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A woman's place is in the band

Sunday event will celebrate female jazz musicians.

November 14, 2013|By Kirk Silsbee
  • A vintage photograph of some female jazz players featured in "The Girls in the Band."
A vintage photograph of some female jazz players featured… (Courtesy of Judy…)

It's rare for a symphony conductor to be passionate about bringing jazz to young people. But Rachael Worby is a rarity just for being a female conductor. She is artistic director of Mus/ique, a live series that stages music in unlikely settings. True to form, Mus/ique celebrates women jazz musicians Monday at the Avon Distribution Center in Pasadena.

“I want to get the music out of the sacred concert hall space,” Worby asserted, “and bring it closer to the audience. And Avon has always meant empowerment to women.” She sees the company's story as analogous to jazz itself: “When they began, Avon only marketed products for white skin. They expanded over the years to include all shades, just as the male-dominated jazz world has made room for women.”

The centerpiece of the evening is Judy Chaikin's acclaimed new documentary, “The Girls in the Band.” It tells the story of the uphill battle women have had throughout jazz history to gain acceptance from male musicians. She uses the stories of pianists Lil Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland and Geri Allen, trumpeters Billie Rogers and Ingrid Jensen, saxophonists Peggy Gilbert, Roz Cron and Jane Ira Bloom, and drummers Terry Lynn Carrington and Sherrie Maricle to piece together a broader narrative of the plight of women in the music.

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Chaikin comes from a family of musicians. “I played a little trumpet as a youngster,” she said, “but I went into musical theatre. The movie is just something that unfolded, as I learned about all of the struggles [of] the women in jazz.”

Worby comes by her eclecticism honestly. As the director/conductor for the symphony orchestra in Wheeling, W.Va., and later as conductor for the Pasadena Pops, she was known for her cross-genre programming. “Growing up, I heard every kind of music imaginable,” Worby noted. “Glenn Gould, Odetta, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk were all part of the natural flow of our house. I want to bring the passion of all of those artists to young people.”

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