Women in Contemporary UK Jazz PhD studentship

Women in Contemporary UK Jazz

A CHASE/AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award: Artistic Voice, Gender and Professional Identity

AHRC/CHASE Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD studentship

 in collaboration with the University of Kent and the National Youth Jazz Collective – Women in Contemporary UK Jazz: Artistic Voice, Gender and Professional Identity.  

Qualification type: PhD

Location: University of Kent (Music & Audio Technology, School of Arts), Medway campus

Funding for: UK Students / International Students

Funding amount: AHRC stipend: for the academic year 2021-22, the stipend will be £16,612 non London / £18,612 with London weighting. This includes enhanced stipend to cover additional travel costs relating to the project. Note: this funding amount typically increases with inflation each academic year.

Closes: Monday 2 May 2022, 12 noon

Women in contemporary UK jazz: artistic voice, gender and professional identity

Applications are invited for an exciting collaboration between the University of Kent and National Youth Jazz Collective.

The project addresses the changing profile of UK women jazz musicians in the 21st century, barriers to progression (educational and professional) and the relationship between artistic voice, gender and professional identity.

This is a unique opportunity to work closely with a prestigious national music education portfolio organization (NPO) and its network of partner arts organisations. Applicants will have an interest in women performer-composers, contemporary jazz, inclusive practices and socio-cultural issues. Relevant professional experience is also welcome.

The successful applicant will have autonomy to shape the project based on their interests. They will receive research training, benefit from academic knowledge exchange and gain public engagement experience. They will also benefit from first-hand experience of arts management, invaluable for those aiming to develop a career in the creative arts sector.

The studentship

During the early 21st century there have been significant developments across the UK jazz landscape. Musically, the promotion of jazz as ever-evolving art form has supported an eclectic array of style influences/genre-fluidity, diversifying audience expectations of the genre. Women have gained a higher profile in the UK jazz scene across the last two decades, with increased numbers leading their own projects. A shift away from gendering of instrumental roles shows in the increase of women jazz instrumentalists (as opposed to vocalists). Over 500 music organisations (e.g. festivals, education organisations, record labels) have signed the Keychange Pledge to work for equal music industry representation for women and gender minorities. More UK jazz education initiatives are available, resulting in more opportunities for young people to access jazz training than ever before. Established women jazz artists (in the UK and internationally) provide role models for emerging young female jazz musicians, also providing mentoring and input in jazz education contexts. All these factors serve to reduce barriers to progression and might suggest that it is an opportune time for young women to be working towards a career in jazz.

Yet it is still the case that fewer women are coming through the UK jazz education system, that relatively few women musicians assume and sustain professional careers within jazz. Hostility in the professional environment persists, as does gender inequality and discrimination; only a select group of female musicians attain widespread recognition, and numbers of bands/projects led by women are far lower than those led by males. It is significant that contemporary UK women jazz musicians who do attain and sustain recognition appear to cultivate especially distinct artistic identities, in terms of musical ‘voice’, but also in terms of all aspects of image creation (visual and personal style/branding).

Training and resources

Kent’s Graduate and Researcher College offers the Researcher Development Programme, designed to equip students with a range of research and transferable skills during their studies. Additionally, the student will have access to all CHASE training and networking events. They will gain first-hand experience of arts management through their involvement with NYJC, assisting in the design of public outreach and impact activities, including a conference, jointly hosted by NYJC, the Music and Audio Technology Department and Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Kent, and will contribute to NYJC’s social media channels (webinars, blog posts, interviews). NYJC has an established public engagement/advocacy programme, including annual high profile contributions to the Music Mark conference and Women of the World Festival, affording diverse routes for dissemination.

Partner resources

The successful candidate will be able to work with a wide range of NYJC resources, including its demographics database, teaching resources and video library. They will be able to consult with key members of the team, instrumental teachers and alumni. The research contexts NYJC can provide constitute key resources, including access to regional workshops, summer schools, music festivals, jazz venues plus NYJC’s extensive network of partner organisations.

Research environment

The School of Arts provides a vibrant environment for cross-disciplinary research, centred on relationship between contemporary music-based practice, artistic identity and socio-cultural context. Several staff are arts industry practitioners; the Identities, Politics and the Arts Research Group is a forum for researchers with interests in issues of identity, diversity and agency. The Music and Audio Technology Department has strong music industry links, and works closely with UK Music, which represents all music industry sectors, guides policymakers and drives change in areas such as diversity, intersectionality and inclusion.

Project aims

The aims of this project are to:

  • interrogate the influence of socio-cultural and psychological factors (including gender) on contemporary UK women jazz musicians’ creative development and professional identity.
  • understand the factors mediating female progression routes in jazz (educational and professional). 

The precise nature of the project will depend on the candidate’s disciplinary background and expertise. Options include a focus on women jazz musicians’ simultaneous experience of intersectional challenges (e.g. gender, ethnicity, geography, neurodiversity); the relationship between musical identity, professional life and mental health; alignment of aims/content of creative pedagogies with demands of the contemporary music industry; performer and audience perspectives.

Below are examples of research questions which might be explored:

  • What are the psychological qualities of female lived experiences of jazz and jazz education from pre-pubescence to late adolescence, including potential changes in perception of musical roles and musical selves?
  • What behavioural strategies do young women adopt to negotiate musical involvement in educational and professional contexts?
  • How and when does artistic identity and professional autonomy emerge and what are the mediating factors?

Supervisory team

The supervisory team will be Dr Ruth Herbert and Professor Nicola Shaughnessy (University of Kent School of Arts) and Issie Barratt, Executive Artistic Director and founder of NYJC. 

Ruth Herbert is a music psychologist and professional performer whose work is sited at the intersection between psychology and ethnomusicology. She has published extensively in the areas of musical engagement and subjective experiences of music in everyday life. Nicola Shaughnessy specializes in contemporary performance and participatory arts with particular interests in gender and neurodiversity. Issie Barratt was identified by BBC Radio 4’s Women in Power List in 2018 as one of the 40 most influential women in the music industry. An award-winning composer, performer, educator and mentor for Women of the World, she is a leading advocate for gender equality.

The candidate

Essential skills/attributes: A good honours degree (2:1 or above) and a relevant Master’s degree, with at least one of these being in the discipline of Music; knowledge of the contemporary UK jazz scene; an interest in social and applied psychology (with relation to musical experience and identity); gender studies; excellent communication skills.

Desirable skills/attributes: Professional performance experience within the music industry; Experience of using qualitative methods (e.g. conducting semi-structured interviews); Experience of ethnographic field research in performance and/or education settings.

We encourage applications from candidates from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, particularly welcoming applications from women and candidates from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds.

How to apply

Applications for this studentship must be made via the University of Kent’s application form for a PhD in Music.

Terms and conditions

The studentship is subject to UKRI eligibility criteria, and will cover home or EU fees and stipend at UKRI rates for a maximum of four years full-time, or eight years part-time study, subject to institutional regulations.
Informal enquiries about this collaborative project can be sent to Dr Ruth Herbert at r.herbert@kent.ac.uk