Who gives voice to jazz?

Documenting Jazz 2022 gathered colleagues with an interest in jazz studies from diverse backgrounds and contributions from scholars of all career stages, independent and non-academically affiliated scholars and researchers, critics, archivists, librarians, and practitioners to foster an atmosphere of rich interdisciplinary discussion and debate. The theme of this year’s conference was diversity in an interdisciplinary forum that was inclusive and wide-ranging for sharpening awareness, sharing studies and experiences, and focusing debate on the many aspects of diversity in jazz, today, raising the following questions:

  • Who gives voice to diversity in the jazz world?
  • What does diversity mean in Jazz Studies in particular?
  • Does jazz as musical and social practice contribute to intercultural dialogue?
  • Has jazz transcended boundaries beyond its sub-cultures?
  • Are diversity and inclusion problematic within mainstream education and research,

programs, perspectives, ethics, and methodologies?

  • What can we say of jazz practice, its histories, and communities?

As with previous conferences in Dublin (2019), Birmingham (2020), and Edinburgh (2021),

colleagues with an interest in jazz studies and jazz practice from a diverse array of

backgrounds and career stages were invited to debate and discuss jazz in all its myriad forms. While in no way limited to these, the conference committee encouraged individual and joint papers and panels to address the theme of diversity from these points of departure:

1.         Jazz and Economic Equity

2.         Jazz in Film & Television

3.         Jazz as Social Practice

4.         Jazz and Technology

5.         Jazz and Gender

6.         Jazz and Sexuality

7.         Jazz and Politics

8.         Jazz in the Popular Imagination

9.         Jazz and Visual Culture

10.       Jazz and Disability

11.       Jazz and its Heritage Legacy

12.       Jazz and Improvisation

13.       Jazz and the Environment/Ecology

14.       Jazz and the virtual world/AI

15.       Jazz and Wellbeing

16.       Jazz including varying ability

17.       Jazz and musical diversity

18.       Jazz and Aesthetics

19.       Jazz as Discourse

20.       Jazz and its Emerging Communities

Who gives voice to Jazz? Copyright 2022 Dr. Joan Cartwright

In Queens, New York, from the age of four, I knew what the face of jazz looked like because the notable saxophonist Budd Johnson was my babysitter, when I stayed at his house, waiting for his wife, Bernice Johnson to pick me up for dancing school. By eight, all I knew was that a beautiful ebony woman taught me ballet and her husband practiced jazz riffs from which I learned to scat. So, I never knew, until much later in life, that ballet was a French art and Paul Whiteman was considered the King of Jazz. My first live concert was Duke Ellington at the Apollo, when I was eight. My father’s record collection featured covers with Black musicians on them. How was I supposed to know that white people controlled the music industry and jazz production?

Budd and Bernice Johnson

Each time I converse about the marginalization of women in the music industry, the first question that comes to mind is, “Where were you the first time you heard music?” Invariably, the person reenacts a moment in their childhood home. “No!” I insist, forcing them to think back further to when they first developed ears. Then, they exclaim, “In my mother’s womb!” The conversation proceeds with my conclusion that every person’s mother was the first musical instrument they encountered. The blood rushing through mother’s veins was the sound of strings, the heartbeat was the drum, and she was probably humming or singing. This scenario is undeniable when I share this fact.

Then. why do women earn less than 15% of the $20 Billion dollar music industry, worldwide? Rather than being a problem, I see an opportunity because 50% of $20 Billion would increase the potential of women musicians to earn by 35%. That is $7 Billion, which would give a lot of women much more income to work with. A study in 2021 by Donne, Women in Music, founded by opera singer Gabriella Di Laccio showed that “the inequality and lack of diversity that our data demonstrates across classical music reflects the lack of opportunity that women face across all musical genres” (Di Laccio, 2022). Moreover, in countless areas of American culture, the contributions of Black women in jazz have been underappreciated for decades (Effinger, 2021).

Although I had what I consider to be a charmed life as a jazz singer in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, and many other places, I realized that I had only performed with six women instrumentalists, namely, bassist Carline Ray, one of the Sweethearts of Rhythm, drummer Paula Hampton, the niece of Lionel Hampton. bassist Kim Clarke, and pianists Bertha Hope in New York, Tina Schneider from Germany, and Marion Otten from Holland. This made me pause and wonder where the women jazz instrumentalists were. From 1997, I began documenting their lives on my website in a Jazzwomen Directory that numbers 100 women, today. I produced Gaiafest, A Celebration of Mother Earth with Women in Jazz, in 1998, honoring Dorothy Donegan and Dakota Staton. By 2007, I founded Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting women musicians, globally. To date, we have 412 members with 263 musicians. Most are singers but instrumentalists and composers support us and are featured in our monthly newsletters, on my podcast Musicwoman Live, and in our annual publication – Musicwoman Magazine.

