Now this!

Now, this!

By Dr. Joan Cartwright

Jazz journalist Lara Pellegrinelli’s recent article Women in Jazz: Blues and The Objectifying Truth (2017), commiserated on the marginalization of women musicians in the Jazz/Blues genre, stating that the cultural assumption is that women are merely the passive vessels for male sounds (Pellegrinelli, 2017).

In response to Pellegrinelli, Terri Lynn Carrington said: When I started teaching and hearing the stories of the young women at the college, . . . I realized just because my experience was not the same as theirs, I am a part of this community and have to work toward or fight for change in any possible way that I can.  I feel great ownership in this art form and know that I belong here, and want my female students to feel the same way.

In a Huffington Post article, Carrington wrote, “On issues of racism and sexism, there can be impatience from progressives, expecting that after all this time everyone should just know better and stand on the correct side of consciousness” (Carrington, 2017).  She continued with, “feminizing or masculinizing music can be counter-productive. The studying, composing, and performing of music should be gender neutral, and I think the greatest musicians are musically ‘gender fluid’.”

I do not agree with Carrington’s statement because I have found few Jazz musicians, and certainly even fewer Classical musicians, who are willing to push forward music composed by women musicians.  My fortune was that Freddie Hubbard recorded my composition Sweet Return in 1983 on Atlantic Records.  Even though his half-German wife, the publisher, did everything in her power to stop the progress of this album because she felt there was something romantic between Freddie and me, which there was not, that composition made it into the Freddie Hubbard Song Book, much to my surprise.  Since then, I have had no other opportunities to get my music performed or recorded by any gender fluid musician, even though I have gifted several male musicians, band leaders, and arrangers with my song book.

In Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970), Frank Kofsky expounded on the words of Professor Archie Shepp, an articulate spokesperson for African-Americans. Shepp said, “the United States is culturally backward because white Americans have been unwilling to give credit to African-Americans as innovators of jazz, which he refers to as American realty – total reality.”  Shepp contends that whites “think they have a right to jazz instead of being grateful for jazz as a gift that the Negro has given.”  He said even white Americans in the jazz world “deny that jazz is first and foremost a black art created and nurtured by black people in this country out of the wealth of their historical experience” (Cartwright, 2009, p. 56).

For three centuries or more, white men have used the physical and cultural production of Africans in America to enrich themselves and their families while white women reaped the benefits in silence. White men raped African women, continually, producing a whole new group of people who were sold regardless of their relationship to their white fathers. The transition from cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane to jazz and blues as a money-making venture was as smooth as Smooth Jazz! Festivals and clubs around the world raked in millions of dollars while disowning the very people that the music came from. White musicians and educators dot the halls of conservatories and universities where jazz is taught by rote just like the classical music that issued from European concert halls.

Now, this – white women are complaining that they are marginalized in the world of Jazz. What a surprise. These same white women and their foremothers never found it odd that the music that spoke of freedom for Africans enslaved in America has become the popular music of today, without the input of African musicians.  A survey of jazz educators will result in a very low number of African professors at universities with Jazz Departments.  Professor Archie Shepp at Amherst, Dr. Larry Ridley at Rutgers, Dr. Karlton Hester at UCLA San Diego, Dr. Linda Williams at Southern University, and the handful of African-descent professors at Berklee – Terri Lynn Carrington, Patrice Rushen, and the late Geri Allen do not comprise a long list of instructors that teach the music that actually came out of their communities.

Do white people have a right to perform and teach Jazz and Blues music? This question is moot since white people believe they have a right to appropriate EVERYTHING FROM EVERYBODY and that no one should ever say anything about it in the negative.  Well, my book A History of African-American Jazz and Blues (Cartwright, 2009) discusses how The Music was appropriated, packaged, commercialized, and serendipitously stolen from its originators.  Besides the theft of the publishing royalties of great composers like Duke Ellington by publishers like Irving Mills, who managed Duke’s band for 13 years because African musicians could not belong to ASCAP or manage themselves outside of TOBA, Jazz and Blues musicians of African-descent were exploited in every way possible.

Of course, like cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane crops, Jazz and Blues were new crops that white men felt entitled to exploit to their personal benefit.  Musicians of African descent had no choice because they were barred from owning anything that they produced in the United States. Most prolific musicians died pennilessly and their families rarely benefitted from their cultural production. The following excerpt attests to that fact.

