What About Female Musicians?

Jazz Appreciation MonthI enjoy discovering and listening to great female musicians. It isn’t difficult to find great women jazz and blues singers. Many share my appreciation of their talents. But it is more difficult to find great female instrumentalists. So far, there have been relatively few female jazz guitarists. There are far more female blues, rock and country guitarists but in most genres, women are the exception.

I’ve wanted to include women among those I feature in my series on Jazz Guitarists from the start. But I briefly considered putting all women musicians into a seperate series. I’ve decided to stick to doing what I think right – no segreation. Nevertheless there are reasons to at least highlight discussions about female musicians.

Women in music face the same descriminations women find elsewhere in society. However, it seems as if portions of the music (and entertainment) industry are farther behind than some other areas when it comes to sexist attitudes. The NPR Series on Being a Woman Musician Today highlights the difficulties women artists face.

The problem isn’t just sexism within the industry but the attitudes of consumers. Esperanza Spaulding recently was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best New Artist. Esparanza is a graduate of the Berkely School of Music, a jazz musician, bass player, composer and singer. She has had a number of “hit” recordings. I thought this was a good thing – although because she was up against Justin Timberlake and this is more a popularity contest than a talent contest, I didn’t think Esperanza stood a chance. I was upset when I read a comment on a blog discussing the nominations where the author seemed angry that this female bass player would be nominated for any Grammy award. The author seemed to think she would not have been nominated had she been a man. My personal opinion is there is no contest if the criteria is musical talent and not popularity – Esperanza should win over Justin.

But this is just an example of attitudes which make it difficult for talented female musicians to succeed. Search Google for female guitarists and you’re more likely to find stories about how sexy they are rather than how talented they are.

Regarding this blog, I’m sticking to my gut feeling that a jazz guitarist is a jazz guitarist, regardless of gender, race, religion or any other irrevelant criteria. So I won’t segregate women into seperate blog series from the men.

You may not know that I have two timelines pages where you can see how women and men musicians and innovators fit into history of guitar and music. I have a People Timeline which lists the people I have featured in these posts, sorted by year of their birth. I also have an Event Timeline which lists the events I have discussed in these posts. Events include things such as important innovations in the evolution of the modern guitar. Musicians appear in the Event Timeline sorted based on the approximate date they became active or prominent in music (instead of date of birth as they do in the People Timeline).

If you are interested in female musicians, here are some other sources.

  • Jazz grrls
  • VenusZine, “The Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time”
  • Guitar Woman. ISBN-13: 978-0739062654, includes DVD. Publisher: Alfred Pub Co; DVD edition (June 21, 2010) by Sue Foley. Sue Foley is blues guitarist and interviewed (and performed with) some of the great female guitarists for this project. Guitar Woman (Alfred’s Artist Series)
  • Wikipedia Female Musicians.
  • AllThingsEmily.com. The site is obviously a tribute to Emily Remler, a jazz guitarist who died to young. This links to a page on other “ladies of jazz”.

The impetus that forced me to consider the issue of women in music was the February 2011 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine which featured the jazz guitarist, Mary Osborne. I had never heard of her and upon discovering her wanted to share her history with you. You can read that post now.

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