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Women of Note Explores Female Jazz Artists in NOLA

After a particularly contentious presidential election, 2017 has been largely marked by a renewed consideration of women’s rights in the political sphere, technology, the workplace, and culture. A new exhibition at the New Orleans Jazz Museum sheds a light on the profound influence of female music makers in the Crescent City jazz scene that has been dominated by their male counterparts over the past century. 


“This exhibit is not political in the least, aside from doing anything about women is political in and of itself, given the current situation in which we find ourselves in America,” explained Louisiana State Museum’s Music Curator David Kunian. “Promoting art, jazz, and females in an artistic and analytical way is an important stand to take.” 


The idea for a female-focused exhibition has been in development at the Louisiana State Museum in various iterations for "a while." Women of Note, which opened at the Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint on August 3rd, explores the impacts of Lil Hardin, Sweet Emma Barrett, The Boswell Sisters, Blue Lu Barker, and many other female artists. 


Kunian and his team used the archives of the New Orleans Jazz Museum to look at the city’s music scene through “a historical viewpoint of looking at women and their roles in jazz since jazz started,” calling attention to their unique cultural impacts and where their roles have been overshadowed by male music makers. Drawing upon the archives and some outside sources, the exhibition features cultural artifacts including 78 recordings, concert programs, scores, sheet music, photography, instruments, and signs. 


Still, it is difficult to divorce any exploration of female influences from politically-charged discourse. Women of Note wisely explores how and why these featured artists have been overshadowed in the past century since jazz’s beginnings in New Orleans. “Due to social and gender constructs and restrictions, it was more difficult for women to get onstage or play something other than piano or sing,” explained Kunian of the many reasons that the female role in jazz has been minimized over the years. It was not just the ‘acceptability’ of women to perform, but also the cultural scene surrounding jazz since the early 20th century. “Jazz has always been associated — both wrongly and rightly at certain points — with sin, sex, prostitution, alcohol, narcotics, and all around lasciviousness, and ‘respectable' women didn’t hang around such things.”   


The Jazz Museum’s exhibition keenly points out that women managed to not only successfully play jazz for the public, but made considerable contributions to what would become the extraordinary New Orleans jazz scene. Said Kunian, “To use a phrase of the moment, ‘they persevered.'” 


Women of Note

New Orleans Jazz Museum

Exhibition ongoing


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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

Published Daily