Are You Really Playing?

September 20, 2013

The trumpet. Typically thought of as a “Man’s” instrument.  I always thought that was funny, as I’ve seen countless images of female angels blowin’ the trumpet up in the skies.

I’ve been used to being one of the only girls in the section for quite a while now; well, since I was 12.  Growing up in the trumpet section will definitely condition young ears to not be offended by anything, especially during the college years.  Just last night a colleague at a gig was telling a story and then looked at me uncomfortably.  I knew what he was thinking.  I graciously spared him the awkwardness and said, “Don’t worry, I grew up in the trumpet section.  Nothing you say can or will offend me.”   He continued his story, much more relaxed.  I’ve heard it all over the years, and nothing fazes me.  Well, that’s not true.  There is ONE thing that irks me, and that has to do with people’s skeptical view of my (or anyone’s) ability to play the trumpet professionally as a female.  That definitely gets under my skin.

I was in a Broadway show for 5 years called “Blast!”   I’ve found this is the best way to describe it:  What Riverdance did for Irish dancing on the stage, Blast! did for marching band on the stage.  Brass, Percussion, and a Visual Ensemble.  Those were some amazing times.  A huge cast weaving intricately through each other while playing music as if they were seated in a concert hall.   A small group of girls existed in the sea of all those brass players.  We were the Brass Girls.  We have an amazing bond that will last forever, that’s for sure.  We dealt with comments here and there, but there was one comment from an audience member after the show that was so asinine, we just had to laugh.  One of our male colleagues passed it along.  “Wow I can’t believe all that movement onstage and you all are playing live!  But tell me something, are the girls really playing?”

I am currently the trumpet player for Michael Bolton.  This summer we did a two-night concert with a big-time Symphony Orchestra.  I have a solo onstage while MB is doing a quick-change.   On the second night, I forgot to remove my practice mute before I went out.  The first few notes were silent until I could pull the mute out, put it down, and continue with my solo. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08sBe5Z0SAM) After the show, one of the trumpet players came up and said, “Wow you sound great.  We were all wondering if you were really playing last night, but your mute just answered that question.  Great job!”   *Sigh*  I just smiled and said thank you.  Something I’ve gotten quite used to over the years, and many other women before me I’m sure.  What I wanted to say was, “Really dude?  I’ve been playing this thing for 20 years and it’s how I make my living.  I have a degree in music performance.  Let’s go play duets and ask me if I’m really playing after I throw down on some sight-reading.”   All that goes through my head, but I play the game and act like a nice proper lady should.

On occasion, when I’m on a gig for the first time and don’t know the other guys, there is a weird, unspoken cloud of judgment and an “oh boy what is she doing here?” feeling before the gig.  After the gig, we seem to be equals.  Why can’t it be like that from the start?  On the flip side, there are plenty of guys who are happy to be playing with a lady.   I’m the only female instrumentalist in The Charleston Jazz Orchestra, and feel embraced.   Way to go, CJO!  In fact, all the Chucktown bands that I’ve played with have been great.

Sometimes, it’s other females who are worse than men.  The females in the audience giving me a “what does she think she’s doing up there” look are vicious.  Afterward, its a different story.  Again with the preconceptions!   We ladies need to stick together.  Empower other women who are up there working in a man’s world.   Know that they are already getting judged by a lot of the men in the room.  Don’t add to that!  From the start, I try to make eye contact with the ladies in the audience and smile, because the ones who are judgmental and stare me down with daggers make me the most uncomfortable.   I’ve been dealing with the occasional man that judges for years, but this horrible female competition thing is much newer for me.  A simple, “Yes girl, do yo’ thang!” from one woman in the audience can cause the other women to soften.  I’ve seen it happen!

