the Exclusion of Women from the Last Two European ITFs and the Future of the ITA
commentary by Abbie Conant, May 10, 2012
response to recent discussions about the
exclusion of women from the last two European ITFs, (the yearly
International Trombone Festivals) the President elect of the International
Trombone Association, Joe Alessi, has made the following statement:
“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. Best to you and Bill.” (Joe
is pictured below along with his daughter Gianna.)
want to thank Joe for his statement, which I know will be very meaningful
for many. I am certain that
people like Joe, Ken Hanlon, and other ITA leaders have the very best of
intentions and it gives me a good deal of hope for the future.
It’s ridiculous, of course, that women have been excluded from the
last two European ITFs, and absurd that it took three years for the problems
with the ITF 2009 to even surface. In
part, it shows how many women have stopped engaging themselves with the ITA,
which is, of course, bad for the organization.
problems will not be solved merely by making sure women are in
the ITFs, which could end up being little more than a form of tokenism or
window dressing. We need to
re-think the perspectives that allowed the exclusion of women in the first
place, and also consider how this very likely applies to other groups such
as African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and the many trombonists that
explore non-mainstream forms of music.
think one of the major problems in the ITA has been its excessive shift
toward celebrity culture. As we
all know, the ITA administration was dominated by a small circle of people
for a couple decades. Those
folks did a lot for the organization, and did work no one else wanted to do,
but the ITA became weakened by cronyism and a lack of depth in its pool of
the last decade, the ITA has tried to compensate for years of insiderism by
positioning famous trombonists in the executive committee and Board. The
number of university teachers among the officers and Board was significantly
reduced and replaced with people in top orchestras, military bands, and
well-known jazz/commercial players. Even
though this improved the ITA’s image of professionalism, celebrity culture
has an inherent tendency to create a narrow, dominate culture in the center
that marginalizes important aesthetic and social view points.
As a result, the ITFs have recently tended toward a dichotomous
division between a small group of stars and the groupies who worship them.
We have thus seen a corresponding loss in the ITA’s and ITF’s
educational, social, and artistic dimensions.
closer cooperation with our European colleagues has created a new and
extremely important kind of diversity in the ITA, but as we have seen in the
last two European ITFs, it has also brought with it some forms of ignorant,
provincial chauvinism that segues in unfortunate ways with the problems
already created by the ITA’s excessive celebrity culture.*
As a result, the ITA has not been able to give European ITF hosts the
guidance they have clearly needed to create appropriately diverse festivals.
finally, these narrowed perspectives continue to leave some very serious,
long-term problems unaddressed. One
of the worst is the sexual exploitation of students by a few star players
and members of top orchestras – a problem that has recently affected even
the ITA Board. This sexual abuse
of students is yet another manifestation of our excessive celebrity culture
in the brass world.
see that these problems will not be solved by the mere “political
correctness” of putting some token women into the ITFs, or by any other
sort of lip service and window dressing.
We need to re-think our excessive celebrity culture and create a more
diverse board and executive committee that represents many social and
aesthetic views if we are to fulfill the noble purposes for which the ITA
The ITF 2011 in Nashville organized by Lawrence Borden also did not have any
women soloists. The ratio was 15/0.
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
This is astounding if one considers how many excellent and well-known women
trombonists there are.