The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Musician, Author, and Women In Jazz South Florida Founder, Joan Cartwright
Renowned jazz musician and women in music advocate Joan Cartwright has toured the world with her swinging music, performing with some of the biggest names in the genre.
Cartwright’s talents stretch beyond music as well. She is an author of 10 books and has given music business lectures to thousands of children and adults across the globe.
A steadfast supporter of female musicians, Cartwright founded Women In Jazz South Florida, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting women in jazz locally and abroad. She also stays busy with her online magazine and radio show, MUSICWOMAN (which featured WIMN founder Laura B. Whitmore this past Thursday!).
We are thrilled to present our interview with the incredible Joan Cartwright. To find our more, visit joancartwright.com.
WiMN: What is your first music related memory?
JC: The piano in our basement by the back door. I would play it with my feet when I was only three or four years old.
WiMN: What was your introduction to jazz, and why did you gravitate towards it?
JC: My father’s albums of Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Gloria Lynne, Duke Ellington, etc. By the time I was 12, I knew the lyrics to songs recorded by all of these people.
WiMN: You’ve toured internationally with your group, Jazz Hotline. Can you tell us about some of your fondest memories?
JC: They are related in my book In Pursuit of A Melody (2006) that contains 350 photos of me with band members in Florida, Switzerland, Sicily, Barcelona, Paris, Germany, and friends I met all over Europe.
My best formation was with Giovanni Mazzarino of Messina, Sicily, who co-produced my debut CD, Feelin’ Good (June, 1995) in Catania, Sicily, with Nello Toscano (b), Mimmo Cafiero (d), and Oracio Maugeri, (tenor). We toured Italy and Sicily for four years together.
The fondest musical memory I have took place in July 1995, when the Duke of Marlborough sang “I Get A Kick Out of You” with me at his Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, England.
I performed for a fundraiser for the new Music School at Oxford University as the guest of a wealthy friend from Kuwait, who met me in Montreux, Switzerland with Chaka Khan. I will call him Al. He sent me a huge vase of lilies with a note to please call him the next day. When I called, Al asked me and my girlfriend to meet him for lunch. That’s when he said he would fly us to London for the fundraiser.
At first we thought he was kidding, but we got the message when his travel agent arranged for first class tickets for us to London’s Gatwick Airport. We took a taxi to London and checked into a lovely boutique hotel that he had reserved for us. Al’s friends picked us up in a Rolls Royce and drove us the 60 miles to Woodstock. We could not believe our eyes when we pulled into the palace courtyard.
Of course, Al showed up late, but we had a fabulous seven course meal and met the Duchess of Kent as well. We stayed at the Bear Hotel, a 12th-century inn with a heavy, wooden staircase with indentations of footprints that was amazing. Our room was a newly-renovated cottage with beautiful, flowered curtains and linens.
The next day, we checked into the Feather’s Hotel, which was more modern and had a wonderful menu. I had delicious lamb chops for lunch. We drove to dinner in my friend’s Mercedes coupe to the Four Seasons Restaurant in Oxford, where we dined at a magnificent round table with his cousins and friends. There were about eight or 10 of us and those gorgeous lilies were the centerpiece.
The next morning, we rode through the English countryside with him to deliver a bouquet of lilies to the Duchess of Kent in her country home. Then, we returned to Blenheim Palace to view the gardens and toured the little surrounding village. We stopped in a small shop where he bought us little teddy bears.
Back in London, we changed at our hotel and later attended a concert of Gal Costa at Royal Albert Hall, right around the corner from his fabulously posh apartment. After the concert, we went to a Lebanese Restaurant that had already closed when we arrived, but they knew my friend and opened just for us. The prepared the most sumptuous food I’ve ever eaten. This was, indeed, a fond memory!
However, my book is full of magical moments with wonderful people like Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, George Clinton, and many other fine musicians that I had the fortune to meet in person.
WiMN: Tell us about the group you founded, Women In Jazz South Florida. What is the mission of the organization?
JC: Since 2007, Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., has been a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization that promotes women musicians globally, through events, concerts, performances, clinics, lectures, workshops, articles, interviews, newsletters, courses, contacts, research, history, archives, websites, film, audio and video recording, and recognition.
I spend most of my time gathering great women musicians together, putting women musicians to work, and getting their music heard by multitudes! As the Executive Director, I maintain the website, create graphics and fliers, develop programming, write and administer grants, recruit members (we’re up to 243, with 123 musicians and 49 men), and produce our annual compilation CD of 10 fabulous female composers.
WiMN: You’re an author of ten books. Can you tell us about some of the topics you cover in them, and are there any written works you’re currently working on?
JC: At the online self-publishing website www.lulu.com/spotlight/divajc, I have published three poetry books, one history book on jazz and blues, Songs For My Children, a catalogue of Amazing Musicwomen from Gertrude “Ma” Rainey through Nina Simone, a manual for up-and-coming divas, musicians, and composers about the business of music, entitled So, You Want To Be A Singer?, a book about my experience as a music teacher, and my lifetime memoirs and stories of touring in Europe, entitled In Pursuit of A Melody.
My 11th book will be Melodic Memories, about my journeys in China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, South African, The Gambia, Ghana, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries.
WiMN: Tell us about your radio show and magazine, MUSICWOMAN.
JC: Every Thursday, from 4-4:30 p.m. EST, I host a 30-minute online radio show – MUSICWOMAN LIVE! at www.blogtalkradio.com/musicwoman.
My most recent episode was a tribute to the legendary Gloria Lynne, who was to be my guest on October 31st, however, she made her transition on October 15th. That was very sad for me because she has been my vocal mentor since 1968.
