By: Amanda Ekery
I started planning for El Paso Jazz Girls on April 2, 2018. I remember the date because a peer posted a sexist comment on Facebook about women in jazz. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t believe that someone my age, someone in the jazz community could be so blind to gender in the jazz world. I was disappointed, angry, and reread the post too many times.
My first thought was to join the heated comment section and voice my opinion. My next thought was to just ignore it and not address it online. My following thought was what can I actually do? My answer was El Paso Jazz Girls - to create a forum for girls from my hometown, teach jazz fundamentals, and make a practical direct intervention for gender equality.
Planning for El Paso Jazz Girls was a HUGE learning experience for me. I figured out how to advertise for a brand new clinic while living 2,000 miles away from home, how to write a curriculum that attempted to include all the things I wish I had known in high school, and how to get funding to keep it free for participants! During the process I found out that only 7 girls have made Texas All-State Jazz in the last decade...that’s CRAZY!! So, I thought concentrating on the all-state music would be beneficial to students. I also recruited Grace, Stephanie, and Cassie knowing that they are fantastic musicians, teaching artists, and partners. Through many firsts, it all came together.
To the girls who participated – you are AWESOME!! They bravely signed up for the inaugural clinic not really knowing what was going to happen. They were kind, eager to learn, and gave us so much great feedback. We had great discussions, played improvisation games, and had girls from three different El Paso school districts meet each other and play together.
We have already started brainstorming ideas for next year. Our plans are to open up the clinic to all instruments and vocalists, have elective classes on songwriting and free improvisation, and make the clinic longer. We also plan to have at least one other clinic in Austin where Grace is from.
This whole thing started with a stupid post on Facebook. There are definitely things I would have done differently and will do differently next year! But I’m so thankful to everyone who helped because no one ever achieves anything on their own. One step at a time...