Why are there no good jazz gigs?

Regarding an article posted on a UK Blog – THERE ARE NO GOOD JAZZ GIGS, I would like to address some of the comments in this article:

1. The huge increase in the number of jazz festivals over the last decade as proof that it’s not nearly as bad as some people would have you believe. D C Dowell of www.apassion4jazz.net says that the number of jazz festivals has increased tenfold over the last decade and www.jazzfests.net has over 1,000 jazz festivals listed for Europe alone. MOST OF THESE SO-CALLED JAZZ FESTIVALS USE THE WORD “JAZZ” TO KEEP THE COST OF INSURANCE LOW. THEN, THEY BOOK ARTISTS THAT ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING JAZZ ARTISTS – THEY ARE R&B, ROCK, REGGAE ARTISTS – BUT THE WORD JAZZ IS USED TO ATTRACT A MATURE AUDIENCE. IF THEY SAID IT IS A R&B OR ROCK FEST, THE INSURANCE WOULD BE SKY HIGH.

2. Much of the jazz musician’s malaise probably stems from his own experiences – playing an endless round of background music gigs where he is largely ignored or at conservative venues where he feels obliged to play standards in a mainstream style. These gigs often form the majority of his performing life and venues that actively promote jazz seem to be depressingly few in number. THE MAJOR PROBLEM IN THIS COUNTRY AND IN EUROPE IS THAT JAZZ IS A “HE/HIS” GENRE – A GOOD OLE BOY CLUB. WOMEN PAY 53% OF THE TAXES ON THE PLANET BUT WOMEN’S MUSIC REAPS ONLY 1-5% OF THE $27.5 BILLION IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AND FROM PUBLIC FUNDING. THIS IS A HUGE IMBALANCE. I SEE GREAT OPPORTUNITY IN THIS AS THE FOUNDER OF A NON-PROFIT THAT PROMOTES WOMEN MUSICIAN’S – www.wijsf.org

3. Going to jam sessions is the only ‘self-promotion’ that they do. They’re clinging to a hopelessly old-fashioned paradigm of the music business and are doomed to failure and frustration if they refuse to change. THE JAM SESSION IS WHAT HAS KILLED NOT ONLY THE JAZZ SCENE BUT THE MUSIC SCENE. OPEN MICS WITH HIP HOP AND RAP ARTISTS HAS MADE IT SO THAT ENTERTAINERS (I DO NOT CONSIDER HIP HOPPERS AND RAPPERS MUSICIANS) PERFORM FOR FREE. CLUB OWNERS HAVE GOTTEN USED TO THE PARADIGM THAT THEY DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR ENTERTAINMENT BECAUSE OF THE DESPERATION AND EGO OF THESE AMATEURS WANTING TO GET UP ON A STAGE TO DISPLAY THEIR SO-CALLED TALENT, LEAVING PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED MUSICIANS OUT IN THE COLD. ORIGINALLY, JAM SESSIONS TOOK PLACE IN THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING, AT ONE OR TWO CLUBS, AFTER THE MUSICIANS GOT OFF FROM WORK. TODAY, THE JAM SESSION IS THE GIG, WITH THE BASSIST AND DRUMMER GETTING PAID (MAYBE) AND OTHER MUSICIANS AND VOCALISTS COMING UP ON STAGE TO DO A SONG OR TWO. IT’S PUT MOST MUSICIANS IN THE POVERTY CLASS.

END PATRIARCHY NOW: MESSAGES IN WOMEN’S MUSIC

newmembers-wijsf13WAKE UP WOMEN. Understand how you are controlled!

The main issue is that women who are not musicians do not consider this an important cause. It is very important because society gets its messages from cultural producers and, if women’s music is not being heard and received, then society-at-large is losing all the way around. While women in other professions make 75 cents to the dollar that a man makes, women musicians only make 64 cents. GET IT? This is how the patriarchy continues – by blocking the messages in women’s music. WAKE UP WOMEN. Understand how you are controlled.

Help us to promote the music of women composers and musicians, who are terribly marginalized in the $27.5 billion music industry.

