it was instant attraction to the instrument. It was like a magnet! I just took a real liking to that sound.
You know, I was always intrigued by the amount of music that the conjunto got out a piece of paper that was about half the size of conventional orchestral music. It was like having to read a veritable road map, with twists and turns, repeats, etc.
In any case, when it was announced that the elementary school I attended was starting a band program, we were given a musical aptitude test. Armed with the information that I had a perfect score on the test, Mr. Comparetto, the band director, contacted my parents and said, “Your child has musical potential” and encouraged them to let me pick an instrument to play in band. Anyway, long story short, my folks couldn’t afford an instrument, so we kept putting it on the back burner. My parents told me, “We have a piano in the house, why don’t you learn piano?” I tried that for a while but kept pestering them about the trumpet. I just wanted to play trumpet.
My parents eventually learned of a relative of a relative that had a cornet. The family offered to let me borrow this old cornet. That’s how I started, on a borrowed instrument. It was in pretty bad shape. I had to hold the case together with one of my father’s belts. Everyone else in the band had brand new instruments, but I didn’t care because I finally had an instrument I could play. I was a happy camper. As I look back on it, I suspect that most of those shiny new instruments were very likely rented. We were all inner-city kids, our parents cigar makers with little disposable income.
JS: And how long did you play that for? When did you have your first trumpet?
MS: You know it’s a question I should have asked my parents. Maybe slightly less than a year. My grandmother had to convince my dad, “you know this kid has talent. We should get her an instrument.” I was too young to really remember the exact time I finally got my own trumpet, I just knew that I was the luckiest, happiest kid in the world to have my own new trumpet. In fact, I have a picture of our elementary school band with all these little boys and me on the end playing first chair. And we all had new trumpets.
JS: And I’ve heard a recording of you on the radio which I assume was a few years later but when you were still in school. So, you put together a band of students in the school, created a combo? something you started?
MS: Actually, that group was organized by a gentleman, Frank Czolgocz, who was affiliated with the Hillsborough County Public Schools. It was his job to highlight the accomplishments of students in the public school system, basically a PR guy for the Hillsborough County School System.
Frank had a weekly Saturday morning radio show called Future Citizens, where he would interview students who excelled scholastically, in sports or in music. Since he had a real passion for music, he would search out talent when visiting the different area schools. In 1956, he came up with idea of connecting four of us from different schools. The strangest combination of instruments — an accordion, an organ, a double bass and a trumpet. He contacted our parents and told them what he had in mind for the group. We all met at the NBC affiliate station in Tampa, where we started jamming. Our session was recorded and played on his radio show the following week. He introduced us individually, we played together and he told the public that if there was an interest in hearing this group maybe we would be auditioning for a TV program. Anyway back in those days, since very few families in our community had television sets, they all listened to the radio. So people started calling in, writing notes and the next thing we knew we wound up with a weekly television show. I was 14 years old. The group was called 3 Queens and a King — two of us in junior high school and two of us in high school. We were together for about 2 years.
In 1958, it was announced that the Dave Garroway Today Show would be coming down here to Tampa, Florida for one of their first remote broadcasts, a national broadcast away from New York City. The show was to be broadcast aboard the Gasparilla pirate ship in the harbor of Tampa Bay. The whole Gasparilla event is Tampa’s Mardi Gras.
NBC in New York contacted the NBC affiliate in Tampa asking for recommendations of local talent. On the strength of my performances with the local TV spot while I was in junior high, I was invited to appear on the Today show. I was 15 at the time of the broadcast and totally on Cloud Nine! What an experience.
JS: So fast forward, how did you end up in Cincinnati?
MS: Looking through the rear view mirror, so to speak, there seemed to be a real Florida – Conservatory of Music (CCM) connection. Or at least that’s the way it felt to me. To begin with, Robert Scott, a CCM graduate, was one of the most respected band directors and close personal friend of Robert Price, my trumpet teacher. I often heard Mr. Scott speak so highly of CCM. Additionally while attending the Florida State University Summer Music Camp, I had an opportunity to study with their trumpet professor, Robert Braunagel, a graduate of CCM. He was also a friend of Al Hirt, who at the time was really popular, and who — you guessed it — was a CCM graduate. Back in those days, Ed Schellhous, director of admissions at CCM, would come down to Tampa to audition prospective students. Coincidentally, he held the auditions at my high school. In a sense, he may have already been scouting me before I was close to graduating. So everything seemed to be lining up for Cincinnati. Remember that guardian angel I spoke of earlier?
