Charlotte, NC — March, 2022 — During National Women’s History Month, JazzArts Charlotte celebrates women heroes in the world of jazz.
Before jazz even had a name, the earliest images show women as part of the bands. Singers Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday made their mark on the history of jazz. Often, the music of some of the biggest names in jazz was influenced by the women in their lives, like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. This month’s Jazz Exploration Workshop, led by Dr. Kelsey Klotz, is uncovering that history.
In Week 1, the group focused on the women behind the scenes. Whether musical muses or the brains behind the fame, the list of women who were instrumental in their husband’s success is long: Nellie Monk, Lorain Willis Gillespie, Anita Evans, Gladys Hampton, Maxine Gordon, Iola Brubeck, Alice Coltrane, Jackie McLean, June Heath, and so many more. A workshop participant mentioned that in those times, while the wives of a traditional household often were relegated to taking care of the home and children, these women often engaged their skills to manage the business of music, with or without that recognition.
Today’s women in jazz are part of the continuing evolution to empower women, and indicate the journey isn’t yet over. Professor and Researcher, Dr. Kelsey Klotz relays her own experience as a young musician: “I was the only woman in the jazz band my sophomore year in college. I had a great director and the band supported me, but I missed the community I’d felt in previous bands that were more evenly mixed. For example, on tour, the guys shared 5 to a room, and I had my own room. I missed out on significant bonding time. I ended up quitting jazz band after that year.”
“When I think back on it, as an educator of jazz history, I realize this had to do with a lack of intentional support for women in jazz. It doesn’t always take overt sexism for women to leave jazz, just a lack of community.”
The collection of all-star musicians at this month’s JAZZ ROOM, Special Edition: Women in Jazz, represent women leading the way on today’s jazz scene. Friday March 18, noon-1:00, as a featured addition, these remarkable women spend an hour speaking with us about the world of jazz from their perspective. They will share their own experiences and observations. The FREE panel discussion will be held at VAPA Center, 700 N Tryon Street. More information at www.thejazzarts.org/events.
Providing visible role models and creating a path for women in jazz, as in many areas, continues to require an intentional effort. JazzArts Charlotte takes its mission of jazz music education seriously, in all aspects. “It’s our responsibility to promote, propel, give a platform for female instrumentalists and educate about women performing music,” says Lonnie Davis, President and CEO.
Join us this month, at the JAZZ ROOM and our discussions, to explore some of the individuals forging that path.
The collage above represents a few of the many women in jazz brought to the community of Charlotte. In order: Melissa Morgan from September’s tribute to Billie Holiday; Dr. Kelsey Klotz, instructor for Jazz Exploration Workshops; Lonnie Davis, CEO JazzArts Charlotte; Lois Majors, JazzArts Ensemble All Star; Chelsea Baratz from last month’s JAZZ ROOM; Karina Colis from 2019 Women in Jazz, and Ellen Rowe, Allison Miller, Marion Hayden, and Sharel Cassity from this month’s Women in Jazz.
ABOUT THE MARCH WOMEN IN JAZZ HIGHLIGHTED PERFORMERS
Ellen Rowe, pianist & composer: Ellen Rowe, world renowned jazz pianist and composer, released an album in 2019, “Momentum – Portraits of Women In Music”, of original music rendered by eight amazing women jazz musicians and written for women—specifically to honor those female trailblazers in various fields that have inspired her, including jazz, politics, social justice, environmental advocacy, and sports.
Allison Miller, drummer: NYC based drummer and multimedia explorer Allison Miller is a member of the All-Female Jazz Supergroup Artemis. Her most recent composition, “Otis Was a Polar Bear”, is included on NPR’s list of The 200 Greatest Songs by 21st Century Women+.
Marion Hayden, bassist: is one of the nation’s finest proponents of the acoustic bass. She is a co-founder of the touring jazz ensemble Straight Ahead- the first all woman jazz ensemble signed to Atlantic Records.
Sharel Cassity, saxophonist: Hailed a”Rising Star Alto Saxophone” in Downbeat Magazine for the past 12 years, Sharel Cassity was listed on the SF Jazz website in 2018 article as “10 Rising Women Instrumentalists you should know”. Sharel has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America,