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Who Gets to Be a Jazz Musician?

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Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Katie Van Note, Staff Writer

March 5th, 2017

What does a stereotypical American jazz musician look like? This is the question Naomi Moon Siegel asked that prompted conversation in Jeffrey Chapell’s jazz ensemble class last Tuesday, February 21st. Siegel is a composer, trombonist, and educator who visited Goucher College to present a workshop titled “Gender Equality and The Feminine Principle in Jazz.”

Siegel received her bachelors degree in jazz trombone from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. It was through her training that she realized conversations about patriarchy, sexuality, race, and gender – very much present among students in the liberal arts college – were not present in the conservatory. The majority of her teachers and fellow students were white males. In her music history classes, she learned about men. All of the books she read were written by men. If there was ever a section in a textbook on female musicians, it was given a special label, “Women in Jazz.” Yet, as Naomi stated last Tuesday, “women have always played jazz as instrumentalists.”

So, who is a typical jazz musician in America? Who is given space to sing, play the piano, guitar, drums, flute, clarinet, trumpet, or saxophone? This is where the conversation started at Goucher.

Eight of the attending jazz student musicians were given the task to identify stereotypes of various races and genders in jazz. Siegel asked, “What images and messages does the society receive at large about these groups of people in jazz?” Students identified these stereotypes about men: “they are white, instrumentalists, intelligent, they have an expected level of know-how, they are cool cats, aloof, elitist, middle-class, most able, and most visible.” One Goucher musician added, “they can afford gigging around,” as yet another symptom of privilege and class.

Stereotypes of women in jazz included “non-instrumentalists, sometimes pianists, sex objects, vocalists, wives, and non-composers.” It is important to note that female instrumentalists, such as Lil Hardin Armstrong and Alice Coltrane, both jazz pianists in their own right, were known for their marriages to their jazz musician husbands. Within the first two sentences of their descriptions on Wikipedia, they are mentioned as wives to John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong, whereas both men are described on Wikipedia by musical style and accomplishments with no mention of marital details. This begs the question – would these female musicians have been documented and remembered in jazz history if they hadn’t married male musicians?

Students also offered stereotypes of African Americans in jazz as “natural, the best jazz musicians, best sense of rhythm, and the originators.” Furthermore, stereotypes were discussed of Asian Americans as “classically trained piano players, can’t swing, and non-existent in jazz,” while Native Americans, Arab-Americans, Latino-Americans, were all labeled as “non-existent in jazz” as well. Siegel noted that greater intersectionality between sexuality, gender identity, and cultural backgrounds were not mentioned either, as they further separated a person from the “norm” in jazz.

Yet, how have these stereotypes developed over the hundred or so years of American jazz history? Siegel identified the creation and distribution of magazines in the 1920s as a major cause – propaganda that sexualized women vocalists and prioritized white bands.

In her lecture, Siegel explained her own internalized stereotype as “socialized to believe that females are inferior jazz instrumentalists.” She gave examples by quoting her fellow female jazz musicians, Esperanza Spalding and Kate Olsen: “I’m just a jazz musician,” and “I’m just one of the guys.” In reflection, Siegel pointed to the implicit meaning behind their quotes: denial of the patriarchy “as if somehow it doesn’t exist.”

One female vocalist in the audience told an account of her own experience: “My mom has always said she sees me lying on a piano in a slinky red dress singing jazz.”

As individuals in the jazz arena, Siegel noted the importance of “telling counter-narratives.” These counter-narratives serve as challenges to the perpetual stereotypes marginalized groups face in jazz. She emphasized the development of an individual voice and sound. “My goal is for us to be fully expressive.Only in defining and challenging these stereotypes can we begin to discover our potential as musicians.”

In creating a space for dialogue of this kind, Siegel left some students with another perspective, some with a validation of experience as female and black musicians, and some with inspiration to challenge the concept of a stereotypical jazz musician.

Mothpuppy!

