By Ryan Christner
The Hutchinson News, Kan.
Becki Walenz hopes to shatter the brass ceiling.
Through her schooling and professional career, the 26-year-old Hutchinson native and Buhler High School graduate has noticed a dearth of female trumpet players.
Now, Walenz is turning her desire to ebb that trend into a rare opportunity.
A fan of entertainer Mark Ballas, best known for his role among the troupe of professional dancers on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” Walenz recently “stumbled across” a message on Ballas’ Twitter account seeking entrants for a contest called “I’m Miss Incredible.”
Exploring further, Walenz discovered the contest was a promotion for a new song by Ballas called “Miss Incredible,” which according to the contest website, immissincredible.com, was inspired by Ballas’ upbringing by an “incredible woman.”
With a chance to be picked to be flown to Los Angeles to take part in the filming of a video for the song, the contest sought “incredible, talented girls and women who are doing amazing things to enhance their lives and the lives of others,” the website states.
So, “on a whim,” Walenz submitted a minute-long video detailing her credentials as a trumpet instructor at Kansas State University and Kansas Wesleyan University and performer with the KSU Faculty Brass Quintet and Salina Symphony Orchestra, and explaining the lack of women in the testosterone-saturated trumpet world.
Walenz’s words struck a chord, and she soon was contacted and asked for more information about herself. Less than six hours later, she was told she had won.
“Just to hear from them, I thought, ‘Wow. What are the odds?” she said. “I just never thought in a million-bazillion years that they’d pick me.”
Walenz will fly to L.A. on Friday, be on set for the video shoot all day Saturday and return to Kansas on Sunday.
All of her expenses will be paid for.
The Ballas camp has been tight-lipped about Walenz’s duties during the excursion, leaving her imagination to run wild. She says she knows she’ll be involved — “somehow” — in the making of the video, and she was asked to bring her trumpet along for the ride.
“Fingers crossed that, maybe, I’ll get to play (in the video),” she said.
A larger hope, though, is that the experience will help attract attention to her cause.
In her years studying trumpet, Walenz said, all of her teachers have been male. And since joining the faculty at K-State, she said only about five of the 20 to 25 students in her classes have been female.
“That’s been a recurring theme for me,” she said of the gender imbalance.
But unlike in the business sector, where women once were forced into lesser positions while men assumed the top jobs, Walenz said the under-representation of women trumpet players likely isn’t due to hostility or bias.
The trumpet just tends to attract men.
“People don’t expect a feminine woman to play trumpet, because trumpet, by definition, is a very bold, blunt, outspoken instrument,” she said, one that appeals to equally strong personalities.
From her experience, though, the trumpet, if used properly, also can be delicate, sensitive and beautiful.
“What I hope to do is show people that, yeah, trumpet can have those qualities,” she said.
Walenz enjoys teaching and said she tries to give equal instruction to each of her students, whether they’re male or female. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like to see the numbers become more aligned.
“You do what you can,” she said.