April 01, 2022
Philadelphia’s Rising Women in Jazz
Here are a few women who are making their mark on our city
Philadelphia is considered home to many of the world-renowned jazz artists. Throughout history, the legacies of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Lee Morgan, Shirley Scott, among others, have laid the groundwork for a city rich with a history in jazz that continues to develop today. The city of Philadelphia honors the legacy and tradition of jazz music, by providing exceptional educational resources that continue to contribute to the profound jazz community that has been established here.
Temple University and University of the Arts, two of Philadelphia’s premier institutions of higher learning, have exceptional jazz programs where students can hone in on their craft. Here are a few women who are making their mark on Philadelphia:
Maria Marmarou is a senior at Temple University studying jazz drums. She has studied with Steve Fidyk, Justin Faulkner, and Terell Stafford with the Temple University Jazz Band. Marmarou has been performing regularly around Philadelphia and has shared the stage with notable artists such as Marcell Bellinger, Chelsea Reed, Richard Hill, Tim Warfield, and Dick Oatts to name a few. Marmarou is currently in the top performing big band at Temple University, led by Terell Stafford, and has recorded two albums with the band which feature Chrisitan McBride and Joey DeFrancesco.
Marmarou first got into jazz when she was in middle school and joined her school’s jazz band. She continued to play throughout high school and decided to pursue it at a collegiate level. Since arriving at Temple, she has continued to develop her love for this music, and has learned more about it through her teachers and friends. Her biggest influences in Philadelphia include Naomi Ruth Floyd, Byron Landham, as well as the Temple faculty and students.
Marmarou has a bright future ahead of her and has no shortage of goals. She had her debut performance at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City where she played with the Mike Boone quintet. She hopes to contribute to the jazz scene in Philadelphia. “My goal is to affect others positively through music and outside of music. I plan to travel and be a part of a group that regularly performs together and plays music as best as I can… I would love to see more women and new people in the scene and to have more places to play every night like there used to be before the pandemic, Marmarou says. “I hope to contribute to the jazz scene in Philadelphia by motivating people to come out to concerts and sessions. I would also like to inspire more women to play and keep working towards being the best musician they can be,” she continues.
“I hope to contribute to the jazz scene in Philadelphia by motivating people to come out to concerts and sessions. I would also like to inspire more women to play and keep working towards being the best musician they can be”
Connect with Maria: @Drummingsquirrel on IG
You can watch her set at Smalls here: https://youtu.be/0O2T5BnExVc
Bell Thompson is a vibrant young trumpet player and bandleader from Seattle, WA currently based out of Philadelphia, PA. Thompson’s melodic and expressive trumpet playing embraces the jazz tradition while showcasing her clear sound and unique voice. Thompson is currently a student of Terell Stafford and Joe Magnarelli as part of Boyer College of Music’s Jazz Performance program at Temple University.
Thompson’s interest in qualitative research grew from her desire to shine a light on the issue of gender equity in jazz education. She conceptualized, designed, and acquired funding for an interview-based qualitative research study of the experience of young female instrumentalists currently participating in high school jazz education programs.
Her study, Gender and Jazz: The Experience of Women in Jazz Education, was awarded the 2021 Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award for Diversity and Social Justice.
Thompson started playing trumpet when she was in the fourth grade. Her teacher, Owuor Arunga, was a huge inspiration and influenced her greatly. Thompson says, “Owuor’s encouragement and belief in me was crucial to my belief in myself as a musician.” When she got to high school, she started studying with Samantha Boshnack, who inspired Thompson as a woman bandleader and composer. Throughout her high school career, she found herself getting more involved with the music, and fell in love with hard-bop trumpet players like Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd. “[These are] musicians who sparked my interest in improvisation and developing a personal musical style.”
Thompson sees an exciting path opening in the Philadelphia jazz scene. She loves the supportive community that already exists, and would love to see that continue to flourish. “I want to be a supportive member of the community and continually show up to my friends’ shows and projects, as well as contribute musically in my playing, which over time I think will develop as my own sound and approach develops through listening and learning from other musicians,” she says.
