Sherrie Maricle

Drummer and Band Leader
Sherrie Maricle

Photo by Bill Westmoreland

The transcript will be available shortly.


Excerpt of "Titter Pipes" composed by Tommy Newsom and performed by Sherrie Maricle and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, from the cd: TNT: A Tommy Newsom Tribute, used courtesy of DIVA and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Used by permission of Jewel Music Publishing Company, Inc. (ASCAP).

Excerpt of "Solo 6 - Binghamton, 1976" composed and performed by Buddy Rich from the cd, Buddy Rich: The Solos, used by permission of Lightyear Entertainment.

Excerpt of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" composed by Jimmy Holiday and Randy Myers, and performed by Sherrie Maricle and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, from the cd: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, used courtesy of DIVA and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Used by permission of Sony/ATV. 100% EMI Unart Catalog Inc. (ASCAP).

Excerpt of "Happy Talk" composed by Richard Rodgers and performed by Sherrie Maricle and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, from the cd: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, used courtesy of DIVA and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Used by permission of Williamson Music Co. dba Imagem (ASCAP).

Excerpt of "Andalucia" composed by Ernesto Lecuona and performed by Sherrie Maricle and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, from the cd: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, used courtesy of DIVA and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Used by permission of Edward B. Marks Co. dba Carlin America, Inc. (BMI).


<clip of the DIVA playing>

Jo Reed: That's DIVA, the all-women jazz orchestra, which is led by drummer Sherrie Maricle. And this is Art Works the weekly podcast produced by the National Endowment for the arts. I'm Josephine Reed.

We all know where women in jazz belong: behind the piano or the microphone. Or at least that's the popular stereotype. But it's also changing, and one of the reasons for that change is drummer Sherrie Maricle. Sherrie wanted to play drums and she wanted to play jazz, and so she did, in spite of many challenges along the way. I'm going to give you a sense of the scope of Sherrie's career:  here's a few of the jazz greats that Sherrie Maricle's played with: Slam Stewart, Johnny Mandel, Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie. She's a composer and arranger in both jazz and classical music. She has a PhD in Jazz composition and performance. Since 1992, she's led her own big band, the internationally renowned Diva, as well as the quintet FivePlay and the Diva Jazz Trio. She's a percussionist for the New York Pops and the New Jersey Symphony. And to no one's surprise, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Festival.

Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA orchestra were in Washington DC recently performing at Arena Stage with Maurice Hines in the show Tapping Thru Life. Sherrie Maricle and Maurice Hines are old friends, having collaborated frequently since 1990. As usual, Maricle was wearing many hats--musical director, conductor, and drummer; but, she also found time to talk to me. I caught up with Sherrie Maricle one evening at the Arena Stage before the show. I wanted to begin with the business at hand: her work with Maurice Hines in Tappin' Thru Life.

Sherrie Maricle:  You know what? It's amazing, and it's fun, and the show is music I love like crazy-- that Count Basie, Joe Williams, Nelson Riddle, Sinatra at the Sands Hotel-- kind of just high energy swinging with great melodies and wonderful lyrics. And everybody in the band gets a chance to solo and improvise, and its fun to be onstage because we're part of the show; we're not just a backup group. And I think the band, because of our history with Maurice, and my particularly long history with him, I think the chemistry is very good. 

Jo Reed:  Yep, there's a lot of bantering between Maurice and you, and Maurice and the audience-- but Maurice and the band.

Sherrie Maricle: And because we're friends and we genuinely love and respect each other, I think it comes across. I hope-- we're having so much fun. Actually, I told somebody the other day, I said, "This reminds me of my first gig with the Tune Twisters. I can't believe I'm getting paid to do something that is so awesome."  

Jo Reed:  And you're music director of the show.

Sherri Maricle: Yes.

Jo Reed: Tell me what that means. What does that involve?

