Brittany Harrington-SmithFebruary 10, 2020
Brittany Harrington-Smith is an active performer, life and professional coach, and a fitness consultant. She received her Performer’s Diploma and Master of Music degree in Bassoon Performance at Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts, her Bachelor of Music degree with high honors at the Eastman School of Music, and was a member of the Catherine Filene Shouse Chapter of the Arts Leadership Program. She is also a graduate of Professional Coaching from the International Coaching Federation accredited school – InviteChange.
Brittany is also a founding member of The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet; an innovative chamber ensemble that pushes the limits of creativity and entertainment in instrumental music. Their repertoire disregards genre, with favorites from the worlds of classical, pop, jazz, soundtrack, and folk music adapted for the ensemble by its members. Known for their stage antics, the BWBQ use choreography, accessory instruments, props, and skits to add theatrical elements to their performances. The ensemble’s mission is threefold: to navigate the intersection of classical music, pop culture, and comedy, to expand the scope of bassoon performance, and to create meaningful bonds with audiences.
Brittany keeps an active schedule as a coach in both the professional and fitness realms, a consultant, and member of the BWBQ.
1. How has your time at Eastman, including being a member of the Arts Leadership Program, informed your decisions as a performer, educator, and as a founding member of The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet?
Being a part of the Arts Leadership Program provided me a broader view of the music realm outside of the practice room. While the industry and actual deliverables constantly change and evolve, ALP teaches you how to be industrious. It encourages you to figure out your artistic and personal strengths and how to present them. This allows you to understand yourself a bit more professionally and transfers over industries.
2. The BWBQ’s mission is “to navigate the intersection of classical music, pop culture, and comedy, to expand the scope of bassoon performance, and to create meaningful bonds with audiences.” What is the creative process each of the members of BWBQ to fulfill this mission?
We put a premium on fun, creativity, and being non-judgmental. Behind the scenes, we work through new ideas no matter how “out there” or ridiculous they may seem. It is a true collaboration – everyone brings their unique and complementary skills to the table. And we create a safe space where all of us can put forth ideas without criticism. The bottom line is that we all love music and we allow ourselves to work outside the confines of tradition. (We have been together for 12 years, we are like sisters!)
3. As someone who coaches a variety of specialties, such as artists and musicians, career changes, and more, could you briefly describe your career and the influence it has had on how you coach others?
Being a musician is like being under a magnifying glass – everything is intensified and amplified. Success and failure, self discipline, practicing, learning, teaching yourself, being a self starter, figuring out complex passages and problems. These things are the foundation of musicianship and have greatly informed me. From these skills, years of hard study, and having taken a step back from a full-time performance career, I have gained perspective. Being a musician is equally incredibly rewarding and tough. Introspection, along with study in other realms has allowed me to really see that our self worth is deeper than how perfect we execute. It has shaped how I view people and in essence coach them – each person is whole, capable, resourceful, and creative (or in professional coaching what we informally call the “Big 4”).
4. What is it like to perform and establish a successful ensemble with your friends?
One word…Awesome! We get to grow together, travel worldwide, and experience each other’s lives outside of performing. We have been in all of each other’s weddings (so far 😉 two of us are married and one is engaged.) We have performed in dozens of states and 3 continents. Many of these places we experienced for the first time with each other. We have a group iMessage channel that is constant and has gone back for years. We connect as musicians and as individuals and we genuinely like each other (a challenging feat for a lot of chamber groups!). Our many years together have afforded us a unique and special collective institutional memory.
5. What advice would you offer to Eastman students wishing to establish an ensemble with their peers?
Have fun! I know it’s hard sometimes when we’re pounding the pavement and shedding music. Understand that it should be fun even if there are parts of the experience that are not glamorous or sexy. But most of all, have grace for each other (and yourself). You are one of a kind, worthwhile, and truly bring something to the table as do your peers. Know that each person brings different strengths and these differences make a great ensemble better than the sum of its parts.