Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in music.
My parents, Charlotte Galloway and Uriah Theophilus Cartwright played music in our home every day! Mom was a finger-popper. Dad loves classics, jazz and blues. No rock & roll for him. They put me in dancing school at four. I sang and danced for four years at recitals and the footlights captured my soul. I’ve been a ham ever since. From 8 to 12, I sang in the choir at St. Clement Pope Elementary School and played tenor drum and glockenspiel in the marching band. At Bishop McDonnell High, I was Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and I sang in the glee club. From 16 to 27, I raised my two children, Michael and Michele. At 27, I started singing professionally in Philadelphia and have never looked back!
What do you enjoy most about your profession and why did you choose it in the first place?
Music chose me at a very young age. My dance teacher, Bernice Johnson, gave my mother the music sheet for “Somebody Loves Me” and Mom taught me the song in English and French because both lyrics were on the sheet and she loved French so much she named me Renee, thus Joan Renee Cartwright. Though I tried quitting music three times, something or someone has always brought me right back to singing.
Music is the mastery of mind. It keeps you in a place of being for moments at a time. Get caught up in its labyrinth, leading to a thousands doors to one simple end – LOVE! In my mind, musicians are at the top of the food chain. I love flying in airplanes and music has taken me not only around the world to five continents and 15 countries but to the top of the mountain, literally. I sang in Montpelier, Gstaad and Zermatt, Switzerland; Meribel, France; Enna, Sicily; Bolzano, Italy. All of these places are high up in the mountains of Europe. I sang in Petropolis, Brazil, high above Rio de Janero with an American guitarist, Frank Gaskin, Jr.
What was the inspiration for your company/project?
I saw a need to promote women musicians in the mid-1990s, when I returned from touring Europe for six years. I developed a presentation on Women in Jazz and took it to colleges and secondary schools from 1997 to 2001, through Student Enrichment in the Arts Grants from Broward Schools, entertaining and educating thousands of children. To date, I estimate that 8,000 students have seen this presentation in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties; New York City, Atlanta, GA; Tokyo, Japan and Tianjin, China. See these videos:
After touring China as a singer, I returned to Florida in December, 2006 and in March 2007, incorporated WOMEN IN JAZZ SOUTH FLORIDA, INC. as a non-profit organization so that I could apply for grants to do programming. The membership began with about 20 founding members who paid $100 each and received Certificates. That money enabled me to apply for 501(c)(3) status ($750) and build the website. To date, we have attracted 133 members: 74 supporters, 59 musicians, 24 men and 6 students. www.wijsf.com/musicians.htm
Let’s talk about Women in Jazz… a little bit about the organization including how and why did you start WIJ?
Besides the new compilation featuring 10 female composers, the programs we have produced with women men and students.
What is the biggest risk you ever took professionally and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
I borrowed $2,000 from a male member for our Lauderhill Jazz Series in Oct, Nov, Dec 2009. The first one was good, with 100 in attendance. In November, only 40 people came and, since I knew I had to pay back the money, I cancelled the subsequent events. I paid the money back out of a gift my father gave me for my birthday. The owners of the venue were mad with me but no one was willing to put out any money to make this event continue, so I pulled out.
We tried to do the Music Lover’s Studio at our office at the Lauderhill International Trade Incubator but the City of Lauderhill put up too many limitations: Capacity: 40; no ticket price allowed, though we could collect donations; no serving wine (apple juice and jazz???). So, the Board and I decided to drop it. We are, however, looking at other venues for Feb, March and April.
From where do you draw inspiration? Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?
My inspiration comes from the wonderful musicians who are members of WIJSF. My role models and mentors are the Amazing Musicwomen cataloged in my book of the same title. See the attached list.
What do you do to keep yourself sharp?
I write a lot! Everyday, I write in my journal. I have about 35 of them and they enabled me to write my book of memoirs. I work on the computer all day, most days, being in touch with people around the world, finding new ways to promote WIJSF, INC. and myself as a jazz/blues singer and author.
What one thing have you done in the past year that has made a significant difference in your life/your business?
I submitted and was awarded several grants to present concerts:
1. $4,300 for Community Musicwomen from Broward Cultural Division
2. $1,540 for Amazing Musicwomen presented at Lorah Park Elem through Arts4Learning in Miami
3. $2,100 from BankAtlantic Summer SmARTS Program to present at three elementary schools
4. $5,000 for Lauderhill Jazz Jam from Broward Cultural Division
What one thing would you like to learn this year?
I would love to know how to win and influence donors and investors. I just finished reading ASKING by Jerold Panas.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
We will produce more and more quality performances with our musical members and students from schools like Parkway Middle School of the Performing Arts. We will produce subsequent volumes of music compilations with original songs from our members. I claim to be the “only woman in the world with a jazz and blues song book.” No one has disputed this, to date.
July 2008 – December 2010, I hosted MUSICWOMAN where I interviewed 100 female composers, none of whom has published a SONG BOOK. I am the ONLY one and I encouraged everyone of my guests to do this. My goal is to have an Archive of Women’s Music at the Library connected to the new Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, due to open in Spring 2012. Also, I would like to bring to fruition the South Florida Art and Food Festival (www.saaff.net) by December 2012 and make it an annual or semi-annual event.
What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?
Go to the Turkish/Russian Baths on Miami Beach.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
You do not have to be a musician to join our organization. We have 74 supporters out of 133 members. We need people, men, women and children, who love and support jazz, blues and especially women musicians.
What’s the best way for our readers to connect with you?
NOTE: Joan Cartwright is the first of 10 Women in Jazz – and 4 women in music that WE interviewed for the WE Magazine for Women in Music Spring 2011 Issue. You can read more about these Women in music by visiting: http://www.staging.wemagazineforwomen.com/pdfs/2011WEMagSpring.pdf