JS: So your audition for CCM was remote. You were accepted and then came to Cincinnati to go to school without meeting the teacher or even seeing the campus?
MS: That’s right! Like I said, it was as though everything was pointing to Cincinnati. It never occurred to me to go anywhere else.
Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to Cincinnati to get a lesson and check out the school. We pretty much relied on what people were telling us about CCM, people who were highly respected and were held in high regard in the music profession. Mr. Price, my teacher and mentor, was fully supportive of my decision. Talk about blind trust. I can’t begin to know what my career would have been like had it not been for the great scholarship CCM gave me. No way in the world could my parents have afforded to send me there without their support.
JS: So you showed up at CCM and you met Gene Blee who became your trumpet teacher. How did that go when you showed up?
MS: We’re going back over 57 years. I first met Mr. Blee and Mr. Glover at my placement audition for wind ensemble and brass choir. They both made me feel really welcome and made me feel at ease before the audition. I’m sure they did that with all the students, especially the new kids on the block. When you’re a freshman, that first audition can be pretty daunting.
JS: Is CCM the first place that you played in a symphony orchestra?
MS: No. I actually had a very brief experience in Tampa, playing in the youth symphony orchestra. It was really brief. I’m almost embarrassed to say how brief it was, because I found it boring. Coming from a pretty advanced band program, I found the orchestral music wasn’t very challenging or exciting, very few notes to play. It felt like we just sat around while the string section learned their notes. You know how that goes. The experience just didn’t resonate with me.
I guess I was just so spoiled with all the playing opportunities I had for my age, playing in bands, playing commercial music, playing in quite a variety of different groups, and standing up playing solos in front of one group or another. In retrospect, when I think about my first orchestral experience, had somebody said to me that I would someday make my living sitting in an orchestra, I would have likely said, no way.
After four years as principal trumpet with the CCM Philharmonia, I developed a totally different perspective on orchestral playing. In short, I was hooked!
JS: You were at CCM for a few years and then ended up temporarily filling a vacancy in the Cincinnati Symphont Orchestra, is that what happened?
MS: Right. Early in my junior year of college, Mike Denovchek, the orchestra’s second trumpet player became ill. I filled in, sight-reading a concert with Max Rudolf conducting.
JS: So Mr. Blee asked you, is that how it happened?
MS: Yes. I was in my dorm room practicing when I got the call. Back in those days the dorm rooms didn’t have phones. There was one hall phone on each floor. Mr. Blee called me on the hall phone and informed me that he was in the lobby and had something to discuss with me. When I met him in the lobby, he informed me that Mr. Denovchek was ill and that the orchestra was in need of a second trumpet for a concert later that evening. This was approximately 3 o’clock in the afternoon, so no time to rehearse. He told me “I know you can do it. We’ll talk you through the music.”
JS: Do you remember what was on the concert?
MS: Yes. We opened the concert with the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 4. Fortunately, Mr. Blee had already loaned me one of his older D trumpets to work on the Torelli Concerto. So at least I had a familiar instrument to play. The rest of the concert was the de Falla Three-Cornered Hat and Prokofiev’s 5th Symphony.
JS: So you hadn’t played any of that before. Not the easiest stuff to sight-read.
MS: No. At that point, I had only two years of orchestral experience under my belt and had not covered any of the main excerpts from those works. It was quickly apparent that Mr. Denovchek would be out for quite a while. Maestro Rudolf was pleased with my performance on such short notice and asked that I be hired to play the position until Mr. Denovchek was well enough to return. I suspect there was probably a fair amount of consulting between the Maestro, Mr. Blee, Mr. Glover and the personnel manager. Both Mr. Blee and Mr. Glover were instrumental in making it possible for me to play in the orchestra and still maintain my student status at CCM.
Back in those days, the CSO’s schedule was extremely predictable from week to week. That allowed me to organize my class schedule around the orchestra’s schedule. Also, since the orchestral faculty were members of the CSO, all ensemble rehearsals were held weeknights and Saturday morning. Somehow I managed to complete all my course and ensemble requirements. Of course, it was fortuitous that this happened in my junior year, with most of my heavy duty courses behind me. All those days of morning to evening rehearsals were really something! What a great experience for a young, aspiring orchestral player. I did wind up missing classes while I was on tour with the orchestra. Fortunately, the dean and faculty were on board with all of this because they knew that I would make up whatever work I missed.
