Does the International Trombone Association Exclude Women?

I’ve enjoyed going to the International Trombone Festival the couple of times I’ve made it, however I had no plans to fly to Paris for this year’s.  Now I have another reason to not go, as the organizers neglected to invite any women to participate as featured performers or composers.  Abbie Conant, who is unfortunately no stranger to gender discrimination, posted on her Facebook page that she wasn’t planning on attending either:

Why not? Because there are 42 men invited as soloists and 0 women. And all 7 composers are also men. Total: 49 to 0! This is insulting to all women trombonists, all women musicians, and all enlightened men.

She also posted on her web site the following statistics of featured soloists from the last few ITFs.

Here are the m/f ratios for the last four years:

ITF 2009 Aarhus 14/0
ITF 2010 Austin 14/1
ITF 2011 Nashville 15/0
… ITF 2012 Paris 42/0

Total: 85/1

This is astounding if one considers how many excellent and well-known women trombonists there are.

I would be more willing to forgive the ITF organizers for an oversight of one year, particularly if the location’s trombone scene has a reputation for being male-dominated, but clearly there is a pattern here that goes beyond a particular location’s culture.

I let my membership in the International Trombone Association (the ITA is the organization that generally produces the International Trombone Festival) lapse a while back, so these issues are new to me.  Apparently this issue is only really getting some traction now, in part due to social media platforms like Facebook and also in forum topics like this one.  The issue has gone viral enough that the Huffington Post even reported on it.

Has the ITF been intentionally excluding women?  In the past 10 years the ITF has made efforts to be more inclusive, inviting more jazz and experimental trombonists to perform, for example.  They have also moved away from having so many university professors serving on the Board of Advisors for the ITA  and made an effort to include more performers and balance the advisors more internationally.  However, scanning through some of the minutes of their recent annual meetings show that the women are outnumbered by the men and there are only 4 women out of 18 currently held staff positions.  Their current officers only includes a single woman, who serves with 10 men on their Board of Advisors.  There are no women currently serving on the Board of Directors.

It’s not clear whether the ratio of men to women involved in the governance and staff for the ITA is representative of the ratio of men to women trombonists.  My best guess is that there are probably more women trombonists out there that deserve to be involved and included than the ITA’s leadership and membership would reflect.  It also doesn’t help that the music culture of the trombone and the academic roots of the ITA are also both traditionally male dominated.

It does appear that the ITA will be addressing this.  President Elect Joe Alessi responded to Abbie Conants concerns.

Hi Abbie. Was not aware of all of this. As future president of the ITA, I will make sure this never happens again. More positive things will come out of this.

The ITA has got some work cut out for it, but I am hopeful that they will begin to be more representative and relevant to today’s trombonists.  When they do, I will be ready to renew my membership.

Keith Davies Jones

There is at least one outstanding woman trombone player in France – Yvelise Girard is Professor of Trombone at the Conservatoire de Lyon. I heard her play ‘Choral, Cadence et Fugato’ by Henri Dutilleux, with the composer at the piano during the Festival de Paris in 1983.

Women write for the trombone too :

Listing of ‘100 best trombone concertos’ on Christian Lindberg’s website includes 3 by women composers – Jennifer Higdon, Ellen Taafe Zwilich and Augusta Read Thomas. There are, of course, others. During 2012, out of 135 compositions and arrangements submitted to the ITA Journal’s Literature Committee for review, 4 were written by women composers/arrangers (3%). Similar in 2011: (3/90 = 3%).

Ellen Seeling

Why do men like Keith Davies Jones insist on pointing out the insignificantly small number of exceptions to gender bias and exclusion practiced by organizations like the ITA? It’s truly ludicrous. What exactly is the point keith?

Dr Keith Davies Jones

Point is that women may be under-represented, but are not excluded from the ITA/ITF, and are certainly not an insignificant presence. Faculty & Performing Artists in last year’s ITF at Eastman included Abbie Conant, Carol Jarvis, Jennifer Krupa, Lisa Albrecht, Jeannie Little and Gretchen McNamara.

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