I’m teaching more girls than ever, and that’s a great sign!   There are tons of professional female bad-ass musicians out there right now.  Hopefully the tide will continue to change and the next generations won’t have so much to prove.  I can’t imagine what the female greats of yesteryear went through.   Valaida Snow and Clora Bryant (pictured below), for example, probably dealt with it every waking hour. Talk about bad-asses, I hope to someday be half the jazz trumpeter they were!. They helped pave the way and I’m so thankful to them for that!   In a world where sexuality is celebrated much more than intellect or talent, women have to work much harder to be taken seriously.  Have you ever noticed how high-ranking ladies in politics get torn to bits by the media?   “Hilary Clinton looks haggard.  Condoleezza Rice is dressed like a dominatrix. Did Sarah Palin get a boob job?!”

To the men that see no gender barrier- thank you!   To the ladies who hate on other ladies- let’s help turn this tide and lift each other up, not tear each other down!

valaida-snow_young_1_t0f15

Clora+Bryant+Bryant

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Busan, South Korea

December 9, 2012

BUSAN

I’ve grown up hearing about Korea and the traditions.  My mom spent 4 years of her childhood there because her parents were missionaries.  I remember growing up and playing with several of the traditional Korean dresses that used to belong to mom.  The first stop of the Asian tour was Busan (pronounced Pusan), a city at the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. The Beomeosa Temple in Busan had some beautiful architecture, and there were many smaller temples all around.  The colors were exquisite and much different from what I was used to in Japan.  There were little figurines of men on top of most of the temples.  We visited on a Sunday, and there was a Buddhist service being held in the main square.  There must have been about 400 people, and several news cameras.  Something special was going on, but I wasn’t sure what.  A swastika was printed on one of the temples.  (see pic) The Nazi swastika we are used to seeing is actually a “reverse” swastika. The swastika was widely used in ancient times as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.  Too bad that its seen now as something that represents evil. As we were leaving, I saw a group of kids playing in the river.  I just wanted to include the pic because it makes me happy 🙂Temple ColorsLittle MenBackward SwastikaKorean Kids

Tasmania

August 15, 2012

Tasmania was the closest to what I had imagined Australia to look like.  Much of mainland Australian reminded me of big cities at home, but with an awesome accent.  We toured the major coastal cities, and only flew over the Outback, which of course is a whole other world.  The urban pockets, though,  reminded me of places I’d been in The States. *Cue arrival to Tasmania*

Just flying into Hobart already presented a dramatically different landscape. It was mountainous and not nearly as developed as cities on the mainland. The pace is more laid back, too. After the show in Melbourne, someone asked where we were going next. When I mentioned Hobart, he gave a little sarcastic chuckle and said something to the effect of, “Prepare to have your patience tried. They do things a lot slower down there.” I responded with, “Oh, kind of like the reputation The South has in The States for not rushing through things, and slowing down to enjoy life? That’s how I was raised, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy Hobart!”  His expression changed and I could tell the wheels were turning.  The pace was slower, and the Tasman people turned out to be the most enthusiastic crowd of the whole Australian tour! The one thing I remember most about my stay in Hobart, however, was the amazing, full rainbow over the water right outside of my hotel window. (see pic)

What Tasmanian blog would be complete without a Tasmanian Devil? (see pic) Although I saw this guy on the mainland, I had to include him here. It was sad to see them in the confined space. Both kept running in endless circles. I’m not exaggerating when I say endless. It seemed as if they had gone mad 😦

I very much enjoyed the month I spent in Australia. The people and culture are lovely. I included a picture of the currency, because it was so colorful and pretty- almost too pretty and felt like monopoly money. We had to be careful, because our dollar was so weak over there! Thanks to the country of Australia for being so hospitable to the MBO camp!

Melbourne, Australia

May 17, 2012

Melbourne was the last city that we had an orchestra join us.   Sharing the stage with “Orchestra Victoria” was very memorable. (see pic)   I’ve really enjoyed these past several performances with the orchestras- they add a special little something…..goosebumps perhaps?