Sherrie Maricle:  In a simplest way, it's making sure that all the music for the show sounds the way Maurice wants it to sound, or the way I want it to sound. But of course my allegiance is to making Maurice happy with that. So getting the right players in the right chairs; making sure that the arrangements suit the show. And then, conducting the show. As basically as a drummer I sit sort of in the middle of the band, and when my stick goes up and then down, they learn to follow my drumstick instead of following a conductor standing in front.

Jo Reed: Did you come from a musical household when you were a kid growing up?  

Sherrie Maricle:  My mom played a lot of Irish folk music and country and western music. Her mom is from Ireland, so I'm well adept and love Irish folk music, but-- never was a big fan of country music, but every morning of my life I remember waking up to that, and often screaming, "Mom, shut that down," or "Turn that off," or something crazy, because it was-- it's annoying when you're trying to sleep and there's Irish music blasting. But I did grow to have a tremendous appreciation for that. But nobody listened to jazz and nobody played an instrument, except I think my dad told me when he was a young kid he played the trumpet. And he liked jazz, but he didn't really play any for us.

Jo Reed:  What sparked your interest in jazz?

Sherrie Maricle:  You know, it was first just music in general. I remember especially enjoying parades, when my parents would take us to--

Jo Reed:  Really?

Sherrie Maricle:  --a parade, and watching-- especially all the drummers. Was really interested in that part of music. When I was in fourth grade and you could take an instrument, I immediately got excited and raced in, and, "Oh good, it's my chance to play an instrument." And I said I wanted to play the trumpet. And the teacher told me, "Well, I'm sorry, but girls don't play the trumpet. Girls don't play the drums and girls don't play the trombone, but you can play this." And it was a metal clarinet, which I did not like at all. So I was going to quit the band because I was so unhappy with that instrument. And I remember the music teacher calling and telling my mother, "Please have her stay in band because I think she's talented. Please." So I kind of reluctantly stayed in there and then simultaneously started playing the cello, which I liked a little better. And somehow in sixth grade one of the band teachers needed someone to hit the bass drum, and I leapt at the chance to get back there in the drum section, and then started to play drums that way. And in seventh grade is the big change of my life when my teacher took me to see Buddy Rich and his Killer Force Orchestra at the Forum in Binghamton, New York, and I remember it like it happened to me yesterday. Looked down at the stage; Buddy came out in a black tee shirt after his band was already seated in tuxedos. And Buddy started with his high hat-- very famous high hat riff-- <music clip> I looked at that and I thought, "I don't know what that is. I never heard that, but that's what I'm going to do." And I went home and I told it to my mom.

Jo Reed:  So what did your mother say when you announced your future plans?

Sherrie Maricle:  I think it was one of those pats on the head, like, "Okay, honey, sure." "She'll get over it." Like she had never heard of anything like that in her life-- <chuckles>. And I remember very vividly announcing to my eighth grade music teacher too, I said, "I am going to play the drums." And I was sort of playing drum set a little bit, but not at school because there were no girls doing that. And then when I got to high school, I remember I was going to audition for the jazz band but I was afraid because no girls ever played the drums. And I talked to the teacher about it, and he said something to the effect of, "Well, what wrong with you? That's ridiculous. If you want to play the drums, go play. It doesn't have anything to do if you're a boy or a girl. Go on." So I auditioned, and then got in the band. 

Jo Reed:  Isn't it remarkable the difference a teacher can make?

Sherrie Maricle:  I mean, what if he said, "Oh yeah, you're right, girls don't play drums"? I mean, I think I would have still pursued it somehow, but.

Jo Reed:  But how much more difficult that path would have been. How did your peers respond to you when you were in high school playing drums? Did they think, "Oh, how cool," or did they think, "Huh."

Sherrie Maricle: Well, you know in high school especially, everybody sections off into all their different cliques, and my group was called the "Bandies." So we were all band kids, and a lot of people in the band and the jazz band. It was a good split, 50/50, young men and young women. So I don't think it seemed unusual to them, and I think it was sort of neat. I think they thought it was cool that I was the drummer. I never stopped thinking about it or ever wanted to do anything else, and I feel so lucky because I know-- <chuckles>-- a lot of people struggle with, "What am I going to do with my life?" and I'm so-- like a lot of artists-- so, so lucky that it just found me, and I didn't really even have a choice. Like that is what I wanted to do, and that is what I love, and I just couldn't even think of anything else.