“I want to be a supportive member of the community and continually show up to my friends’ shows and projects, as well as contribute musically in my playing, which over time I think will develop as my own sound and approach develops through listening and learning from other musicians”
Thompson is in the process of preparing for her Senior Recital, which is on April 21 at 6 PM at Temple University. She will be presenting a set of original music and arrangements. Thompson plans to remain in Philadelphia post-graduation and work towards her goal of recording an album in the near future.
You can connect with Bell here:
Laura Orzehoski is a second-year Temple University student studying jazz trombone. She studied under trombonists Mark Patterson and Joe McDonough and pianist Tim Brey. She has also studied with trombonists Chris Crenshaw and Vincent Gardner of the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra along with local Philadelphia trombonists Randy Kapralick and Jarred Antonacci. Orzehoski performs regularly across East Coast venues including at well-known venues such as Chris’ Jazz Cafe in Philly, as well as Birdland Jazz Club and Dizzy’s Jazz Club in New York City. Orzehoski is currently the lead trombonist in the New York Youth Symphony Big Band under the direction of Andy Clausen and a member of the all-female big band, The Grace Fox Big Band. She also performs in multiple ensembles at Temple University.
Orzehoski began listening to jazz when she was just three years old. Her family would listen to local radio stations and she fell in love with recordings from the Glenn Miller Big band, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong. She loved the sound of big bands and was immediately inspired by artists like J.J. Johnson, Duke Ellington, and Bob Brookmeyer.
“I was always listening to these records and felt as though I could tell my story through jazz music. There was always that spark of inspiration and creativity I had when listening to jazz and I am continually inspired by these great musicians to this day,” says Orzehoski.
Orzehoski loves the uniqueness of the community in Philadelphia—how everyone is excited to play and ready to encourage one another’s achievements. She appreciates the willingness to share and perform their love for music, and she always looks forward to attending and playing at venues like Chris’ Jazz or SOUTH Jazz Kitchen.
“My appreciation for Philadelphia jazz is indefinitely embedded in its history and the importance of learning about all the Philly jazz greats,” Orzehoski explains. “The Philadelphia jazz scene is a great way for young musicians like myself to get started and learn from the great musicians that live and play here currently.”
“The Philadelphia jazz scene is a great way for young musicians like myself to get started and learn from the great musicians that live and play here currently.”
Orzehoski aspirations include playing and performing as much as possible, as well as becoming an educator and teaching in the Philadelphia and NYC area. Additionally, she plans to continue to write her own original music, perform with the Grace Fox Big Band and the New Youth Symphony Big Band and she is eager to continue to learn from mentors at Temple and beyond.
You can connect with Laura here:
YouTube: Laura Orzehoski
Deborah Smith is a first year jazz student at Temple University studying jazz trombone/performance. Smith is currently studying privately with Joe McDonough and under instruction from musicians such as Tim Warfield, Elio Villafranca, Joshua Richman, Marcell Bellinger, Tim Brey, and more.
Smith’s love for music started in her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In the span of her years playing trombone, she has been involved with the BackCountry Jazz program, and Kids Empowered by Your Support (K.E.Y.S.). Smith started playing jazz through the BackCountry Jazz program, where she fell in love with the music. She has spent years working closely with renowned musicians such as Bennie Wallace, Alex Tremblay, Matt Dwonszyk, Chris Morrison, Godwin Louis, Steve Davis, Paul Bollenback, and more.
Philadelphia has a rich history of jazz musicians and legacies, including John Coltrane, who is one of Smith’s biggest Philadelphia influences. She especially points to his recording of “In a Sentimental Mood” with Duke Ellington, where she felt most connected to the message of the tune. Philadelphia’s past holds inspiration to young musicians, but so does the present. One of Smith’s personal influences is her good friend Laura Orzehoski. She is another female trombonist that also attends Temple University, and she loves playing with like-minded musicians who she feels supported around.
