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The Biographies of

Abbie Conant and William Osborne

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Abbie Conant


Award-winning Performance artist and Juilliard trained trombonist Abbie Conant is somewhat of a legend in the international orchestral brass world. The story of her epic fight and ultimate victory against egregious gender discrimination in the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra where she won the position for principal trombone at a screened audition in1980,  inspired author Malcolm Gladwell to write the NY Times Bestseller, Blink where Ms. Conant’s story is detailed in the last chapter. The 11-year-long court battle was documented by William Osborne in an article entitled, You Sound Like a Ladies Orchestra. The document is supported by actual court records and experiences in the orchestra with 89 footnotes. This source document has generated countless newspaper and magazine articles  (Der Spiegel, {the German analog to Time Magazine}, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, etc.) as well as a documentary film, ("Abbie Conant, Alone Among Men" by Brenda Parkerson), a play produced at the Landestheater Linz, Austria by Award-winning British playwright, Tamssin Oglesby called, Der (eingebildeter) Frauenfeind, (The [Concieted] Misogynist) and a screen play for a feature film in the works by Canadian writer/producer Dale Wolf.  ...

After winning her lengthy court case, Ms. Conant won a full-tenured Professorship at the University of Music in Trossingen, Germany and left the orchestra in 1993. Abbie Conant has performed instrumental music theater works with surround sound electronics in over 200 cities around the world. She has given masterclasses in as many esteemed music institution such as The Juilliard School, The Eastman School, New England Conservatory, Yale School of Music, Indiana University, Royal Northern College of Music, the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg, Sweden, DePaul, CalArts, McGill, Oberlin and many others. In collaboration with composer/husband William Osborne, the pair has created a new genre of chamber music theater. They have produced five evening-length chamber operas for singing/acting trombonist.


While attending National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan in 1970, she won a scholarship to the famed Interlochen Arts Academy. She received her B.M. cum laude at Temple University with Dee Stewart of the Philadelphia Orchestra, then her M.M. at Juilliard with Metropolitan Orchestra Principal, Per Brevig. In addition, she holds an Artist Diploma from the Cologne University of Music with Branimir Slokar. At the suggestion of her teacher Dr. Karl Hinterbichler, she attend Tanglewood through the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (where she studied with bass trombonist of the BSO, Gordon Hallberg). She won the audition for the Colorado Philharmonic (an intensive training orchestra), Yale Summer Chamber Music Institute at Norfolk where she studied with John Swallow, and New College Music Festival as Brass Trio in Residence. The Spoleto Festival dei due Mondi took her to Italy where she studied contemporary music with Vinko Globokar at the L’Accademia Chigiana in Siena. From there, she won her first position as principal trombone of the Royal Opera of Turin, Italy. Her next position was for principal trombone of the Munich Philharmonic for 13 years where she was awarded the official honorable title of Kammersolistin der Stadt Muenchen after 10 years of exemplary musical service to the city of Munich, Germany.  

Ms. Conant has been the subject of several featured cover articles in various brass publications: International Trombone Association Journal, British Trombone Journal, The Brass Herald and others. She has been a guest on NPR’s Performance Today as well as on the West German Radio, SW German Radio, Canadian Broadcast Company, New York City’s classical station, WQXR.  

She has played all types and genres of music, including improvisation, in duo with guitar, shakuhachi, or harp, early music, contemporary music and film music. She has had film roles in the feature film, The Devil’s Triangle, directed by Vadim Glowna and in the epic 13 film story of a German composer’s life and times, Die Zweite Heimat, (The Second Homeland) by dir. Edgar Reitz.  

Ms. Conant has students in many different orchestras and teaching positions including, two former students in the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, the Stuttgart State Opera, the Southwest German Radio Orchestra, The Hamburg Symphony, the Regensburg Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, to name a few.  