When Wynton Marsalis invited Melanie Charles to sing with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, she realized that “the way I interpreted jazz, what Lincoln Center and Juilliard represented when I was a student at the New School, was so far away from actually what the reality is. It is actually rooted in soul” (Effinger, 2021). Norman Mapp’s standard implies this.

Jazz Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul! By Norman Mapp

Jazz is makin’ do with ‘taters and grits,

Standin’ up each time you get hip,

Jazz ain’t nothin’ but soul!

Jazz is livin’ high off nickels and dimes,

Telling folks ’bout what’s on your mind,

Jazz ain’t nothin’ but soul!

Trumpets cussin’ saxophones

Rhythm makin’ love,

People wearin’ fancy clothes,

It’s the voice of my people!

For me, jazz is all the truth to be found,

Never mind who’s puttin’ it down,

Jazz ain’t nothin’ but soul!

Traditionally, the cultural production of Africans has been emulated by European and American musicians without much thought of the implication that the music was stolen like the people who produced it. Jazz was the new cotton crop, harvested, packaged, and sent to market. Up until the 1950s, industrial action by the musicians’ unions on both sides of the Atlantic made it difficult for musicians from the United States to perform in Britain. According to Taylor in 2007, “Through white appropriation and discourses of exoticism or authenticity, Black music has sometimes been translated into a marker of fixed racial difference” (Toynbee, 2013, p. 3). British appropriation of the art form could appear to celebrate the peculiar institution of slavery. In The Heritage Of Slavery In British Jazz Festivals, George McKay declared that

The work is not concerned with ‘slavery heritage tourism’, but rather with heritage and cultural consumption and production at ‘Transatlantic Slave Trade (TAST) related sites. . . . The heritage centers clearly associated with the slave trade that have jazz festivals included Bristol, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, and Manchester.  (McKay, 2018, p. 5).

However, for McKay, “jazz was formed in, through, or out of the experience of the transatlantic slave trade; it is the sonicity and creative practice of the Black Atlantic, forging a music that has gone on to have global impact” (Ibid.). Ironically, the presence of Black jazz musicians in Britain was wanting because “shifting patterns of migration to the UK, and the fact that Black musicians have always been a minority among jazz performers contributed to this marginalization” (Toynbee, 2013, p. 1) that stems from “the original claim of race discourse about Africans [which] is a lie, namely that they are not fully human” (Toynbee, 2013, p. 2).

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said ‘Jazz makes the most of the world’s diversity, effortlessly crossing borders and bringing people together…. From its roots in slavery, this music has raised a passionate voice against all forms of oppression. It speaks a language of freedom that is meaningful to all cultures” (McKay, 2018, p. 17). Despite the music’s transatlantic formation, Black Atlantic resonances, liberatory claims around improvisation, proud radical history, and innovative impulses, jazz festivals in Britain remain behind the beat (McKay, 2018, p. 34).

Furthermore, jazz musicians “bear continuous witness to frictions between old and new guards, between traditional and radical, bebop and swing, American and European, black and white, or analogue and digital, the argument essentially boils down to one of authenticity and tradition versus the conquering of new frontiers” (Medboe and Dias, 2014, p. 2). Every artistic movement comes from merging and rejecting some of the characteristics of previous movements. “In music, particularly jazz, imitating certain soloists and reinterpreting standardized musical excerpts can lead to the establishment of new musical styles” (Ibid, p. 3).

While “the record deal represented the apex in the progression from amateur to professional musician” (Medboe and Dias, 2014, p. 4), the gatekeepers in the recording industry picked and chose who would be at the top and how high they would rise. Jazz critics like Leonard Feather, Ralph Gleason, and Nat Hentoff, and festival producers like George Wein in America and Claud Nobs in Montreux determined what was good jazz and who would perform it. Mainstays like George Benson, Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, and Santana dominate the festival circuit, today.

