Saturday, November 25, 2017

Judy Chaikin – The Woman Behind the Band

                                                  Courtesy of Director/Producer - Judy Chaikin

In Part II of my coverage on The Girls in the Band, I bring to Interiors another Female Interview Series, speaking with Girls in the Band Director, Judy Chaikin.

After interviewing Ms. Chaikin and conducting background research, I learned of the years she has dedicated to this historical project, her fundraising efforts and the hours of material gathered, which has allowed her to extend the film into an educational platform with post-commentary footage, offering poignant realities on the sexism female musicians encountered during the early jazz years, coupled with an enriching analysis on the current state of jazz.

Coming from a family of musicians and understanding the value of a music education, this is a woman whose unwavering determination has allowed us to experience a film that is quickly becoming a scholastic legacy on the history of jazz, as it bridges various interdisciplinary studies across academia.

This is Chaikin’s story on what it took to create this labor of love, the funders who made it possible, and an overview of her filmography. 

Interiors of Man: Please begin with the moment you became aware of female jazz musicians from the big band era and how your awareness of them inspired you to make this film. 

Judy Chaikin: A friend told me she had met a woman who was in her late 80’s who said she had been a drummer with a big band in the forties.  When I looked her up online I discovered that it was an all-girl band she had been with and then I learned that there were hundreds of all-girl bands but not very much was ever written about them.
IOM: One of the main funders for The Girls in the Band was Hugh Hefner.  Share with us what this project meant to him.

JC:  I have no way of knowing what the project meant to Hugh Hefner.  He never shared his reasons for wanting to support it but he has always been a big supporter of jazz and has had many women performers in his Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.

IOM:  And Herb Alpert was another supporter.

JC:  Herb was a personal friend and he had helped finance my first film, “Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist.”  That film was nominated for an Emmy award and Herb was proud of that and decided to support this film as well.  He gave me a matching grant and one year to fulfill it and Hugh Hefner stepped in and matched Herb’s grant and eventually doubled it.

IOM:  The film is educational in itself, exposing the public to female musicians during the height of gender resistance, while illuminating the political confrontations these women encountered with Jim Crow laws as a racially integrated band.

JC:  That is why the film is now part of the curriculum in Women’s Studies, African American studies and Jazz Studies.  We recently received an e-mail from the head of the Jazz department at Yale University informing us that ever since he saw the film he has completely revised his curriculum on the history of Jazz.

IOM:  Two points that stood out in your and Michael Greene’s commentary footage were your referencing the unfortunate losses we’ve incurred due to the lack of school bands, and Green emphasizing the fundamentals of a K-12 music curriculum to produce the type of professional musicians that were prevalent before the cuts in music education.

JC: Yes that is still the current situation.


IOM:  Being a graduate of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women has more than likely predisposed your interest in films about women, as with GTB and your docu-drama on Sojourner Truth.  Takes us through your journey in deciding to create the Sojourner documentary.

JC:  I was predisposed to making films about women long before the DWW.  Even the Blacklist film was made from the point of view of the wives and children of the men who were blacklisted.  My first directing job was a stage play called “Womanspeak” in the late sixties during the initial years of the Women’s Revolution.  It was all about the historical women who had done important things. Margaret Sanger, Victoria Woodhull, Sojourner Truth, etc. The play starred Jane Fonda.

The film on Sojourner Truth was a job for hire.  The production company came to me with the concept.  I was more than happy to work on it but I did not initiate it.
IOM:  Before closing with a quote from Executive Producer, Michael Greene, what new projects would you like to add to your filmography?

JC:  I would like to do a film or a TV series about an African American all-Girl band.  That’s what I’m working on now.

IOM:  Look forward to seeing it.

For more information on The Girls in the Band’s education platform, visit


“… Jazz was a place where white America and black America had this very synergistic connection.”
 –  Michael Green
(Audio commentary from The Girls in the Band)


Thursday, November 16, 2017

“A man who makes trouble for others is also making trouble for himself.”

                                                                                                     – Chinua Achebe

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Links to Excellence – Women who fought to Play

Courtesy of Director/Producer - Judy Chaikin

It was determined female musicians of the big band era who paved respect for their female successors, seizing opportunities to showcase their talent during the draft of WWII as they filled the void left by male musicians.

The Girls in the Band is a revealing documentary, lending historical insight into the discriminatory obstacles females encountered during the prevailing days of segregation and gender bias.

Watch Girls in the Band Official Trailer


Monday, June 26, 2017

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.

                                                                                                                        – Kahil Gibran

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Warsaw Brings Music to the Schools

Courtesy of MeMA

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, music was a fixture of the American household – the lyrical vein of social gatherings, promoting stimulating conversations; and if drowned out by human engagement, its voice would suddenly rise in silence, by which its depth of composition would be heard.

These were the times when music appreciation started in the home with meaningful lyrics, conveying messages of self-respect, civil liberties, love, peace, and compassion for mankind.

As the concept of musically inclined homes from “the parents’” generation has decreased, today’s youth are being deprived of a comprehensive musical experience with historical weight.

This cultural deficit makes another argument for music in the schools and has inspired me to invite Jeanne Warsaw-Gazga, Founder of the non-profit mission MeMA (Motivate and Encourage Music Appreciation), as lead guest for my 2017 Female Interview Series on Interiors. 