I tried kangaroo for the first time in Melbourne.  Eating roo just days after I was hangin’ out with one was a little weird, but hey- when in Rome…   It was pretty tasty, like a cross between steak and venison.  (see pic)

Melbourne is known for its shopping.  I’m not a shopper, but I can see why people that do like to shop love Melbourne.  Malls, boutiques, and stores were everywhere!  There is a central train station that the city seems to have been built around, and next to it was a large church.  The church choir had a nightly performance that we ducked into for a bit.  Both the choir and the church were beautiful! (see pic)

As we were headed to the airport in the early morning, there were several hot air balloons over the city.  It was quite a sight, with the sun coming up over the horizon.

On to Tasmania!

Sydney

May 7, 2012

Sydney- My favorite Australian city so far. Performing in the Sydney Opera House was quite a treat. Two nights in a row with the West Australian Symphony Orhcestra was even better, and one of those nights happened to be my birthday!  I was surprised to find that the Opera House is really a complex of theaters and halls all linked together beneath its famous shells. To give you an idea- the Sydney ballet was performing the same night as our sold out concert- just in a different “shell.” During soundcheck, I sat out in the house during a song I wasn’t playing on to take it all in. The acoustics were amazing!

The view from the dressing room was of the famous Harbour Bridge. (see pic) I decided to go outside and play in front of the Opera House to have a little something different for the blog. I only got in about 50 windy seconds of playing before Security came. Oh well- It was fun while it lasted! (see video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxBSlsqRXdU   When the sun went down, the illuminated Opera House was quite a sight. (see pic)    (I took several pictures of the interior and backstage of the Opera House.  If this is something that you are interested in, you are welcome to visit www.facebook.com/cameronhhandel to see the rest that I’ll be posting soon!)

We had three days off on tour, and we got to spend them all in Sydney!  Taking the ferry to Manly beach instead of a cab was a no brainer. The wharf was bustling with all sorts of entertainment.  I especially liked the didgeridoo player. (see pic) The show I used to be in called “Blast!” used to have a didge feature.  Learning to play it wasn’t easy! www.blasttheshow.com    The ferry took us right past the opera house and I got to take pictures from different angles. I had no idea the side facing the water looked like this! (see pic)

The cliffs on the way to the beach were breathtaking.  (see pic)   Manly beach wasn’t anymore manly than the other beaches, but it sure was pretty!  I had my heart set on surfing in Australia, but the water was just too cold without a wetsuit. I probably could have packed one back in the 70 lb limit days for luggage, but there is no room with the 50 lb limit! I had fun watching the surfers, and we also hit up Bondi Beach at sunset. Bondi is a famous surf spot, but I saw more people hangin’ ten at Manly.  (see pics)

The next day was Anzac Day- equivalent to our Memorial Day.  The streets were closed for 5 hours in order to accommodate a massive parade.  Vets from every branch of every city seemed to have been there.  (see pic) I also got to hear several brass bands and bagpipers. Anzac Day is a big deal- as it should be!

The nicest surprise yet came on my third day off.  I found out that I have a second cousin living in Sydney- Emily Goldston. Her Granddad and my Grandmom were siblings!  She’s been living there for the past several years and I found her through the good ole’ Face Book.  I spent the day with Emily and her husband and had an awesome time.  They were very hospitable and drove me around the entire city.  I learned a lot that day!  They wanted to make sure I tried some of Sydney’s coffee, apparently it is taken very seriously.  Let me tell you- it was amazing. (see pic)   After sightseeing for the day, we ended up at a delicious, authentic Vietnamese restaurant.

I’ll never forget my time in this amazing city!

Adelaide, Australia

April 28, 2012

From Perth to Adelaide:

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra joined us onstage tonight.  The orchestras keep getting better and better in each city!

How Michael Bolton keeps up this kind of schedule while still managing to be spot- on every show with his vocals amazes me.  The man can sing!  I wasn’t too familiar with his music before I joined the group, but after hearing him nail it every night, I have so much respect for his talent!   I’m also grateful that more horn-heavy songs have been added to the show recently.  Michael just finished a Motown album that should be coming out soon.  Can’t wait to learn those charts too!