Did you know that, although women pay 53% of the taxes on Earth, only 1-5% of public funding goes to women musicians and their musical projects?

This is UNACCEPTABLE and it is the MAIN reason why society is off kilter because the messages in women’s music are not being heard by the masses that thrive on disturbingly violent video games, TV, film, and cable programming, loud and womanizing popular music, and overall patriarchal ideas.

If we as women do not promote our endeavors, who will? Join us in our mission to promote women musicians, globally, www.wijsf.com/mission.htm – www.wijsf.com/join.htm –

WAKE UP WOMEN. Understand how you are controlled!

This article discusses why women will not support each other in an effort to end patriarchy.

http://www.angelfire.com/ok/4equity/m2.html

MUSICWOMAN MAGAZINE Launch

15 years in the making, MUSICWOMAN MAGAZINE is the brainchild of composer and vocalist Joan Cartwright, founder of Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. and host of MUSICWOMAN RADIO, in the 7th year of featuring women who compose and perform their own music and men who support them.

Ms. Cartwright is an author of 10 books, produces concerts and events, researches and documents women in jazz and blues, and in music, in general.  She is a noted composer, having two CDs of her own and three compilation CDs with 27 women composers, released in 2011, 2012, and 2013.The articles in this publication will reflect the lives, work, and passion of women like Ms. Cartwright, who claim music as their profession.  Authors, journalists, photographers, musicians, critics, and fans are encouraged to submit articles to the Editor.Also, we encourage any and all advertisers to see our RATE SHEET and inquire about advertisement in MUSICWOMAN MAGAZINE.

musicwomanmagazine

Stealing the Blues

The account below about the origin of Memorial Day serves to support my contention that these books should be required reading in High School because they tell the truth about how Africans in America survived the horrors of slavery through music and how their music has been copied and commercialized by white producers and all but ignored by black people.

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One of the things that most black people know is that the public school system does a horrible  job teaching black history. They will gladly tell you all the wonderful things that white people did and maybe even go back to Europe, but the contributions of African Americans are kept entirely on the back burner. [Source]

A fact that you should probably know is that African Americans are the reason that Memorial Day even exists in the first place.  According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, the event began on May 1, 1865.  A group of former slaves in Charleston, SC gave a proper burial to 257 Union soldiers who’d been put into a mass grave.

The black community of Charleston then consecrated the new cemetery with “an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people.”  The event was initially called “Decoration Day” and was led by 3,000 black school children who started off by singing the song “John Brown’s Body.”  They were then followed by hundreds of black women with baskets of flowers and crosses.  After that, black men marched behind them in cadence, followed by Union infantry.

The Union soldiers lived in horrible conditions, and 257 of them died from exposure and disease.   This was the reason for the creation of the mass grave site.  A total of 28 black men went to the site an re-buried the men properly, largely as a  “thank you” for helping fight for their freedom.

They also built a fence around the cemetery, and on the outside, put the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Dr. Boyce Watkins, who created an online course based on a forum held with Minister Louis Farrakhan last month, says that this is simply the tip of the iceberg.  He says that misinformation is one of the most storied weapons used to perpetuate the oppression of black people. 

“Black people must, as part of our healing, go back and rewrite history to ensure that we learn the truth,” said Dr. Watkins. “You’ve been lied to for your entire life, so it is up to all of us to use the Internet as a critical resource in helping us to learn who we truly are.  We are great people and America would not be the country that it is today without our sacrifice.”

Now you know the rest of the story.  Go tell this one to everyone you know and consider acquiring and reading the books posted above.

Getting funded

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We’re on a mission to take our ensemble on tour. Help fund our project by clicking the link below and donating $1, $5, $10, $100, or whatever your heart guides you to GIVE to support women musicians, today!

We are an 8-woman ensemble of seasoned musicians: 3 vocalists, piano, bass, drums, sax, and a dancer – telling the stories of women in blues and jazz from Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, and Ethel Waters to Marylou Williams, Marian McPartland, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, Nina Simone, and more!

Each show is $2,500, in our region (South Florida to Naples). This presentation has educated and entertained thousands of students through grants, since 1997.  It has grown to an ensemble of women steeped in jazz and blues music.

