I Am Woman: Bria Skonberg

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Thursday March 14, 2019

From Penn State News

I Am Woman: Bria Skonberg
By: Heather Longley

Since moving to New York City in 2010, trumpeter Bria Skonberg has been rubbing elbows with members of the city’s jazz circles. In an interview with ArtsMania, she said that within hours of her arrival, she was performing in a park with friends and got a sign that she was in the right place ‘” a thumbs-up from fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Being the ‘new girl’ among a sea of established jazz icons doesn’t seem to have phased her.

On March 22, Skonberg will return to Penn State with Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, featuring five other must-see, award-winning jazz musicians. In a Center for the Performing Arts interview, she shared insight on what a jazz musician ‘looks like,’ how she defies generalizations and still being star struck in the city.

Question: You have said that there’s nothing physically different between men and women when it comes to playing the trumpet. You and I know that, but has there ever been a situation where you’ve had to assert yourself or say those words?

Answer: I haven’t had to say it, but I’ve had to play it. There have been times when I’d hear a smattering of comments when approaching the bandstand about being female, not necessarily malicious but noticeable enough to make me put my bell up and play aggressively. The comments would dissipate after that.

Q: There are some people who claim that women artists often are judged initially by their look rather than their talent. Do you feel this is still relevant, or do you see progress? Or do you think it’s an overstatement?

A: I think of it more as a general concept. Most audiences “hear” with their eyes first, whether you’re male or female. There are a lot of ways to dress and carry yourself that communicate what attention you want to receive. I tell girl students that getting attention may come easy, but keeping attention ultimately comes down to the quality of your work. It can also be an interesting theatrical tool to play on people’s preconceptions and then break them.

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