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Jazz Appreciation Month: Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington searches for social justice

Drummer and social activist Terri Lyne Carrington
Tracy Love
/
courtesy of the artist
Drummer and social activist Terri Lyne Carrington

Jazz speaks to social issues, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington’s focus on equality informs her work at the Berklee School of Music as well as her new album. Robin Lloyd reports for Jazz Appreciation Month.

Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy-nominated double album Waiting Game, with her band Social Science, features guest artists from gospel, hip-hop and world grooves and is steeped in social-justice themes.

Carrington’s music career has been built on stylistic diversity, and she brings that sensitivity to her role as founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

Terri Lyne made history as the first woman to win a Grammy Award for the Best Jazz Instrumental Album for her 2014 project Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue; and Waiting Game won Downbeat magazine’s International Critics Poll for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Group of the Year, making her the first female instrumentalist to concurrently win in all three categories in the 68-year history of the magazine. 

Realizing that all of her “first woman to …” awards meant there was a rule somewhere that she was the exception to, Terri Lyne decided to address that rule and make it obsolete.

The jazz industry remains predominantly male due to a biased system, imposing a significant toll on those who aspire to work in it. In understanding the importance of balance and equity, the goal of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice is to do corrective work and modify the way jazz is perceived and presented, so the future of jazz looks different than its past without rendering invisible many of the art form's creative contributors.

The Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice will focus on equity in the jazz field and the role that jazz plays in the larger struggle for gender justice. The institute will celebrate the contributions women have made in the development of the art form as well as frame more equitable conditions for all pursuing careers in jazz in an effort to work toward a necessary and lasting cultural shift in the field.

In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, Carrington said, "I think this is a really important thing: Artists, at least from my vantage point, have had a tendency to reflect on the past, or report the present, and maybe not look enough to the future and offer a doorway," she says. "To create something that’s transformational or helps point us in the direction of a different future — I think that’s a big part of our roles."

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