Your contribution can start a trend of supporting women musicians in their performance endeavors.  We thank you, in advance, for taking the time to explore our project and giving to our cause of preserving the stories of women in blues and jazz.
http://www.usaprojects.org/project/amazing_musicwomen_ensemble

Since 1997, Joan Cartwright has presented Amazing Musicwomen, either alone or with piano accompaniment.
Now, Joan has 7 women joining her in this presentation. They need funding to go on tour. Help by donating to this project.

http://www.usaprojects.org/project/amazing_musicwomen_ensemble
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Singer

The Luxury of Being a Singer equates to being on the top of the food chain in most societies.  The musician sits at the table of the Chief.  In the court of Kings and Queens, singers are held in the highest esteem.  The 10 greatest benefits of being a singer are:

  1. Sleeping late
  2. Invitations
  3. World travel
  4. Applause
  5. Recognition
  6. Appreciation
  7. Good pay
  8. Good treatment
  9. Financial surprises
  10. Spiritual upliftment

Sleeping late is, by far, the best benefit of being a singer. Although I’m a morning person, most of my colleagues who perform around the world revel in sleeping until noon.  Since we work at night, usually between the hours of 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., we have the luxury of turning our phones off and sleeping well into the day, if we choose to.

Invitations are a large part of our relationship with other people, who love to introduce us as “Our Diva”.  It’s very flattering to go to a party or event and have the host or hostess bring their friends over to us, while declaring, “And THIS is our internationally-known Diva of Jazz!”  Happens to me all the time and I must admit, it’s a very good feeling to know that people think so highly of you.

World travel is not only a privilege but an eye-opener.  I’ve always believed that travel educates people to the ways of others, worldwide.  Having had the pleasure of living in Europe, South America, Mexico, China, Japan, and three African countries – Ghana, Gambia and South Africa, and around the U.S., while on tour, I know there is much more to life than going to work and coming home to watch television.  I started my travel blog, in August 2006, while living in China.  Since then, I’ve logged 29 cities and 8 countries.

Applause is the drug of musicians and singers get most of the fanfare.  Actually, many musicians hate singers simply because they get more applause.  That’s because singers bring the words to songs, connecting with the audience on a deeper level than most instrumentalists.  It’s just logical that lyrics tell a story that gives people a reason to understand the music being performed.  Even though American audiences tend to be a bit fickle about their artists and they talk during a performance, which can drive musicians nuts, you can get addicted to applause, when it comes.  European audiences are far more polite and attentive, while Asian audiences will smoke you out of the club.

A manual for up-and-coming Divas, Musicians and Composers

Recognition as an artiste is most important for the continuation of the craft of music.  Musicians thrive on recognition.  They compete for recognition and, if you’ve got your marketing techniques honed, you can outrun another singer simply by getting good press or distributing shiny fliers.  Of course, giving a good concert increases the recognition you get.  It’s all in how you do your business.  My book So, You Want To Be A Singer? spells out the steps necessary for a singer to take in order to be successful and recognized as a professional.  What I learned in 20 years of being a professional, internationally-traveled singer is contained in this book available at this link.

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the information with children in grades K-12, bringing them information necessary for them to know before they jump out into the world of musical performance.

Appreciation is all most people want from others and singers get it every time they perform.  It’s so nice to have people walk up to you and say, “You have a beautiful voice,” or “I love the way you sing that song!”  If each person in the world got this kind of appreciation just once a month, the world would be a happier place to live in.  To be appreciated is to be seen and loved.  We all need to be seen and loved and appreciated.  But singers get more than their share of appreciation, especially if they are good at what they do.

Good pay comes with the territory.  However, recently, people have been trying to trim the fat from the pay of musicians. Budget cuts and financial downturn dictates that musicians are becoming less necessary.  Truth is music is what brought people back from the devastation of wars and financial crisis, since the beginning of time, and more recently in the 1920-1930s and in today’s volatile economic climate.  Music is the universal language and healer and the voices of powerful singers have always made people forget their troubles, if only for a few moments.  So, as Abbey Lincoln declared, “You Gotta Pay The Band!” and usually, the singer is the bandleader.  She or he is the one who got the call, the contract and the check.  Most musicians make in four hours what most people make in 8 hours.  Problem is they may not work five days a week, so their salary has to stretch a little further. In the end, it all balances out – but it’s still nice to be offered $300 to $3,000 for one gig.