The same think happened in my senior year, when the third trumpet player became ill. So, again, I played almost an entire season. For clarification, when I refer to “season”, it is not the length of season that most orchestras enjoy today. The “season”, back in those days was 28-30 weeks long. We’re not talking about a 50-52 week season. And to think that I learned the orchestral rep from one of the really great conductors of that era.
What a blessing!
JS: How did you go from filling in for these guys that were sick to become permanent with the symphony?
MS: I think the fact that they experienced two back to back illnesses in a three-man section caused the orchestra some real concern. Rather than risk the integrity of the section, they decided to move to a four person section. After all, that was the trend for many of the peer orchestras in the 60’s. It fell right in line with Maestro Rudolf’s plan to build the stature of the orchestra. If my memory serves me correctly, they also decided to add the fifth horn around the same time because the oldest member of that section was not in good health. I won my full time position as assistant principal and utility trumpet in 1964 while finishing my senior year at CCM. Maestro Thomas Schippers appointed me Associate Principal in the early 70’s, assigning me a more important role in the section.
Marie Speziale, Doug Lindsay, Steve Pride and Phil Collins.
JS: So you graduated CCM and your appointed to the symphony, was it immediately apparent and obvious to you that you were the first female trumpet player in the major symphony orchestra? Or was it something that you just didn’t know?
MS: That’s an interesting question, Jeff. I don’t ever remember anyone ever asking if I gave it much thought at the beginning of my career. Rewinding the tape in my mind, I don’t think I paid much attention to it. It really didn’t surface until Susan Slaughter won the third trumpet job in St. Louis. All of sudden there were two of us. Someone asked how I felt about another woman in an orchestra. That’s when I realized that I might have actually been the first to break that glass ceiling. That was confirmed by the American Symphony Orchestra League.
It was so different. I heard about Susan winning the job via the grapevine, but Susan and I didn’t meet until the 1990s.Back in those days there was no internet for instant information. Now we have access to all sorts of information with a few key strokes. The older I get the more I realize the significance of that blessing. I can’t help it. You can call it an accomplishment, but I’m calling it a blessing.
JS: Did you feel over the years that you had moments with other members of the brass section, the orchestra or conductors that you look back on and where it felt like it was obvious? I’m trying to figure out if you felt overt discrimination? Or felt like you were treated differently in the section?
MS: You know, that’s another very interesting question. Honestly, I never felt any discrimination in the Cincinnati Symphony! None at all! In fact, the orchestra was known as the gentlemen’s orchestra. If anything, I felt protected. The culture of that era was very different. Remember, my mentors were in that orchestra too.
I doubt that they came together and said, “this is how we’re going to treat this kid”, but the men were gentlemen and I felt protected. I mean it never occurred to me that anyone would be other than respectful and nurturing and interested and encouraging.
JS: The leaders, right? Your mentors and teachers were the leaders of the section.
MS: Right! Right! And they were respected in the orchestra. I doubt that they came together and said, “this is how we’re going to treat this kid”, but the men were gentlemen and I felt protected. I mean it never occurred to me that anyone would be other than respectful and nurturing and interested and encouraging. I think they could tell right away that I was enjoying what I was doing. That was obvious. I was really serious about what I was doing and I tried to make it clear that I appreciated the opportunity I had been given. I kept my mouth shut, my ears open and tried to make sure that I didn’t mess up because these were people that had put their trust in me. I was so young and inexperienced. It wasn’t like today, where students come in with several instruments and knowing all the excerpts. Back in those days I didn’t have any of that background.
The most blatant form of discrimination I experienced, and perhaps the most impactful, was when I was denied the opportunity to audition. My teacher, who had recommended me for the position was told I shouldn’t come to the audition. He was told that the conductor would not hear me play, much less hire me, no matter how well I played.
MS: Regarding discrimination, I was the target of a prank perpetrated by a disgruntled contemporary at a Florida All-State Band rehearsal. During a break, someone turned my valves around in the cylinders, thereby rendering the instrument basically unplayable, as you know. I think the young man was just a little bent out of shape because a girl had been assigned the principal spot instead of him. The most blatant form of discrimination I experienced, and perhaps the most impactful, was when I was denied the opportunity to audition for the second trumpet position in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, because I was a woman. My teacher, who had recommended me for the position was told I shouldn’t come to the audition. He was told that the conductor would not hear me play, much less hire me, no matter how well I played. I was disappointed, but not deterred! Believe me, I sent up a cheer when, years later, I learned that Susan Slaughter was hired by that orchestra.
