Women in music: A sweet sound

With March being women’s month, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite female composers and musicians. But, first, I’d like to take a moment to expand on a post I shared earlier this month on social media sites. It’s no secret that women have been underrepresented in orchestras around the world. Whatever the bias, it’s unfounded, as the recent blind auditions that started gaining traction in the 1990s. In fact, an article in the Princeton Review states:

Blind auditions have had a significant impact on the face of symphony orchestras. About 10 percent of orchestra members were female around 1970, compared to about 35 percent in the mid-1990s. Rouse and Goldin attribute about 30 percent of this gain to the advent of blind auditions.

Yet, the bias persists.

It’s completely unfounded. Have you heard of the Diva Jazz Orchestra? Consisting of all women, this group rivals any band of any gender combination.

These ladies can play. Check out their video recorded at Deerhead Inn. The compositions and technical merit and expression are phenomenal – and anyone listening would never care if the performers or composers were male or female. All that matters is the music is inspired. This goes beyond gender.

I mention the Diva Jazz Orchestra because I don’t think many people are aware of them. Yet, there are some fantastic popular female artists I would like to acknowledge. Here are a few musicians in all genres, in no particular order of preference. These are some of the people and groups I listen to at various times throughout any given week.

Anna Vinnitskaya – An amazing classical pianist. Here, she performs Beethoven’s Sonata No. 13.

Rachel Flowers – This young lady is best known for her renditions of the work of rocker Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer or ELP). Moogs, pianos, Hammonds – it doesn’t matter. Flowers brings the energy. Here, she plays Endless Enigma with the Keith Emerson Orchestra at his tribute concert after his death.

Alicia Keys – Pianist. Singer. General inspiration to millions. I’m sharing a video here of her performance with John Mayer – of “If I Ain’t Got You” and “Gravity.” Why not?

Linda Ronstadt – Country. Rock. Blues. Opera. What a voice. What diversity. Here, she sings “You’re No Good.”

Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads – If you’ve heard “Psycho Killer,” you’ve heard Tina. She’s a solid bass player with catchy bass hooks and rhythm. This lady can keep the groove. By the way, this song is great for a running workout.

Aimee Nolte – Pianist. This lady has done more to instruct and inspire musicians on YouTube in a few short years than many college professors manage in an entire career. Her focus is jazz, but she plays everything and encourages all. I like her approach to practice, discipline, good values, and humor. Here, she teaches a lesson on the ii, V, I jazz progression.

Sia Furler – I first learned of this vocal powerhouse from her work with Zero 7. Her voice was unmistakable – and at first, a bit of a surprise for me in the trip-hop genre. She can move from sounding like silk to steel in seconds. Her harmonies are lush. In recent years, she’s become known for her work with David Guetta and has gone one to launch a successful solo career. Here, she sings “Breathe Me”, one of the first songs of hers I heard.

I could go on and on. Karen Carpenter, Sheila E., Bonnie Raitt, Orianthi Panagaris, Susan Tedeschi, Nancy Wilson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Mimi Fox… There is no end to the talent that women bring to the table.

I encourage parents to expose their children – especially their daughters – to music. Music breaks boundaries, teaches discipline and gives a sense of beauty and appreciation for art. If we spent more time creating art, we’d have less time for destruction.

And, friends, that’s the purpose of my next project, Sinfonia Latina. By the way, several women play in the orchestra and ensembles I perform with. Here is a video of Ensamble Barlovento (Sta. Fe ) Variaciones Caribe, with a female violinist, a skilled performer. I look forward to the day when the representation of men and women isn’t even a topic of discussion.

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