Good treatment is paramount to good performance.  That’s why many contracts have riders stipulating that the musicians must have water, food and other comforts in their dressing room.  People jump to provide musicians with what they need.  The term “Diva” is applied to the female vocalist who is held in higher regard than musicians because she demands to be treated with respect and good treatment.  Of course, being spoiled can be the downside but it’s all worth it once she steps out on that stage and opens her mouth to tame the beast among men.  The envy of other women and most musicians, the Diva brings to life what only she can bring and being treated well is a perk of that ability to transform the audience.

Financial surprises ensue when a musician is on her or his job.  Tips can almost double the pay received.  I remember being in Zermatt, Switzerland, where I almost froze my buns off for four days.  The pay was minimal, only CH900 for four nights per musicians, which is very low pay in Switzerland.  We lived in the hotel that had no heat and this was at the top of the Alps.  We ate very well, but the pay was still very low.  However, one gentleman placed a CH1,000 bill in my hand, which I didn’t discover until he’d left, before I was able to thank him.  I was so thrilled that I called my father in Florida on the hotel phone to tell him. He said, “How much is that in U.S. dollars?”  I said, “About $750!”  It was CH100 more than I was getting paid for the entire four days of performance.  It definitely made up for the freezing nights and low pay.  Another time, I had a man pay$75 for my CD because it was the last one I had.  It was like an auction and the man gladly paid.  Then, after singing a very sultry, sexy blues, a man handed me his American Express Gold Card and left, soon after. I was baffled. What should I do with this?  My girlfriends said, “Go shopping!”  But I just couldn’t see myself signing on the dotted line for anything with this card.  I simply called him, got his address and mailed it back to him.  It was the thought that counted. I was truly flattered and now have this wonderful story to tell.

Spiritual upliftment is the ultimate reward for being a singer.  Not only does the ability to sing and bring music to the world life my spirits but it puts a light in the eyes of audience members.  I can recall feeling very low on the morning of a performance and feeling totally elevated the same night.  Music is the balm of ages that brings love, light and delight to millions, sometimes, all at one moment in time.  Ask Pavarotti, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle how they feel about bringing such joy to other people.  I’m sure they feel like me.  I am delighted to have come into this life as a singer.  I love what I do.  I love who I am and there is no better position to be in. I’m convinced!

To book Joan Cartwright go to her official website.

BAS Conference accepts Diva JC’s Paper

Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians

Joan Cartwright’s paper “Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians” discusses the systematic omission of women from big bands, except all-female bands, and the importance of hiring women musicians for music projects, especially, jazz projects. The paper has been accepted for publication and presentation at the British & American Studies Conference (BAS), May 17-19, 2012, in Timisoura,Romania. www.litere.uvt.ro/vechi/BAS_conf/venue.htm. To increase the profile of women’s music organizations, around the country and the world, we are planning the MUSICWOMEN CONFERENCE in October 9-12, 2013, in Fort Lauderdale.

Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians

By

Joan Cartwright, M.A., Executive Director

Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc.

2801 S. Oakland Forest Drive, Suite 103

Oakland Park,FL33309

954-740-3398

info@wijsf.org    |   www.wijsf.org

Copyright 2011 Joan Cartwright

Music, the sound of the spheres, begins in the womb! ~ Diva JC

People first experience music is in the womb.  The sound of blood rushing through the mother’s veins is like the sound of strings.  The heartbeat is the drum, while mother is singing and humming.  But out of the womb, women instrumentalists are omitted, particularly in Jazz.  Women are employed by symphonic orchestras on strings and woodwinds but few are in big bands.  For decades, big bands neglected to engage women, except for singers and the occasional pianist.  Sarah Vaughn worked in Billy Eckstein’s band and Marylou Williams arranged for Duke Ellington and worked with the Mighty Clouds of Joy.