Smith loves the culture and jazz traditions that Philadelphia holds. “There will always be somewhere you can go and play music. Whether it’s at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, Time, Rittenhouse Square, or even just busking with some friends in Center City. I love that you can find music just about anywhere. You can learn so much about the music just by being here,” Smith says.
“I love that you can find music just about anywhere. You can learn so much about the music just by being here.”
Smith’s love for music is reflected in her upcoming projects. She hopes to continue to meet more musicians and post regularly on Instagram and Youtube to share her work. She hopes to see more women rise up in the Philly Jazz scene, and to contribute however she can to the community. “I hope to contribute something new to the Philadelphia jazz scene…whether that be from my sound, the way I solo, or any compositions I put out,” says Smith. “I want to inspire others to branch out.”
Connect with Deborah here:
photo by Susan Beard Photography
Isabella Amada is an Upright Bass Performance student at the University of the Arts. Raised in South Philadelphia, she has had extensive opportunities through the School District of Philadelphia and other various music programs that have shaped her versatile musicianship. Between school ensembles and her all-women pop-fusion project Gloss, Amada is rarely found without a bass in her hand. Currently, she teaches bass, guitar, vocals, and beginner keyboard at School of Rock Philadelphia, a program that uses contemporary music to inspire and engage students in the musical arts. Amada is passionate about education, and is on track to receive a Masters in Arts Teaching degree by 2025 through the University of the Arts.
Amada was introduced to jazz in elementary school and started playing electric bass in middle school where she started exploring the blues and modern jazz. In high school she started upright bass and knew that she wanted to pursue a degree in education. “The music department, and jazz band specifically, was a community unlike any other I had been a part of up to that point,” says Amada. “Creating music with my friends was rewarding, and it felt only right that I continued to create alongside my peers in college.”
“My favorite part about the jazz scene in Philadelphia is the drive to educate and inspire,” she continues. “I have been fortunate enough to attend multiple free conferences and masterclasses provided by the Philly Pops, Key of She Jazz, and both Temple and University of the Arts since high school. Their engagement with the youth is what keeps the scene alive and flourishing.”
“My favorite part about the jazz scene in Philadelphia is the drive to educate and inspire.”
One of Amada’s ultimate goals is to help jazz keep moving forward. She certainly finds value in embracing jazz tradition, but she also wants to see the vision of young artists on the scene inspire what’s next. “I want to draw from all of my influences and create a sound that is true to my generation,” she says. Amada would also love to see more women and non-binary musicians on the scene in Philly. “Young women in Philly need to see that we are here.”
Connect with Bella here:
Instagram: @ isabella.amada
Bryana Crockett is a junior at the University of the Arts studying jazz drums. She performs regularly with the UArts Z Big Band and The Grace Fox Big Band, and was the drummer on the debut album of the Grace Fox Big Band. Crockett plans to minor in education and get her masters at The University Of Arts.
Crockett first started playing jazz in high school when she joined the school jazz band. “As I kept getting deeper into listening to jazz and playing jazz, I ended up falling in love with it,” she says. “What inspired me to pursue it was finding an emotional attachment to my instrument and the genre itself.”
“As I kept getting deeper into listening to jazz and playing jazz, I ended up falling in love with it”
Crockett loves that the Philadelphia jazz scene has so many incredible musicians that inspire her today. She admires that Philadelphia has a very driven and talented community across all generations.
Crockett plans to complete her college degree and get her masters degree while continuing to keep drumming. She sees a bright and diverse future for Philadelphia, with more women and women of color being a part of the community, and believes that change will make for a more vibrant future of jazz in Philadelphia, that will catalyze seeing more women and more women of color being involved in the jazz industry.
“My appreciation for Philadelphia jazz is indefinitely embedded in its history and the importance of learning about all the Philly jazz greats” – Laura Orzehoski