A celebration in brass for International Women’s Day 2022

A number of my articles and directories have featured lady brass instrumentalists of the past – whether as soloists or as members of female or other bands. These remarkable women carved out careers for themselves and often proved themselves to be the equal of or better than their male counterparts. These are collected here in recognition of IWD 2022.

The Fenton Ladies’ Cornet Band, Michigan, c. 1883

Click on the article’s title to retrieve the PDF documents below.

Beatrice Pettit (1872-1922) – a cornet soloist

Beatrice Pettit was one of many accomplished female brass musicians who made a career out of their music in the 19th  century and early 20th century. She started to perform at the age of 15, and her first appearance in public was in November 1888. She went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music, and became a soloist on cornet with a number of orchestras, bands and entertainment troupes over the years. She was also accomplished as a pianist and soprano vocalist. She was particularly associated with Rosabel Watson’s Æolian Ladies’ Orchestra, the English Ladies’ Orchestral Society, and Eleanor Clauson’s Ladies’ Pompadour Band.

Cleora Miller – the “Prima Donna and the Instrumentalists”

Cleora Miller was a multi-instrumental musician, who toured with her parents in a musical trio, before becoming the figurehead of the show and a much loved and admired solo artist in addition to her ensemble work, eventually leading a multi-act variety show that was greatly sought after in the American mid-west in the early 1930’s.

Daisy Squelch (1885-1965) – cornet soloist and music hall star

Agnes Mary Squelch (familiarly known as Daisy) was taught to play the cornet by the Black Dyke cornetist, John Paley at the age of 14. Having mastered the instrument, Daisy went on to become a well-known soloist on the concert stage, eventually moving to the music halls, where she excelled in various productions, touring the country from 1909 to 1922

Damen und Damen

Travelling musicians and entertainers had been a part of European life for centuries. In the German speaking countries of Europe during the German Empire there arose a large number of “Damen Kapellen”, troupes of musical and variety entertainers consisting largely of women, usually led by a man, and occasionally including males as players. This papers looks at the the brass ensembles which made up a significant proportion of these touring entertainment groups

Hazel Gwinnup and the Six Royal Hussars

Hazel was a trombonist and saxophonist who, after touring with Helen May Butler’s Ladies’ Brass Band, joined a vaudeville brass sextet on the theatre circuit for a further six years.

Judith Potter’s Scrapbook

Judith appeared on the brass band scene around 1949 when, at the age of six, she gave a cornet solo at the annual supper of Coleford Town Band. The press cuttings of this event, together with many others covering her time with bands up to the early 1960s, are pasted into her scrapbook

Lynn and Lynda – two ‘dainty’ brass musicians

A look at the touring performances of ‘Lynn and Lynda’, who gave multi-instrumental concerts and turns, with their various brass instruments, on stages across the British Isles during the 1920’s

Mary Simm’s Scrapbook

In May 1952, Mary Simm, who played cornet with the Kearsley Silver Band, started her second scrapbook of brass band memories.  She collected press cuttings, programmes and photographs of events she attended or took part in through 1952. Items from her scrapbook have been scanned, more or less in the order she pasted them in. They cover not only the events of the Kearsley band, but also others in the area, providing a brief look at the banding aspects of a year in her life

Mauston Ladies’ Ideal Band

A look at the brief history of this band from central Wisconsin in the 1880’s

Miss Nettie Goff – a minstrel and vaudeville trombonist

Nettie Goff was an African-American trombone soloist and actress who toured the eastern and southern USA with a number of different minstrel shows in the 1890’s and 1900’s. With her husband, Will Garland, she also undertook various European tours.

Scoring for the ladies

A brief look at the women who have composed music for brass band, and the initiative of the Harrogate Band to highlight their music

Soft Lips on Cold Metal

During the later 1800s and early 1900s there were increasing numbers of women musicians taking part in the musical life of the western world. Whether as instrumental soloists; members of family groups; amateur or professional bands and orchestras; string, brass and mixed ensembles; and vaudeville performers; these female musicians earned their place in history – one which has largely been overlooked in favour of their male counterparts. This paper documents a number of these solo brass performers, giving an insight into their lives and performances

The cornet madam and the trombonist actress

A look at the lives of Antonia Gonzales in New Orleans and Marguerite Dufay in Paris

Women and Brass

Brass bands have been a musical force across the world over the last 200 years. Mainly concentrated in Europe, North America and Australasia, they were predominantly male, and the members were largely working class. The female brass band is a somewhat rare beast, even today, though it did enjoy a “golden era” during the late 1800s and early 1900s in the USA. In this paper are details of some 408 female brass bands – a very small number compared to their male equivalents

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