The Lincoln Center Big Band led by Wynton Marsalis has no women.  The Carnegie Hall Big Band led by Jon Faddis is defunct but only one woman performed in that band, trombonist Janice Robinson, who performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Taylor, Marian McPartland, Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis, Slide Hampton, The Jazzmobile All Star Big Band, Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, George Gruntz and Mercer Ellington.  Her seat was not filled by another woman, when she became pregnant.

Trombonist Melba Liston led a 16-piece all-female band in the 1970s.  She was an important jazz arranger in a field dominated by men.  She recorded with classmate Dexter Gordon in 1947.  When Gerald Wilson disbanded his orchestra on the east coast, Melba joined Gillespie’s big band.  She toured with Billie Holiday in 1949, but disliked the rigors of touring.  She took a clerical job, supplementing her income as an extra inHollywood, where she appeared in “The Prodigal” and “The Ten Commandments.”

Liston toured with Gillespie for the U.S. State Department to Europe, the Middle East andLatin Americain 1956 and 1957, and her best known solo is recorded on Gillespie’s “Cool Breeze” at Newport Jazz Festival.  She formed an all-women quintet in 1958, and touredEuropewith the theatre production “Free and Easy” in 1959, then worked with the show’s musical director, Quincy Jones.  In the 1960s, Liston worked with Milt Jackson and Johnny Griffin, and began her long association with pianist Randy Weston.  For four decades, Liston arranged and performed Weston, whose song “Mischievous Lady” was composed for her.  In 1973, she taught in theWest Indiesat the Jamaica School of Music.  Upon her return in 1979, she formed Melba Liston and Company.

Tenor saxophonist Kit McClure led a 19-member band but few venues could pay a big band.  Her five-piece ensemble with Leticia Benjamin on alto sax, Jill McCarron on piano, Kim Clarke on bass and Bernice Brooks on drums performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and JVC Jazz Festival in New York.  McClure’s big band did a tribute to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female big band formed in Mississippi, in 1937, and renowned by 1940.  American Legacy Magazine (Summer 2008) featured the Sweethearts in an article entitled “The Ladies Who Swung The Band” along with the Diva Jazz Orchestra.  Nat Hentoff wrote, “From the earliest days of jazz, women were excluded from the all-male club. But somehow they kept on swinging, and today we celebrate their names.”  Bassist Carline Ray (81) still performs inNew York City, long after the demise of the Sweethearts that was comprised of highly talented females who remain obscure.

International Women in Jazz led by pianist/composer and flautist Dotti Anita Taylor and Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. struggle to present female musicians and composers.  Women in Jazz on the West Coast, founded by LaQuetta Shamblee presented several talented females like guitarist Lois McMorris (“Lady Mac”) and bassist Nedra Wheeler, and Women in Jazz in Austin, TX, founded by Pamela Hart.  These organizations suffer from budget cuts for the arts in the U.S.

In 2008, drummer Alvin Queen, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, led a band designated as Jazz Ambassadors to the United Nations.  Queen defended his choice to not have women in his band.  I thought it was important to have at least one woman in a band that represented the United Nations.  But Queen didn’t agree.  How can this omission by male band leaders of women instrumentalists in the field of jazz be rectified?  It takes a conscious effort on the part of all musicians to understand the importance of including women instrumentalists.  Even female musicians won’t work with other women.  One singer said she would never hire women, again, when a female drummer took another gig, after agreeing to perform with the singer.  The drummer said she would help the singer out but didn’t consider the date a real job.  A female horn player said she does not work with female musicians at all!

Since 1984, I’ve worked as a leader with bassists Carline Ray and Kim Clarke, Bertha Hope on piano, and Paula Hampton and Bernice Brooks on drums in New York; pianists Tina Schneider and Mariette Otten in Europe; and in Florida with pianists Melody Cole and Alison Weiner, bassist Te’ja Veal, Rochelle Frederick on tenor sax and Renée Fiallos on flute.  An adept jazz pianist Joanne Brackeen was with Freddie Hubbard and the Kool Jazz All-Stars of 1983, when they recorded my composition Sweet Return on Atlantic Records.  Brackeen scored the tune for the quintet, brilliantly!  But there are no adult, female drummers or bassists in Florida, so my own band Jazz Hotline is comprised of menbecause they know my music and are happy to work with me.

