Women in Baylor Jazz

December 13, 2022
Womens Jazz

When it comes to women in jazz, many think of female vocalists standing in front of a microphone belting out bluesy sounds and improvisational notes like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. However, women in jazz also make a mark on the genre by composing, songwriting and performing as members in the band.

While watching Ingrid Jensen--a trumpeter who is hailed as one of the most gifted of her generation--perform at the Jazz Education Network conference in 2021, Alex Parker, director of Jazz Ensembles of The Wayne Fisher Jazz Program at Baylor University, thought about the number of female students in the Jazz Program and planted the seed to start an all-female combo. He said the response was immediate.

"After Ingrid's performance was over, I sent out an email to a couple of the female students and asked if they would be interested in starting something like this," Parker said. "Right away, both of them emphatically said, 'Yes! Absolutely.'"

The members of the original Baylor Women's Jazz Ensemble are Paige Nielsen, saxophone; Lins Collins, saxophone; Mary Grotberg, saxophone; Sadie Hamrin, fiddle; Cat Hoelscher, piano; Monet Markle, double bass; and Shannan Baker, drums.

"It was so encouraging to be in the first all-female jazz ensemble," said Shannan Baker, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in Church Music and Digital Humanities. "It's not hard to find and appreciate an ensemble on campus that consists of only men, so it was a unique opportunity to switch the narrative here at Baylor. It was so special to glance around while we were rehearsing and recognize how much talent we had in our all-female jazz ensemble. I'm so thankful to have been a part of such an incredible group of musicians."

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