Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington Talks Berklee Institute Of Jazz, Gender Equity: It 'Is Everybody's Work'

Terri Lyne Carrington
Tracy Love

Terri Lyne Carrington

Berklee Online will also launch Master of Music in Film Scoring degree program in 2020.

“What would jazz sound like in a culture without patriarchy?”

That intriguing concept is the cornerstone of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. Grammy Award-winning drummer-producer and Berklee College of Music professor Terri Lyne Carrington is the founder and artistic director of the initiative, which focuses on gender equity in the jazz field and the significant role that the genre can also play in the overall push for gender inclusion. Following an open house to formally introduce the institute last October, classes in the program began in January. 

Carrington says the seed was planted nearly two years ago when a student meeting laid bare some of the issues and challenges that female artists have found themselves fighting against within the male-dominated jazz industry. Examples that Carrington cites include young women not being encouraged to play instruments—other than piano—that have been gendered over the course of time and a female being told by a teacher at an audition that she needed to comb her hair.”

“They [female students] didn’t feel a sense of ownership in the music or that they belonged there,” notes Carrington, who made history in 2014 as the first female to win a Grammy for best jazz instrumental album (Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue). “It’s a reflection of the gender inequity in society,” she continues. “I began feeling that an intervention needed to happen in jazz music and education … that a more supporting environment needed to be created.”

Adds Berklee College of Music president Roger H. Brown, “We are committed to continue creating a more equitable music industry for the next and future generations of women in music. As an artist and innovator, Terri Lyne will deepen our strong record of preparing talented students for careers in every facet of the industry.”

Among the first semester’s offerings are performance ensembles (“Learning collaborative skills in an environment that’s more equitable and mixed is a key for transforming the culture,” says Carrington) and a liberal arts class called “Music and Society: Jazz Gender  and Justice” taught by the institute’s managing director, Aja Burrell Wood. More ensembles, a co-teaching liberal arts class and deeper dive into composition are being planned for next semester. “Our goal,” says Carrington, “ is to hopefully become a minor at the college.”

Carrington is also set to helm Berklee’s continuing five-week summer intensive track for female musicians. “Summer Sessions: Women’s Performance Program” will encompass teaching, empowerment, mentorship and advocacy for high school and college-level students eyeing careers as professional musicians. Eight female instrumentalists will be chosen by Carrington to study with her, other faculty and guest artists. Recent guest artists who’ve participated in the program include Roxy Coss, saxophonist-composer and winner of the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award; Tanya Darby, chair of Berklee’s brass department; Tia Fuller, professor of ensembles at Berklee and Grammy-nominated saxophonist; Sona Jobarteh, instrumentalist and founder of the Gambia Academy of Music and Culture; Canadian jazz pianist-composer Kris Davis; harpist Brandee Younger and bass guitarist-recording artist Linda May Han Oh.

Carrington will slip back into performance mode herself this summer when she joins keyboardist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Ernie Watt and other noted musicians to celebrate legendary drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler at the Playboy Jazz Festival in June. The late Chancler’s long list of credits includes Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

Another project on the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice drawing board is creating a book of standards written by women, spanning the early jazz era to current day, and creating an archival library at the college. “It’s amazing how many people don’t know who standout musicians like Marian McPartland and Mary Lou Williams are,” says Carrington. “Mary Lou, for example, also wrote for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. It’s about making sure that women’s voices are heard not just in performance but in music composition too.”

At the same time, Carrington emphasizes that gender equity and inclusion is not women’s work. “Gender, racial and jazz equity is everybody’s work. That’s what I challenge my male colleagues with: what are you doing to help make things change?”

For more information about the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, click here.

In other Berklee-related news, its online division is announcing a new degree program: Master of Music in Film Scoring. Starting officially in January 2020, the program will make applications available on May 13. Instructors include the program’s director Alison Plante, the first female chair of a collegiate film scoring department; Grammy-winning producer John Whynot (Austin Powers I and II, The Last of the Mohicans); Jon Kull (Black Panther, A Quiet Place) and Sean McMahon (Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer).

In announcing the newest Master’s degree program, Berklee’s VP of online education Carin Nuernberg says, “Students will have the opportunity to learn through one-on-one and group instruction in real-world, versatile outcomes that pave the way for career opportunities.”

Program courses include Orchestral Mockup in Film Scoring, Film Score Analysis, Composing the Film Score and Orchestrating the Film Score with Live Sessions. Notes Plante, whose scoring credits include documentaries for PBS and the History Channel, “Two unique aspects of this Master of Music degree are its advanced coursework and student projects recorded remotely with a professional orchestra. [The latter] is a common industry practice and an experience not provided by other online degrees.”

Students interested in the Master of Music in Film Scoring program can visit this link for more information.

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