In smooth jazz, Brian Culberson, Boney James, and Candy Dulfer overshadow most Black musicians with the exception of Norman Brown, Jonathan Butler, and Gerald Albright. Only one or two Black women entered this arena but remain obscure. Althea Rene (flute) and Jeannette Harris (sax) have a toehold on the smooth jazz industry, while Gail Jhonson performs on keyboards and acts as musical director for Norman Brown. Violinists Regina Carter and Karen Briggs made headway in the global music market. But the ratio of women to men remains 3:16 of featured artists. Of course, singers continue to have more success and notoriety than women instrumentalists. Likewise,

The stability of the industry model, controlled by what evolved into a handful of powerful record companies, by no means represented an open door to most musicians. The few that secured a deal found their artistic ideals at odds with the commercial concerns of paymasters. After all, advances in royalties and promotional budgets had to be recouped and the goal was to appeal to as large an audience as possible. (Medboe and Dias, 2014, p. 5).

According to scholars Medboe and Dias (2014), “musicians [must] create, deliver, and recoup their investments in the digital environment, while sidestepping commercial or artistic frictions with traditional industries.” Today, this “utopian democracy gives a voice and a platform to all creatives, while diminishing the power of industry-appointed gatekeepers and tastemakers. But creative freedom comes at a cost” (Medboe and Dias, 2014, p. 8). Jazz is performed on a plethora of platforms, providing commentary on the human condition and background for a glitzy cocktail party. Its function is social, since it is “a voice of dissent and a champion for change to serving as a place of comfort and familiarity steeped in traditions and fulfilling expectations” (Medboe and Dias, 2014, p. 10).

The marketability of jazz relies on who is spending the most money and what the expected return is. A digital music company Soundstream learned “the importance of the ways in which commercialization ventures place themselves and their products in the market and emphasize the interconnections between developments and the consumers, markets, and investors imagined by the inventors of that technology” (Lehning, 2020, p. 353). When you follow the money, the underlining question becomes “Who gives voice to diversity in the jazz world?”

Voice Work

The forced silence of women has been a subject of concern long before the age of the suffragette. According to Obourn (2012), “The power of voice is a common theme in African American literature and criticism. Enmeshed in a world of enforced silence, African American authors saw voice as a source of personal and political agency” (Cartwright, 2014, p. 8). As in most women’s fiction and feminist literature, the ability to communicate for African American writers heralded “a search for identity and an affirmation of individual selfhood” (Ibid.).

Historically, women were “constructed as women by silencing their access to public speech [with] a ‘split’ in voice: a ‘father tongue’ that speaks in the language of public discourse and social power versus a ‘mother tongue’ that is interlocutionary, conversational, and that ‘expects an answer’” (Ibid.). Speaking out is not an easy task and “political freedom, including freedom of speech, has [not] insured a person of social ability to voice one’s sense of identity” (Ibid.).

Voice work entails how an idea is politically and socially said or understood. Voice work potentially alters “the ways in which speaking, and hearing can function. It is a term for theorizing a set of political tools that function beyond our individual control” (Ibid.). Vocalists hold a power outside of the realm of instrumentalists and orators because musical accompaniment provides a foundation for their rhetoric. Blues Women stood on top of the list of entertainers and were seen as harmless by producers and town councils that hosted minstrel shows.

Relationally, the minstrel mask worked for whites because it symbolized African Americans as happy and fun-loving. Rhetorically, the minstrel mask worked for blacks, allowing the minstrels to patronize an audience of oppressors, while they complained about their low social status, without fear of being arrested and tortured. However, this process did not extricate them from the horror of their masked existence, and it functioned as a misused symbol (Ibid.). Cultural politician Houston Baker contended that our experience of pleasure and pain is individual, and the realm of the word is miniscule compared to the space of wordlessness in which we exist, therefore, the minstrel mask symbolized the ritualistic repression of the Africans’ sexuality, play, id satisfaction, castration anxiety, and humanity. “It’s mastery,” Houston avowed, “constituted a primary move in Afro-American discursive modernism” (Cartwright, 2009, p. 32). The mask predated African American literature, politics, and open debate, and the Blues women were adept at sporting it. Yet, the music of blacks and women failed to produce economic equity.

Di Laccio’s study of 111 orchestras from 31 countries in 2021-2022, identified the lack of equality and diversity in concert programming. Within this research, diversity referred to gender representation and ethnic representation, exclusively.