The financial pressures were exacerbated by another familiar pressure which had afflicted jazz musicians right from the start of the music – their reliance on the largely white businessmen who ran the clubs, record companies, management and booking agencies, and, most significantly, music publishing. The shaving of bands’ fees by clubowners and agents, and the practice of managers and agents adding their names to the publishing rights of tunes – and thereby claiming a share of their often lucrative proceeds – had begun early in jazz (Duke Ellington’s manager, Irving Mills, is a famous example, and while Ellington himself was never slow to claim a co-credit on works instigated by his sidemen, at least he had a musical hand in them) and, according to Dizzy, had grown no better by the time of the bebop era.

People with enough bucks and foresight to invest in bebop made some money. I mean more than just a little bit. All the big money went to the guys who owned the music, not to the guys who played it. The businessmen made much more than the musicians, because without the money to invest in producing their own music, and sometimes managing poorly what they earned, the modern jazz musicians fell victim to the forces of the market. Somehow, the jazz businessman always became the owner and got back more than his fair share, usually at the player’s expense. More was stolen from us during the bebop era than in the entire history of jazz . . . (Mathieson, 1999).

So, for white women to declare that they are barred, unfairly, from making a living in the Jazz scene is ludicrous.  White men have maintained control over the cultural production of Africans and they have no intention of relinquishing that control.  The rub is that African men will embrace white women musicians far more readily than they will women of African descent with a few exceptions like Dexter Gordon and Melba Liston.  However, Regina Carter and Teri Lynn Carrington managed to eke out a place in The Music for themselves and their art.

But most women of African descent who appeared on the Jazz scene, until recently, were shoved in a corner, rarely to be heard from.  Some of the most profound of those women were Vi Redd, Jeannie Cheatham, Dorothy Donegan, and Trudy Pitts.  Other talented musicians, like Shirley Scott and Hazel Scott, found favor because they had notable husbands – Shirley and Stanley Turrentine and Hazel and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.  Today, Mimi Jones, Shirazette Tinnin, Lakecia Benjamin, Camille Thurman, Jazmin Ghent, Gail Jhonson, Karen Briggs, and Esperanza Spaulding are making some headway.

Meanwhile, white women are courted by musicians of African descent with valor and pleasure.  For instance, Christian McBride partnered with Diana Krall and Prince endorsed Candy Dulfer (and the two white women in his band).  Perhaps, white women can pay to gain credibility by recording and performing with African-American musicians, while women of African descent cannot make that monetary layout.

As far as sexual harassment is concerned, what is it that white women do not understand about the sexual energy of white men who raped African women during slavery, while their white wives languished in plantation mansions?  Today, white men are being called out in great numbers for sexually harassing women in the workplace.  This is their modus operandi.  Is that to say that African men do not rape and sexually harass?  Heaven’s no.  It is the nature of man to hunt women like prey.

My career as a Jazz/Blues vocalist and composer spanned 50 years.  I remember several instances when I was targeted by male musicians.  However, I was able to extricate myself from the situation or rationalize why that happened.  One white man told me to take my clothing off.  When I refused, he told me I would never be anything but a secretary.  I asked him to call me a cab and went on to have a charmed career, performing in 20 countries on five continents, without ever taking my clothes off for one single opportunity to perform or record.

Maybe I am a very strong woman with principles that do not allow me to cave into the taunting of males.  One of my band members suggested that I engage in fellatio with him in a closet at a New Years’ Eve gig that I hired him for.  I did not speak to him for two years after that and I never hired him again.  Women have recourse.  Sniveling about sexual harassment without speaking out about it means nothing.  It’s a man’s world only because women allow it to be that.

Women fail to create camaraderie amongst themselves.  For 10 years, I have been the director of a non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for women musicians.  It is like pulling teeth to get women to support this organization.  They think that supporting Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. detracts from who they are.  Women are not joiners or supporters unless they think they will get something from an organization.  They expect me to be their agent, to get them gigs, to promote them even though they refuse to pay $50 dues per year.  That’s insane.

I spent the last six years writing my dissertation Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. My research showed that women lack sufficient business skills to succeed in the monstrously competitive world of Jazz.  Most women musicians resign themselves to teaching rather than concentrating on branding, networking, teamwork, negotiation, and accounting.  Few are adept at writing grant proposals to win financial awards to produce and perform original music.

Then, there are those that know my organization exists but minimalize it because I am not a white woman.  Well, Blues and Jazz came from the experience of African women and men in America, and just because white musicians think they own it, they never will.  They may play all the riffs and copy all the solos of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Marylou Williams, Hazel Scott, Melba Liston, and other prolific Jazzwomen but they will never understand the burden that led to the expression of the Blues and, subsequently, Jazz.

