Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz

Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz

March 18, 2022 at 7:30 PM
Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, SJU

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Join us for an exceptional night of jazz featuring standout female musicians! 

Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz features three dynamic vocalists, each a rising star in her own right: Charenée Wade, Vanisha Gould and Tahira Clayton. Presented in affiliation with the Women in Jazz Organization and backed an all-female band, Wade, Gould, and Clayton celebrate the enduring legacies of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone with performances of their classic songs, including Smith’s “Downhearted Blues,” Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam.” 

From the Jim Crow era-South through the turbulent 1960s, these three women were among the most influential and popular singers of their times. Both within their music and outside of the clubs and concert halls, they combated racial prejudice, sexism and poverty through their exceptional talents. Whether powerfully and playfully claiming her autonomy and sexuality (Bessie Smith), forcing America to acknowledge the racism pervasive in the American South and beyond (Billie Holiday), or giving voice to the Civil Rights movement with stirring protest anthems (Nina Simone), these trailblazing singers spoke to and for the disenfranchised. All three women defied social norms, embracing self-empowerment through their art and their legacies are as relevant today as ever. Their contributions resonate across genre and ongoing movements toward equality for women, African-Americans and the LGBTQ+ community. 

Bessie, Billie & Nina Academic Guide

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