Pioneering Women in Jazz Come to Kutztown University Feb. 16 to Celebrate Bessie, Billie and Nina

Three photos side by side of Bessie, Billie and Nina

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – From the Jim Crow era-South through the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone were among the most influential and popular singers of their times. Both within their music and outside of the clubs and concert halls, they wielded their exceptional talents to combat racial prejudice, sexism and poverty. Pioneering Women in Jazz take the stage at Kutztown University at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Schaeffer Auditorium.

Tickets are $40; $34 for students and seniors and can be purchased at or by calling the KU Presents! Box Office at 610-683-4092.

Whether powerfully and playfully claiming her autonomy and sexuality (Bessie Smith), forcing America to acknowledge the racism pervasive in the American South and beyond (Billie Holiday), or giving voice to the Civil Rights movement with stirring protest anthems (Nina Simone), these trailblazing singers spoke to and for the disenfranchised as women, African Americans and artists. All three women defied social norms, embracing self-empowerment through their art. Presented in collaboration with Berks Jazz Fest, backed by Jazz at Lincoln Center's all-female jazz band and featuring three dynamic vocalists (Charenée Wade, Camille Thurman and Tahira Clayton), this show delivers the popular music and tells the stories of these remarkable women.

Established to be the center of cultural life at Kutztown University, KU Presents! serves the campus and community by bringing world-class live arts that entertain, educate and enrich. Learn more at Kutztown Presents.