Sunday, May 16, 2021
True ‘Guardians of Sound and Spirit’
By Ra’Kenna Joseph
Published September 12, 2008
 Women's Jazz Orchestra
photo provided courtesy of
Lesa Terry (center, violinist) and the Women’s Jazz Orchestra

“When most people think about women in jazz, they believe that we are all singers. The truth is that [female musicians] have an incredible history that is often overlooked,” said Lesa Terry, Founder and Director of The Women’s Jazz Orchestra.

This twenty-five-piece, all women ensemble will perform at the World Festival of Sacred Music at First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica on September 26, 2008 at 7:30pm. The performance will mark the debut of a series of performances dedicated to strings in jazz.

The orchestra’s cast pays tribute to the tradition of the all-female jazz bands of the 1940s. During wartime, male musicians were scarce and fighting on foreign lands so many all-female jazz bands began to spring forth. Building on a concept that originated during Terry’s acclaimed years with Max Roach’s Uptown String Quartet, WJO presents an innovative interpretation of symphonic music and rejoices in the themes of spirituality, gender, and ethnicity.


Terry states the ensemble’s make-up is not a political statement, but rather a cause for celebration and inspiration. “As a woman, I feel that it’s important to spotlight accomplishments of women as well. [We] represent a history inclusive of women in jazz, specifically focused on a desire to inspire and offer healing through music.” The compositions combine African, African American, Afro-Latin, Mexican, Chinese, jazz, and gospel genres to produce a culturally rich, intimate relationship between jazz and traditionally spiritual music.

“We will showcase the works of famed pianist Mary Lou Williams, contemporary musicians, and amazing gospel singers. Several African American composers and musicians are participating in this event and we encourage everyone to come out and support,” said Terry. The event is sponsored by the Hennings/Fischer Foundation, First Methodist Church of Santa Monica, Santa Monica College, and the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance, just to name a few.

The WJO will also perform at the Schomburg Center’s Women in Jazz Series in 2009 and the centennial celebration of Mary Lou Williams at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. in 2010.

Although the September 26th event is free to the public, donations are appreciated. Donations for the event can be made at the concert or by calling 310.393.8258.

For more information, visit or

Categories: Music

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