White people harm each other – yes – but the harm they did to Africans in America was counteracted by the Blues and Jazz and they can never understand the full meaning of that because they are unwilling to give credit to African-Americans as innovators of jazz, which [Shepp referred] to as ‘American realty – total reality.’  As Shepp contended, whites ‘think they have a right to jazz’ instead of being grateful for jazz as a ‘gift that the Negro has given.’  He said even white Americans in the jazz world ‘deny that jazz is first and foremost a black art created and nurtured by black people in this country out of the wealth of their historical experience’ (Mathieson, 1999).


Carrington, T.L. (2017).  Sexism in jazz: Being agents of change. Retrieved from

Cartwright, J.  (2009).  A history of African-American jazz and blues. FYI Communications, Inc. (

Cartwright, J. (2017). Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. FYI Communications, Inc. (

Mathieson, K. (1999). Giant steps: Bebop and the creators of modern jazz, 1945-65. Retrieved from

Pelligrinelli, L. (2017).  Women in jazz: Blues and the objectifying truth. Retrieved from

Dr. Joan Cartwright is a Jazz/Blues vocalist, composer, and author of books on Jazz and Blues and Women in Jazz and Blues. She is the founder of Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for women musicians, globally!



Music – Work or Play

jcbahamas7aMusic: Work or Play?
By Professor Joan Cartwright
[March 25, 2016] Most musicians begin their careers at four or five years old and continue until they die. Does the term play effect people’s thinking about what musicians really do? Does the action of playing music mean that musicians do not work?

In my 40-year career as a vocalist and songwriter, I have run into stone walls getting to the next level. I started singing at a theater in Jamaica, New York, at the age of four. By eight, I was a headliner in the annual Bernice Johnson Dance Recital. Mother doted on my Shirley Temple curls and my outfits of shiny tinsel and crinoline-lined, lacy dresses, not to mention the ballet, tap, and interpretive costumes my parents paid for.

I studied piano with a woman whose name is long forgotten. But her stern face never encouraged me to learn. I was 27 when I met Gerald Price, the musician whose demeanor catalyzed my growth as a vocalist, pianist, and composer. My harp teacher, Caliope Proios, with whom I studied for two years, listened to my life stories as she showed me the difficulties of changing pedals and string fingering.

In the seventies, my formal education involved music, but I dueled my B.A. with Communications, a new department, separate from English. Television production fell under this banner, with radio, journalism, marketing and advertising, while The Medium is the Message (1964) by Marshall McLuhan led me to do everything to get the message out that I am a musician and I have something to say.

For the first 10 years of my career, I was paid to do what I love – sing. But I was told that singing for free at benefits was good ‘for exposure’ by a singer friend. However, I decided that we would get more exposure standing on a corner, taking our tops off than performing at benefits. Finally, I told people, “I can do it, but I cannot ask musicians to work for free.”

After all, I worked (or played) with grown men and women who had children to feed and bills to pay. Every doctor and lawyer has pro bono cases in their filing cabinet that comprise less than 10% of their case load. But a musician, who plays for a living, is invited to perform at benefits at the ratio of three benefits to one gig. This had to stop and I was the only one who could stop it.

In 1990, I traveled overseas to sing in Switzerland, where I was treated with dignity. Europeans do not see musicians as people who play. Music is work. So, I was paid well and given lots of respect. When I returned to the States, in 1996, people treated me better than before I took the step across the big pond. I determined that musicians must leave the comfort of their homeland in order to be appreciated at home.

Ten years later, I had completed a five-month tour of Asia, and people in Atlanta, who never thought of me as a professional before, seemed to take me more seriously. In China, I worked at two clubs, where I did not make as much money as I did in 1990. Musicians’ pay always reduces, while the cost of living rises. That is ridiculous. People think musicians do not pay bills. After all, they spend their lives playing instead of working like other people.

The truth is that musicians do the job that doctors and lawyers cannot do. In one hour, musicians heal hundreds, even thousands of people. The right song keeps a couple from divorcing or pushes them to see that they are not right for each other, saving thousands of dollars of legal deliberation.

Music permeates the planet, bringing joy to all who hear it. People enjoy a concert more than they do a hospital stay or sitting in law office. Yet, they will pay doctors and lawyers extortionate fees and squint, when they get a high quote for a band of four or five adults to perform at a wedding or office party, where they will be enjoying themselves because of the music!