But what is the Blues, really? In my estimation, the Blues are the tears of a black woman whose husband is never coming home because he is either lying facedown in a river, after being beaten or shot to death, hanging from a tree with his castrated testicle in his mouth, or headed for points North, never to return. The Blues are the Mother of Jazz, offering a common rhythm and theme for the expression of loss, pain, and sorrow. Although they could not walk through the front door of most performances venues until the mid-20th Century, Black Jazzmen stepped out on the stage with confidence and chops to outplay their white counterparts. So, Jazz, especially Bebop, became a sport of olympian sorts, where playing fast and furious notations became the feat.

While Blues Women offered a voice for their people and community, Jazzmen were bent on proving their individual musical prowess with little concern about their band brothers or the community. Comradery was based on musical harmony or a bandleader who held the group accountable like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Art Blakey. Their bands were like warrior camps out to defeat the enemy – white players. Of course, the lines crossed when certain white musicians either engaged Black musicians or joined the camps of Black bandleaders. The few that come to mind are Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, and Bill Evans.

Meanwhile, few women instrumentalists reached heights in the music industry. Those who did received far less acclaim than their male counterparts. Dorothy Donegan, Hazel Scott, Marian McPartland, Shirley Scott, Shirley Horn, Melba Liston, Dorothy Ashby, and Alice Coltrane managed to make a name for themselves. Yet Scott’s marriage to Stanley Turrentine, Liston’s affiliation to Dexter Gordon, and Alice and John Coltrane were notable exceptions. These women recorded several albums but remained outliers in the jazz equation.

From 1982 to 2022, of 165 National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters, 24 were women, 141 were men.

For the 41 years of the award, NO WOMAN was awarded in 19 of those years. That is public funding of gender discrimination. Of the 24 women, 10 were singers, 11 played an instrument, and 3 were not musicians (Kirk, Gordon, Oxenhorn).

In conclusion, it was profoundly exhibited by several organizations that women compose music regardless of how marginalized they are in the music industry. Olivera Vojna Nesic is an award-winning composer, full professor at the University of Priština in North Kosovo, and Artistic Director of the Association of Women in Music in Kragujevac, Serbia. Nesic promotes music by women composers and artists who perform their works. Since 2003, the Association worked with the Foundation Adkins Chiti: Donne in Musica in Fiuggi, Italy, with the support of the Culture Unit of UNESCO in Venice. The Association is an Honorary Committee member that participates in the Foundation’s projects like the Education and Culture Program and Women in Music Uniting Strategies for Talent (WIMUST). Their composition winners were published in Musicwoman Magazine (2021) edited by Dr. Joan Cartwright and published by Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. (WIJSF), a nonprofit with the mission of promoting women musicians, globally, and an Honorary Committee member of Donne in Musica.

To date, WIJSF has released eight compilation CDs of women’s music with 76 songs by 58 women composers. These three organizations in Serbia, Italy, and the United States, respectively, have archived the music of hundreds of women composers. Yet, they faced insurmountable economic barriers. The inequity of NEA awards of $25,000 to 141 men vs. 24 women exhibits how much more the music of men is appreciated. The problem is that this award and so much other public funding of musical endeavors comes from taxes paid by women who benefit far less from these monies, which is inequitable and criminal, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Therefore, it is incumbent upon women to voice their discontent with the music industry. If is nonsensical for younger women musicians to be faced with the same attitudes their foremothers faced, namely, sexual objectification, omission from major performance opportunities, and lower financial returns than men who play the same instruments and music. In a time when messages go viral in the blink of an eye, it is high time for women musicians to move out into the musical landscape as composers, producers, and royalty and award earners.

On that note, WIJSF celebrates its 262 women musician members, especially Ragan Whiteside who was named, recently, Best Contemporary Smooth Jazz Artists by the Jazz Music Awards. Likewise, we continue to acknowledge Lenore Raphael, a Steinway artist, and so many others who deserve all the accolades and financial support the music industry has to offer.

