Bassist Ruth Goller of Acoustic Ladyland, writes about her experience as a female jazz instrumentalist and the decisions she has made to further her career.
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Today I was inspired by the International Women’s Day to write a few words.
When I first started playing the Bass in bands it felt very natural – I was little aware that there weren’t many other women doing the same thing – I never really questioned this. But slowly I began to realise that I would sometimes be treated differently to my fellow band members – by sound engineers, audience, or other musicians (for example – sometimes it would be assumed that I didn’t really know how to work my own gear!). It was, and still is, a long learning process for me to understand in what situation I feel comfortable in, and what I want to support. It took a while of saying no to certain things, and in general being careful about what work I took on. Soon I started saying no to all girl-bands or bands that expected me to wear something different to what I wanted to. I don’t want to be judgemental – as I understand the pressure that comes with these things, and because I recognise that people make certain decisions for different reasons – but one of the most enjoyable aspects about music for me is the equality between the people that make it – so making a band where all the musicians have to be women (for a non-musical reason) seemed contradictory to this. Also wearing something provocative or sexy is just not my style, so I felt that it was not honest of me to do this on stage – I felt like I couldn’t support this just to be a selling-point for a band.
It is very important to me to be the same person on stage that I am in my own head. This really helps musicians to be better respected for their choices, and personally I found myself in a much better environment and working with lovely and amazing people/musicians that share the enjoyment of making music based on equality (both musically and personally) – I find it inspiring to see the way that musicians like Ingrid Laubrock, Nikki Illes and Alice Grant (to name just a few) have done just that.
To focus on women in jazz as a way of marking International Women's Day was a brilliant idea (for a bloke). Informative, enriching… wish I'd thought of it!
Peter, I disclaim all responsibility for the idea and its implementation. Fran Hardcastle took over and guest-edited.
And has done brilliantly!
Women in Jazz are so rare that it is a real breeze of fresh air to see that they have their place on the London Jazz Blog and are encouraged to express their experiences and points of view… Hat-in-hand for Seb!
A big thank you to Sebastian for allowing me to take over for the day. And it's not over yet! Our Women Behind The Music series continues this week.
I'd also like to thank Sebastian for providing plenty of opportunities and support for all the contributors to LondonJazz.
great piece, important stuff to be said this. thankyou
very well said