“What would jazz sound like in a culture without patriarchy?”

That intriguing concept is the cornerstone of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. Grammy Award-winning drummer-producer and Berklee College of Music professor Terri Lyne Carrington is the founder and artistic director of the initiative, which focuses on gender equity in the jazz field and the significant role that the genre can also play in the overall push for gender inclusion. Following an open house to formally introduce the institute last October, classes in the program began in January.

Carrington says the seed was planted nearly two years ago when a student meeting laid bare some of the issues and challenges that female artists have found themselves fighting against within the male-dominated jazz industry. Examples that Carrington cites include young women not being encouraged to play instruments—other than piano—that have been gendered over the course of time and a female being told by a teacher at an audition that she needed to comb her hair.”

“They [female students] didn’t feel a sense of ownership in the music or that they belonged there,” notes Carrington, who made history in 2014 as the first female to win a Grammy for best jazz instrumental album (Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue). “It’s a reflection of the gender inequity in society,” she continues. “I began feeling that an intervention needed to happen in jazz music and education … that a more supporting environment needed to be created.”

 

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