by Linda Lombardi, Literary Manager
Music Director/Drummer Dr. Sherrie Maricle is the leader of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, FIVE PLAY and The DIVA Jazz Trio. She is also the drummer for The New York Pops and enjoys a varied career as a performer, composer and teacher. Her bands have performed at many of the world’s most acclaimed music venues. They have been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center TV Special and NPR's Piano Jazz. Sherrie has received several awards and honors, most notably the Kennedy Center’s 2009 Mary Lou Williams Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tell us about the DIVA Jazz Orchestra.
DIVAs was the idea of Stanley Kay, who is actually Maurice Hines’ manager. I met Stanley and Maurice in 1990 at the 75th anniversary of the Schubert Theater. I loved playing their music, and, luckily, they liked me! So Stanley contacted me and asked if I knew other women who played like me; which was a monstrous compliment because he was the former manager of the Buddy Rich Band, with great people like Josephine Baker and Patty Paige and Frankie Lane - great show women icons. So I said, "Of course I do." In the summer of 1992 we had an audition and about forty women from all over the world came to audition for the band. We formed a 15-piece band and created a marvelous music library of great standards and original songs. We’ve worked with great artists from, of course, Maurice Hines, to Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Diane Shore, Marlena Shaw, Carmen Bradford, all the great Jazz people. We had our 20th anniversary of our first performance last March.
In our full form we’re a 15-piece orchestra, but we do have a quintet and a DIVA jazz trio. For Maurice's show, we decided on a nine-piece band - you still get that great big-band sound. So we had Maurice's library re-orchestrated for the nine-piece group.
I'm so excited about it. The musicians are extraordinarily great. They play with their hearts and souls. They’re stellar talents.
How did you meet Maurice and became involved in Tappin' Thru Life?
I've been accompanying Maurice as his drummer since 1990. We’ve gone all over the country, with symphony orchestras and cabaret shows. I've been with him so long that we decided I would be the music director too. I'm the music director for DIVA and I know Maurice’s music so well, and him so well, that it just evolved naturally. Which is traditional. Maurice is following in the tradition of performers like Liza Minnelli who had drummer Bill LaVorgna as her music director for a number of years. It's fun to be in that category!
How did you get started as a musician? It’s not common to see a female drummer, is it?
True. A lot of the instruments in the big bands - Buddy Rich or Count Basie - aren’t traditionally played by women. There's no screaming lead trumpet players either actually.
The woman that we have playing with us is - and I can say this with absolute certainty - she is one of the best lead trumpet players in the entire world. That is not hyperbole. She is so brilliant. Her name is Leisa Whittaker.
Jazz music, especially drums, it chooses you. Sometimes you get bitten by a certain bug when you're young and then you can't not do that. When I was 11 years old I saw Buddy Rich perform. I raced home and told my mother that I loved big band music and I was going to be a jazz drummer. That's all I ever wanted to do. I didn't have to think too hard about what I loved. I feel lucky that way.
A large part of Tappin’ Thru Life is about the mentors - the artists - Maurice has worked with over the course of his career feels. Do you think it's important to give back to future generations of musicians, and in your case, particularly to women musicians, who don't get the attention that male musicians do in our schools and night clubs?
You're right. It's very unfortunate that in the year 2013 it's similar to what was happening all throughout the United States since the beginning of jazz in the 1910's. There's a film called The Girls in the Band that DIVA’s a significant part of that got an Oscar nomination for best documentary film, that addresses this.
In the Big Band era, there were a lot of women musicians and tons of big bands. When World War II was over, all these male musicians came home and everybody instantly fired the women. It was irrelevant if they were great players or not. As a role model - for young men and young women - I’m making a living as a musician and a performing artist. That can be inspirational. When you see other people doing that, you know it's possible. For women it's an added layer of seeing very few women do this, so it serves as an example. If you really love this, then do it. Stanley K, who was an incredible mentor to me, always said, "If you don't love it, then don't do it." Because you can't like it. You have to love it. It can be such a complicated and difficult field to make a living in.
Some musicians I've seen in my career, they're on stage and they don't necessarily view themselves as entertainers. They’re mixing up ‘entertainers’ and ‘artists’ as if they’re different things when they’re exactly the same thing. You can be a great artist and a great entertainer. They’re not exclusive careers. That’s another great thing I learned from working with Maurice and watching him. He was really great to me and I try to pass that on to as many people as possible. I love teaching. I taught at a university for a number of years. It’s a great thing to do - to share what you know and love. It can really inspire other people to do the same.
What three words would you use to best describe the show?
Dynamic. Energized. Exciting.