UMass Fine Arts Center Presents ‘Riffing the Reality: Women, Gender and Jazz,’ a Virtual Conversation and Concert

Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
Sarah Elizabeth Charles
Sarah Elizabeth Charles
Tammy Kernodle
Tammy Kernodle

The UMass Fine Arts Center’s Valley Jazz Network and the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice present an “informance” (discussion and performance event) on gender dynamics and the historical and contemporary contributions of women to jazz music, on Wednesday, March 10, at 7 p.m. ET. The evening begins with a live panel discussion with Grammy Award-winning drummer and composer, Terri Lyne Carrington, jazz scholar Tammy Kernodle, singer, educator, and activist Sarah Elizabeth Charles, and young musicians from Berklee’s Jazz and Gender Justice Institute and moderated by jazz programmer Yvonne Mendez. A pre-recorded concert featuring Terri Lyne Carrington and the students will follow. Tickets are free with registration at fineartscenter.com, or by calling the box office at 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMAS, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This event is sponsored by the Daily Hampshire Gazette and New England Public Media. Co-presented with Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

Gender and racial disparities exist in many areas of society and all over the world. In jazz music, opportunities for men have been more plentiful, and male achievements more widely visible. Women are pushed towards “female instruments” (like flute or piano) or vocals. Although being a vocalist requires just as much arduous work studying and learning technique, often female vocalists are under-valued, and composers even more so. Moreover, virtually unknown are the accomplishments of female composers and transgender and non-binary musicians. In the jazz field, there are seems to be no readily apparent female, transgender, or non-binary role models.

Today, however, there is also a positive movement for gender equity in many areas of society including jazz. Women, transgender, and non-binary musicians are more visible as composers, band leaders, and producers. “Riffing the Reality: Women, Gender and Jazz” covers gender dynamics in jazz music and the arts, the historical achievements of women in jazz, and focuses on the historical examples of composers Mary Lou Williams and Dorothy Fields. Participants will learn about the women, men, and trans/non-binary artists that have been and are creating a better landscape for the future of jazz music and the genre worldwide. An exciting component of this event will be the appearance of female and non-binary students and faculty from Berklee School of Music’s Jazz and Gender Justice Institute. Featured work will come from female composers now included in the updated version of the “Real Book,” a compilation of lead sheets for jazz standards included in the first volume of a series of books transcribed and collated by Berklee College of Music students during the 1970s. The conversation will also focus on recent efforts to bring women, transgender and non-binary artists front and center in jazz, along with young musicians talking about their experience as musicians during this time of change.

Panelists include:

  • Terri Lyne Carrington, founder of Berklee’s Jazz and Gender Justice Institute (JGJI), Grammy-winning drummer and composer
  • Tammy Kernodle, Ph.D. and ethnomusicologist and faculty at Miami University in Ohio; expert scholar on the work of Mary Lou Williams and other female composers
  • Sarah Elizabeth Charles, associate professor of music at The New School; gender and non-binary artist advocate
  • And young musicians from Berklee’s Jazz and Gender Justice Institute. The voices and experience of these young giants will be included in this event.
  • Moderated by Yvonne Mendez, former Valley Jazz Network program director and local arts advocate.

The Valley Jazz Network is an outreach arm of the UMass Fine Arts Center, focused on preserving the legacy of jazz. Valley Jazz Network achieves this through small concerts called “informances,” educational programs, and listening parties in various community venues in Amherst, Greenfield, Holyoke and Springfield.