IWBC Awards 

    3rd International Women’s Brass Conference: Cincinnati, Ohio June 2000

    IWBC Pioneer Awardees

    Nadine Jansen is a multi-talented musician and performer who is as proficient on the fluegelhorn as she is on piano and vocals. She was an all-star on the trumpet and fluegelhorn in the Women’s Jazz Festival in 1983 in Kansas City and has received rave reviews in The New York Times, The Daily News, The San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, and Downbeat.

    Ms. Jansen considers herself a Vaudevillian entertainer, having broken into the business with Horace Heidt’s amateur show and appearing in theaters between movies. She shared the spotlight with acts like The Clooney Sisters (Rosemary and Betty), Dick Contino, Skitch Henderson and Tony Pastor.

    A native of Sacramento, California, she now calls Scottsdale, Arizona her home where she has worked with a trio for many years, and has organized and performed in many jazz concerts. Her career includes playing the Capitol Theatre in New York and the Blue Note Club in Chicago opposite Charlie Parker.

    In 1987 Jansen appeared with jazz pianists Marion McPartland and Judy Roberts performing a concert at Phoenix Symphony Hall entitled ‘Women in Jazz’. She was also featured with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra guest conducted by Tania Leon. Critics, loyal fans and first-timers can attest that Jansen’s Gershwin medley has consistently inspired and delighted audiences.

    Nadine Jansen is now semi-retired but performs solo acts and enjoys a weekly jam session in Scottsdale at the popular J. Chew & Company. Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Pete Jolly, Billy Taylor and the Modern Jazz Quartet have been known to stop in and join in the impromptu jam sessions

    Ms. Jansen has two recordings available: A-Little-Taste and Ala Mood.

    Since the publishing of her biography here, Nadine Jansen passed away in 2008.


      “My specialty, I think,” horn legend Ethel Merker reflects, “is trying to expose young players to all kinds of music, so they will be flexible in their playing, instead of stodgy and rigid.”

      In her own career, which spans five decades, Ms. Merker has followed that credo to the letter. A precocious music student who, as a sixth grader played in the high school orchestra, she took her first full-time job at age 18 with the NBC Radio Orchestra. She concurrently carried a full course load at Northwestern University, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

      Ms. Merker went on to play assistant first horn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, impeccably blending and dovetailing with the phrasing of her friend, the late Phil Farkas. Numerous other symphonic, opera and ballet orchestras have benefitted from Merker’s virtuosity.

      As a recording artist, she has backed such artists as the Jackson Five, Diana Ross and John Denver, and her horn could be heard on countless commercials for Marlboro, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and many others. She has also performed with Peggy Lee and Pearl Bailey.

      As a valued educator, Ms. Merker has taught at many prestigious schools, including Indiana University, DePaul University and VanderCook College of Music.

      Recently, she has turned her talents to horn design. Phil Farkas often brought her along to Elkhorn as an impartial judge of the famous models he helped create. In 1995, she collaborated with the Frank Holton Company on her own innovative Holton ‘Merker-Matic’ French horn line, which enjoys growing popularity and acclaim.

      The wide diversity of her playing and teaching experience, along with her quick wit and irrepressible personality, provide Ethel Merker with a unique ability to communicate and inspire young people as a clinician for G. LeBlanc Corporation.

      Since the publishing of her biography here, Ethel Merker passed away in 2012.


        Betty O’Hara, termed herself as a ‘mostly self-taught trumpet player.’ After high school she went on the road with a girl band led by Freddie Shafer, playing the USO circuit, hotels, clubs, theaters and ballrooms around the Midwest. In 1947 Ms. O’Hara joined Al Gentile’s big band in Connecticut, playing trumpet, valve trombone, and writing arrangements and singing. Then, in 1955, she accepted the trumpet chair with the Hartford Symphony, where she stayed for five years.

        She moved to California in 1960, married bass trombonist Barrett O’Hara and raised a family. Betty O’Hara co-led the female jazz quintet, The Jazzbirds, playing trombone, cornet and double-belled euphonium as well as writing original material, arranging and singing. As a founding member of the big band, Maiden Voyage, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Ms. O’Hara was a guest artist at many of the Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festivals where she also took part in judging young jazz musicians for scholarships offered by the festival.

        Betty O’Hara passed away on April 18, 2000. She will be missed by many but her legacy as a great musician will live on.



        About IWBC Awards


        At each conference, beginning with the first in 1993, the IWBC has recognized women who have been pioneers in the top levels of brass performance, breaking down barriers and living their lives effecting change for those who have followed. Each awardee’s career and spirit exemplify the goals and traditions of the IWBC.


        The Beacon Award was first introduced at the 2014 conference, and given to women who have been beacons of light for those around them, both in the fields of performance and education.  These women influence so many generations of musicians through their careers sharing the art of performance, and standing for the values of equity, perseverance, and excellence.


        At the 2014 conference a special group of women who made an important impact on the lives of many were honored. These women answered the call of our nation, and beginning in World War II served our country as musicians.  When it became clear that the war was going to involve the service of all available men, the United States government enlisted women to take over many jobs on the home front.  Playing music was one of those jobs.  Bands were formed in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps.  Shortly after the war, the Air Force also formed a band of women.  While most of these women served only for the duration of the war years, some bands remained active.  The women’s band programs concluded in the 1970s. The Circle of Excellence Award is given to all women from all services who served as musicians during and after World War II.  The IWBC salutes their service. The biographies of three women who served, and attended the 2014 conference are included here.


        The Lifetime Achievement Award was first introduced at the 2014 IWBC conference, and is given to honor those who have achieved a high level of success in the field of music, through a career dedicated to the highest level of performance, education and outreach. The life work of these women has touched so many generations of audiences, students, and fellow musicians through their careers sharing the art of music. Our Lifetime Achievement Awardees are outstanding examples of dedication, professionalism and integrity.


        The IWBC President’s Award honors those who have been steadfast supporters of our activities and mission on this our twenty-fifth anniversary. We salute these award winners for showcasing true professionalism, and living their lives with a dedication to equality and service. 


        The Susan Slaughter Award for Leadership is being presented for the first time at our 2017 conference, to a true legend in the field of music. Marin Alsop has been a champion of equality, and her career sets the highest example of professionalism and outreach. This award is given by IWBC Founder Susan Slaughter in grateful appreciation for a career spent making a difference for women in music through a lifetime of service.


        The Penny Turner Young Artist Award launched in the spring of 2018. The award is a scholarship competition created by IWBC Board Member Ginger Turner in honor of her late mother, Penny Turner. The competition is open to all female brass players between the ages of 12-18; their music teachers or private instructors may nominate competitors.  


        If you’d like to nominate someone for recognition, please submit your nomination to Joanna Hersey at [email protected]