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Nashalia Ferrara, Editor-in-Chief

March 5th, 2017

Morgan Murphy ‘18 is one of my favorite people, and I might be a little bit biased because she also happens to be one of my great friends. Last week, we sat down in Stimson’s dining hall to have some dinner and catch up with each other.  Murphy and her band, Mothpuppy, have been up to some pretty exciting stuff. At just 22 years old, she recently released a single, “Flea”, and has an album on the way.

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After our dinner, Murphy stopped by my room and gave me the exclusive.

NF: What is going on with Morgan and Mothpuppy right now?

MM: Mothpuppy is releasing an album called Cool and Pretty on March 10, ya got that? We recorded it in August at Headroom Studios in Philadelphia with Kyle Pulley and Joe Reinhart.

NF: Your single came out today?

MM: Yes! So our single is “Flea”, and it’s about fleas.

NF: Why is this the single? Is it your favorite song on the album?

MM: I don’t know if it’s my favorite song on the album, but it’s a lot people’s. I think it’s a good length and pretty simple, which makes for a good single.

NF: Where can your fans listen to “Flea”?

MM:  It’s streaming on Sad Cactus Records’ SoundCloud.

NF: Is it true that you’re 22 and you have a record deal?

MM: umm, I mean- I wouldn’t say that. I’m in association with a small record company, a very good record company, Sad Cactus.

NF: How many songs are on the album? And which one is your favorite?

MM:  There are 11 songs on the album. I like “Basketball Court” because we do some weird stuff, and I feel like it’s a good collaboration of all the band members’ talents.

NF: If your album were in stores, which genre would I find it under?

MM: I don’t remember the aisles anymore. I haven’t been to a record store in a while. Whenever I bring a song to the group, it really transforms into something that I’m not really quite sure what to call. We all have different musical backgrounds.

NF: Who is in the band?

MM: Shawn Durham ‘18  plays drums, Rebecca Willis ‘17 plays guitar, Ryan Vieria ‘16 plays the bass, and Becca Kotula ‘17 plays the violin.

NF: Do you write all your songs?

MM: Yes, me, Morgan, writes them all.

NF: You write all of them? Really?

MM: I write all of the base parts, like the chord structure and the lyrics and the melodies. Usually, I’ll write a song on the guitar and then bring it to the band. They take it from there and play what goes well with what I wrote.

NF: What’s harder, writing a short piece of fiction or writing a song? (Murphy is an English Major)

MM: It depends, sometimes it’s really easy writing a song. It can take as fast as the song is itself, and other times, I take a really long time and sit on a guitar part for months and months. That might have a lot do with procrastination, though. Fiction writing people make me write so…

NF: Why release your album on a cassette?

MM: Really just because we can’t do vinyl because our songs aren’t mastered, and we’re not that popular. [Vinyl] is super expensive, so we’re not doing that right now. There’s a market out for tapes because they are cheaper than CDs and more people like them because you can’t burn them and artists can customize the color. There is something appealing about them, right? It took a long time to decide, but our album will be on a gray cassette because it goes well with the album art.

NF: Where can I buy the physical album?

MM: You can preorder the cassette on sadcactus.us and you can also buy the digital album on March 10 through that website.

NF: So say a Goucher student stops you on Van Meter and asks you to sign their copy of Cool & Pretty, would you sign it?

MM: Yes, but I’ll never offer.

NF: When did you know that you were good at making music?

MM: Wow, what a question! I still don’t know. I still don’t know how cool the music is or how much people like it.

NF: Quickly can you explain the name Mothpuppy?

MM: Oh my god, it doesn’t mean anything. It was a mistake and I want to change it but it’s too late. It’s just silly and lifted from my snapchat name. Freshman year, people thought it was funny so they started calling me it.

NF: Cool & Pretty is the name of the album, why?

MM: There’s another single on the album, “Basketball Court”, which is coming out next, but yeah, it’s a line from that song.

NF: What’s the line?

MM: “I think about that in mysterious ways / I spend the time trying to know what to say / I lay in bed and waste half the day / he told me I was cool and pretty, cool and pretty, cool and pretty.” And it’s kind of just about putting more effort in a relationship. When you spend a lot time trying to find the perfect thing to say to people who mean a lot to you, and they come back with the most simple thing.