Dr Joan Cartwright is a renowned veteran of the Jazz and Blues stage for 40+ years. She is a vocalist, composer, and author of several books, including her memoir with touring and teaching experiences, and was honored as the first Lady Jazz Master by Black Women in Jazz Awards in Atlanta, GA, in 2014. Her titles include Amazing Musicwomen, So You Want To Be A Singer? and A History of African American Jazz and Blues with interviews of Quincy Jones, Dewey Redman, Lester Bowie, among other jazz musicians and aficionados. In 2007, she founded Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a non-profit organization to promote women musicians. In 2022, the organization released its 8th CD of women composers. Dr Cartwright hosts MUSICWOMAN Radio, featuring women who compose and perform their own music at BlogTalkRadio, has two personal CDs Feelin’ Good and In Pursuit of a Melody, and featured as an actor in Last Man and The Siblings, two sitcoms produced by MJTV Network. In June 2022, she incorporated Musicwoman Archive and Cultural Center in North Carolina to preserve the music of women composers and instrumentalists. Visit her websites www.drdivajc.com, www.wijsf.org, and www.musicwomanarchive.com




Cartwright, J. (ed.) (2022). Musicwoman Magazine. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/joancartwright/docs/musicwoman_2021_full_document

Cartwright, J. (2014). Blues women: The first civil rights workers. FYI Communications, Inc.

Cartwright, J. (2009). A History of African American Jazz and Blues. FYI Communications, Inc.

Di Laccio, G. (2022). Equality and diversity in global repertoire: Orchestras Season 2021–2022. Retrieved from https://donne-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Donne-Report-2022.pdf

Effinger, S.J. (2022). Melanie Charles knows the impact black women have had on jazz. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/melanie-charles-black-women-jazz/2021/11/10/adc8586a-4179-11ec-a3aa-0255edc02eb7_story.html

Lehning, J. (2020). Raising the state of the art. Media History, 26(3), 346–358. https://doi.org/10.1080/13688804.2018.1487779

McKay, G. (2018). The heritage of slavery in British jazz festivals. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 26(6), 571–588. https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2018.1544165

Medbøe, H., & Dias, J. (2014). Improvisation in the digital age: New narratives in jazz promotion and dissemination. First Monday, 19(10). https://doi.org/10.5210/FM.V19I10.5553

Toynbee, J. (2013). Race, history, and black British jazz. Black Music Research Journal. Vol. 33, No. 1 pp. 1-25 (25 pages). Center for Black Music Research – Columbia College Chicago. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/blacmusiresej.33.1.0001

On Being a Woman in Jazz

My response to Andromeda Turre who asked me what it means to be a woman in jazz.

Being a woman in jazz is the crux of my existence. 70 years ago, I sang Somebody Loves Me, onstage. The footlights mesmerized me. But the music captured my heart. In my later years, promoting women musicians, globally, is my mission for Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. Visit us at www.wijsf.org

From 4 to 67, Joan sang her songs and those from the Great American Songbook
Recent article in Pensacola’s Downtown Crowd

On Recognition

You work all your life to fulfill your purpose. You put in hours to learn your craft, instrument, or discipline. You grow older and retire from your profession, and you wonder, “Who really cares?”

Then, you meet a group of women who recognize your accomplishments. That makes it all worth it. The group of women who hold me in high esteem, and I them, is the National League of American Pen Women. I was inducted into the Boca Raton, Florida, branch by Sheila Firestone.

In 2019, Virginia Franklin Campbell submitted this article about me to the NLAPW Magazine. http://www.nlapw.org/legends-joan-cartwright/

I am honored and humbled by the appreciation shown to me by these talented authors, artists, and musicians.

Then, in 2020, Charlene Farrington, Director of Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, chose to exhibit my collection of jazz artwork from September through February 2021. Ah, in the middle of a pandemic, there is a slice of light!

See some of the art and my story about the art collection at these links:




Dr. Joan Cartwright is the Executive Director of Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a 13-year-old non-profit that promotes women musicians, globally. Join this membership at www.wijsf.org

Honors and Progress

Throughout the years, several people and organizations have felt me worthy of being honored. Those moments are documented here.

Priscilla Dames (right) of Wingspan Seminars in Miami, FL nominated
Joan Cartwright  for the 2011 Pea’ce Award.

Thanks to Howard Mandel and Laurie Dapice for honoring me as a 2019 Jazz Journalist Association (JJA) Jazz Hero.

Thanks to Brian Zimmerman, Digital Editor of Jazziz Magazine for presenting the award. Thanks to Marika Guyton for organizing the award ceremony. Photos: Gregory Reed

Thanks to Old Dillard Foundation for partnering with Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. for this program

The universe provides. Last week I got the news that the Speech class I taught for 3 years is moving online, leaving me without income in June-July. I cried. I felt helpless. However, as things always go, I have the opportunity to teach 3 classes at PBSC in Palm Beach Gardens, starting May 15, through the summer.



Subscribe, today!

