Welp, it’s happened again. Here we are, in 2019, and I am looking at an honor band with only boys. This summer I had the great opportunity to work with the all-state jazz ensemble. The kids were great. They worked hard, were kind, supportive, and helluva musicians. But there were no girls. What is going on?
I am really trying to understand this.
------Paused 20 minutes….I realized that I am hungry and may be writing from an over-caffeinated, hangry mindset------------------
Ok, I have had time to think about this after I have fueled my racing brain.
Where are the girls?
“They don’t want to audition.”
“They are too busy.”
“They aren’t interested.”
Why are we putting the blame on the girls? Aren’t we the ones that should be encouraging and creating space for these young women to experiment as musicians? It’s time to take a long look inward and outward at the profession and see what WE can do better.
“They don’t want to audition.” Why not? Have they been given opportunities to experiment with improvising as this is often a large component of a jazz audition. And when I mean improvising I mean TRULY improvising-free of worries about chord changes, the “correct” scale degrees, and all the other things that seemingly take precedence when we are teaching improv. If we corrected a baby on their grammar and pronunciation every time they tried out a new word, would they be interested in learning how to speak??? Jazz is a language. You learn by doing and being encouraged. Can’t practice the grammar without the words. Same can be said for jazz improv. Oh, and are these girls being encouraged to LISTEN to jazz? And LISTEN to jazz by other women?
“They are too busy.” Young people are busy, I will grant you that. But in what ways can we make this a meaningful learning experience that they can take back to their own jazz community. What can we do in these honor groups, and our own groups, that goes beyond the preparation for a performance that will encourage these students to make time for this kind of event.
“They aren’t interested.” Why? How are you investing in these young women as PEOPLE, not just as jazz musicians. Let’s be real here. REALLY REAL. How many kids in our ensembles go off to music school? How many of our kids graduate from high school and keep playing for fun? Do you know the answers to that? I bet you know more from the first question than the second question. What kind of opportunities are WE creating for students that will encourage them (both girls and boys) to be interested in making music OUTSIDE of school?
Folks, its time we stop placing the blame on the girls. We have to take ownership for this, both in and out of the classroom. We need to own the fact that it is 2019 and the “testosterone driven” bands should be a thing of the past and aren’t helping anyone.
I’m probably going to take some heat for this blog post, and there may be a point where I edit it. I should probably throw in some citations from researchers who have completed work on this, but I’m a bit too irritated to at this point.
Educators, this is the second time that I am, to some degree, calling you out. I know it takes time, but once again, we women cannot do this on our own. We need the men to take some ownership and work with us. Ask us questions. If you don’t know an answer we will not look down on you-we will be THANKFUL that you asked, rather than just do what has done before.
These are TOUGH conversations to have. I get that. But I want these girls to know that they CAN do this, and we WANT them to do this. Jazz is an amazing art form, one that is near and dear to my heart. Are you with me on this? I am currently in a frenzy conversation with some awesome women to see what we can to do help empower the young women of Minnesota so that they can have their place at the table. Interested in helping? Send me a message.