Composite of historical images of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Words overlaid: IMG artists presents Bessie, Billie & Nina

Winterlude – 'Bessie, Billie and Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz'

March 6, 2022 | Polsky Theatre

Past Event

This performance entertains, inspires and empowers audiences as Charenée Wade, Vanisha Gould, Tahira Clayton and an all-female jazz band pay homage to the musical and social legacies of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.

Three dynamic vocalists celebrate the enduring legacies of three iconic female artists.

From the Jim Crow era through the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone were among the most influential and popular singers of their times. They wielded their exceptional talents to combat racial prejudice, sexism and poverty and defied social norms, embracing self-empowerment through their art. 

Produced by Grammy-winner Eli Wolf, “Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz” features three dynamic vocalists: Charenée Wade, Vanisha Gould and Tahira Clayton. Whether it was Bessie Smith powerfully and playfully claiming her autonomy and sexuality, Billie Holiday forcing the country to acknowledge the racism pervasive in the American South and beyond, or Nina Simone giving voice to the Civil Rights movement with stirring protest anthems, these trailblazing singers spoke to and for the disenfranchised as women, African-Americans and artists.

Presented in affiliation with Women in Jazz Organization and backed by an all-female band, Wade, Gould and Clayton celebrate the enduring legacies of these iconic women with breathtaking performances of their classic songs.

The performance of the Bessie, Billie and Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz ensemble, presented in collaboration with The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts and Civic Music Association of Des Moines Foundation, is supported by Presenter Consortium for Jazz, a program of Chamber Music America, funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Supported by a grant from Chamber Music America. Supported in part by Peter and Lynda Goulet.