Adelaide is Orianthi’s hometown.   Her generous family invited the whole band and crew over for an Aussie style BBQ.  It was so nice to be out of a hotel and into a home.  The food was all home made and amazing.  I even had some “quail on the Barbie” (see pic)  Other dishes included organic vegetables from the impressive garden out back.  (no pun intended 🙂  Touring her home studio was also a treat.

Flying all over Australia has given me a bird’s eye view of the country.  I now see why most of the cities are on the coasts.  The Outback looks like a very harsh terrain to live in.   No time for a “walkabout’ on this tour, but maybe someday!  In each country, I love capturing the small differences in everyday things.  Take a look at their water fountains and trash cans! (see pic)

Perth, Western Australia

April 23, 2012

Perth was beautiful! The view from my hotel room was a reminder of how blessed I am to be doing what I love while seeing the world. I stepped out of the hotel and into the Indian Ocean. (see pic) I kept a sharp eye out for dorsal fins- apparently three people have been killed by Great Whites this year in and around Perth.  Surf schools were going on, and it was nice to see almost as many girls as guys!  I’m hoping to do some surfing while we are in Sydney – Bondai Beach!

This tour is different from other MB tours in that orchestras join us in every city! We shared the stage with the Western Australia Symphony, and I loved being able to chat with all the different musicians. It makes me feel right at home after subbing with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for the past several years (whenever I am home!)

Another special edition to this tour is Oritanthi.   Born and raised in Australia, she was the guitar player for Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” tour. If you’ve seen the DVD, you’ll remember her. She has several albums out of her own and just got off the road with Alice Cooper. We love touring with Ori and getting to know her! (see pic)

The Gold Coast

April 17, 2012

I had a 22 hour travel day to the Gold Coast in Australia, but well worth it! We all had dinner with our boss, Mr Bolton when we got in. It was nice catching up after the break. Luckily, we had a day off the next day to (try to) adjust to the time change. We used it to hold koala bears and pet kangaroos!  The koalas were so cute.  I didn’t expect the kangaroo’s claws to look like that! (see pic)  The use of their tail to jump is very interesting too.  It acts as a muscular third leg.  The next day was showtime, and we were the first act to play in the newly renovated theater at Jupiter’s Gold Coast Casino. It was a beautiful 2,000 seat house that even still smelled new! The Gold Coast Pops orchestra joined us for the show. What a treat! The JABBAWOCKEEZ were hanging backstage the whole show, so I got to know them a bit too. (They are the winner’s of the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew and have a permanent Vegas show). Afterward, Jupiter’s threw us an opening night party. Seal happened to be the next act and his band arrived at the hotel. I was able to catch up with my good friend and trombonist Ellie,

and some of his band members. (I played a concert with Seal a couple years ago and got to know them back then- what are the odds that we’d be meeting again in the same hotel all the way across the world??) Now, the cross-country flight to Perth!

Like My Mother Does

October 17, 2011

Triple Date and Shark n’ Bake in Trinidad

May 28, 2011

Trinidad was beautiful.  The drive to the beach looked like the amazon-it was so lush!  The road was so windy, and our driver must have thought it was a Nascar course.  I was only slightly afraid for my life (see video)  On top of that, MB was blaring on the radio.  It was a little Twilight Zonish.  I ate a local favorite at the beach- shark n’ bake.  Its a fried shark filet on a bun with a bunch of different sauces and vegetables piled on top. Delish!  The audience the next day was something I’ve never experienced- 15,000 people.  Such a rush.  4 big acts- Jimi Jamison (of Survivor), Rick Springfield, Richard Marx, and Michael Bolton as the headliner.  That night, I stumbled upon MB and Richard Marx having drinks outside at the hotel.  They are great friends that go way back.  They invited me to sit down and I ended up having drinks with them for a couple of hours- hence the triple date.  Don’t worry- Jeff was cool with it 🙂  


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