MWM cover19



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 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sexism-in-jazz-agents-of-change_us_58ebfab1e4b0ca64d9187879

Cartwright, J.  (2009).  A history of African-American jazz and blues. FYI Communications, Inc. (www.lulu.com/spotlight/divajc)

Cartwright, J. (2017). Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. FYI Communications, Inc. (www.lulu.com/spotlight/divajc)

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

Pelligrinelli, L. (2017).  Women in jazz: Blues and the objectifying truth. Retrieved from https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/2017/12/12/women-in-jazz-blues-and-the-objectifying-truth/#comment-5707

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! www.wijsf.org


Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians

This is an important issue but too many women are totally unaware of the problem. What do you know about women musicians and the inequity of income they earn compared to what male musicians earn?

Published at Versita: Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians

Dr. Diva JC - Scholar . Teacher . Author


The paper was presented at the British and American Studies Conference, in 2012, and is posted on the website of Fondazione Adkins-Chiti: Donne in Musica

Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians
By Joan Cartwright, M.A.

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

This paper discusses the vast divide between performance opportunities and income earned by male and female musicians. Although female singers are quite visible on the world’s stages, few female instrumentalists are employed on a regular basis and even fewer women composers have their music commissioned for programs or films funded by private and public monies. Several proficient female jazz musicians are identified, and how and why women are omitted from performance is discussed. The need for everyone – producers, promoters, funders, and bandleaders – to consciously choose to include women musicians in programming…

View original post 3,323 more words

Leaning In re Women in Arts

ImageMy life has been inundated with music performance, since I was four years old. By 27, I had borne and raised two children and was on my second divorce. I had the opportunity to finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Communications, in Philadelphia, where I also embarked on my professional career as a vocalist and composer. That was in 1977. By 1990, I owned a small business that placed legal secretaries in law firms. I was doing well but an opportunity arose for me to go to Europe. My children were engrossed in their own families and I was free to go on the road. I began touring in Europe, where I moved in 1994, after completing my Master’s Degree in Communications, in Florida. For eight years, I lived a charmed life touring from country to country, singing Jazz and Blues. In 1996, I moved back to Florida, where I knew I would be challenged to earn the living I earned in Europe. I developed a program to teach K-12 students about women in Jazz. Through grants, I was able to deliver 10 to 20 presentations a year with piano accompaniment. The presentation evolved into a book entitled Amazing Musicwomen.
In 2007, I realized that since 1977, I had worked predominantly with male musicians. I was the bandleader and had only worked with a handful of female musicians in the U.S. and only two women in Europe. I decided to lean in and focus on identifying women musicians whom I could hire. There were few in Florida. I incorporated a non-profit organization Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. as a 501(c)(3) that supports women musicians, globally. In seven years, the membership grew to 271 with 144 musicians and 51 men. I wrote several grant proposals and many of them were awarded to WIJSF for musical presentations. Many friends suggested that I should concentrate on my own career rather than spend time promoting other women in music. I disagreed. It was my passion to connect as many women instrumentalists and composers as I could.
In July 2014, my members and friends donated $3,645 for me to travel to Fiuggi, Italy for the WIMUST Conference, Women in Music Using Strategies for Talent, presented by Fondazione Adkins-Chiti: Donne in Musica. I was the ONLY composer from the U.S.A. and the only woman of color to participate in this conference of 40 women composers from the European Union. Since 2010, we have produced four compilation CDs of the original music of 34 women composers and the last one just won the first award for Best Compilation CD produced by a Black Woman. I have been vigilant about making people aware of the importance of consciously including women musicians in their programming.
The statistics are eye-opening, since women pay 53% of the taxes on the planet but benefit from less than 10% of public funding for the arts. Paintings of nude women by men hang on the walls of noted art museums but only 5% of the artwork on the walls is by women. Women writers, architects, painters, and musicians are terribly marginalized in the billion-dollar art world and few people even realize this disparity, particularly women. My goal is to continue to speak out about the marginalization of women in the arts primarily because a nation is only as strong as its cultural producers and the messages in women’s art is paramount to the enlightenment of all people.
I have called for a Symposium on Women in Arts at The White House in July 2015, and started a petition on Change.org, which 269 people have signed since April. The purpose of the Symposium is to bring together women from all artistic disciplines to strategize about increasing the profile and earning capacity of women in the arts. I will continue to lean in on this platform until people awaken to the importance of valuing the messages in women’s art to society-at-large. The messages people receive are predominately male – aggression, competition, violence, fear, and dominance will preponderate, until people awaken to the messages in women’s art. Likewise, the earning power of women in music, art, literature, architecture, filmmaking, and other arts must increase for the betterment of society. Women hold up more than half of the sky but down here on the ground women continue to be devalued as second class citizens specifically because the messages in their artistic production are not getting through to adults and children. This paradigm must shift.
Please LIKE this page: Symposium for Women in Arts on Facebook
Please Sign and Share this Petition
Join WIJSF, today!
Joan Cartwright, M.A.