Jo Reed:  And then when you went to college, you went to the State University of New York in Binghamton?

Sherrie Maricle: yeah, at the state university in Binghamton, which had an amazing music program.

Jo Reed:  And you studied percussion there.

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah. And also, Binghamton was a hub for every show, every circus. Like everything came through that on their touring paths. I was lucky enough to be hired for multiple things when I was very, very young, and first up-and-coming. And I can't even think of a way to even replicate that kind of experience. It's something you absolutely do not get just being in a college music program. "Here comes Ringling Bros. You want to play percussion?"  " Yes."  " Here comes you know, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Want to play that?"  " Yes." Like everything that came through and playing in the local professional big band and dance bands-- it was just a time when all that live music was still so abundant in everywhere in the town. I played in wedding bands; I played at the Holiday Inn Lounge. I played all over the place.

Jo Reed:  Do you remember your first professional gig?

Sherrie Maricle:  I do. I was a teenager, and I couldn't even drive, and I remember it was near my house at an Eagles Club-- like the Elks Club or Moose Club or whatever-- and I rode my bike, with my drums. I made like four trips. And I was also working as a cashier at the local supermarket, the giant supermarket. Minimum wage was probably like two dollars and thirty cents or something back then. <chuckles> I played the gig and it paid fifty or sixty dollars, and the guy told me how much it paid. And I couldn't even believe I would get paid, number one, because I loved it so much. So I forgot to get paid, and he had to bring my money to my house the next day. I just ran out so excited. And then I was like, "Oh my gosh, I work 20 hours at the supermarket and end up with like forty dollars, and this is so weird, and I don't understand. How could I do something I love and make all this money?" That's not the reason that I play the drums, though. It's a miracle to me to be able to do something I love so much.

Jo Reed:  Yeah, it was great encouragement at the perfect time.

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah.

Jo Reed:  You can do it and get paid for it.

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah, certainly living in the freelance lifestyle-- it can be very stressful sometimes. That's why you have to love it so you can go for weeks without work and then you can have a lot of work, and then you work for all different price points-- sometimes for free, sometimes it pays great, and it's everything in between. And in between all of the work is the time that you spend practicing, which is also not a paid thing. But you have to practice enough to be good enough so when you do get a call, you'll get called again. You know, so I don't think a lot of people really understand how much musicians and writers and dancers and other artists practice, practice and practice-- alone, in a room-- just to be good enough to come out. So if you probably divided it, a lot of musicians probably are still working for minimum wage. <laughs>

Jo Reed:  When they're lucky.

Sherrie Maricle:  If you factor in their practice time. <chuckles>

Jo Reed: You met the legendary jazz bassist Slam Stewart in Binghamton. And he was really pivotal in your early career.  

Sherrie Maricle:  Oh my gosh, oh yeah. Maurice quotes in his show, Tappin' Thru Life, about these giants in their field can take very young people and nurture them. Slam did that for me, and because of him, and he would have concert series at the college, and I was always the drummer and he was always bringing in these really famous people-- Clark Terry, Zoot Sims, Bucky Pizzarelli-- and then when I decided to move to New York, I mean, I knew all these people. And because of those connections, of course, it's who you know. It's like a random jazz drummer moving to New York would have trouble navigating. But because of them, and because of Slam, all these doors were immediately open, and I had introductions to places and people that might have taken me years to get to otherwise.

Jo Reed:  Did you have to work through gender bias when you got to New York, working as a jazz drummer?

