The intersection of gender, race and music

Since race impacts all aspects of American life, it should surprise no one that a musicians's race and gender play a role in how they are treated by audiences, critics and record companies. When I was a college student back in the early '70s I hoped to become an orchestral percussionist. But time and again I was told either that "girls don't play drums" or that "black people cannot play European music." Even as a jazz musician in Boston in the 1980s, I was frequently the only female instrumentalist on the bandstand. This is one of the subjects I address in my new book They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her. The book weaves the story of my first year in Boston as a single mother and aspiring jazz musician together with the stories of five African American women struggling to realize their musical ambitions at the turn of the last century.

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