NF: That’s heartbreaking. Like they didn’t think hard enough?

MM: Yeah, basically, like “cool and pretty” isn’t really that hard to come up with. I could’ve said that too. It doesn’t really sound like much thought went through it, you know?

NF: What’s the theme of the album?

MM: Well, it was going to be called Housewife because a lot of the songs either put me in the position of singing to a child or sympathizing with the feeling of being like you need to devote yourself to something or someone. But that’s not the only theme, there are also songs about body image and identity.

Before Murphy returned to her rockstar life, I asked her a series of “quick fire” questions.

NF: Do you sing your own songs in the shower?

MM: Haha, I sing other people’s songs or I make up silly, new songs. That’s embarassing.

NF: Thoughts on “Happy Birthday” ?

MM: Overwhelming and repetitive.

NF: Taylor Swift?

MM: I just don’t know…

NF: Spotify or Apply Music?

MM: Spotify.

NF: Headphones, earbuds or speakers?

MM: Headphones, I like feeling immersed.

NF: An artist you were obsessed with in middle school?

MM: Green Day, and I still am. If you can get me to open for Green Day, I would kill for you!

NF: What instrument do you wish you could play?

MM: Piano.

NF: Least favorite noise?

MM: Oh god, I have a lot of noises I don’t like, but probably when there are too many people talking and the white noise that it all creates. It’s very bothersome.

NF: Most underrated artist?

MM: I don’t know; I told you not to ask me about my music taste, and this kinda falls under that.

NF: Most overrated artist?

MM: I can think of a lot but I don’t want to be mean.

Morgan Murphy is cool and pretty. Her band’s music is cool and pretty, but as she said, those words are too easy. They don’t capture Murphy, her short green hair, and all her glory just right. Murphy is talented beyond measure. On stage, her voice can get really loud but still sound as if it’s made of glass. The words she uses in her songs, stories, and conversations seem to be carefully chosen with a huge amount of thought behind them. She is the kind of person you leave Stimson and all its buzzing white noise to hear exactly what she has to say.

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Like Mothpuppy on Facebook to see when they’re playing next.

Listen to Mothpuppy’s single “Flea” here: https://soundcloud.com/sadcactusrecords/mothpuppy-flea

Black Lindy Matters

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Katie Van Note, Staff Writer

February 25th, 2017

“There is something going on in our culture today; it’s being lost.” This is what Breai Mason-Campbell said in a recent phone conversation. Breai is an African American activist in Baltimore, MD who has dedicated her life to preserving and restoring African American cultural and heritage through dance. She is the founder and director of Guardian dance, a company that, for the past nine years, has taught the history and styles of African American dances like Lindy Hop, Breaking, Locking, Popping, Baltimore Club, and Hand Dance. Guardian has implemented a curriculum teaching these dances to grades Pre-K through 8th at a 100% African American School: New Song Academy in Sandtown, MD. The company is comprised of a team of dancers, including Mason-Campbell, who teach weekly and perform at various events like at the opening celebration of the Smithsonian African American History Museum last October.

What drove Mason-Campbell to create Guardian and more recently, Black Lindy Matters, was a culmination of experiences.

One such experience was at a latino party with her family as a young adult. At this party, salsa music was playing and all generations of people were dancing. Mason-Campbell noticed something special about this community, that the grandparents were putting their grandchildren on their feet and teaching them traditional hispanic dance styles: salsa, merengue, and bachata.

At the time, Mason-Campbell couldn’t put words to why this was so important to see. She wondered why their culture was so well preserved and furthermore, “what is our [African American’s] historical legacy?”

It was through Mason-Campbell’s dance background that she continued to question the cultural forces at play. She had grown up taking dance classes: ballet and modern dance. Although she was grateful for this training, she noted that “it didn’t have deep cultural value.” Ballet was the “aesthetic benchmark for beauty and grace… it was a right of passage.” For many young girls in America, these are the styles of dance they are taught. But why? Why is a European-born dance style so prominent in American culture? “America was built by Africans, it should be more a part of our general consciousness, as should Native-American culture.”

