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ASTRID GRAF: The Visionary Behind the Frauenblasorchester and the Berlin Frauenensemble holz&blech.

In recent years, the world of wind music has been increasingly shaped by talented and passionate women who showcase their unique abilities as musicians and conductors. One outstanding personality who plays a significant role in this field is conductor Astrid Graf, who founded the Frauenblasorchester Berlin and the Berlin Frauenensemble holz&blech.

Credit: Nicole Schnittfincke

Astrid Graf was fascinated by music from a young age. With a block flute, Bach and a tape recorder, her love of music began. When she received recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach, such as the "Brandenburg Concertos", as a gift from her grandmother at an early age, they immediately cast a spell over her. And although she didn't have the rhythm in her blood at that time and worked hard on the block flute, it was clear to her that she wanted to make music her profession. After the block flute, the clarinet became her great love - to which she dedicated her music studies. "When I finished my studies in 1994, it was clear that I would first keep my head above water by teaching," says Astrid, who had no problem at all with this, because to this day she takes great pleasure in passing on her wide-ranging knowledge as a conducting pedagogue.

"You can use music to externalize emotions that you can't otherwise put into words."

For a long time, our society had a completely false image of women's musical abilities, as Astrid confirms: "In the past, it was always assumed that women weren't strong enough and didn't have enough breath to play certain wind instruments, such as the tuba or trombone. This is, of course, complete nonsense, since playing has a lot to do with technique and not with physique and size." And to this day, according to Astrid, few professional female musicians can be found playing the "atypical" instruments for women and in high positions in orchestras. And even for Astrid herself, the image of a female conductor was once new, which she fills so confidently and radiantly today.

Credit: Nicole Schnittfincke

Her personal path to becoming a female conductor was already paved during her studies when she began conducting the woodwinds for a church wind orchestra, and so her ensembles grew in size over time. What particularly fascinates Astrid about her work as a conductor is the collaborative work that is created by working with the orchestra and that is nurtured by mutual inspiration. This creates a creative dialogue at eye level, where the women when they play, experience the music much more intensely.

The story of the Frauenblasorchester Berlin began when Astrid organized a student audition in 2003 and one of the students gave her the idea of founding her own orchestra. Astrid was very enthusiastic about the idea, as she had already developed the professional wish to become active as a leader of an orchestra. So the idea of founding an all-female wind orchestra was born very quickly, and its first rehearsal took place just six months later with 38 women. Astrid describes the start of the orchestra as follows: "We had an unbelievably.

large crowd from the very beginning and the energy at that time was indescribable. There was an incredible sense of optimism because we were doing something completely new. Right in the first rehearsal, we decided to play at the Philharmonie." A dream that was to come true just a few years later. That Astrid had hit exactly the right nerve of the time with her women's wind orchestra was shown by the rapidly growing number of members. Soon there was a long waiting list and so the idea was born to create another all-female brass band, the Berlin Frauenensemble holz&blech.

What makes both the Frauenblasorchester Berlin, as well as the Berlin Frauenensemble holz&blech so special is the mutual empowerment among each other, which is very close to Astrid's heart. "It is important to me not to let a class society develop among the female musicians... All women are equally important. We need each other, so we are a good team and have a high level of collegiality among each other... I think you can't swing together as an orchestra if you are in competition with each other." she explains the cohesion among the women. And so the orchestras not only perform musically but also make an important contribution to breaking down stereotypical ideas and gender roles in the music industry.

Credit: Nicole Schnittfincke

Through her dedication and leadership, Astrid Graf has become an inspiration to many female musicians. She encourages them to pursue their passion and not be limited by stereotypes and prejudices. Her success with the Frauenblasorchester Berlin and the Berlin Frauenensemble holz&blech also encourages other women to become active in wind music and to present their talents with confidence.

Astrid Graf is undoubtedly making an important contribution to the worldwide recognition and appreciation of women in wind music. Her courage, vision and passion are setting new standards in women's brass music. The Frauenblasorchester Berlin and the Berlin Frauenensemble holz&blech are a symbol of the strength and abilities of women in music.

Astrid is in many ways a visionary who has always taken a slightly different path, deliberately not entering competitions and offering amateur female musicians a unique platform to rise above themselves. Thus, the foundation of the two orchestras, the joint performance in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, an exchange with France and the documentary film "Kein Zickenfox" by Dagmar Jäger and Kerstin Polte are among the highlights in the career of the aspiring conductor so far.

And this year, too, a very special highlight awaits us, because on September 9 at 7:00 p.m., the big anniversary concert with 100 women and the two orchestras will take place in the Großer Sendesaal at the Haus des Rundfunks in Berlin on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Frauenblasorchester Berlin.



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