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DIVA Jazz Orchestra Residency


"The Other Brass Ceiling:
Why is Jazz More Segregated than the Military
(and almost Everything Else)?"

Tracy McMullen,
Asst. Prof. of Music (Bowdoin College)

Friday, February 22, 12:00 noon
Grant Recital Hall

Free and open to the public

With the recent news that women can now officially serve in combat positions in the military, it seems the brass ceiling is beginning to shatter. Other long-standing bastions of white, male privilege—golf associations, math and science departments, the ranks of CEOs—are also slowly opening to men of color and women within their ranks. While discrimination is still prevalent in these areas, women and men of color at least have recourse through Civil Rights legislation to file suits against employers, potential employers, and associations that discriminate based on race, sex, age and other factors. The professions of popular music and jazz, however, have so far been immune to Civil Rights protections in employment. Hiring for these positions still goes by “word of mouth,” and the men who dominate these professions are free to hire who they like—generally people “like them.” This leaves the door open for unchecked race, sex, and other forms of discrimination. In Prof. McMullen's view, the other “brass ceiling,” as Sherrie Tucker has described it, is still firmly in place. Her talk will investigate this ongoing discrimination and the response of all-female bands, such as Diva or Beyonce’s all-female back-up band, “The Suga Mamas,” as seen and heard during this month’s Super Bowl. While examining such issues as blind auditions and the identity strategies women instrumentalists employ—from practicing a type of “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy to embracing one’s identity as a “woman-in-jazz”— McMullen will also argue that there is a tradition of audience desire for “unified” bands which are viewed as professional, polished, and “together” units—a type of mirror for how we want to conceive of identity. She will advocate for the breaking of this cultural habit and suggest ways of doing so by bringing the lessons musical improvisation can teach us into our daily life.

DIVA members Sherrie Maricle, Liesl Whitaker, Noriko Ueda, Leslie Havens, and Jami Dauber will be in attendence.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1940s-1960s)