Over a half a century ago, it was really unusual to see a young girl playing trumpet. Quite amusing to watch the reactions of people when they saw me walk in with a trumpet case, or sit down at a rehearsal or engagement, particularly the guys, and not just the trumpet players. You could almost read it in their eyes, like “Uh-oh! What’s this girl going to do?” Or “It’s going to be a long night here.”
JS: It’s interesting that today, the St. Louis Symphony is the only orchestra in the top 20 American orchestras that has more women than men.
MS: Interesting indeed. And then there was the flip side! While I was at CCM, I was hired to play a Broadway show down at the Taft Theater. I had played a lot of commercial music, but had never played in the pit for a professional show. That type of playing requires a different skill set, where you literally play and play, turning page after page with fast segues with barely time to take a breath. Charlie Medert, the first trumpet player on this particular show, was a seasoned veteran and respected high school band director in Cincinnati. I remember having a couple of very stressful moments during the first act of the show, mostly for not knowing how to quickly make necessary transitions between pieces, for not knowing the routine. At the first intermission, he took me aside and started our conversation by complementing me on my playing, then proceeded to make some really helpful suggestions. Suggestions to help me feel more secure, more comfortable in the pit. He did it so thoughtfully and with such care and grace. During the rest of the show, he would give me thumbs up and other signs of encouragement. If he had wanted to, he could have hung me out to dry. Instead he gave me a crash course in how to be a successful pit musician, someone who the contractors continued to hire. All because a gentlemen cared enough to help a young, inexperienced young lady.
An amusing addition to this story — Charlie’s sister was Dr. Taylor, my ear training professor my freshman year at CCM. I later learned that brother and sister enjoyed comparing Speziale notes.
JS: I am going to shift my questions toward things that maybe you had to do differently, and maybe not necessarily because you were a woman but maybe because of just physical aspects of playing a trumpet. For example, lung capacity. In the brass sections, especially some of the bigger guys have pretty good size lung capacity. I’m sure you’ve measured your lung capacity.
MS: Yes, my lung capacity was around 2 liters.
JS: Right. And these guys in the brass section have probably 4, 5 even 6 liters.
MS: Yeah, double. Take Pete Norton, bass trombone with the Cincinnati Symphony. He probably has 6 or even 7 liters of air capacity. If he wanted to, he could wipe out the entire brass section without much effort.
JS: So from a physical aspect, that means that you had to do things differently, right? You either had to tank up more often or you had to adjust the way that you were breathing. I know you studied with Arnold Jacobs, I’m sure breathing was probably a big part of that so maybe talk about that a bit.
MS: I think I had to play smart. I’m not suggesting that other people didn’t play smart, but as a person with a small lung capacity, I really needed to be pretty vigilant about the quantity and quality of my inhalation and exhalation. When you don’t have a large reserve tank, you really have to stay on top of things. I was blessed that my first teacher, Mr. Price, focused so much on sound. It was all about sound, sound, sound, very much like Arnold Jacobs. He stressed the efficient use of air and the quality of the sound, rather than the process. After a while, your body learns to make whatever adjustments are necessary to project that concept of tone that you hear in your head. Breathing was just a natural process of contributing to that sound.
It wasn’t until I started to teach that I really focused on the whole breathing issue. Surprisingly, a lot of people haven’t learned how to use their air efficiently. That’s when I started evaluating and examining what I was doing in terms of the breathing process. Over the years the simple process of breathing has become so over analyzed and so unnecessarily complicated. Kind of funny when you realize that we all start breathing when the doctor slaps our bottom when we’re born. No instructions necessary! That’s also one of the reasons I started taking lessons with Arnold Jacobs, arguably the most prominent brass pedagogue of the 20th century.
JS: And so you went up to Chicago and just took lessons?
MS: Right. In fact, it was Phil Collins, principal trumpet of the Cincinnati Symphony at the time, that mentioned him to me. Phil had gone up to take a lesson and was very enthusiastic about his experience with Mr. Jacobs. Given that I was doing so much teaching in addition to the orchestral playing, I decided that it would be prudent to go meet with this musical giant, to take advantage of his expertise. He was considered “the” expert on breathing, with concepts so well thought out. He was such a wonderful person with an infectious personality and positive attitude. Over the course of a two year period, I tried to go up to Chicago at least once a month, at times even negotiating ice and snow storms. It was all worth it!
