Words by Miró Justad
Photo by Jose Perez
You might have seen Tina Raymond’s face from the viral reddit thread, or the meme that ended up on Tosh.0. “A few years ago,” Raymond explains in an email,“I was playing a gig at a grocery store near Santa Monica. The store was having an anniversary and hired a jazz band to play in the produce section. An employee at the store snapped a photo and posted it to Reddit. I have a tendency to not smile when I play, and in this particular photo I was not smiling. The photo trended and had tons and tons of comments including produce/music puns and also jokes about how I looked so upset playing the gig. A couple hours later, it was on the front page of Reddit!”
Despite the internet fame, I actually discovered Raymond on a community college website. On a hot summer Los Angeles afternoon, I was scrolling the internet searching for other female drummers in the area, and I stumbled across her name. If you have ever tried googling “local female drummer” or “non-cis gender male local drummer” then you know that there’s not a lot of content out there. But the lack of search results is a misrepresentation of the reality, created largely by the lack of adequate coverage in music media. As I dug deeper into Raymond’s story, I was intrigued to learn that she teaches music at Los Angeles Community College (LACC) as an assistant professor of music, with hopes of becoming an associate professor of music. She teaches classes like jazz appreciation and percussion methods.
As a college student myself, I have realized over the years how important art programs at community colleges are. It’s also important to have women represented in teaching roles. Raymond touched on this during our conversation:
“There’s always room for more women to be playing percussion. I think one of the ways this could be achieved is by having more women teaching in high school and collegiate music programs… If young women don’t have a support system in academia, when micro-aggressions (and straight up sexism) happen, they feel alone and are discouraged from continuing. Having more women teaching in academia would make women students feel more comfortable in their studies.”
Raymond has always been in the mindset that her music career would be a blend of performing and teaching. As both a performing musician and a teacher, she faces the challenge of balancing her time between the two. She sets an example of what an active musician’s life could be like for her students.
“I think it’s important to continue to play as much as I can so that my students see that I actually practice what I preach,” she says.
Raymond has a unique perspective on the music scene in Los Angeles right now because of her involvement at the community college and in the local jazz scene. She believes that community college music programs offer great opportunities —LACC’s music majors get free rides because of contributions from the famous trumpet player Herb Alpert.
“The cost of both public and private universities right now is astronomical, and I’m really proud to teach at school where my students can complete the first two years of their undergraduate studies at no tuition cost. Quality music programs at the community college level are important, because it’s an opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the resources to pursue music to work on fundamentals and get a lot of one on one attention from professors.”
It can feel like female drummers are few and far between sometimes, so celebrating one another’s talents and creativity is essential. I was lucky enough to pick Raymond’s brain about talented musicians in the LA music scene.
“There are several really happening women drum set players as well as percussionists in Los Angeles right now. Ana Barreiro is an excellent jazz drummer from Brazil who is making some wonderful music with Amy Bormet and Otmaro Ruiz among others. She also teaches at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. Elizabeth Goodfellow is an exceptional drummer both in jazz and indie rock who has been on tour with Iron and Wine and has her own projects. Kristen Gleeson-Prata is a wonderful drum set player who has toured with many great groups as of late including Borns. Her and I had the opportunity to play a tribute to Yoko Ono at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this Spring – it was so incredible! Clarice Cast and Kassandra Kocoshis are amazing world percussionists who are involved in really great projects. Erin Barnes is a percussionist playing the music of Harry Partch, and Dorothy Micklea is another great percussionist I’ve had the pleasure of working with on classical gigs. I’m sure there are many more I don’t know, but I feel like this is a healthy community to start with.”
Curious about jazz in LA? Here are some final drops of wisdom from Raymond:
“The Los Angeles jazz scene is really thriving right now. It’s a beautiful community of hardworking talented musicians who support each other, respect each other, and are fearlessly creative—LA will never have the reputation that New York does for jazz, but that also means there’s less pressure to fit in a jazz box. To me, the vibe in LA is ‘We do what we want.’”
Raymond has music of her own online as well as many appearances on other musician’s albums. In 2017 as a response to the 2016 election she released her project “Left Right Left”. You can find out more about performances and upcoming releases at her website.