I’m a Musician and I’m Female – Part 1

Note: When I started this post I had intended to keep it short. But the more I wrote, the more I realized how intricate and deep this conversation really is. So, instead of giving up and walking away (which I was temped to do) I’m going to split up the posts. I had a really hard time with this one. It’s hard for me to open about some of this, but I feel like it’s important. Hopefully, it will inspire others to start a dialog and keep talking. So, here’s part 1:

I don’t normally like to talk about being a female jazz musician. To me, the fact that I am female doesn’t have anything to do with my music. But last November, I was being interviewed on the local jazz station here in Phoenix, KJZZ, and was asked “Why do you think there’s aren’t more female musicians?” And I froze. Although I probably should have seen the question coming, I didn’t. I stumbled out an “I don’t know” and some other words that I can’t recall and we moved on. But as I was driving home, I realized what I should have said. So, I decided to start writing this blog post – because I feel like I let “people” down by not having a good answer. You can see how long it took me to finish… (I did go back and listen to the interview and my answer wasn’t as bad as I thought.)

The most common answer that I have heard to that question has been because “men don’t let women play with them” or “society doesn’t accept female jazz musicians” or explanations similar to that. Personally, I have never viewed it that way.

I have always assumed that the reason I didn’t get a gig, the reason I got fired, the reason I didn’t get hired for something, anything, was because I wasn’t good enough. I have made this assumption my whole life and continue to do so. If someone doesn’t want me in their band, it’s because I’m not good enough. I’m not sure where this came from originally in my upbringing (my mother was quite surprised when I recently told her my belief) but it’s been there for as long as I can remember.

Do you know what the wonderful thing about not being good enough is? You can get better. You can practice more. You can improve. When you assume that you didn’t get something because you weren’t good enough, you have all the power to change it. You can probably figure out where I’m going with this – if you assume that you didn’t get something, anything, because you are female all that power gets thrown out the window and you are left with nothing. You can change your ability, you can’t change the fact that you are female.

So, as far as I’m concerned, for my own personal journey, I’m going to continue to assume that I have the power to work harder, to better my skills, and get where ever I want to go. It doesn’t make rejection any easier (and I’m not discounting that there may be societal issues at play for musicians out there) but it helps me to keep going when I’m down or frustrated.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

One thought on “I’m a Musician and I’m Female – Part 1

  1. Wonderful, simple and powerful perspective! Your attitude embodies a kind of responsibility that opens up possibilities and clearly connects cause to effect. There’s nothing horrible about “not being good enough” for a certain gig, band, musician, etc. It’s simply an indicator of what you need to do, an opportunity to work smarter and harder, and to improve.

    Having said that, I do believe there are cultural and societal issues where women in jazz is concerned. I hope we can, over time, move past them. (I think we are, however slowly). But the bottom line for most musicians who hire musicians is still based upon skill, aesthetic value, etc. I love that you’re not waiting around for anything to change. You’re just continuing to grow. That inspires me. Best wishes to you!

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