Celebrate Canadian women in jazz with Allison Au, Tara Davidson, and Amanda Tosoff

(Courtesy of Noam Lemish)

On Thursday, March 10, students and faculty have the exciting opportunity to celebrate Canadian women in jazz during a virtual event featuring Allison Au, Tara Davidson, and Amanda Tosoff. 

“Each of the three featured artists will share insights and reflections on their careers, their music making and their experiences,” says Noam Lemish, event moderator and an assistant professor in the department of music. “They will also present music from their latest award-winning recordings. A Q&A and discussion will follow these three 30-minute presentations.”

Lemish states that this event provides community members the opportunity to learn more about the work and drive of Canadian women in the music genre.“In celebrating the achievements of these three exceptional artists, the event will also offer participants the opportunity to reflect upon embedded biases that still exist and the ways each of us can work towards gender justice in jazz and beyond.”

Tara Davidson, a jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, and band leader from Brampton, has been performing as a freelance musician for the last 20 years.

“When I first started out in the business I was one of a rather small group of female jazz instrumentalists in Canada. It was an unfortunate reality at the time. However, now there is much more female representation in the Canadian jazz scene and this is a wonderful thing,” says Davidson.

“But, generally, my gender does not factor into my awareness of my identity as a musician. I focus on being the best saxophonist I can be, creating music at a high level (and always striving to do this better), and this process happens to be through a jazz-genre lens and I happen to be a woman.”

Allison Au, a JUNO award-winning jazz saxophonist, composer, and band leader, explains that being a Canadian woman in jazz means that she’s part of a very creative, strong, intelligent, resilient, but incredibly small, niche community of improvising musicians.

“I acknowledge that I’m very lucky to have been born in the country and decade I was, and I am lucky to be active today, in a society and culture, and with a loving support system, that has enabled me to pursue a life in music. If I was born 50 or 60 years earlier, or in a different country or social community, that likely would not have been the case.

“Regardless, though things have progressed considerably, the number of women active in the jazz community remains small. Being a Canadian woman in jazz means being a minority in the majority of professional environments I find myself in,” says Au. 

“But it is an identity I assume with confidence and with an ambition to express my musical voice. I am forever indebted to all of the incredible women musicians who came before me, to pave the way.”

Amanda Tosoff, a jazz pianist, composer, and educator, adds that they wish there was no category of “women jazz” at all, saying that “you only have to look at the lineup of most jazz groups to see that women are underrepresented.”

Tosoff adds, however, that they believe this to be changing.

“I am seeing more and more young women pursuing jazz and I hope that the numbers will continue to grow. So, going back to my first statement, I wish I didn’t have to be categorized as a woman in jazz; but at the same time, I am also proud to be a woman in jazz, since I hope that I can play some small part in making change and inspiring the next generation by simply being a woman who is out there thriving in the arena.”

To register for this event, click here.

About the Author

By Sydney Ewert

Arts Editor


Sydney is in her third year at York University studying Dance. She loves to travel and explore new places. When Sydney is not editing, working, or studying for her classes, she is likely going for walks or learning new recipes.


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