Date of Award
Bachelor of Music (Honours)
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
Traditionally, men have dominated jazz music in terms of participation and professional acknowledgement, but even in present times, female instrumentalists remain under-represented in jazz performance and education. Various studies such as Kathleen M. McKeage’s Gender and Participation in Undergraduate Jazz Ensembles: A National Survey and Erin L. Wehr’s Understanding the Experiences of Women in Jazz: A Suggested Model, have produced statistics that illustrate the low participation of female instrumentalists in jazz, and have also provided social-psychological theories to explain why these patterns continue to prevail.
As a working jazz-trained female instrumentalist myself, I have noticed the under-representation of female jazz instrumentalists in Perth, Western Australia, but so far there has been no attempt to formally confirm, quantify or qualify this accepted norm. This led to my interest in investigating the factors that affect the participation of female instrumentalists within jazz in Perth. In order to conduct this research, I circulated a survey amongst past and present Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) jazz students. The survey was open to instrumentalists and vocalists of any gender. Many of the survey questions were based on previous research findings (largely U.S. based) regarding factors and social-psychological theories that affect female participation in jazz. The foundation of this survey also aligns with broader gender equality issues, such as gender stereotypes, issues in the workplace and inadequate representation of females within leadership roles and decision-making groups.
Many of the questions were constructed to produce quantitative data for ease of presenting results, and some questions also allowed for follow-up commentary in order to produce some qualitative data. The final survey was an open-ended question which intended to capture extra data from issues left unaddressed by the previous questions. The survey results were then presented along with brief analyses of themes and patterns, and comparisons were made to show whether or not these new findings are consistent with previous research.
The survey findings show that respondents are well-aware that jazz is historically and currently dominated by males. The main factors that appear to adversely affect studying and working jazz musicians are the social barriers and issues that arise within a male-dominated environment, and the competitive culture of the music. The study has also highlighted the significance of female instrumentalists and composers. It is clear that these female role models are lacking in tertiary education positions, as instrumental tutors, mentors and performers, and as artists studied within music curricula in Perth and elsewhere. The results have also shown the positive effects that female role models can have on aspiring musicians, when access is available.
Ultimately, the survey results identify Perth specifically within the current discussion around gender and jazz, and add to the pool of data that is available for research on the topic. It is intended that the survey results will provide further information to organisations and researchers regarding how to improve the participation and retention rates of female instrumentalists in jazz.
Valenti, T. (2018). A Survey to Investigate the Participation of Female Jazz-Trained Instrumentalists at WAAPA and in Perth’s Professional Music Scene. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1522
Available for download on Wednesday, May 27, 2020