Ms. Conant is also a published poet and librettist having co-written libretti with William Osborne’s music theater works (one-woman shows) Miriam, Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano, Miriam, Cybeline and Aletheia.    

Her critically acclaimed CD Trombone and Organ is on the Audite label and the DVD. 



William Osborne


William Osborne was born 1951 in Deming, N.M., the grandson of homesteading cotton farmers.  He worked his way through college at the University of New Mexico and recieved a BA in 1973.  He then studied with George Crumb for five years while living in Philadelphia and New York, and with Franco Donatoni for two in Rome at the famous L'Academia di Santa Cecilia.   He has received two ASCAP awards, a Doctoral Fellowship to Columbia University, alternate to the American Rome Prize, and a major prize from the Theater Commission of the City of Munich for his Beckett productions.   He founded The Wasteland Company in 1984 along with his wife Abbie Conant as the main performer to explore women's roles in music theater. 


Two doctoral dissertations have been written about William and Abbie's music theater and multimedia work.  Dr. Jesús Fernando Lloret González, a professor at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Málaga completed his dissertation about our music theater and multimedia work in 2012. It is entitled, “Fusión del Teatro Y La Ópera a Través de Los Medios Audiovisuales: La Trombonista Abbie Conant Y El Compositor William Osborne.” (“The Fusion of Theater and Opera Through Audiovisual Media In the Work of William Osborne and Abbie Conant.”) He was given the highest distinction, cum laudem, for his work. The degree was awarded by the Faculty of Cinema and Communications at the University of Málaga. 


And in 2013, Dr. Jessica D. Butler completed her dissertation about our music theater work and was awarded a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree by the University of Iowa. Her dissertation is entitled “The Creative Identity of Women: An Analysis of Feminist Themes in Select Chamber Music Theater Works by Composer William Osborne for Trombonist Abbie Conant.” 

In recent years William and Abbie have toured to over 200 cities in America and Europe to great critical acclaim with his compositions.  Their European venues have included the Munich Biennale, The Stuttgarter Tage für Neue Musik, The Hamburg State Opera, The Bavarian State Opera, The Freiburg Theater Festival, The State Theater of Kassel, Frankfurt’s Theater am Turm, Munich’s Gasteig Cultrual Center, and Nuovo Forme Sonare in Rome. They have performed and given workshops at most of America’s major music schools including The Juilliard School, The New England Conservatory, Yale University, The Eastman School of Music, The Peabody Conservatory, Indiana University, The San Francisco Conservatory, Cal Arts, the University of California at Berkley, Ithaca College, and the University of Northern Texas.


He also has written numerous scholarly articles about women in music,  music sociology and philosophical/theoretical concepts.  His article "Sounding the Abyss of Otherness: Pauline Oliveros' Deep Listening and the Sonic Meditations is published in Women Making Art (New York: Lang 2000.)  His article “You Sound Like A Ladies’ Orchestra: A Case History of Sexism Against Abbie Conant In the Munich Philharmonic”  has won a “Best of the Web” award and led to a 90 minute documentary film about Abbie’s experiences broadcast nationally on German State Television.  The article was also the basis of the last chapter of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink which was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 18 weeks -- and number one for three.  His article "Art is Just An Excuse: Gender Bias In International Orchestras" was published in the Journal of the International Alliance for Women In Music, where it initiated international protests against the Vienna Philharmonic and worldwide press coverage including reports on NPR, an interview of William on ABC’s Good Morning America, and front page articles on both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  His article “Symphony Orchestras and Artist-Prophets: Cultural Isomorphism and the Allocation of Power in Music” was published in Leonardo Music Journal—a joint venture of the International Society for Art, Science and Technology and the M.I.T. Press.


In 1998 he was given a Special Recognition Award by the International Alliance for Women in Music for his services to women in music.  In January 2000 MSNBC published a major article about his work on their web new site, "Taking On the Vienna Philharmonic."




Some major interviews and articles about us.