Many women instrumentalists don’t know standard songs like men do.  Distracted by studying, teaching, mothering, homemaking, working a job or volunteering in the community, women have little time to practice.  Women resist rehearsal and may be argumentative and unprofessional, when following another woman.  Even though men omit them from the “good ole boy” club, women contradict the authority of woman leaders.  Pianist Melody Cole had a tough time with men, who worked against her.  Yet, she resisted me, when I paid her.  Mistrust, resistance and contrariness are reasons for omitting women from the playing field.  Still, there should be conscious inclusion of women musicians to counter the all-male musical environment.

The middle school jazz band I volunteer with has seven girls in the saxophone section.  They are 13, and have less enthusiasm than the boys.   The two female bassists are into the music because they play throughout the score.  But the saxophones sit out on many measures.  Some are there only to fulfill a requirement.  Encouraging girls to play hard, practice and care about performance is what community musicians can do at schools.

Legendary blues pianist and vocalist Jeannie Cheatham (84) was the first woman to induct anyone into the Smithsonian Jazz Hall of Fame.  Her friend pianist Dorothy Donegan was that musician.  Cheatham said it’s a choice to be a musician.  “Professional musicians, men and women must be conscientious about their decision to live that lifestyle.  They must promote, book, schedule, rehearse, do the accounting and take responsibility for their career,” said Cheatham.  Each member of Cheatham’s Sweet Baby Blues Band had their own band and worked with musicians they liked.  Cheatham worked with trumpeter Clora Bryant fromTexas, saxophonist Vi Redd inLos Angeles and drummer Patty Patton inSan Diego, where she resides.

Besides being co-leader with her husband Jimmy Cheatham of Ellington Band fame, Jeannie accompanied Cab Calloway, whose sister Blanche had her own big band in the early 20th century.  “Sidemen want to be called, hired, have fun and go home,” said Cheatham.  “Agents may like to book all-female bands.  But most touring bands don’t hire women because of rooming arrangements.  It’s easier to sleep four men to a room.  A woman means an extra room,” said Cheatham, who believes women have it much easier, today.  “When I was young, a woman had to put a man’s name on her music to get it played.”  Cheatham insisted that women who choose to be professional musicians must work just as hard as men and have equal success, if they apply themselves.

For Kim Clarke, “women musicians must be tenacious and cultivate a following, unless they’re with a major record company that builds their fan base.”  Men have no problem being sidemen but women must have what Clarkes calls, “The look – the right age and the right size.”  If she’s not good looking, she accepts gigs men won’t take or she’s a Diva, throwing her weight around.”  Clarke said gay women work more often in the gay arena.  Clarke worked with Kit McClure in a wedding band for several years, until McClure tired of that kind of gig.  Also, Clarke works with Bertha Hope on piano and Paula Hampton on drums in “Jazzberry Jam, a dynamic group whose spectacular ability to communicate with each other produces the best in musical improvisation, and informs the audience of their humor and humanity.” Clarke said, “Grace Kelly is a Korean alto saxophonist whose father owns a candy factory.  Grace works the big festivals because her father pays to promote her.  But without a sponsor, most female musicians are on their own, and club owners are about the money.  You must hustle to get people interested in your music.”

Vocalist and composer Beverly Lewis lives inItalyand said, “You don’t find female musicians on the level we have here.”  She said there are no female drummers in Italy because “there are no drumming schools in Europe, except in Amsterdam and at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne, Switzerland.  Women drummers are rare and in such demand that they usually work with famous singers, making them unavailable for gigs with local artists.  The biggest problem for Lewis is that “musicians are not acting out of authenticity but out of a program.  They will go where the money is rather than be loyal to a musical genre.”  However, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington is a professor at Berklee College of Music inBostonand Cindy Blackman Santana is at the top of the charts in the jazz world, along with Brazilian bassist Esperanza Spaulding.

