Bemoaning the jazz patriarchy

Berklee's new scheme to encourage women and non-binaries to study jazz is raising its profile on social media

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The publicists for Next Jazz Legacy, a programme sponsored by Berklee College of Music to enable women and non-binary students, have distributed a Tweet from Vanessa Reed (president of New Music USA) which laments the fact that only five of the 25 jazz nominees in the Grammys are female and that all five nominees in the instrumental category are men.

Two decades ago, the pool of female instrumentalists from which awards organisers might have drawn was limited but recent years have seen a rapid growth in the number of women playing instruments other than the piano or the voice. That said, Barry Witherden reminded us in a recent JJ review that leading jazz players have seen the voice as no limitation. Charlie Parker regarded Sheila Jordan as a musician who happened to sing.

Next Jazz Legacy is an initiative from New Music USA and the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice which through apprenticeships, financial support and promotion, is beginning to offer creative and professional experience to female and non-binary musicians whose access to resources has been limited.

Applications for the inaugural class of NJL artists closed earlier this week, and the selected finalists for the first year of the three-year programme will be announced in January 2022.

Former Wayne Shorter drummer Terri Lyne Carrington is Next Jazz Legacy’s artistic director, and the scheme is shaped by New Music USA, Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice and an advisory board that includes Sean Jones and Kris Davis, representatives from NPR, WBGO, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, New York Winter Jazz Festival and more.