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah, and not even-- in New York, when I moved there in 1985-- but today, in 2013, yes, still the same. <chuckles> The whole thing is very well documented in this great documentary film called The Girls in the Band that DIVA's a part of. And it just came out about a year and a half ago, and it starts with the earliest possible history of women instrumentalists, only, in jazz, and it goes all the way through the point of Esperanza Spalding winning the Grammy Award for best new artist, beating out Justin Bieber. The project of The Girls in the Band is really remarkable because you can hear women-- there's a drummer named Viola Smith who's 101, and the stuff she talks about is almost identical to many things that still happen today.

Jo Reed:  Such as?

Sherrie Maricle:  Such as women not being taken seriously as artists well, you would wear a costume you know, show some cleavage, put on tons of makeup. "Nah, you don't have to play that good. You're just there. You're just a gimmick. You're just a novelty."

Jo Reed:  Eye candy.

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah. 

Jo Reed:  I think for any band or any orchestra, seeing all men, it's almost still the norm.

Sherrie Maricle:  It is. It is, absolutely. Yeah. When I moved to New York, I used to go to a jam session every night at the Blue Note, every night after the last set, till about four a.m., and I would sit there; I would put my name on the list, hardly ever get called, or if I got called, it would be a ballad, and the leader of the session would say, "Can you handle this, honey?" And it would be a slow tempo. Or other times, "Well, I'll let you sit in if you take your shirt off." You know, just ridiculous. And when I was much younger, I actually-- I just thought to myself "These people are so dumb. What do they mean? I'm a drummer. This is what I do. I mean, why are they saying those stupid things?" I didn't realize how embedded in society and people's psyche that is. I didn't really understand the deep roots of sexism and gender bias and things like that in jazz until I got a little bit older.

Jo Reed: You're the leader of DIVA, which is an all-women jazz orchestra. <audio clip> What gave you the idea for this?

Sherrie Maricle:  It was actually the idea of a man named Stanley Kay, who is also the manager and conductor and drummer for Maurice Hines and Gregory Hines-- Hines, Hines, and Dad. And in 1990, I was just the pickup drummer for an orchestra at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut. It was their 75th anniversary. And Stanley Kay came in with Maurice Hines, and I played their act. And I loved Stanley Kay because he was the manager and assistant drummer for the Buddy Rich Band, and I knew him by reputation. And I thought, "Ooh, this is so cool, it's Stanley Kay." And Maurice's music was really swinging, like the music I love playing more than anything. And I made a point to talk to Stanley at the reception afterwards and tell him what a pleasure to meet him. So I started playing drums with Maurice just after that point-- that was 1990-- and then was in touch with Stanley. And then Stanley called me in 1992 and said, "I have an idea. Do you know women that play as well as you?" Big compliment. And I said, "I actually do." And he said he wanted to start an all-woman band. He had been in Hines, Hines, and Dad, and Maurice, he was a lot in the theater world, and had big jazz roots. He had a great career, but he was in theater; now he wanted to come back to music. And he said, "Yeah, I would never try it in this day and age with just a regular big band," but he liked the way I played and thought, "You know, it would be cool to do this with women." And I, who had previously just stayed away, almost like a plague, from all-women projects, because of those stereotypes that I alluded to before-- <chuckles>-- but Stanley, was so serious, and this is the guy that managed Buddy Rich. He knows what great music is, and that's all he cared about. Which was amazing, because I knew so many women that were not being given high-end musical opportunities because it was so difficult just for them to even get called. So in 1992 we had an audition in New York and about 40 women came, from all over the place, and then we put together the original band, which is 15 players, and we just took off from there. Our first gig was in-- it was March 30 of 1993 at New York University.

Jo Reed:  And were you always swinging?

