In a largely male dominated musical genre, 18 Christchurch women are changing the face of the big band. The All Girl Big Band is a completely female, full big band who create a "powerhouse of sound" that will blow you away!
Formed in January 2016, AGBB emerged from a conversation between musical director Lana Law and vocalist Kate Taylor "It had us wondering if we could actually get a big band together here in Christchurch consisting of only female musicians". What was considered a crazy, out of the box idea finally became reality. The All Girl Big Band debuted at In the Loop at the Court Theatre as part of their ‘Hidden Artists’ segment, since then they have had stunning success with sell out shows in Nelson and Christchurch, and record-breaking crowd numbers at outdoor events such as Lazy Sundays and at Founders Park. Their regular gigs around Christchurch include Jazz After Work, the Christchurch Folk Club, performing for the Swingtown Rebels and playing at Fat Eddies.
As well as traditional swing music, The All Girl Big Band also perform themed concerts including their 'Tribute to Natalie Cole' (debuted in the 2016 Big Band Festival) and 'The Ages', "An unequivocally chilled-out and enthusiastic masterclass in Big Band virtuosity", which honours the women who have changed music in the last 100 years. This year they have been invited to play in the Manawatu Jazz Festival and will perform ‘The Ages’ in Palmerston North in June.
The band consists of an array of talented musicians whose " infectious joy of music making" is evident at all their live shows. The majority of the band are professional musicians or music teachers in Christchurch - and they have spent much of the last 12 months touring, performing and recording their first CD. Saxophones
Lead saxophonist and Band Director, Lana Law is one of the creators and founders of AGBB. She picked up the baritone sax at the age of 13 at Burnside High School after pestering her music teacher for a saxophone, and knew it was the right instrument for her straight away. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at Massey University, she spent time touring the world as a professional musician. Working on cruise ships in a 10 piece band was part of this journey. Lana’s passion is teaching students and groups, both privately and as an itinerant music teacher and Band Director in schools. As well as running The All Girl Big Band, she is also Music Director of the Garden City Big Band. Lana is currently working as a session musician for many different types of bands, CD recordings and shows. “I love playing with a bunch of like minded women, being able to inspire each other and others too, and the proud feeling you get being a part of a group of hard out women making awesome music.” Jennie Gough plays alto saxophone and clarinet in AGBB. She started learning piano at the age of 7 in an effort to be like her idol, Ralph the muppet. At high school she realised clarinet and saxophone were her passion and went on to study clarinet performance at Canterbury University and gain a Graduate Teaching Diploma. “I've loved playing music for as long as I can remember. I love the camaraderie, sharing something I love with others. I'm passionate about big band music and I love the energy in the band. We have such a good time and I think that translates to the audience.” Jennie works as an itinerant clarinet and saxophone teacher, runs adult ensembles and is a regular clarinet player for Resonance Ensemble. Rachael Travaille plays tenor sax in the AGBB. She started learning alto at age 11 when her nana took her to the Christchurch School of Music (CSM), but was close to taking up French Horn instead.She played in jazz bands throughout high school and carried this passion into her Bachelor of Music, studying at the Christchurch Jazz School. After receiving a Graduate Teaching Diploma, she now inspires saxophone players in high schools all around Christchurch, and features in many bands such as Adam Hattaway and the Haunters, Themeta, and Rhomboid. She guest-stars in international acts such as Formidable Vegetable (Aus) and Environmental Encroachment (Chicago US), and has toured with a Parisian Wind Ensemble (France) to the Azores Islands (Portugal) in recent years. She also dabbles in flute and clarinet in the band. Her solo battles with Lana are a big feature of the band’s sound. Music is only one of her outlets for creativity and she continues to be intrigued by weird and wonderful things such as taxidermy and costume making."I'm fascinated by the interaction and effect of music between people in the band with each other and with the audience. It's art, it's magical!" Georgina Rees-Stevenson plays tenor saxophone, flute, and clarinet in AGBB. She is originally from London, but was born to Kiwi parents and moved to Christchurch in 2006. She studied music at university and then clarinet performance at Trinity College London. She has kept playing music since then, and via 5 years pretending to be a computer nerd and two children, is now a high school music teacher, performer, and band director. Georgina specializes in hiding in pits playing reed parts for shows, generally trying to play as many different instruments as possible and avoid ever stepping foot on the actual stage. Many odd things happen in pits, but the most memorable must be the time that a false eyeball fell in her lap. She also once nearly ran over Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Georgina had never played in a big band before 2011, but now seems to