Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Alex Stewart


Jazz, Music, Democracy, Asian Americans, Women in Jazz


Jazz as a metaphor for democracy is a popular argument made by both jazz scholars and musicians. There are certainly democratic elements in jazz: the music promotes individual self expression while keeping in consideration the collective group experience. However, this assumes that the jazz world is accepting of all musicians regardless of identity. In reality, jazz has only been accepting of a specific demographic--Black or white men--and those outside of that demographic are frequently excluded and given less recognition. In this thesis, I argue that jazz cannot be a perfect metaphor for democracy until all voices, regardless of identity, are given the same recognition that is given to dominant demographics. I will first delve into the jazz as democracy metaphor through the lens of Murray and Crouch. I will then discuss the experiences of two underrepresented demographics in jazz: female jazz musicians, drawing from works by Teal, Tucker, and Rustin; and Asian American jazz musicians, drawing from works by Fellezs. Finally, I will analyze the life and work of artist Jen Shyu, an Asian American woman who uses elements of jazz and a wide variety of traditional music in her compositions to elevate underheard voices. By discussing both women and Asian Americans in jazz, along with the intersectionality of those two identities, I offer an important but unrecognized perspective in jazz studies.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.