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah, that was Stanley's musical ideal for jazz, and it's mine too. DIVA's music is the other amazing perk for me because Stanley and I had the same general feeling about what jazz is to us. I mean, jazz is so many different things, but to me it's great melodies. It can be like a challenging chart; it can be complicated harmony; it could be anything, but I really want it to swing and I want it to be accessible for the audience, and challenging and exciting for the players. That's what I love to play. I challenge myself as a musician to play any kind of music. I went through my phases in college of writing, I'd say, weird jazz or more esoteric, like, "Ooh, look how cool this is. Nobody can tell what we're doing. No one can even tell if it's music!" <chuckles> You know, that's I think a phase a lot of creative people would have to go through in experimenting in all different sort of genres within your field. Again, a lesson learned from Maurice Hines was, "Just tell the truth. Be true to who you are, what your soul is calling you to do and what kind of music, and just do that, and don't try to be all kinds of other things that you're not." You know, to try to be cool or try to make yourself, "Well, jazz needs to be this way," or "That's cool. That's what all the cutting edge people are doing." And I think you can still play music that's like really sophisticated-- which all of DIVA's music is very sophisticated and challenging and fun, and the audience likes it, and people smile and tap their foot. And I view myself as, yes, an artist of course, but an entertainer.

Jo Reed:  Tommy Newsom was a big supporter.

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah. He was so great. Used to call him Tom-Tom.

Jo Reed:  How did you connect with him?

Sherrie Maricle:  Through Stanley, and through the Buddy Rich connection, that Tommy-- obviously, as you know, is a great arranger and composer, and from the ex- Tonight Show band with Doc Severinsen. And Stanley knew Tommy, and Stanley asked Tommy to start writing charts for us, and he ended up really, really loving the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. So he wrote dozens and dozens of pieces of music for us. Often we would ask him for something specific, but sometimes he would just say, "I thought of you guys. I wrote this," and it would be an amazing chart that he gifted to us-- just about everything he ever gave us. I mean, that's unbelievable. One, he could have commanded any amount of money for arranging anything and he just, "No, this is for you. I love you guys and I believe in you," and he did that. <Audio clip plays> I really miss him. He was so funny and so generous and so talented. Great man.

Jo Reed:  Another great man, Dr. Billy Taylor.

Sherrie Maricle:  Great man.

Jo Reed:  He did just so much with women and jazz. He headed jazz programming at Kennedy Center.

Sherrie Maricle:  I sure know that.

Jo Reed: Can you just say a few words about him?

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah. I think Stanley and Billy were friends for a number of years. When Billy started the Mary Lou Williams Festival, we performed at the first festival, which was I think 16 or 17 years ago now. And then just about every other year or so we would be present, either with DIVA or with our sister group, Five Play, in some form at that festival, which was amazing. But the other thing that Billy did, besides being a tremendous advocate for equality, I mean in women in jazz, etcetera, when the Kennedy Center had their 25th anniversary, Billy was putting-- a big television show Billy was putting together a jazz segment for, and he chose DIVA to be the featured band on that show with Dee Dee Bridgewater and him. Then I was just like, "Oh, that's such a great gig." And when I think about it now, I'm like, "He could have picked-- any band in the whole world would have flipped with joy to do that." And we were flipped with joy, but he said, "This is a great band. I want to make sure they get recognition, and they deserve to be presented in this forum." And he did that, and that was such an amazing thing he did. And he gave us a segment on CBS Sunday Morning.

Jo Reed: DIVA's been together for 20 years. As you're performing, do you see audiences responding less to you as an all-woman jazz orchestra and more as jazz players?

Sherrie Maricle:  I think it's a little bit of both of those things. I don't like to say it, but I think sometimes people are surprised when they look at the band and-- I'll give you an example. Once we were on a long tour in the Midwest and a guy wrote a review, and the review said, "The last thing I wanted to do on Saturday night was go see a bunch of girls play a watered-down version of 'In the Mood.'" And then he said, "Boy was I wrong." But I think those stereotypes that are so hard to get rid of I think just follow you around. <Chuckles> So I think people may think that, and then once they hear us play they're like, "Oh, this is amazing and very serious," and the band comes with a high energy and power and we're going to swing you out of your seat.

Jo Reed:  How do you think women can be more encouraged to get into jazz in general? 

