Dig Boy Dig

Jazz at Lincoln Center Breaks New Ground, but Where Are the Women?

The NEA guidelines, though general, evaluate candidates on providing "access to the arts for all," for "outreach projects that involve diverse communities." Of the other awards, NYSCA's grant contains the most specific language and takes open hiring for granted: "The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or marital status and will undertake or continue existing programs of affirmative action to ensure that minority group members and women are afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination." Corporate donors, including Oldsmobile, refuse to publicly disclose any such requirements.

Does Marsalis believe in affirmative action? "Yes, unquestionably," he says. "But the situation with Afro-Americans is very different from this situation. I want to stress that: verydifferent. It's very detailed, and it would take a long time for me to get into that. It's not appropriate for this article." Different or not, affirmative action programs tend to include outreach to women, as well as minorities other than African Americans.

"Are we trying to incorporate women? Yes," Marsalis says hotly. "But are we doing it under the guise that we've got to get women in here? No, we're not doing that. Do we not hire a person because they're a woman? No. Do we go out and scour New York City to find women? No, we don't scour New York City looking for anymusicians." Gibson extends this view to Columbus Circle: "I'm not approaching the new facility in any way, shape or form, except to give more jazz musicians work, period. I'm not thinking about employing more women."

As Marsalis spoke from the stage of Alice Tully Hall over a month ago for J@LC's season-opening "Body and Soul," his face lit up. He talked enthusiastically about a new home for the music at Columbus Circle, the first hall built specifically for jazz. Hundreds of people looked on proudly. Then Marsalis made a request, asking everyone to say a little prayer before the foundation is laid, to "help make sure we get it right." If you do, couple your prayers with a specific wish: that the only glass ceiling will be the one enclosing the atrium.

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