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Grammy Award-winning Terri Lyne Carrington brings jazz and justice to Boston's Berklee College of Music

Terri Lyne Carrington is trying to change the culture of jazz
Terri Lyne Carrington is trying to change the culture of jazz 04:14

MEDFORD - Four-time, Grammy Award-winning, music maverick Terri Lyne Carrington said for as long as she can remember, she has loved music.

"I started playing the saxophone first at 5. And then my father would bring up his father's drum kit from the basement and set them up and play them sometimes. So, I think I was always attracted to them," Carrington said.

The Medford native, a third-generation musician, started playing the drums at the age of 7, started her professional career at just 10 years old and received a full scholarship to The Berklee College of Music at age 11.

"I was taking piano lessons with Dean Earl, who was a professor here for a long time, and I took drum lessons with Keith Copeland. So, when I got the scholarship - probably a year or so after I had started coming - it just kind of fell into place," said Carrington.

Terri Lyne Carrington, a third-generation musician from Medford, started playing the drums at the age of 7. CBS Boston

As for her love for jazz, she said she has her father to thank for that.

"He played jazz- while I was in the womb, I was hearing it. He played it so loud that I believe that I was really hearing it from the beginning," Carrington said.

Her father wasn't the only one playing music. Her mother, grandmother and grandfather all played instruments, too.

"My grandfather played drums with people when they came through Boston. Sammy Davis, Jr., Chu Berry, Duke Ellington - people like that," Carrington said.

After three semesters at Berklee, her courage and talent took her to The Big Apple.

"My mentor Jack D'Johnette said, 'If you want to find out how good you are, put yourself in the environment where the competition is the greatest and then that's how you find out. And you'll either sink or swim,'" Carrington said.

She spent four years living, working and learning the ins and outs of the drums before making the move to Los Angeles.

"Soon as I moved out there, within a day or two, I did an audition for "The Arsenio Hall Show," and got that! And moved my career kind of quickly!" Carrington said.

She played with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan and Wayne Shorter, just to name a few.

Carrington said it's impossible to pick a favorite artist or project.

"I had the same joy and satisfaction playing the most creative music in the world with Herbie Hancock as I did playing a party with Bill Withers," Carrington replied.

Even with the start of her band Social Science and Four Grammy Awards - not to mention being the first woman to win a Grammy Award in the Jazz Instrumental category - her love for music would ultimately bring her back to Berklee, where she later received an honorary doctorate.

"I think everybody's journey and mission is different, and how we contribute to society is different, and it's up to us. I could let my example do it for me, but I think, after about 10 years of teaching here, I actually started listening more, and my heart and mind opened up to some of the struggles that some of the young women were facing here," Carrington said.

This led her to create the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice at Berklee.

It focuses on equity in the jazz field and the role that jazz plays in racial and gender justice.

"If you love the music, you want to see it reach its fullest potential, and it will never reach its fullest potential unless we have this kind of diversity with people that create it," Carrington said.

Carrington is now working on the second edition of "New Standards," a book of 100 songs by women composers, which she created when she learned women were underrepresented in the music selection students were learning to play.

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