It was interesting to Mason-Campbell that the one visible aspect of African American culture today was the idea of the black entertainer. “When people are trying to get out of poverty, their only access is through a record company, through break dancing, singing, rapping; it becomes so commercial we don’t own it anymore.” And this applies directly to the jazz and  swing dancing of the 1930s.

As a historical dance, Lindy Hop emerged in Harlem, New York during the swing era. The Savoy Ballroom (which has since been demolished) was not only a place to listen and dance to swingin’ jazz music, but it was the only integrated venues of its kind. It broke down racial barriers. Yet swing dancing for African Americans during this time wasn’t just an activity: it was a livelihood, a necessity, a liberation. For most black dancers and musicians, it was an escape from poverty.

Today, Lindy Hop is danced all over the world. Almost every major city in America has a Lindy Hop scene, as well as cities in the UK, Europe, Japan, Korea, China, and Australia. This traditional African American dance was rooted in the United States, it was a necessity, and yet, now it is an activity for a predominantly white dance scene.

When asked what Mason-Campbell would change about the current Lindy Hop dance scene, she didn’t express any negativity towards the majority of it’s often misinformed, unaware, white members. Her goal is to preserve these traditional African American dances through Guardian dance company and the Black Lindy Matter initiative in schools, performances, and dance venues like Mobtown Ballroom.Mason-Campbell hopes to create a deeper cultural appreciation and continuity of identity amongst her students, “I want to put these kids on my feet, share our culture with them, and show them who they are.”

Oscar Predictions

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Teegan Macleod, Staff Writer

February 25th, 2017

This year’s Oscars boasts a great deal of talent.  It has been a few years since I’ve had so many favorites and many have been nominated for multiple awards. However, at the end of the day, someone must take home the award.  These are my picks for 6 of the categories: Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and Best Picture.

For Best Picture, I am firmly behind the film Moonlight.  It was far and away the greatest film to come out this awards season.  It tells an incredible story in three chapters about the life of a gay black man named Chiron from childhood through adulthood.  Every moment of the movie is utterly captivating and every facet of it works to create a beautiful work of art.  With that in mind, I am also picking Barry Jenkins for Best Director and Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor. Mahershala Ali gives an unbelievable performance in the film as Juan, a drug dealer who takes care of Chiron as a child.  Ali gives new life to the too often marginalized role of the drug dealer with a heart of gold.  Barry Jenkins, as writer and director, created a masterpiece with Moonlight, I will make no bones about it. I cannot express enough how incredibly beautiful it is as well as the subject matter being very important. Moonlight is a film that reflects the time in which it is made in a beautiful and unforgettable way.

I think Moonlight deserves every single Oscar that it is nominated for, except for, Best Supporting Actress.   That award I believe belongs to Viola Davis for her role in Fences. I also believe that Denzel Washington deserves the Best Actor Oscar for Fences.  The two of them give unbelievable performances that drive the movie and make it an amazing experience.  They deserve to win the awards together because they both heighten each other’s performances.  Take one away and the other would not be as good in my opinion.  They play off each other in such a way that they bring the art of acting to new and incredible levels.

There are many other awards categories that I have opinions about but these are, in my mind, the essential ones.  Hopefully we will see a shift this year towards a more diverse winner’s circle.

Goucher Style: Haley Rice

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Annie Schwartz, Arts & Entertainment Editor

February 25th, 2017

Who: Haley Rice, Senior, Socialogy Major

Annie Schwartz: Describe your style.

Haley Rice: I like to wear mostly black and neutral colors with a small pop of red (or sometimes burgundy). I love things that are oversized, lots of layers, and having fun with different materials, hem lines, and textures.

AS: How are you able to dress so well even on your laziest day?

HR: Just wear all black!

AS: Who is your Goucher style crush?

HR: Annie Schwartz, duh!