  Dissertation by Dr. Jessica D. Butler, University of Iowa

“The Creative Identity of Women: An Analysis of Feminist Themes in Select Chamber Music Theater Works by Composer William Osborne for Trombonist Abbie Conant.” 


  Dissertation by Dr. Jesús Fernando Lloret González, University of Málaga, Spain

“Fusión del Teatro Y La Ópera a Través de Los Medios Audiovisuales: La Trombonista Abbie Conant Y El Compositor William Osborne.” (“The Fusion of Theater and Opera Through Audiovisual Media In the Work of William Osborne and Abbie Conant.”) 



   Miriam and Our Theories of Chamber Music Theater  

A discussion of our artistic techniques and their development by William Osborne.


  "Taking On the Vienna Philharmonic."

About our work for women in music on the MSNBC News website.


  "5 Bizarre Dark Sides of Modern Orchestras"

A hilarious article in Cracked.com that covers Abbie's experiences in the Munich Philharmonic.  It has had over 700,000 readers and "Liked" on Facebook over 14,000 times.


  Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Abbie's experiences in the Munich Philharmonic comprise the last chapter of the book which was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 18 weeks -- and number one for three.  


  Abbie Conant: die frau, die mit celibidache in den ring stieg

clarino, bläsermusik international 5/2004


  Interview in the On-Line Trombone Journal


*  “William Osborne: Artist and Activist” 

An interview in the IAWM Journal.


  „We’ll sing from our Hearts“  (Auf Deutsch)

VivaVoce (Summer 2000).  (A German language interview of us together in the Journal of the Internationale Arbeitskries Frau und Musik) 


*  “Sexism In the Brass Section”

The Wall Street Journal (July 7, 1993)


  „We Need A Man for SoloTrombone: Abbie Conant’s Story”

By Monique Buzzarte, IAWM Journal (Febraruy 1996)pp. 8-11.



 "The Wired Goddess and Her Trombone"   (Auf Deutsch)

                Ein Bericht von Theda Weber-Lucks für den SWR, 15. Dezember 2000


 Mark Adamo , "The Trombonist Who Locked Horns," The Washington Post    (March 14, 1994)


 „Aus dem Blech gefallen,“Der Spiegel (No. 44, 1991)pp. 89-93. 


* „Wenn eine Frau die erste Posaune spielt,“  TAZ-Jouranl zur Weltfrauenkonferenz Peking. (taz vom Dez. 29, 1994)pp. 66-67.


* „Wir Brauchen einen Mann...“ Kultur Joker,  (May 1995): Title page. (Lange Interview)


 Hannes Hintermeir, "Celi Will keine Frau an der Posaune," Abend Zeitung Dienstag, 29. Oktober 1991, Seite 16


 Susanne Benda, "Die zärtliche Stärke", Badische Zeitung,  Mittwoch, 24. Mai 1995  .


See also:


“Meine Enstschieidung zu kämpfen war für mich der erste Gewinn...” Frau und Musik Nr. 23, 1992)pp4-6.


Hugo Magliocco, „A Special Endurance“ ITA Journal (Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring 1992)pp. 22-28.


James Wierzbicki, “A Piercing Excerpt From ‘Miriam’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (May 31, 1993)p. 5a.

Richard Dyer, “Trombonist Conant makes her point loud and clear” The Boston Globe (Febraury 25, 1994)


Performance Today, a 20 minute program about Abbie Conant broadcast by NPR (March 1994)


Documentary Film : a 90 minute documentary film produced by 3 SAT and broadcast nationally on German National Television. 

The documentary is available in English on Youtube:

“Abbie Conant: A Solo Among Men” 1994 (English version)


To order the video  in German contact:

“Abbie Conant: Alein unter Mannern,” 1994 (Deutsche Fassung)


Muskauer Str. 24

D-10997 Berlin


Phone: (0)30 61 79 74 32

Fax: (0)30 61 79 74 33