I am befuddled at what people will pay for and what they want to get for free. Learning music is not free. You pay for lessons. You pay with your time to practice. You continue to learn more music. You must stay in front of the pack in order to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Producing music is not free. Studio time is extremely costly. Paying musicians to perform your music is expensive, even if they are your friends. Mixing and mastering music is expensive (up to $100 per song). Duplicating CDs, producing videos, and marketing music runs into the thousands. But getting paid for a gig can be the hardest part of a musician’s job.

Finally, unlike most professionals, there is little in the way of retirement or insurance funding for musicians, who do not belong to the Musician’s Union, which few musicians either can or will afford. Musicians give joy to others throughout their lives and, unless they have a hit song or record, they have very little income to fall back on in their old age. Most die destitute, leaving little inheritance for their spouse and offspring.

It is uncanny. What brings people the most pleasure, rarely sustains those who create it. But the beat goes on and, somehow, musicians find venues where they can keep the music

playing. (918 words)



McLuhan, M. (1964). The medium is the message. Understanding media: The extensions of man. Retrieved from


Diva Joan Cartwright is an internationally-known vocalist, composer, and author of 11 books. She holds a BA in Music/Communications from LaSalle U, in Philadelphia, PA; an MA in Communications from FAU, in Boca Raton, FL; and is a doctoral candidate for a DBA in Business Marketing online at Northcentral University, in Prescott Valley, AZ. Since 1997, Joan has been the CEO of FYI Communications, Inc. and, since 2007, her non-profit, Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. with 304 members promotes women musicians, globally. In 2016, WIJSF released its 6th CD of the music of women composers. Joan hosts an online radio show, MUSICWOMAN, featuring women composers at Joan’s personal CDs are Feelin’ Good (1995) and In Pursuit of a Melody (2005). She owns MJTV Network with her daughter Mimi Johnson and she is actor in the sitcoms Last Man and The Siblings produced at In 2014, Joan was honored in Atlanta, GA, as the first Lady Jazz Master. In 2016, she was honored as one of the Top 25 Women of Color in Business and Leadership by Legacy Magazine. She has two children (Michael Serrano and Mimi Johnson), five grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. She is retired from music performance and resides in Sunrise, Florida. Currently, Joan is a professor of Speech Communications as Southeastern College in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Diva JC Online:


Blues Women: First Civil Rights Workers


The African voice inspired instrumentalists.  Vocalese was a dialogue between vocalists and instruments.  Each person had an individual sound and instrumentalists imitated the voice’s cries, growls, moans, slurs, whispers, shouts and wails.  Blues was the element of American subculture created by enslaved Africans, singing European music.  Considered crude by classical listeners, Blues liberated singers from precise pitch and calculated rhythms of European music.  Black singers emerged from Spirituals and Blues to develop Jazz.  Their free-spirited songs delivered messages of liberation, signaling to Africans in America that they could be free.  Blues women were the first civil rights workers because their songs symbolized liberty in its rawest form by tapping into the human spirit.  Angela Davis recounted Marx and Engles’ observation that art as “a form of social consciousness [awakens] . . . those affected by it to . . . transform their oppressive environments” (Davis, 1999).  Blues were popularized by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (Columbus, GA, September, 1882 – December 22, 1939), The Mother of the Blues (Cartwright, 2008, p. 9).  A spokesperson for black people, she was a hero to them.  She recorded hundreds of songs on Paramount, putting that recording company on the map.  The most popular Blues singers established a rapport and rhetoric with the crowd.  Ma Rainey took Bessie Smith under her wing and Blues tradition developed as one followed another.

This book Amazing Musicwomen has lots of information about Billie HolidayElla FitzgeraldDinah WashingtonMarian McPartland, Peggy Lee, Toshiko AkiyoshiAlberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and other Musicwomen. Musicwoman Radio and Musicwoman Magazine tell the stories of Amazing Musicwomenwho paved the way for vocalists, song stylists, singers, composers, and instrumentalists. Their songs are from The American Song Book that includes original songs like Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues”, “Handy Man”, and “Rough & Ready Man” plus songs of Broadway composers of the early 1900s, Duke Ellington, Billie Strayhorn, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Fats Waller, and Broadway composers Michel LeGrande, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach and Isaac Hayes. [NOTE, after Alberta Hunter, the absence of women composers. Who were they? Does anybody know?] OK, Barbra Streisand, Carol King, Carly Simon, Roberta Flack, and who else?

Buy the book

Buy the download


Cartwright, J. (2008).  Amazing Musicwomen.  FYI Communications, Inc.

Davis, A.Y. (1999).  Blues legacies and black feminism. New York: Random House.

©2014 Joan Cartwright, M.A.

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. 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


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    |

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

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