Sherrie Maricle:  Yeah, I don't know-- and this has been since I was much younger too and started playing. I think first of all you have to somehow like it yourself. Like I stumbled on jazz by chance, <chuckles>, and I think that's a possible way to first be introduced to it. But I really think that it's a shame that it's not easily accessible like pop music is. You know, it's not in the face of young people like you're bombarded constantly with images of all the pop and rock stuff, but definitely not of-- <chuckles>-- not of jazz at all. So you really have to seek it out, and once you're introduced to it and if you get bitten by a jazz bug-- I mean, it's so easy now to find everything on the internet, which is amazing. You can see and hear almost anything you want.

Jo Reed:  Now, you also freelance as a classical musician.

Sherrie Maricle:  Well, yes, I did much more of that than I have in recent years, but I do-- yeah, I do play percussion instruments I studied in college, of course, and I am the drum set player in the New York Pops since 1990. Actually-- <chuckles>-- the day I met Stanley and Maurice is also the day that the conductor of that orchestra-- which I'm really happy to tell you was Skitch Henderson, who was the founder of the New York Pops. And Skitch Henderson was walking out the door, and I thought, "Oh, its Skitch Henderson," and I made myself say hello to him, which I didn't want to-- <chuckles>-- but I don't know why, I was afraid or didn't want to bug him-- "Mr. Henderson, it was so nice to play with you. Thank you for this experience." And he looked at me and he goes, "You! I want you to come play with the New York Pops." And I was like, "Huh?" <chuckles>  And that was in May of 1990, and in August I was playing with the New York Pops at the Columbus Avenue Street Fair without a rehearsal. And then he offered me the next season of work, and then I became the drummer with the New York Pops.

Jo Reed:  Can you talk just a little bit about the difference between playing with the New York Pops or I know you played with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra too--

Sherrie Maricle:  I do. Yeah.

Jo Reed:  --and playing jazz.

Sherrie Maricle: The Pops orchestra plays a lot of different styles of music. With DIVA, I know what the style is more or less within the contemporary swing genre. But the pops, my gosh. Of course we can be doing any kind of classical repertoire, in which case I will play percussion. I mean, we-- my section mates in the New York Pops are geniuses-- so you know, I do my small part back there when it's called for with the classic repertoire, but then also--it could be a John Williams film celebration, any kind of Broadway music. I mean, we've played with Kid Rock. We've played with Chet Atkins, the Oakridge Boys-- I mean, all sorts of different genres of music-- rock, pop, jazz, Celtic Festival. It's all different sorts of music. So I think that's an important thing for all musicians is find the thing that you love the most that drives your heart, so to speak; but if you want to make a living, I think it's really important to be able to do a lot of different things.

Jo Reed: Is what you do at the New York Pops-- when you come back and work with DIVA, do you find that it's stretched you in a way that serves you?

Sherrie Maricle:  Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can't think of any sort of music I've ever played in my life that hasn't given me more information about being a better musician. And now, I mean it's absolutely insane with the internet, with the amount of world music you can listen to. You know, everything is going to inform you in some way. Jazz musicians obviously have some of the best technique imaginable, because you have to-- <chuckles>. They're extraordinary technicians and artists and creative. And classical players are that too, in a different way-- it's hard to describe. But what I learned at the Pops was an incredible range of dynamic control. Skitch used to have the orchestra playing so soft in Carnegie Hall. I remember thinking, "I've never played this soft in my life." Especially on the drum set. But in Carnegie Hall where the orchestra has our season, it's perfect. So I learned different things about phrasing, and musical affects and then said, "Oh wow, well, how would this be if we do it with a jazz orchestra?" Which traditionally I guess has sort of a louder level of dynamics and more of "oomph" at all times. And I learned a lot of the more subtle, beautiful technique.

Jo Reed: It's such an odd time I think for jazz, because on one hand it's wonderful that it's now in universities, recognized as a legitimate form of music study; on the other hand it means a lot of jazz is coming out of universities as opposed to the old jam sessions that used to happen. And there's always something lost, something gained.