JS: He’s obviously a legend in the brass world. What an amazing opportunity.
MS: Oh yeah! Absolutely! Absolutely! And as I said I value so much my time with him. Just a really great experience and positive influence.
JS: The world has changed quite a bit throughout your career. Today, there’s a lot more professional women artists, Alison Balsom and Tine Thing Helseth, and her all-female brass ensemble tenThing. There’s the IWBC [International Women’s Brass Conference] and that’s grown tremendously in the past 10 years. What do you attribute all of this to? What do you think has changed? Or caused this change?
The IWBC has been really instrumental in helping promote women brass musicians, providing opportunities for advancement, while educating, supporting and inspiring continued excellence in the music world.
MS: The world has changed pretty dramatically over the course of the last 40 to 50 years, particularly since all the advancements in technology. In my generation, it was pretty rare to see women in law, medicine, science, music and so many other professions. Without a doubt, the women’s movement of the 1960’s brought this inequality to light and did so much to contribute to the advancement of women in all professions.
It has taken a bit longer for the effects of the women’s movement to reach into the community of brass players, but it’s finally started to happen. The IWBC has been really instrumental in helping promote women brass musicians, providing opportunities for advancement, while educating, supporting and inspiring continued excellence in the music world. It prides itself on its nurturing, inclusive policy. Seeing women in a brass section isn’t quite as unusual as it was when I entered the profession.
JS: What kind of things did the IWBC do that you think has made it so successful?
MS: Earlier in this interview, I told you that Susan Slaughter and I had never met, even though we each had successful careers in major orchestras for over 20 years. Based on the results of a questionnaire that had been sent out to as many women brass players as were known at the time (circa 1991-92), it was evident that there was a real necessity for a forum to bring all these women together, to meet each other and to share their experiences. That was the beginning of IWBC. It provided that vitally needed forum, that opportunity for women in our profession to meet each other, to identify, encourage, nurture and empower women brass players.
JS: [Orchestra auditions are typically blind, held behind a screen, and often with carpet walk ways to hide the sound of different types of shoes. This really levels the playing field.] Can you talk about the audition screen? When did the orchestras start to do that?
MS: The evolution of the screened auditions was a direct result of ICSOM, the International Conference of Symphony and Orchestra Musicians. In my generation, auditions were not screened and quite often not even advertised. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for a musician to be hired by the conductor, without any formal audition in front of a players committee. Some conductors were known to hold auditions in their hotel rooms while on tour. Orchestral musicians throughout the country were frustrated and angered by what they felt were unfair practices and lack of adequate representation from the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Members from some of the larger orchestras started talking to each other via telephone, developing the format for an organization that would represent all orchestras. ICSOM was born. The goal of this fledgling organization was to competently represent all orchestras, focusing on decent wages and benefits, negotiated contracts, job security, fair and organized auditions. ICSOM helped improve the condition of all orchestras, even propelling several to year round employment.
JS: My last set of questions is around the future of our young women. You know I have twin daughters, you’ve met them and in fact, you bought them ice-cream not too long ago. What do you think we can do to encourage our young kids? Not just music related, but in general. How do we encourage and empower our young women and teach them to overcome these obstacles that they clearly face?
MS: When you first posed this question, I didn’t have an answer. Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, the thing that resonates with me is that it is important to stay in the present when with young kids, really paying attention to what they are saying or feeling. In this day of so much “noise”, with electronic gadgets and such, one can easily be distracted. They need to know that they are important, they are valued, they are supported, they are understood. And, most importantly, they are loved. I think that’s a powerful recipe for success.
In this day of so much “noise”, with electronic gadgets and such, one can easily be distracted. They need to know that they are important, they are valued, they are supported, they are understood. And, most importantly, they are loved. I think that’s a powerful recipe for success.
JS: In the last interview, a few things stuck out to me. First, your family was super supportive. You really referenced your family a lot. They were really supportive of everything that you did. You picked trumpet early on and your family was right there supporting you from the beginning.
MS: Yeah, you referenced your kids and I know that you’re doing that already. So absolutely. Total support and encouragement, no matter what path they choose to follow.
I felt protected and I had a sense that they had my back.
JS: The other one that jumped out at me was the environment that you worked in. You described the Cincinnati Symphony as the gentleman’s orchestra. You described those people as mentors to you and that you were brought into a protected environment, where they weren’t going to let anything happen to you, they looked out for you. So you had this group of people looking out for you as you were starting out.