AS: Which Goucher professor has the best style?

HR: When I had class with Citlali, I always loved her colorful skinny jeans. Also her watch was always on point.

AS: Where did you go abroad and how has that affected your sense of style?

HR: I studied abroad in Seville, Spain. Sevillanos always look good. Everyone was always put together, especially during the holidays such as Semana Santa and Feria. You wouldn’t be caught dead in sweatpants there. Even wearing sneakers is pushing it. Chelsea boots with a thick platform sole were really in while I was there. So were those preppy plaid Burberry-esque scarves. I really learned how to be stylish but still comfortable while I was there. It’s something Spain has really got down!

AS: What is your go to item?

HR: A black cardigan!

AS: What is your fashion pet peeve?

HR: Mixing metals even though I do it all the time. Also graphic tees are the worst.

AS: Do you have a favorite store you like to shop at?

HR: If I had all the money in the world I would shop at Zara every day. It reminds me of Spain. They had Zara’s everywhere.

AS: Out of all of your roommates, whose clothes are you most likely to steal?

HR: Vinesh’s banana shirt.

AS: What is your least favorite trend?

HR: Tucking your sweatpants into your socks and definitely those lace up tops. Also, jean jackets that you buy with the patches already on them and Calvin Klein underwear. You might as well get a 3-pack of Hanes at Target.

Book Review: The Memory Book

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Image courtesy of Google Images

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 25th, 2017

Lara Avery’s The Memory Book is the next The Fault in Our Stars and the Young Adult equivalent of Still Alice. Upon being diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a genetic degenerative disease that causes severe physical and mental handicaps, memory loss, and ultimately death, Sammie, a high school senior, starts an electronic journal in conversation with her future self. Despite the diagnosis, she’s convinced that she can still win debate nationals, give her valedictorian speech, go to NYU and law school, and become a defense lawyer worthy of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s praise. As her NPC episodes increase and her imagined future self unravels, her relationships get more complicated—including two love interests—forcing her to self-reflect and revise her values and goals.

What makes this book extraordinary, and worthy of its place on the Barnes & Noble Best Young Adult Books of 2016 list, is the character development. How Sammie chooses to tell her story in her journal builds her into an honest, Type A character. She’s socially awkward, ultra-driven, and dynamic. When she’s experiencing a NPC episode, her tone, diction, and syntax change significantly, adding to the authenticity of her character and narrative. A few other characters contribute to her memory book and their voices are marked by distinctly different tones and syntax. Thus, each character feels like an authentic person with realistic reactions to Sammie’s condition.

Another refreshing quality about this book is that it’s not cliché. The diary-like form is paired with a strong, confident voice rather than an angsty, insecure one. The romance sub-plot is indeed secondary to the main self-growth plot line and even undergoes an unexpected twist. Sammie’s fate is as unpredictable as her romantic relationships because of the form, confident tone, and selection of detail. Furthermore, the theme isn’t the trite make the most of life and love in the face of adversity as many sick-teenager narratives preach. Rather, it encourages self-reflection and self-growth in periods of uncertainty and probable doom.

This theme, in conjunction with the realistic characters, make it suitable for any audience. Anyone in a transition period will relate to Sammie’s story regardless of their age or gender, especially seniors about to graduate. Sammie’s character will resonate with readers who set high expectations for themselves, have experienced social anxiety, and/or who are passionate about what they do. The debilitation that NPC causes Sammie makes the story relatable for anyone diagnosed with a chronic disease or disability or whose loved ones experience such circumstances. However, one doesn’t need to be in any of these categories in order to appreciate this story: the universal themes of self-reflection and growth in conjunction with the experiences of strained friendships and romantic and familial relationships make this a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking story for readers of all identities and experiences to enjoy.

I cannot attest whether Avery accurately represents NPC. In the acknowledgements, Avery says, “To anyone who has had to suffer through a terminal disease like Niemann-Pick (or anyone who is related to someone who has), thank you for the liberty to live in your shoes for a few hundred pages. Forgive me for inconsistencies and exaggerations. If the way I told Sammie’s story doesn’t feel right, write to me. Or better yet, write it the way you would like to see it.”  But regardless of its accuracy, the story is still a powerful one about life, love, and the flexibility of values.

