Female Trumpeter Joins Male Dominated Jazz Band


Amanda Young, Staff Writer

We constantly hear about the lack of female representation in STEM fields. But are girls the minority in music as well? Not usually. Unless, of course, we’re talking about jazz.

Out of Campolindo’s select 17-musician Big Band, freshman Ellie Olson is the only female member.

Olson started playing the trumpet in 4th grade after listening to a recording of Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth playing the 3rd movement of the Hummel Concerto.

“I loved the song and how amazing she sounded, so I decided to get a trumpet too,” said Olson. “I’m really happy I chose the trumpet; it has a lot of personality.”

Olson’s passion for jazz music, however, didn’t form until 6th grade, when she walked in on Stanley Middle School’s jazz band, mid-practice. 

“I was so excited; they sounded so good,” said Olson. “I decided to join the jazz band, and the next year, I got into the advanced jazz band.”

Olson loves the individual latitude of playing jazz music. “[Jazz] has structure, but it also has a laid-back feel you don’t get in classical,” she explained. “A solo is never played the same way twice, so everything you play will always be your own creation and will always be unique.”

Olson earned a spot in Big Band’s trumpet session with what Campolindo band teacher Johnny Johnson considered an exceptionally strong audition. 

“She more than did the job to earn that spot,” Johnson said.

The Big Band consists primarily of brass instruments, which are often deemed “masculine instruments.” Johnson said, “From the time that I was growing up, flutes and clarinets were almost always [for] girls. Trumpets and trombones were almost always [for] boys. I don’t know why that was. It’s difficult to buck a decades-long trend that some people play certain instruments. But those stereotypes are breaking down.”

Prior to Olson, there has been only one other female in the band: Zoe Portnoff graduated last spring.

Then here comes along Ellie [Olson], and now she’s the only girl. And thank goodness, because otherwise, we wouldn’t have any girls,” Johnson said.

Despite being the sole female musician, Olson said that all of the band members are very nice and supportive. “Mr. Johnson is super awesome, too!” she added.

Freshman Slava Koblov plays piano in the jazz band, and has played alongside Olson since 8th grade. Olson, in Koblov’s opinion, is “a really good trumpet player” and is a good addition to the band because they “can always use a great horn section.”

Both Olson and Johnson hope that more girls will become involved in jazz music and consider joining the band. “I just keep hoping that we keep attracting more and more people, and as a function of that, [more girls will join],” Johnson said. 

“Not many girls know about [jazz] or how cool it is. It’d be really cool to get more girls interested because it’s an awesome program,” said Olson.