A woman named Jane Little showed up on a crawl at the bottom of my TV the other night. I was watching some political nonsense when the item moved across my screen and completely stole my attention. I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since.
We don’t often hear much about symphonic musicians. When we do, it’s usually the star violinists like Itzhak Perlman or cellists like YoYo Ma. Tell me, when was the last time you heard about a string bass player? And we’re not talking about someone from one of the country’s top orchestras either, like New York, Boston, LA, Chicago or San Francisco. We’re not even talking top ten here (oh yeah, they actually rank symphonies).
Jane Little played string bass for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Nothing remarkable there. But last year she set the Guinness World record for longest tenure in a single orchestra. Jane started when she was 16, and played 71 straight years. 71 years with the same orchestra. Amazing.
Even more amazing was that a woman in 1945 could get a paying job in a symphony orchestra. Let’s face it, gender bias was in its heyday back then. Tough for women to compete with men for work. Even more so at her chosen instrument.
Yeah, we don’t want to admit it, but there are certain instruments women are “supposed” to play and be good at. Then there are ones we don’t think they should be playing professionally. Quick, can you name 10 famous female rock guitarists? How bout 5? I can easily name 50 famous male rock guitarists, but only a handful of female rockers. And I can’t think of even one famous female drummer (except for Sheila E, but she’s more of a percussionist than a drummer, though she’s a total badass on timbales). Continue reading Out With A Bang Not A Whimper