Since 2008, I have interviewed 200 women composers, musicians, and vocalists, as well as men who support women musicians. Some of the women I interviewed are Terri Lyne Carrington, Patrice Rushen, Bobbi Humphrey, Carline Ray (bassist with the legendary Sweethearts of Rhythm), Peggy Duquesnel (accompanist for Dionne Warwick), and Jeannie Cheatham, who accompanied Cab Calloway.
Our concerts, workshops, and programs are dynamic, featuring women composers that perform their original music for middle and high schools students, funded by grants from the School Board and Cultural Division. We have performed throughout Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Visit our photo gallery at www.wijsf.org.
MUSICWOMAN MAGAZINE©®™ is a concept I had over 15 years ago that I decided to publish online to copyright the idea. It will remain an online publication until we garner enough advertisement to print it. It features stories about women musicians, composers, producers, and journalists who focus on the music industry. The magazine is unique because most music magazines rarely feature women musicians and it is much needed in the world today.
WiMN: What is one piece of advice you would offer to a young woman aspiring to be a career jazz musician?
JC: Be a musician. Learn the rudiments of music theory – keys, chord changes, tempos, etc. Write your own songs because it is the only way you will find your own voice. Concentrate on bringing your gift to the world rather than becoming a star because STAR spells RATS backwards!
WiMN: Who are some of your female role models in the industry – musicians or otherwise?
JC: Gloria Lynne, Dorothy Donegan, Mary Lou Williams, Linda Hopkins, Jeannie Cheatham, Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, Marian McPartland, Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone.
WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges?
JC: As a vocalist, I had a charmed career. However, around 1997, after working with men for 20 years, I realized that I rarely worked with or even saw female musicians in the major jazz festivals and clubs. I began researching the women and keeping a portfolio of them that eventually became my online Jazzwomen Directory, linked on www.wijsf.org.
I did perform with Bertha Hope and Kim Clarke in New York, Tina Schneider in Amsterdam, and I had the privilege of singing with Dorothy Donegan in Bern, Switzerland. In 1998, I produced the first Gaiafest, A Celebration of Mother Earth with Women in Jazz. It was a real challenge raising the funding and attendance was poor at the outside festival and indoor concert, which honored the legendary song stylist Dakota Staton.
I began to realize that people, especially in America, had little respect for women musicians, particularly in the jazz genre. My research showed that the Blueswomen – Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and others were actually the first civil rights workers. Most of them had put the major record labels like Decca and Columbia on the proverbial map. Few people knew the stories of these women, so I decide to be the storyteller to bring their lives into the present day.
Eventually, I formed an eight-woman ensemble of three vocalists, a dancer, and a quartet (bass, piano, drums, and sax). We have done a few well-paid concerts here in South Florida but it is difficult to get booked because we are all women. Men like Wynton Marsalis continue the good-ole-boy tradition of all-male big bands. However, Sarah Vaughn was the pianist for Billy Eckstine’s Big Band and Mary Lou Williams wrote arrangements for Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and Andy Kirk’s 12 Clouds of Joy.
Mary Lou Williams is the mother of bebop because she taught Thelonious Monk, Charles “Bird” Parker and others about the flatted fifth that is the foundation of bebop chord progressions. Melba Liston and Blanche Calloway (Cab’s sister) had their own jazz orchestras but were marginalized during their lives. Today, my challenge is to turn the marginalization of women musicians – emphasized by the statistic that women pay 53% of the taxes on Earth but only 1-5% of public funding goes to women musicians and their musical projects – into an opportunity to grow our organization’s membership of musicians and supporters and to create awareness about this phenomenon.
In March, WIJSF will be in its seventh year. We had to postpone our conference scheduled for October 9-13, 2013, due to lack of registrants and funding. We hope to convene in October 2014. In the meantime, we would like to get the ear of Washington, D.C. and make them aware of the inequity of income earned by women musicians. Do your realize that the top-earning women in the music industry like Beyoncé, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus take their clothes off to reach that pinnacle? This paradigm must change. They are poor role models for young girls looking to be in the music industry.
Also, of the thousands of festivals around the world, few of them feature women musicians. So there is a huge opportunity to tap in this $27.5 billion dollar industry that feeds into the film and television industry and is dominated by male musicians and composers. In July 2014, I was the only American to attend the 3rd WIMUST (Women in Music Using Strategies for Talent) Conference, in Fiuggi, Italy, with 40 women composers. There is much work to do in this arena, and WIJSF’s affiliation with Donne in Music in Rome, International Women in Jazz and Women in Music in New York, Women in Jazz in Austin, TX, and Instrumental Women in Pasadena, CA, is destined to produce more opportunities for women musicians, globally, each year.
WiMN: What’s in store for you for the remainder of 2013? Anything else you’d like to share?
JC: On Thursday, November 7, we had our annual fundraiser in Delray Beach, FL. This was to jump start fundraising for our five-concert Women in Music Series in March, April, and May, 2014, at The Crest Theater of the Delray Beach Center for Arts. We need to raise $15,000, since cultural funding has been severely cut by the Florida State Department. We have a crowd-funding site at www.gofundme.com/womeninmusicseries, where people can donate to this project.
Also, in January 2014, we will release our fourth WIJSF Music Collection of 10 fabulous female composers. We would like to have a box set of the four CDs available, along with a press kit to send out to potential funders and advertisers for our magazine. We will continue our programming and recruitment of new members.
We invite your readers to join us in supporting women musicians at www.wijsf.com/join.htm where they may join as regular members ($50), champion members ($150), or student members ($20). Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my musical journey and our organization’s herstory with your readers!