Halynn Blanchard and Rayna Mathis. Photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn.
BY ALEXA PETERS
Historically, women in jazz have never had their fair share of the spotlight—and the issue persists today, even as the discussion of gender disparity in jazz is more common since #MeToo. In fact, a 2020 Washington State University study found that the “discrimination that began 100 years ago against women in jazz remains today, impacting the number of women who pursue jazz as a career.” However, Earshot is an anomaly in this male-dominated industry. In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s learn a little bit more about these mighty jazz women behind the scenes.
Festival Production Manager
Halynn Blanchard began interning with the Earshot Jazz Festival in 2014, and has since become the Festival Production Manager, coordinating day-to-day operations for the organization’s artists and shows.
Early on, Blanchard remembers listening to artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James, and getting inspired.
“I’d just be jaw-dropped by their phrasing,” recalls Blanchard.
Blanchard says women in jazz “breed creativity,” and that’s why she’s thankful to be part of the women-dominated team at Earshot, and of a wider jazz community that supports their work.
“Our partnerships are rich, and they play a major role highlighting all the spaces jazz is woven into this city. It’s been a huge pleasure to get to witness jazz act as a bridge in Seattle.”
Since April 2005, Karen Caropepe has worked in the multi-faceted role as Earshot’s Managing Director. This entails everything from grants, fundraising, accounting, ticketing and hospitality, to volunteer coordination, and doing the layout for the magazine—all from the lens of creating a safe and equitable place for other women in the industry to work.
Caropepe’s favorite part of her work is helping artists and watching their careers flourish over the years.
“I’m so proud of this organization for what it does for resident artists,” says Caropepe. “To an individual artist it may not seem like much, just an article or one concert, but the cumulative effect is powerful and strengthens the whole community.”
Marketing & Development Associate
If you’ve ever liked one of Earshot’s social media posts or email blasts, you can thank Lucienne Grace, Earshot’s Marketing and Development Associate.
Grace started with Earshot in April 2018, but first became interested in jazz in the early 2000s. She calls the style a “uniquely American [and] evolving artform that encompasses creativity and democratic participation.”
When it comes to representation of women in jazz, Grace thinks that more work needs to be done to bring women into the fold from an early age.
“It’s worrying to see that young women are not getting the support they need to join the jazz world from an early age,” says Grace. “Knowing this, representation in the school setting matters.”
Lisa Hagen Glynn, photographer with Earshot since 2018, says she’s doing her job if she can bring a show to life on the page.
“It’s a privilege witnessing and documenting live jazz in Seattle,” says Hagen Glynn. “And, Earshot promotes anti-racist, gender-inclusive, intergenerational spaces for art and artists to flourish. I seek to work from this perspective in my jazz photography, to help shape a representative record.”
Hagen Glynn primarily photographs Earshot’s live concerts and festivals. In addition to jazz, Hagen Glynn can also be found photographing the various genres of Seattle’s diverse and rich music scene, which she documents on her blog hardlyraining.com.
A volunteer with Earshot since the ‘90s, Carol Levin stepped into the calendar position in 2019. As Calendar Editor, Levin alongside volunteer Jane Emerson, compiles live jazz events from around the area and creates the Jazz Around the Sound calendar, so readers can learn about shows nearby to go out and enjoy themselves.
“Earshot brings me in contact with supportive, intelligent, knowledgeable, and way cool staff and volunteers,” Levin says. “My role keeps me aware of the wide variety of live jazz available in my community.”
An early and avid jazz listener (some of her favorites include Mose Allison, Miles Davis, and Bessie Smith), Levin went on to raise a now-professional jazz musician, Josh Deutsch.
In her eyes, women in jazz bring a different sensibility to the style including deep understanding of collaboration, assertion without domination, and the value of difference.
One of the newest members of the team, Rayna Mathis joined Earshot as Magazine Editor in May 2021. But, her passion for jazz goes back to her childhood summers, when she’d attend the annual smooth jazz festival at Chateau Ste. Michelle.
“I also got into lindy hop dancing when I was in high school and have been dancing ever since. These two artistic expressions and the vibrant communities that came with them were definitely the foundation to the work I do today,” she said.
As Editor, Mathis is responsible for producing the magazine’s monthly content—which inevitably culminates in a weekend every month when she and Karen Caropepe pull an all-nighter to finalize everything. It’s all good, though, because Mathis loves every minute of it.
“Jazz is the foundation to so many other musical genres and a legacy of Black American history. As a Black woman living in the States, jazz is me. Jazz is armor. Jazz is a bridge. Jazz is my favorite language to speak.”