Representation Counts in Jazz Faculty
The Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice (JGJ) was founded in 2018 with the aim to support and sustain a cultural transformation in jazz. The institute’s mission is to recruit, teach, mentor, and advocate for musicians seeking to study or perform jazz, using both gender justice and racial justice as guiding principles. Over the last five years, JGJ’s work has continued to make strides in the areas of jazz education, performance, and advocacy in the arts. However, there is still much to be done toward the goal of a more socially and politically progressive, more equitable “jazz space” where players, composers, teachers, writers, and other creative contributors represent a wider range of the gender spectrum. A cultural transformation has been needed for a long time, and though we are not there yet, we are experiencing noticeable momentum toward just-mindedness. In working toward this vision, it has been important for the institute to collaborate, amplify, and support the work of our colleagues across disciplines, as sustainable change can happen only through collective work.
Recently, we have been honored and grateful to support the work of Dr. Lara Pellegrinelli in the publishing of her new study, Jazz Counts: Measuring the Jazz Faculty Gender Gap in Higher Education. One of the many areas where gender disparity still persists, unfortunately, is on college and university campuses across our nation. Sometimes doing transformative work in jazz and gender means shedding light on inequities within different areas of jazz and jazz education in order to establish an undeniable baseline from which we can all improve, creating a better future for artists and the artform itself.
Dr. Pellegrinelli’s study collected publicly available information from over 200 colleges, conservatories, and universities, resulting in the first quantitative data of gender representation among faculty members who teach jazz. Her study considers the number of female-identified jazz educators in comparison to their male-identified counterparts, and looks at differences in job titles and primary teaching responsibilities. It found an overwhelming gender disparity among jazz faculty members in the United States, with men outnumbering women by six to one. Further, women are outnumbered in nearly every conceivable category: there are fewer women than men instructing popular jazz instruments and leading ensembles, as well as teaching academic subjects such as music history, theory, and composition. Also, women typically occupy a lower faculty rank.
While many in jazz education will not be surprised at the study’s findings, it offers critical information and presents a great opportunity to better address key systemic factors contributing to gender inequity in our institutions, such as hiring practices, course assignments, division of labor, and departmental leadership. The study can serve as a starting point from which we can come together to do the corrective work needed to modify the way jazz is perceived and presented. In doing so, the future of jazz can thrive without rendering invisible many of the art form’s contributors, among whom educators have always been included.
As the study makes clear, we have a ways to go as a cultural community. At the same time, we are further along than we have ever been. In colleges and universities with over 30 jazz faculty members, Berklee was among the schools with the most female-identified faculty, along with California Jazz Academy and the New School’s School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.
As JGJ grows and develops its ongoing “Jazz Without Patriarchy” initiatives, we are encouraged by Dr. Pellegrinelli’s much-needed expert study. A monumental cultural shift is occurring that will lead to more equitable conditions for all who seek to pursue careers in jazz and in music overall.