When I set out to do the Wonder Women series on No Treble, I had certain people in mind right off the bat. Some of them I made a higher priority due to age or other factors. But, in a web-based column like this, it is necessary to have a balance between the new generation (the Tanya O’Callaghans, Kirby Barbers, Mohini Deys, and the Ellen Alaverdyans of the world) and recording the stories of the older generation… the forerunners who helped build the world these younger ladies now live in.
The stories of the old guard are the stories I’m more afraid of losing, especially as we’ve just gone through a pandemic. These are the women who truly were in the minority, often told by teachers and conductors that “women don’t play bass,” and who worked twice as hard as their counterparts to land the same gigs. Women, aside from harpists, were not in major symphony orchestras. This Time news article will give more context. I spoke with Donovan in preparing this article, and he shared this of Inez, “She was told by one of her former teachers that women shouldn’t play the bass. She was also told to her face that she couldn’t work with a particular big band jazz group because she was a woman. In fact, she was told that the only women who would be in the band were singers, and even then…only if they were attractive. Even though Inez had been playing professionally six nights a week since the 8th grade and she was in her local symphony orchestra as a high school student…she was turned away. The discrimination was very real.” These were the times in which a young Inez cut her teeth.
To read more on the legacy of Inez Wyrick, as shared in my Wonder Women column on No Treble, head here.