Dorothy Ashby

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Abstract

Dorothy Jeanne Thompson (August 6, 1930 – April 13, 1986), better known as Dorothy Ashby, was an American jazz harpist and composer.[1] Hailed as one of the most “unjustly under loved jazz greats of the 1950’s”[2] and the “most accomplished modern jazz harpist,”[3] Ashby established the harp as an improvising jazz instrument, beyond earlier use as a novelty or background orchestral instrument, proving the harp could play bebop as adeptly as the instruments commonly associated with jazz, such as the saxophone or piano.[4]

Ashby had to overcome many obstacles during the pursuit of her career.[5] As a black woman musician in a male dominated industry, she was at a disadvantage. In a 1983 interview with W. Royal Stokes for his book Living the Jazz Life, she remarked of her career, “It’s been maybe a triple burden in that not a lot of women are becoming known as jazz players. There is also the connection with black women. The audiences I was trying to reach were not interested in the harp, period—classical or otherwise—and they were certainly not interested in seeing a black woman playing the harp.”[6] Ashby successfully navigated these disadvantages, and subsequently aided in the expansion of who was listening to harp music and what the harp was deemed capable of producing as an instrument.[7] (read the complete article at Wikipedia)

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