The Swinging Sounds Of An All-Female Jazz Band

By Erika Janik | July 13, 2016


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June Dalton has defied expectations her entire musical career, and the all-female jazz band she founded called Ladies Must Swing is no exception.

Based in Madison, Ladies Must Swing is a nineteen-member strong, female jazz musicians that play shows all around Wisconsin. Dalton’s career in music began long before Ladies Must Swing, though.

Dalton started playing the piano by ear at a young age. Her talent led her to pursue other instruments in school.

As a girl, it was suggested she should play the flute. But her arms were too short so her flute career was short-lived.

Instead, Dalton switched to clarinet, an instrument that she’s never stopped playing.

“I did clarinet forever more. I kept playing and I’m so glad I did, because it’s opened the door to so many wonderful opportunities,” Dalton said.

One of those opportunities came seventeen years ago in the form of Linda Mary Schmitz, president of the Madison Jazz Society, who asked Dalton to organize an all-female jazz band for a performance.

They hoped to continue the group but it was a struggle to find members at first. That’s not a problem anymore. Today, Dalton is impressed by the number of female jazz musicians.

“Something wonderful has happened over the last twenty years,” Dalton said. “Girls are now not told to play a certain instrument, they are given choices on what they want to play.”

Ladies Must Swing not only recruits female musicians, but also plays jazz music composed by women as well.

“I’ve learned so much about the history of these wonderful women, such as Mary Lou Williams and Lil Harden Armstrong, and we’re finding how delightful it is to play their music,” Dalton said.

Erika Janik

Erika Janik

Erika Janik is the co-creator and former executive director of Wisconsin Life. She is the author of six books, including Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Apple: A Global History, and  Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She’s currently the executive...
2018-01-19T17:52:57-06:00Tags: , , , |

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