Book Review: “Ember in Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 15th, 2017

In Sabaa Tahir’s fantasy world of An Ember in the Ashes, Martials train as ruthless Masks at Blackcliff Academy to protect the Empire, and all other races are subjugated to their rule, including the Scholars, some of whom lead an underground Resistance against the oppressors. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Laia, the daughter of two Resistance leaders executed for treason, and Elias, the bastard son of the Commandant of the Mask-training school Blackcliff. In order to rescue her only surviving relative from torture, Laia agrees to spy for the Resistance as the Commandant’s slave in return for the Resistance rescuing her brother. Elias yearns for freedom from his violent future as a Mask, yet he is named an Aspirant, one of the four Masks competing to be the heir to the throne when the Emperor’s line fails. In an unexpected twist of fate orchestrated by the immortal Augurs who facilitate the Aspirant Trials, Laia’s and Elias’s destinies weave together.

Between the setting descriptions, introductions of supernatural beings, character names, and flashbacks, the world-building is exquisite. There is no moment of stagnation throughout the 445 pages: whenever a resolution seems plausible, another complication arises. All of the tension and suspense build up to the last chapter, which perfectly sets up the sequel instead of reaching a resolution (and that sequel, A Torch Against the Night, was recently published). Furthermore, the characters are well-rounded: they’re motivated by their guilt and grief, and their romantic interests are signs of their humanity rather than a distraction from their goals.

Because of the variety of elements, An Ember in the Ashes will satisfy a wide audience. The assortment of supernatural creatures will appeal to the fantasy and sci-fi audience. The romantic sub-plot will grab the attention of romance readers. Since there is both a hero and a heroine, both genders will find empowerment. Although the Empire isn’t dystopian, lovers of the dystopian genre will enjoy this book because of the characters’ ultimate involvement with the Resistance. The origins and values of the characters in Harry Potter are emulated in both Laia and Elias, widening the audience even further. But it’s not for the faint of heart: graphic instances of violence and torture will likely trigger a visceral reaction for many readers.

While a preface orienting Laia’s and Elias’s stories in the context of the Trials and the Augurs from the begging would’ve made the book even better, as would’ve straightening out the few instances where the alternating perspectives confused the timeline, An Ember in the Ashes deserved all the awards it earned. Such awards include Amazon’s Best YA Book of 2015, People’s Choice Award Winner—Favorite Fantasy, and Bustle’s Best YA Book of 2015 in addition to it being an instant bestseller.

After devouring Ember and its sequel, A Torch Against the Night, you’ll join the hoards of readers anxiously anticipating the release of Book #3 in 2018, to be followed by a fourth. Even better, Paramount owns the movie rights to Ember, so we should have the opportunity to experience the incredible story on the big screen in the (hopefully near) future.

If immaculate world-building, fantastic character development, and perfect pacing are what you look for in a book, Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes deserves a top spot on your To-Read list.

Goucher Style: Wonde Pawlose

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Annie Schwartz, Arts & Entertainment Editor

February 15th, 2017

Who:Wonde Pawlose, Sophomore, International Relations Major

AS: What are you wearing today?

Wonde Pawlose: “I am wearing a pant and sweater and a shirt and shoes”

AS: Who do you think is the most stylish professor at Goucher?

WP: Professor Danny Kimball. He’s a communications professor. He’s always dressed up very well. Yeah, I had his communications class last spring and everyday he hasn’t failed to look great and be very stylish. I also like Zahi Khamis’ scarves from Mexico.

AS: Why do you like to dress so nicely?

WP: I mean in my culture in Ethiopia we are supposed to look our best every day. Whether you are rich or poor, you are supposed to clean what you have and dress well which is presentation. Also, for me, when I dress well, I feel well, which means I will have a very productive day. And also, I dress well to radiate positivity for other people.

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