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Anita Brown, Anita Brown Jazz Orchestra

How would you describe your music?

Eclectic. Some is neo-impressionist and programmatic. My tunes tend to be swinging, bluesy and sort of throw backs to an earlier era. My children's songs are sometimes a little silly or designed to teach something specific.

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

In my band: founder, composer, arranger, contractor, conductor. In the studio, all of the aforementioned plus executive producer, the ears and the one who decides what we eat for lunch.

Describe your gear.

I write on a "Steinway M" to paper with a pencil and an eraser. I copy parts with a calligraphy pen using ink on paper or hire out. Still haven't learned the computer thing,

Related Themes: Gear

Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

"Yes, I do. There was indeed one moment that stood out but it seems that men seem to think women are supposed to exist on the scene with the same response to the rehearsal or gig scenarios as they have. ""Don't take it personally"" when something seems off the mark, or ""not nice"" or when faced with unacceptable behavior from colleagues. Regardless of the playing opportunities or pre-conceived thoughts regarding a particular woman player or band leader, there is an underlying dynamic that has been that of ""the boys' club"" forever. Women think, view things and respond differently. We are allowed to think, see and respond as we do and if we see something as unacceptable and we say it, it doesn't mean we're ""emotional."" It means we see things as we see them. Period. It's time men started dealig with that.

In my dealings I have experienced piano players (in my rehearsals of my own music) instruct me as to something they perceive being wrong with one of my voicings. When I asked him to just let it go, that I would have a look later I was told ""I'm just trying to do my job."" Well, from my perspective, as the composer, arranger, conductor, contractor, roadie and stage manager, I believe finding and fixing voicings is my job and I believe I have earned the right to take care of that task in the way that makes me the most comfortable.

The first time I ever dealt with this it was because I was functioning as producer of a very big memorial concert for a well known arranger, a mentor of mine. I was rehearsing some of his charts with a well known jazz orchestra. The band members were long time acquaintances of mine, yet it seemed to me that although I was the person in charge of all the decisions and making everything run smoothly as per the widow's wishes, some of them just didn't respect my position. This manifested in a few different ways which I don't wish to cite for professional reasons.

There are other stories but I would be fearful of disclosing them, as this industry is so precariously balanced as we all try to work with friends and acquaintances. A strange thing perhaps common only to the performing arts...not sure."

Related Themes: Cashing In

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

"I know my mother, Phyllis Terrazzano Brown studied with Lennie Tristano right along side of my father, Ted Brown, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Sal Mosca and on the scene with he close friend Sheila Jordan. I know that few women chose to put themselves out there, particularly as instrumentalists. Perhaps they were accustomed to allowing the men their ""space,"" I don't know. It has seemed to me that my mother's generation seems to maintain a ""don't make any waves"" perspective, while I can't seem to hold my tongue when I see something as wrong.

I also know that my 25 year old, brilliant writing student, who also plays alto and flut, experiences an steady ""attitude"" from her male peers and that the men still make snide locker room comments amongst themselves about their female peers. She has told me about overhearing such comments from musicians who I consider my peers, not hers. While this sort of thing bothers her personally, this specific behavior doesn't phase me much. It's the stuff I mentioned before that makes the social aspect of following one's calling as a woman in music, specifically jazz, a challenging endeavor.

I probably said too much..."

Related Themes: Off The Clock

Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

All the men keep telling me to keep doing what I'm doing and eventually it will pay off. Trombonist Luis Bonilla took me aside once when I was distraught over feeling as though I had not been treated with appropriate respect. He said, "Screw them! You're Anita Brown! You have to stop giving them so much respect and give them some of their own crap!"

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

I think my great aunt bought me a 2-octave tiny, white grand piano for my first birthday. Can't remember ever being introduced to the piano keyboard. My mother, grandmother, great aunt, great uncle in an extended household all played piano.

Related Themes: The First Time