Jazz Instruments and Their Women

Jane Jarvis and Marian McPartland

Jane Jarvis

Jane Jarvis knew how to play piano from the age of five studied piano at various places before discovering her love of jazz. Neither of her parents were musicians but they were both supportive of her playing. She played as the organist for the Milwaukee Braves and New York Mets and has done famous work as a composer, record producer, and educator. Jane was born in Vincennes, Indiana. At the age of 13, her father encouraged to get  a job playing piano at a radio station in Gary, Indiana for a children’s radio show. She was given the job once the producers heard her playing and following tunes. Soon afterward, her parents died and she moved back to Vincennes. As a young girl, she studied under the head of the piano department of Vincennes University, and by her high school graduation, she had studied music at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and the Bush Conservatory of Music, where she got her first music scholarship. She also studied at Depauw University with a scholarship. In 1929 she became interested in joining a big band but knew that it would be difficult as a woman. She wanted to join a men’s band to be taken seriously. In 1954, she finally got a television show called "Jivin' with Jarvis" after her radio work. It was because of this that she was offered the job playing for the Braves. She was hesitant at first, because it was not her style to play in such simple ways, but she had been recommended by many people. She also knew nothing about baseball. When her marriage failed, she moved to New York and worked for the Mets. She had two kids at the time and would go on to have two more divorces. During her career as an organist, she was producing jazz recordings but barely told anyone about it. She also became a staff composer, producer, and eventually vice-president for the Muzak Corporation, producing over 300 recordings, meeting many famous jazz musicians. Muzak did not produce anything close to jazz, so she had to follow her passion on her own. She liked jazz music more because she was able to change it more and improvise, unlike in classical music. Jane eventually left Muzak in 1978 and then the Mets shortly after. Muzak had changed their policy to something Jane no longer agreed with and she realized she wouldn’t be taken seriously in the jazz world as the Mets organist. Only then was she able to fully devote herself to her passion for jazz. She started playing in clubs in the city and helped start Statesmen of Jazz, a group of jazz musicians age 65 and older. She released several albums of her jazz piano and, in 2003, was granted a lifetime achievement award by the Space Coast Jazz Society. She died in 2010.

Marian McPartland

Marian McPartland was born Margaret Marian Turner on 20 March 1918 and discovered her skill at the piano at a young age. She didn’t have a teacher until the age of 16. She had synesthesia and associated different musical keys with colors. In 1935, her teacher at the time suggested that she apply to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and she was accepted. Marian wanted a degree to become a concert pianist, although she also did work as a vocalist. In 1938, she had developed a love for jazz and, against her family’s wishes, she left Guildhall to seek lesson from Billy Mayerl and joined Billy Mayerl's Claviers, a four-piano vaudeville act. She promised her family that she would eventually finish earning her degree from Guildhall. Following the Claviers’ tour, Marian played in various shows before joining the Entertainment National Service Association to play for Allied troops. Then in 1944, she joined the United Service Organizations. She was assigned to a group called the Band Wagon, and learned to play the accordion in case she found herself without a piano. Marian met Jimmy McPartland in St Vith, Belgium on 14 October 1944 in a jam session. He had been a soldier but was assigned the job of playing the cornet. They later married in a military base in Aachen, Germany. The two started recording jazz together and moved to New York City on 23 April 1946. The couple later moved to Chicago, where Marian joined Jimmy’s group, the Austin High Gang, and played at many exclusive clubs. Jimmy and Marian settled in Manhattan in 1949. Marian started her own trio of piano, bass, and drums, and signed her first record deal in 1951, with Savoy Records. Marian and Jimmy divorced in 1967, but remained close friends and remarried shortly before Jimmy’s death in 1991. In 1966, Marian began hosting the radio show "A Delicate Balance", in which she did interviews. As she got older, she focused more on jazz education, believing that it was important for young people to learn more about the genre. She received a Washington DC grant to teach in poor black neighborhoods and, in 1986 she received the Jazz Educator of the Year award. On 1 April 1979, her National Public Radio show Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz premiered. Also in 1979, she received an NEH grant to write a book about women in jazz, but she became discouraged as others published similar books, and eventually published a collection of essays instead. Marian was awarded a Grammy in 2004 and has earned many other awards for her work in music and education. She died at the age of 95 20 August 2013.



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