Boys Club

I’m starting to see Pittsburgh music as a boys club. Not that this is uncommon anywhere else, but it’s hit me recently. 

I am (unfortunately) a member of the same male demographic, but the distinct lack of female instrumentalists lends to age-old boys club antics on the bandstand. There’s not very much racial diversity either; it stifles the repertoire and perspective.  

Pittsburgh, for all of its history, drowns in disillusionment. The idea that a rich cultural background in America’s art form cements our current standing as a city that compliments or adds to the music as a whole is absurd. Our great composers have been long gone for decades. 

Certain folks act as champions of the new and old, but I’m frustrated when I see more of the same. It can work, potentially, and I’m hopeful; I live for this idealized, picture book dichotomy of tradition and intuition.  

For most of the jazz artists in town, however, doing what they’ve known for years is totally ok because it keeps food on the table. They’re not wrong for doing this. It makes me sad, personally, but that’s one hard truth about creating a life in this field.  

Pittsburgh WAS a city of innovators in music. It was an incubator for some of the most stylish young talents in history. Because of this, we should be working daily to: 

- Increase the pool of young musicians interested in MUSIC as an art form. Jazz education shouldn’t be forced down anyone’s throat; it’ll alienate the students who would soon be interested.  
- Form a dialogue where local working artists have the ability to voice concerns not over “the state of the scene” but of what happens NOW and IN THE FUTURE. Stop focusing on mistakes/accolades of the past.  
- For the good of all of us, propel the women who work this field! There’s so much more they have to hoop through just to get into the same positions that lesser men have held on to for too long. I’m tired of hearing the frustration. 

Anyway, that’s my rant this morning. Fight me, Pittsburgh. I tend to soften my blows irl because I’m afraid of the conflict, but feel free to chat with me about this and make me think differently.

8 comments

  • Ben Hostetler
    Ben Hostetler Tampa FL
    I have seen this in multiple Cities where I've played. It was like this in Detroit where I got my chops, Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa. It seems the Jazz community is stuck in many ways and instead of learning from the greats we almost worship them and become fearful of pushing those limits or even outgrowing them. When it comes to diversity I'd have to agree for the most part as well. If someone can flat out play then they should be playing simple as that but I have found that a lot of women that are great musicians aren't playing because of personal life choices more than they were kicked out of the "Boys Club" but I have talked to fellow female musicians that had poor experiences but that has been a very small percentage for those I've talked too (it may be different in Pittsburg). I completely Agree that we need younger talent being put in the mix and the older ones should be in a mentor role helping these young musicians get there chops. I was lucky enough to have that and it helped me become a better Saxophonist and artist by leaps and bounds. My first "gig" had to be set up by my band director and thankfully he had an in but it can be very difficult to get I many times.

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