2014 Update

Near the end of my 11th Doctoral course for Business Marketing, I am closer to graduation than ever before. As I look back over the past two years, much progress has been made.  I’m not situated in Atlanta, GA, where I live with my daughter, Mimi Johnson, CEO of www.mjtvnetwork.info, which has several shows in production. On May 21, I will co-host one of three shows in a series entitled Amazing Musicwomen with vocal musician Sandi Blair.


Meanwhile, we are calling for a Symposium on Women in Arts.  Please LIKE this page at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/symposiumonwomeninarts) and sign and share this petition: http://tinyurl.com/ks5byvs


On May 2, at the Ferst Center in Atlanta, GA, I will be named the first

Lady Jazz Master by Black Women in Jazz & Fine Arts Awards among other astute women in music.


Finally, we encourage everyone to nominate a woman musician/composer for the prestigious NEA Jazz Master Award for 2015. You can do this at http://arts.gov/honors/jazz


Visit my website at www.joancartwright.com 

Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians


The paper was presented at the British and American Studies Conference, in 2012, and is posted on the website of Fondazione Adkins-Chiti: Donne in Musica

Conscious Inclusion of Women Musicians
By Joan Cartwright, M.A.

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

This paper discusses the vast divide between performance opportunities and income earned by male and female musicians. Although female singers are quite visible on the world’s stages, few female instrumentalists are employed on a regular basis and even fewer women composers have their music commissioned for programs or films funded by private and public monies. Several proficient female jazz musicians are identified, and how and why women are omitted from performance is discussed. The need for everyone – producers, promoters, funders, and bandleaders – to consciously choose to include women musicians in programming, especially where public funding is involved, is emphasized.
Keywords: musicians, women, men, composer, performance, inequity, inclusion, jazz, classical
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. However, out of the womb, women instrumentalists are omitted, particularly in Jazz. Although women comprise only 35% of classical orchestras because “culturally constructed differences between women and men have always been present, typically restricting women’s music-making while preserving the most profitable musical careers for men” (Phelps 14), women are employed by symphonic orchestras on strings and woodwinds, while but few are in big bands. The National Endowment for the Arts study entitled Changing the Beat: A Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians examined the lives of jazz musicians in New York, Detroit, San Francisco and New Orleans found that 84.1% of jazz musicians were male (Jeffri 2). 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 Andy Kirk and the Twelve 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 in Hollywood, 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 and Latin America in 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 toured Europe with 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 the West Indies at 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 in New York City, long after the demise of the Sweethearts that was comprised of highly talented females who remain obscure.
Organizations like International Women in Jazz in New York, Fondazione Adkins Chiti: Donne in Musica in Rome, Italy, and Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. struggle to present female musicians and composers. Revealing statistics on the disparity of music programming of women’s music in Europe reported that, “Only 1% of [women’s] music (traditional, popular, classical, and contemporary) is programmed by public funded institutions; and 89% of public arts and culture institutions are directed by men. Throughout Europe, [women] composers are unable to earn a living only from their musical compositions and performing.” (WIMUST 3)
Women in Jazz in Texas and Instrumental Women in California presented several talented females like violinist Karen Briggs, guitarist Lois McMorris (Lady Mac) and bassist Nedra Wheeler. Each of these organizations suffer from budget cuts for the arts in the US.
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 did not 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 will not 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 did not 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 men because they know my music and are happy to work with me.
Many women instrumentalists do not know standard songs like men do. Distracted by studying, teaching, mothering, homemaking, working a job or volunteering in the community, women have less 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 is 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 from Texas, saxophonist Vi Redd in Los Angeles and drummer Patty Patton in San 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 do not hire women because of rooming arrangements. Since it is easier to sleep four men to a room, a woman in the band means an extra room must be arranged,” 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 will not 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 in Italy and said, “You do not 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 in Boston and 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 will not work,” she insisted.
When pianist/vocalist LaVelle lived in Paris, 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 do not 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 do not mind being sidemen. Women do not 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 does not fit in with the girl’s outfit,” said Black. Bassist Kim Clarke said, “Girls believe it is fashionable to wear make-up, weaves, high heels, short skirts and hate on other women. So, it is boys versus music. If her boyfriend is insecure and does not like her to be 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 do not encourage children to be musicians, fearing they will not 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.
• Renowned pianist Junior Mance told this author that, “Melba Liston is one of the best jazz musicians, not just one of the best women in jazz.”
• Pianist, composer, and educator Gerald Price told this author that, “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 left Brazil and came to the United 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 do not want to change the all male tradition of the marching band.” Perhaps, that is 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.
Jeffri, Joan. Changing the Beat: A Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians. Volume II:
American Federation of Musicians: Survey Results. NEA Research Division Report #43. 2003.Phelps, Amy L. Beyond auditions: Gender discrimination in America’s top orchestras. University of Iowa. 2010.WIMUST. Women in Music Uniting Strategies for Talent. Fondazione Adkins Chiti: Donne in Music.
Other Resources:Changing the Beat: A Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians
This study examines the worklife of jazz musicians in New York, Detroit, San Francisco and New Orleans. Information from jazz artists using 2 different survey sampling methodologies – respondent-driven-sampling and a random sample of musician union members – are analyzed and discussed. The 3 volume study is available in PDF.  2003