Interiors of Man:  Let’s start by discussing the music curriculum you have brought to the Chicago Public Schools through MeMA, and the music deprivation you’ve witnessed with students being unaware of the music you’re exposing them to.  

Jeanne Warsaw-Gazga: The MeMA-Music curriculum exposes students to many of the legendary folk, rock, R&B and gospel/spiritual songs during the 60s-70s, that were instrumental in making a social revolution and changing public opinion against the Vietnam War.  Our curriculum also features a brief history of Hip-Hop from its inception in the late 70s to today, and current pop music with socio-political messages.  Many students are completely unaware of this music, and in particular, African American students are unaware of the (importance of) staple songs from their own culture during the Civil Rights Movement and during the 70s.  In addition, students from all cultures and backgrounds know very little about the difference between Hip-Hop as a “culture” and rapping having its own category.  I think the uniqueness of our program is how we integrate current event issues and satirical/infotainment video clips into the curriculum that students really enjoy, and they love diving deeper into discussions with their peers.

IOM:  And not to mention the importance of students listening to songs beyond their traditions – whites listening to Marvin Gaye’s concept album and blacks listening to John Lennon.  

JWG:  The MeMA program also features socially conscious music from other ethnic groups such as Latin, Ethiopian, Muslim and really any other age-appropriate music I find from around the world.  This makes the program more inclusive with schools that have a broader demographic, and at the same time, students become aware of issues in other countries and they can compare and contrast to the current issues we face in the U.S. 

IOM:  As a veteran music promoter, with over 20 years in the music business, what lasting impressions, moving moments or experiences have conscience-minded recording artists left on you?  

JWG:  As a young girl, I was very much into music, and so ending up in the music business gave me the opportunity to meet many interesting artists who were writing great lyrics.  Having discussions with these artists about their music and lyrics always inspired me.  At concerts, I would look around at the people attending the show and get the chills over how the music affected them and brought people together from all different cultures.  A great example is Janet Jackson’s concerts.  I’ve never seen so many different types of people gathered in one big space, getting along and enjoying themselves.  

IOM:  There’s a famous poet who once intimated that great music is just as important as great literature, pointing out the enrichment it can provide in childrearing … reading to the child at bedtime and filling the home with quality-inspired music.

JWG:   I solely agree.  I think with music, the song lyrics as literature is more impactful and better remembered when backed with a song; especially with tone and instruments taking on emotional sounds. 

IOM:  Do you think we have abandoned music that demands an emotional investment?  For instance, Kevin Ross’s “Long Song Away” is refreshing and fearfully nostalgic as we have become homesick for music that puts us in touch with our hearts.

JWG:  Well ... I think us older folks feel this way, however, I’m not too sure about the younger generation.  Although, I do think young girls pick up on the emotion in songs more than young boys do.  Nothing better than an awesome, nostalgic R&B tune with great lyrics, unless you’re a 15-yr-old white or black kid into Too$hort or Migos.  I think there are songs out there that demand an emotional investment, however, you have to look for them or hear about them from a friend.

IOM:  Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and the program?  

JWG:  I never realized how much emotionally the MeMA program would affect me.  I see so many kids open up who have never raised their hand or spoken in the classroom, and suddenly they’re involved in discussions and, will come up to me after class and recommend a song or talk about a social issue.  Teens, I think, want to talk about things that are going on in their lives and with our program; they feel safe about having discussions which can sometimes be difficult at home, or non-existent.  I’ve had parents personally thank me for “helping bring out their child’s feelings” in creating their culminating social justice projects.  Some kids stay in touch with me too.  I want to follow each and every student throughout their lives, but I know that’s not possible. I do know that I’ve introduced most of these kids to music they’ve never heard before and some kids research the artist or google more music from the era on their own. 

For more on MeMA and Jeanne Warsaw-Gazga, visit the following:

Friday, March 31, 2017

“Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                – J. K. Rowling

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Links to Excellence - The Speech

Saluting August Wilson’s ability to exhume the ordinary, here’s a recap of Viola Davis's acceptance speech at the 89th Academy Awards, and Carl Lumbly sharing what his theatrical role in Fences gave him in this 2014 Interiors interview.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Artificial Self-esteem

                                                            Courtesy of The Minimalists

I always say money isn’t everything, and I hope to maintain this conviction.

It’s a mantra that rests in a grounded belief that nothing is worth the monetization of one’s soul, and is solidified by either one’s experience or vividly imagining how it would feel to relinquish one’s dignity in exchange for money or another externality.

Some learn this through experience, while others hold this belief through an intuitive understanding of priceless character built from a centeredness of self and principled teachings, leading to moral insight that one’s worth and dignity are sufficient and do not require an abundance of materialistic consumption to artifice one’s worth, as seen by excessive materialism, which has become the zeitgeist of American culture.

In the film, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, this concept of extreme consumption is addressed with simulations of consumer mania driven by an insatiable need to fill the voided self with an illusion of self-esteem that’s never captured in pursuing material goods to the extent that things have become a deity, alienating one from one’s authentic self.

Closing the documentary with footage from Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech, the film makes a prevailing argument on misplaced values with a prophetic warning that has come to fruition.