do little else, which is fine by her! “I learn so much and challenge myself constantly playing with such a varied group of awesome musicians who know how to have fun and entertain others”. Stacey Williams is the primary saxophone sub for AGBB. As well as saxophone, she also plays clarinet. Stacey loves the opportunity to play with this group of like-minded talented women. “AGBB gigs are so much fun, the energy is incredible - it’s great to be a part of”. Helen Renaud is originally from Christchurch, and trained as a bassoonist in Wellington and then a conductor in Melbourne. She is one of the original founding members of AGBB, teaches secondary school music and is the conductor of the UC-Christchurch Youth Orchestra. Helen began playing baritone saxophone when she left university, and the instrument seemed like a good fit with bassoon. “I love both the concept and the reality of this band. I think that we stand for something amazing, and we have such a great time doing it!”. Trumpets
Sarah Hickman is originally from Dunedin and is the lead trumpet player for AGBB. After a couple of false starts to playing music (the violin and flute) she finally found an instrument that was loud enough - the trumpet. Sarah studied at ARA Jazz School and has played with all sorts of different musical groups, including show bands, orchestras and the Woolston Brass Band. She is now a primary school teacher and looks after the music at Heathcote Valley School, where she met Lana who invited her to come and be a founding member of AGBB. After playing in predominantly male bands, Sarah finds that it is a unique experience to be surrounded by females all playing fun music together. “If this music thing hadn’t worked out, I once got 2nd in the Otago Brownie Under-8 Backstroke so the other option was becoming a professional swimmer.” Originally from Auckland, trumpeter April Chapman also plays piano and sings as a member of the Voices Co Adult Squad which sings Pop Acapella. As a child she also learnt violin. She began trumpet at the age of 8 at the Christchurch School of Music. “My parents were not too keen on such a 'noisy' instrument and hoped it was just a passing phase. But I stuck with it right through school until I discovered CPIT Jazz School and my jazz journey began.” April finished her degree in 2001 majoring in composition and arranging. She trained as a primary school teacher after that and then took a few years off to play with the NZ Army band on both piano and cornet. “Music has always been my passion and is the most amazing way of expressing yourself. It can create so many emotions and the thrill of performance is a buzz you cannot recreate anywhere else. AGBB is such a powerhouse of amazing women, it is truly amazing to be part of such a talented group.” April found that she was quite often the only female playing trumpet in many groups and orchestras. She wrote a poem about it when she was about 10 titled "Anything girls can do boys can do better" where she described the other boys trumpet playing as sounding like farts! Katie Lucas is originally from Guisborough in the UK. As well as trumpet, she also plays piano and guitar. Throughout her musical journey she has played in lots of different concert bands, orchestras and brass bands both in the UK and in Christchurch. “I was looking for something a bit different and a friend told me about AGBB. I loved the style of music and it looked like a lot of fun so I got in touch and I never looked back!” Katie enjoys AGBB as it allows her to play with others and contribute to a bigger and better sound than she could make on her own. “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams” (Willy Wonka!) Christchurch trumpeter and cornet player Sylvia Vail, loves meeting new musicians with the same passion for music as she has. She has recently become a musician in the New Zealand Army Band. Syliva believes the best part of AGBB is “My amazing trumpet section!” Trombones
Charlotte Crone, is originally from Ashburton and is the lead trombonist for AGBB. She studied jazz trombone at Ara Music Arts 2009-2011 and played in her first big band there – “I was absolutely terrified and not a good sight reader at all! Luckily I was surrounded by experienced players and learnt the joy of big band music by full immersion.” After going through jazz school she spent some time in a local big band called Sideline Swing and in 2014 was asked to join All Girl Big Band. “I love the banter and giggles! Also, I just can't get enough of the support I feel from all my empowering female bandmates, making it work with crazy teaching schedules, child care, gig-life, study and exams... what heroines! We have the best time playing fun music for people.” Charlotte’s trombone is called Bessie, and she believes that “Brass kicks ass! I'd love to see more girls choose trombone as their instrument to learn at school.” Trombonist Kate Lord was born in Naracoorte, a small country town in South Australia. She met Charlotte Crone when they were playing in a protest marching band. Kate was a bass trombone player but when the opportunity came up to play 2nd trombone in AGBB she was really excited and brought a new trombone and joined the band. Kate enjoys the amazing feeling of being one musical voice among many, creating music that's more than the sum of the individual players. “Playing with such a great standard of players, the feeling when we all hit notes at exactly the same time, how happy and dancy people get when they listen to us play!”