ugg boots chestnut short girls jazz band Key of She set to perform at Welsh Valley Jazz Festival
“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
That famous quote comes from the late jazz legend, Ella Fitzgerald.
“The First Lady of Song,” was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century, and now almost 100 years after Ella was born, her resounding impact plays on in the Lower Merion School District.
Olivia Hughart and Emma Noel from Bala Cynwyd Middle School are two eighth grade girls who not only sing the music, but also wrote a mission statement detailing why establishing an all girls jazz band in the district is a collaboration the Lower Merion cannot do without.
“Our mission is to support and encourage girls to play jazz, and further introduce jazz culture to girls all around,” as stated in the mission statement by Hughard and Noel. “We have noticed there are not many girls in the jazz program, so we have made the Girls Jazz club to inspire change.”
The band fittingly called the “Key of She,” is made up of almost 20 girls split between Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Welsh Valley Middle School.
Ranging in age from 12 to 14, the band’s final rehearsal, prior to a May 1 festival performance at Welsh Valley Middle School, was held this past week. Donning everything from sports cleats to UGG boots, the group looked every bit the middle school girl. However with seamless transition, giggles gave way to supreme talent and music that seemed to tell a story.
“Statistically there aren’t as many girls in jazz bands as boys,” said Noel, 14. “In our school jazz band [Bala Cynwyd Middle School] there are six girls to 28 boys. It can be a little discouraging trying out for a band that has that big a group of boys.”
Hughart and Noel decided it was time to develop a band that highlighted girl musicians only, and with the help of their teacher,
extended that idea to Welsh Valley Middle School as well. What began as a mission statement and a pitch to the administration, has quickly emerged as a two teacher, 20 musician band preparing to compete at a jazz festival May 1.
“One day I was talking to Olivia [Hughart] after one of our band practices with the boys,” said Noel. “And we said ‘we should start a girls group and maybe then it will make everyone more confident to show their talent and what’s inside them.'”
And talent it shows. From a horn section to an extensive rhythm section, these girls rocked Motown hits with a caliber years ahead of their time.
“I couldn’t have let this band not happen,” said Gregg Eskin Welsh Valley Middle School competitive jazz band teacher. “It’s so interesting to see how these girls communicate so differently than the guys like we’re used to. [The girls] communicate without even verbally needing to communicate. They just know what the other is doing and intuitively what they need to do next. It’s incredible.”
“Part of the fun of jazz though, is it is such a shared culture,” said Josh “Coop” Cooperstein, jazz band teacher at Bala Cynwyd Middle School who is currently filling in for Jenny Neff. “The greats borrow from the greats, borrow from the greats. It’s that kind of lineage where you can tell oh this person listened to him, him and him.”
Hughart and Noel along with the rest of the band members, play with precision, self confidence, and a contagious level of passion for a genre of music one cannot help but move to.
“I’m just hoping we empower the girls of these schools to do their thing,” says Eskin. “That when they have an opinion in rehearsal with all these boys around, they are willing to step up and make that opinion heard.”
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