Sherrie Maricle:  That is one of the constant debates of everyone who's in jazz and teaching jazz and well, now that it's so academic. Like that's almost the goal is like, "Well, yes, I'm going to go to school and study jazz and be in the school environment, and maybe then I'll teach jazz." As in my experience, what I'm realizing is less and less places even have jazz clubs. Where are all the jobs? You know, when I was at NYU I used to always say to the kids, "Okay, you're here, you're spending a billion dollars-- <chuckles>-- to get a degree, a performance degree in jazz. Who do you want to play with?"  " I don't know, I just want to play."  " Where? Give me some examples." Then they would often not say anything. And when I was young, my dream was to play with the Woody Herman Band. I loved that band so much, and it helps to have some kind of a goal. And with the level of talent in the schools, I mean the level of musical proficiency and having the technique of being a good instrumentalist has probably never been higher in human history. But I think in some ways, like you said, there's probably less creativity because everybody's learning the same things, where when the music was being formed and developed, it was by a lot of great innovators who really did change it from the beginning of ragtime through players like of course Louis Armstrong-- very pivotal-- and Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. I mean, those three people changed music. They really did. And I don't think that that has happened, in my opinion, probably since Coltrane. I mean, changed it. It was like, "What?" <chuckles> like no one ever heard that before. 

Jo Reed: It's really tough to make a living in jazz.

Sherrie Maricle: Oh yeah. I used to think about what that means, and literally playing jazz for a living. I think it's rare. I don't think a lot of people do it; just play jazz is what I mean. There's a few-- of course the great stars-- but people also function as teachers and composers. So it's not even just women; it's anyone making a living in jazz and going into it professionally. You really, really have to love it. The jobs are less and less, or if there are jobs, the thing that's ruined it for people actually making a living from it is-- especially in a city like New York-- work for the door. Artists are responsible to fill the house on their own or they don't even get the door, or they get part of the door, and there's so many thousands of great talented people that want the opportunity to play, they'll do that. You're taking this incredible talent and you're just giving it away and begging people to listen. And then of course the club owners are happy they don't have to pay for any of the music, and it's-- just it's a strange sort of cycle of where are you going to be able to support jazz so people can actually make a living doing that? All of this affects the way that people perform on stage because there's no place to get experience and performance. And no matter how great a collegiate band might be or a university band, it's very different than playing professionally. It's very, very different. 

Jo Reed: Well, what you're bringing to the stage right now as we mentioned earlier, is Tappin' Thru Life with Maurice Hines. That is a show that feels spontaneous.

Sherrie Maricle: You know, obviously the show has a format, but it's slightly different every night, because there's a heavy jazz element in it. We're improvisers. Maurice is certainly an improviser and he's very connected to the audience, and I learned that a lot from him. And I asked Maurice once, when I first started playing with him, I said, "How can you walk out on the stage and people are berserk with happiness already? How do you do that?" And he does have a lot of great charisma, but when he steps out there, he really, really, really loves it, and he loves the audience. He wants the audience to be happy. And he knows what he's good at, and I sort of-- that's what I was saying at the beginning of our talk, is I try to adopt the same thing for DIVA. That I know what we're good at, we're genuine about it. A woman in one of the talkbacks here asked me, "Did someone direct you do that, all that smiling? Are you faking it up there?" And I'm like, "No, we're really-- <chuckles>-- I'm really happy." I mean, so happy to have this opportunity to play with Maurice. I want to contribute to the joy because that's how I feel.

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Jo Reed: That was Sherrie Maricle. She's a drummer and leader of the big band DIVA. You’ve been listening to Art Works produced by National Endowment for the Arts. Adam Kampe is the musical supervisor. The Art Works podcast is posted each Thursday at You can subscribe to Art Works at iTunes U; just click on the iTunes link on our podcast page. Next week, poet Shailja Patel. To find out how art works in communities across the country, keep checking the Art Works blog, or follow us @NEAARTS on Twitter. For the National Endowment for the Arts, I'm Josephine Reed. Thanks for listening.

Sherrie Maricle has played with jazz legends, leads an all-woman big band, and forges new roads for women in jazz.