. When Kate was cycle-touring around Europe for 6 months she missed her trombone so much she went to a music store and borrowed an instrument for half an hour so she could play music again! Christchurch-based Judith Bell is well-known amongst musicians from many different areas. She is passionate about jazz education, especially for youth. Judith remains grateful for the influence of her dad's love of Big Band, jazz and classical piano music in her life growing up. For around 25 years she had a busy family band called Barock with her husband and two sons, in which they played classical, jazz and rock music. “Playing music feels good from the top of my brain to the bottom of my heart. I am lucky to have been in the band since it began. I took up trombone especially for this band following a challenge from Anna Whitaker after playing tuba duets with her, and am thoroughly enjoying the journey.” Rebecca Harris is a young musician, born in Christchurch, and the AGBB's bass trombonist. Asked to join the band while still in high school, it has been the centre of her musical passion for many years now. Rebecca is currently studying both performance trombone and viola at the University of Canterbury, but finds great joy in experiencing multiple kinds of music - but especially jazz. "My mother always said anything big, loud and shiny would suit me. It seems fitting I ended up on bass trombone, the biggest, loudest and shiniest of them all!" What Rebecca enjoys about being in the AGBB is playing with such an experienced and enthusiastic group of women to not only make great music, but have heaps of fun while doing it. Rhythm Section
Pianist Nanako Sato runs the rhythm section of AGBB. She is originally from Sapporo. As well as piano, Nanako plays trumpet, flute, guitar, bass and drums. She says “It's been awesome to do gigs and rehearsals with like-minded busy ladies. I believe we are so productive because most of us juggle so many things in our lives. The best thing is to immerse yourself in the zone of creativity. It feels better than anything” Nanako loves the total enjoyment of playing music with friends. She is also a committed snowboarder and often bumps into AGBB members at the ski field. “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” ― Leo Tolstoy Nanako is a part of the Child Well-Being Research Institute Doctorate Programme at the University of Canterbury and currently working towards her PhD study in Education, Health and Human Development. She also holds M.Mus in Composition, B.Mus (Hons.) from the University of Canterbury majoring in jazz piano performance and composition, Dip. In Teaching and Learning from College of Education, B.Mus from the University of Canterbury and CPIT Jazz School combined degrees majoring in jazz piano performance and Diploma in Art from Hokkaido Women’s College. Nanako also has a CELTA Certificate. Snow Valormae knew a few of the members of AGBB through other gigs and was invited to join. “Though jazz and swing were not my main expertise I quickly found myself loving the group. It's a privilege to play with so many other talented musicians in one band.” Snow loves that there is always something new to learn and try. “You could play music your whole life and only scratch the surface of what is capable. Playing a gig with AGBB is sooo much fun. The energy brought to every gig and the fun that's had performing makes it an amazing experience!” The only thing that Snow loves more than playing guitar is buying more guitars.She believes that “there will always be someone that can play better than you, but no one who can play like you.” Amelie Spinks is the upright and electric bass player for AGBB and is currently attending Rangi Ruru Girls’ School. While jazz performance is her main passion aside from school studies, she is also an active member of Christchurch based orchestras and productions. Amelie is aiming to continue her enthusiasm for music at a tertiary level, and plans to pursue a BMus in Jazz Performance internationally in 2021. When offered a place in AGBB in 2019, Amelie was thrilled to be given the opportunity to strengthen her jazz knowledge and performance, and to meet a group of young talented women who share the same excitement for music as she does. “I’m all about that bass, no treble”. Andy Gibbs Vocalist
Christchurch vocalist Kate Taylor, credits her Grandad, the legendary Doug Kelly, with her start in music. “ I wouldn't be here without him. Big Band and Jazz are in my genes. I have been very lucky to have been blessed with the jazz gene passed down by him. It was from a tribute show to him and other jazz founding father Doug Caldwell that got MD Lana Law and I talking about big bands and how they are all predominantly male. Could we source a selection of killer female musicians locally to make up a full band band? The rest is history.” She loves being surrounded by an all-star lineup of amazing local female musicians, including baritone player Helen Renaud who was her high school music teacher! Kate enjoys the feeling of how the music impacts the audience. “To be able to tell a story,sharing it through my voice, connecting with the audience is such a great feeling and can be very moving, also, its heaps of fun! It is incredible that Big Band music is still being kept alive this day in age. The music, style and arrangements are timeless and a real homage to our founding jazz icons. It's a privilege to carry on the legacy and thank you to all of you who continue to support not only this style of music, but local musicians and artists in general”