A swing and a miss

MAKING music for a living is tough, but a career in the male-dominated jazz scene is even harder for women, Perth Jazz Society president Gemma Farrell says.

Which is why the Willagee musician is helping coordinate a course aimed at encouraging young women aged 12 to 25 to see jazz as a career.

The six weeks of tutorials and workshops will be held at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, under the auspices of the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Jazz has traditionally been seen as a male domain, where women at best were singers.

Gemma Farrell (soprano sax) Alana MacPherson (alsto sax) Talya Valenti (drums) and Kate Pass (double bass) are carrying the torch for women in jazz. Photo by Jenny D’Anger

Gemma Farrell (soprano sax) Alana MacPherson (alsto sax) Talya Valenti (drums) and Kate Pass (double bass) are carrying the torch for women in jazz. Photo by Jenny D’Anger

Numbers have improved over recent years, but only slightly, 29-year-old Farrell says.

“I was the only female sax player in [my year] at WAAPA.”

Talya Valenti (26) is a crash-hot drummer, but being petite some find that hard to believe: “People always think I’m the singer,” she told the Voice.

The WA Symphony Orchestra holds “screened” auditions, where even footsteps are muffled by carpet so the panel doesn’t know the gender of an applicant.

Which Farrell attributes to a 50/50 male and female split of its musicians: “[While] only 15 per cent of professional jazz musicians are female.”

The workshops kick off August 20, and will culminate with a concert at The Ellington Jazz Club – as WA’s first all female jazz band.

Auditions for the workshops are on August 13. To find out more go to wayjo.com and click onto Young Women in Jazz. 

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