The first woman brass player at the Met

The first woman brass player at the Met


norman lebrecht

July 14, 2015

Julie Landsman broke the ice when she won the 1985 audition – behind a screen – for principal horn player at the Metropolitan Opera.

Julie says: Since that time, four more women have joined the Met Orchestra horn section. The Met horn women are all former students of mine! I am optimistic about women in the brass world continuing to win auditions with great orchestras!

Full interview here.



  • Peter says:

    Tick tock tick tock. Waiting for an essay from William Osborne…

    • GONZALEZ says:

      Hahaha… Epic!

    • william osborne says:

      Sorry boys, I’m on the road and not keeping up with SD of late. My wife entered the Royal Opera of Turin as first trombone in 1979. She entered the Munich Phil as solo trombone in 1980 and faced egregious problems with sexism that became widely known in the music world. You can read about her experiences here:

      Her story comprises the last chapter of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” which was on the NYT Bestseller List for 18 weeks. A 90 minute documentary about her experiences was broadcast on German national television. Also big articles in the Washington Post, WSJ, etc.

      Sorry “Peter,” don’t let this info upset you too much….

  • NYMike says:

    Philadelphia Orchestra principal horn Jennifer Montone is Landsman’s student, as well.

  • Max Grimm says:

    For those who are interested, Sarah Willis (horn player with the Berliner Philharmoniker) has a “Sarah’s Horn Hangouts” segment with Julie Landsman:

    • william osborne says:

      Am I correct in assuming that Willis is the only woman brass player with a regular contract in the history of the Berlin Phil? The orchestra has the 3rd lowest ratio of women in the world, and will likely soon fall to second lowest.

      • Max Grimm says:

        You are correct, William. Sarah is the first and thus far the only woman in the brass section of the Berlin Phil (I am not certain but I believe she is the only female brass player to have won an audition* with the orchestra period).

        *meaning auditions for a vacancy in the orchestra’s ranks, with the possibility of “membership for life” after a successful trial-phase and membership vote. There have been several female brass player in the Karajan Academy and as substitutes and guests.

  • Sam says:

    Kathryn Saunders was the first lady to win a position in a London orchestra. 2nd horn of the RPO. That should also be celebrated!

  • william osborne says:

    There are actually more women horn players in top US orchestras than women clarinetists (but not in much of Europe.) The horn is coded as the brass instrument OK for women. It also plays in “less manly” woodwind quintets. With its mixed gender coding, perhaps one could say the horn bi-sectional…. Sorry, bad joke, I know…

    • mr oakmount says:

      The horn has always been used “bi-sectionally” by composers, since it is the only instrument that can bark with the trumpets AND blend with a woodwind group. I’m not sure the horn is being perceived as more “OK for women” than other brass instruments, since I personally happen to know at least twice as many female trombone players, both amateurs and pros, than horn players. Maybe it’s Europe vs US? I’m sure someone has the figures to prove or disprove me.
      PS: Philadelphia even has a lady on tuba!

      • william osborne says:

        In 2013 the International Trombone Festival in Paris had a m/f ratio for soloists of 48 to 0 — a pattern that had repeated for several years. My wife and I created a large protest on Facebook that was widely followed by the trombone community and the ITF agreed to make changes. In the following two festivals they have included women. The ratio for soloists has been about 15 to 1 which is similar to the membership of the organization.

        Things have changed a lot. Today there are many young women trombonists — for example, women hold the first trombone positions in St. Louis and Toronto. There are probably about a dozen trombone profs in the USA. Progress has been much slower in Europe, except in Scandinavia which leads the world in its per capita number of excellent women brass players.

  • Susan Bradley says:

    There are other women tuba players around the world. Not many, granted, but some. I don’t have a full time orchestral position, but I’ve had a successful career as a freelance orchestral and solo tubist for nearly forty years.

  • Maria Rachwal says:

    Women have come a long way, but there is still much work to be done! For readers interested in knowing more about the history of these pioneering women, you can check out my new book about Ethel Stark and her women’s orchestra. Many women trained with her and went on to win major positions in orchestras around North America.

    “From Kitchen to Carnegie Hall: Ethel Stark and the Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra”

    Book trailer here:

    I would love it if Mr. Osborne would read my book!