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Course Catalog > Courses: Spring

IN-PERSON: Great Women in Jazz and Blues   

***This class will be presetned in-person***

Celebrating the lives, times and music of the often-invisible women songwriters of jazz and blues, singer/educator Pamela Rose leads the class into a study of the women who helped create the American Songbook.  

From early blues to Motown – women like Alberta Hunter, Dorothy Fields (Sunny Side  of the Street), Mary Lou Williams, Ann Ronnel (Willow Weep For Me), Peggy Lee,  Carole King wrote popular standards, yet often struggled against sexism and racism  to receive recognition for their work. With biographical detail, music appreciation and singalongs, this will be a swinging honors course in womankind! 

Week by Week Outline 

Week 1: Early Tin Pan Alley years – ‘The Hustlers’ - Dorothy Fields, Tot Seymour, Vee Lawnhurst, Bernice Petkere.   We’ll explore those exciting years when popular music shifted from mostly Irish songwriters to  predominantly Jewish songwriters who were inspired by Black music and early jazz – while  examining the role women composers had in the pre-radio and gramophone era. 

Week 2: Early Blues Women – Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Sippie Wallace. Tent and minstrel shows, and how the Blues became our Great American Art Form. We’ll also look at the Women who ushered in the age of the gramophone and spread the blues all over the  world.  

Week 3: 1930-1945 – Broadway to BeBop - Doris Fisher, Dorothy Fields, Ann Ronell, Mary Lou Williams   Broadway shows were adapted by the Hollywood movie industry, and we’ll look at the role  women composers had in these important years. Meanwhile, jazz was beginning to move  beyond popular music into sophisticated composition, and Mary Lou Williams was pioneering  and championing this movement.  

Week 4: Women and the Blues – Women with Something to Say – Memphis Minnie, Etta James, Billie Holiday,  Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone 

Blues is at its essence all about freedom – and for many Black women artists, these songs grew  beyond personal expression, they became a lightning rod calling for social change.  

Week 5: The 50’s and 60’s – Peggy Lee, Carolyn Leigh, Dolly Parton, Cindy Walker  

These gals all were at the top of their respective genres (pop songs, country music and early rock  and roll) during the repressive years of the 50’s. How they did it.  

Week 6: Motown and Rock – Carole King, Valerie Simpson (Ashford and Simpson), Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell,  Bonnie Raitt 

 Singer/Songwriters who gave us a still beloved generational soundtrack.  


This class is not available at this time.  

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