Changing the Beat: A Study of the Worklife of Jazz MusiciansVOLUME II: AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS: SURVEY RESULTS

A Study by Joan Jeffri


➔ The top instruments played by jazz musicians are piano/keyboard, trumpet and drums.

➔ 58.4 percent of the respondents earned their major income as musicians in the last 12 months and 53 percent earned all their income from their music. On average, 43.9 percent of this income came from work as a jazz musician. For Detroit, only 35.3 percent came from jazz work and in New Orleans, 57 percent.

➔ 36.3 percent have a college degree and another 28.7 percent have a graduate degree.

➔ 64.7 percent think they should be paid for people downloading their music on the Internet.

➔ 74.9 percent received music-related training in the city or region where they now reside. This is highest in Detroit (80.3 percent).

➔ 89 percent have health coverage; this is highest in Detroit at 92.1 percent. Only 18 percent obtained it from the musicians union, only 7.8 percent in Detroit.

➔ 63.1 percent have life insurance, a high of 80.3 percent in Detroit and a low of 52.3 percent in San Francisco.

➔ 77.3 percent have a retirement plan; 82.3 percent of San Francisco musicians have such a plan.

➔ 61.0 percent earned $40,000 or less as a musician in 2001. 7 percent earned over $100,000.

➔ 31.7 percent played over sixteen jobs a month and 40.7 percent play with more than four different groups.

➔ 84.1 percent are male; 71.9 percent are white.

[Source: http://www.nea.gov/research/JazzII.pdf]

Volume I: Executive Summary | Volume II: American Federation of Musicians Survey Results | Volume III: Respondent-Driven Sampling.


The status of women composers is dramatic. In most countries, they are equal in number to male composers, and in some countries more, however, only 1% of their music (traditional, popular, classical, contemporary) is programmed by public funded institutions 2 and 89% of public arts and culture institutions are directed by men. Throughout Europe, composers are unable to earn a living only from their musical compositions and performing rights. In many countries, the music-generated income is well below national poverty level. Few countries give creativity sabbaticals, stipends, worthwhile commissions, guaranteed number of performances of new works, finance for research, recording, promotion and production, leaving skills and talents unexploited, damaging artistic dynamism, influence and economic development. [Source]



Joan Cartwright, M.A. is a vocalist, composer, producer, author, and educator. She has toured five continents and published several books, including a memoir, three books of poetry, the Joan Cartwright Song Book, Songs for My Children, Amazing Musicwomen, A History of African American Jazz and Blues, and So, You Want To Be A Singer? Joan is a doctoral candidate in Business/Marketing at Northcentral University. In 2007, Joan founded the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. that promotes women musicians, globally. Since 2008, she has hosted over 140 Internet radio interviews of women composers and instrumentalists on her weekly BlogTalkRadio show Musicwoman. In 2013, WIJSF will host the first MUSICWOMAN Conference and Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Visit these websites: www.wijsf.org and www.joancartwright.com