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Ever wonder why you rarely see women in jazz bands? Allison Russo discovered one theory while researching her master’s thesis—jazz encourages traits that girls are often taught to be taboo, like brazenness, sloppiness, and unbridled self-expression. She decided it was time for more girls to create a little ruckus. 

As a teacher with Chica Power, a program of the New Jersey–based arts education nonprofit Jazz House Kids, Allison inspires 12- to 18-year-old girls to express their individuality though the musical genre. For five weeks, girls from diverse backgrounds come together to learn jazz from an expert teaching artist. They learn to play solo and improvise on their instrument of choice. 

Allison says her training at IC helped her fine-tune her teaching skills. While at the college, she student-taught for a middle school band. After graduation, she worked for three years as an elementary school band director and taught more than 130 students per year. 

“Being a teacher is a very large part of my identity.”

Judging from the program’s popularity—50 girls signed up for Chica Power’s 2017 program—her work is hitting a high note in the lives of young girls.