In New York City, where pay-to-play is policy, women musicians stay away.  Cheatham said musicians must meet people and let other musicians and club owners know they are musicians.  “If you’re not willing to socialize, you won’t work,” she insisted.

When pianist/vocalist LaVelle lived inParis, she was grossly under-appreciated.  In Switzerland, she’s a big fish in a little pond.  She performs in Russia, France, Switzerland and other European countries with organist Rhoda Scott.  The two make a dynamic duo and enjoy working with each other.

Online social media helps musicians expose their music to a wider audience.  Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, CDBaby, YouTube, iTunes and Reverbnation are sites for music promotion.  The world consists of men and women.  So, the jazz scene should consist of men and women.  However, women are left out so often that it is “normal” to omit them.  What are some of the reasons women musicians are overlooked?

Women don’t get to work in ensemble as men do, so their “chops” are weaker.  They are soloists because they only get to play solo.  Women’s menstrual cycle results in mood shifts, body pains and ailments that make them irritable.  They may be untrusting, insecure, critical and selfish, wanting to be the headliner rather than accompany a singer or horn player, while males don’t mind being sidemen.  Women don’t support each other the way men do.  Men are better team players.  This is based on the fact that, in secondary school and college, boys work with each other in sports, while girls learn run households, where they are in charge.  Boys engage in teamwork, while girls learn to clean, cooking and sew, all solitary endeavors.

Dr. Malcolm Black, 20-year big band leader at Broward College said girls who play instruments in middle and high school drop music in college because “their priorities change to fashion, romance and other studies.  This is proliferated by the belief that music is traditionally a male field.  Lugging a saxophone or contrabass is a male thing and doesn’t fit in with the girl’s outfit,” said Black.  Bassist Kim Clarke said, “It’s fashionable to wear make-up, weaves, high heels, short skirts and hate on other women.  And it’s boys versus music.  If her boyfriend is insecure and doesn’t like her in the band with other boys, she drops the instrument, abandoning music.  Women quit sooner than men, if they feel threatened by competition.”

Recently retired vocal instructor Lorna Lesperance said, “Girls take up an instrument at performing arts schools to get credit for that class.  But they’re interested in singing, dancing or theater.  Once the class is finished, they forget about the instrument.”

Peer pressure dictates that, if a girl’s friends are not interested in music, she discontinues music studies to be with her friends, even if she has talent.  Parents, teachers and community mentors must encourage girls to stick with music and groom them for music careers.  Girls must transcend the stigma that musicians are not respected like teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals.  Although most musicians study from an early age, they are said to be playing.  Parents don’t encourage children to be musicians, fearing they won’t be able to provide for themselves and their families in the future.  Other deterrents in the music industry are drug abuse and alcoholism, especially in Jazz and Rock.

But women musicians excel and are leaders in their own right.

  • Junior Mance said, “Melba Liston is one of the best jazz musicians, not just one of the best women in jazz.”
  • Pianist, composer and educator Gerald Price said, “Organist Trudy Pitts handled herself formidably in an arena of musicians made up mostly of men.”
  • Pianist Tania Maria “The Lady from Brazil” was an attorney in her homeland. She suffered from omission in that field to the point that she leftBraziland came to theUnited States, where she pursued a musical career that brought her great notoriety.

If there is no female bassist, pianist or drummer, a band leader can invite a woman to join as a singer, percussionist or woodwind player.  Since women pay taxes, it’s only fair that women are represented, globally, on the Jazz Scene, especially when bands are funded through federal, state and local grants.  Wanda Wright, President of Bethune Cookman’s Alumni Marching Band said, “People just don’t want to change the all male tradition of the marching band.”  Perhaps, that’s across the board.  But, in this high-tech world, where information is disseminated, rapidly, inequities like this can be rectified, rapidly.  For five years, our grant awards have funded concerts, featuring women musicians at least twice a year.  We engage students and adults to perform original compositions of members of both genders.

Joan Cartwright, Founder/Executive Director
WOMEN IN JAZZ SOUTH FLORIDA, INC.
www.wijsf.org

Registration for the MUSICWOMEN CONFERENCE in October 9-12, 2013, in Fort Lauderdale, begins October 9, 2012.