MS: Right! Absolutely! The more I think about it, the more I realize that I felt protected and I had a sense that they had my back.
JS: I guess that one struck me because as we think about our politicians and the news and everything that goes around in our day and age, this really stands out. You’ve seen the news about all the movie producers and that mess. There seems to be entire fields where people aren’t protected. They’re put in bad situations and they’re taken advantage of. They don’t have somebody looking out for them and we see the result of that in the things that are going around in the news today.
MS: Well, times have changed, Jeff. So much of it defies description. I don’t know if anyone else from my generation would come up with the same answers for you, but it seemed to me to be a lot more civil when I was younger. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people agreed with each other 100% of the time back then, but it was respectful, civil discourse. I find things to be too divisive, much too polarized in this culture. I have real concerns for your children’s generation, for my young nieces and nephews. While there’s so much that’s good in our world, it’s the hostility that has me concerned. Tom Brokaw’s book comes to mind, The Greatest Generation. Do you know that book?
MS: I was fortunate enough to be a product of that generation, to grow up right after World War II, in a country that was booming. The sense of optimism and “can do” was palpable. People were inspired to better themselves and their families, to live the American dream. Maybe that’s where so much of my naivety and optimism came from.
JS: I think about that with my girls as they grow up. I try to give them a nurturing environment where they can pursue whatever they want to do. I have one who hasn’t figured it out yet, and I have another who already says she wants to be a forensic scientist and mechanical engineer. They are only 11 years old, but I try to let them develop these things.
A few months back I heard Adam Savage from Myth Busters speak. He said he frequently gets asked the questions, “How do we get young girls to like science?” And his response was “They already do, just get out of their way.” That’s interesting to me. Do you think that is true for everything, from music and trumpet to science and math and analytics?
MS: Yes, I do. I know you and your wife Mary are doing a wonderful job with your girls in that regard. It’s the external influences that one needs to be concerned with. As I answer your question, I’m reminded of the horrible news in the world of gymnastics recently. Just so unconscionable, so unbelievable.
JS: Yeah and that brings me back to your point about when you first joined the orchestra, you said you felt protected, you felt nurtured, it was a positive environment and a safe situation. Unlike the gymnasts who had a person that wasn’t trustworthy and took advantage of them in despicable ways. That’s what hit home when you said you felt that nurturing and protective environment in the symphony and at CCM. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
MS: Right. All these young girls deserved to have that same kind of support and protection. I find it so horrible, so alarming to know that these youngsters were having to endure this abuse while under the enormous pressure of competing at the olympics, with the eyes of world on them. I can’t begin to wrap my head around how those gymnasts must have felt. No words. These are challenging times for parents like you and Mary. Having to be vigilant without being overly protective is a real balancing act. It’s important to foster clear thinking, confidence and self-esteem. I have no doubt that you and Mary are setting a great example for your daughters.
JS: Is there something that organizations such as Data + Women and Women in Analytics can do, similar to the efforts you did at the IWBC? Are there other ways that they we can foster that environment and nurture and grow talent?
MS: I checked out their websites; very impressive. It appears to me that these organizations are highly developed and more advanced than the IWBC.
JS: They get together at conferences. There was a Data + Women meet-up at a conference I attended last fall and they filled up a very large room with hundreds of people. I also attended the Women in Analytics conference recently, which I believe was sold out, and it wasn’t just women that came to this conference. There were lots of men there too. Men coming to the event, listening to all women speakers. So, in some respects, I see things moving in the right direction.
MS: That’s exactly it, you hit on it. That’s exactly what we did with IWBC. We involved men, starting at the first conference. At that first conference, we featured some of the most successful musicians in the brass community, Arnold Jacobs, Charlie Geyer, John Marcellus and Langston Fitzgerald. One of the most successful presentations at that first conference was an in-depth discussion about the important issues that affect both women and men in our industry. The panel was made up of both men and women. Everyone came away from that presentation feeling informed, enlightened, and committed to helping make things better.
JS: There is social media now too, Twitter and Facebook, websites, blogs and email. So it’s much easier for people to communicate. I guess that’s the one big plus of being in the technology age.
MS: Right. Your comprehension of technology and business acumen places you several steps ahead of the rest of us. It’s still a bit of a challenge for some of us, especially for the older generation like myself.
JS: Thank you so much for your time Marie.
MS: It’s been my pleasure to share my thoughts with you, Jeff. Thank you.
Jeffrey A. Shaffer
Follow on Twitter @HighVizAbility
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