Artist Spotlight: Jeanette Adams

Photo by Taylor Blackson.

“What can we do to help support women and non-conforming folks? How can we change the music world from a boy’s club to a more inclusive and supportive environment?”

These are the questions that drive senior bassist Jeanette Adams through all her various musical roles. You can find her doing almost everything including teaching private lessons, playing bass in orchestra and jazz ensembles, working on tech crew, interning at the Fox Valley Symphony and running the popular Tiny Box Series. Passionate about building supportive communities through music and empowering spaces for marginalized voices to be heard, Adams brings this philosophy of inclusivity into every role she has.

“The music world is not very diverse right now,” explained Adams. “I want to use my position as a female bass player to help other girls and non-conforming folks realize their potential in this field.”

For Adams, this passion for inclusive community building through music can be traced right back to the beginning of her musical roots. She began playing the bass in fifth grade so she could hang out with her friends in orchestra. In eighth grade, however, music began to become a more serious thing, and her family ended up relocating to a bigger city where Adams could have more musical opportunities and actually take private lessons. Encouraged to continue, Adams became involved in anything that needed a bass player, from jazz ensembles to her city orchestra.

However, despite having access to more opportunities, things were not always easy. “Growing up, I was the only female musician and often the only bass player. It was definitely a source of teasing that made me want to quit. I felt out of place for so long.”

Things changed, though, when Adams came to Lawrence University. While at first she didn’t think she was good enough to try for a performance degree, it was her parents who encouraged her to audition. Once at Lawrence, Adams was struck by the supportive community of the bass studio, which she credits to the kind understanding of Associate Professor of Music and teacher of string bass Mark Urness, and the fact that half the bass studio is female.

Now with her own small studio, Adams hopes to give back in the same way.

“I have two female bass students and all I want is to help them realize they are capable, and that nothing anyone can say can change that,” Adams emphasized.

Next year, Adams will be serving as a music teacher at various Title I schools in Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, through the ArtistYear program. Affiliated with AmeriCorps, this program places arts graduates from a variety of disciplines at low-income schools in order to ensure all students’ equal and public access to an arts education.

You can catch Adams in her upcoming senior recital on March 30 at 3 p.m. in Harper Hall.

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