Jodi Proznick invites you to join The Ostara Project’s revolutionary jazz sisterhood
Congratulations on the Juno nomination for The Ostara Project. I know it’s a passion project for you, and I know it wasn’t with the intention of awards and accolades. Why did you create this project?
It had been on my mind for a long time, even before Artemis became a thing. In my mind, I had been following and cheerleading all the great, young women and non-binary artists in Canada — just keeping my eye out for what was happening and sending support when I could. I know how much it means when somebody does that to me. I wanted to support the fellow women in the industry because there are still so few of us. Ideally, if the time and the resources showed up, it would be great to put together a pan-Canadian band of all of these musicians I had been admiring from afar. Then the #MeToo thing happened, and the pandemic hit, and a lot of the social justice conversations started erupting everywhere. It was super messy, but there was also a lot of beauty in it. These wonderful, real conversations were happening all over the place. One of them was with one of my closest friends Amanda Tosoff, who’s a national treasure as far as I’m concerned. We started chatting: How could we do something a little more public-facing, rather than having the quiet conversations offline? We wanted to do something helpful. Then we met Lisa Buck, who’s an amazing arts advocate and champion of all things jazz in Canada, particularly around gender equity. She and I got along like a house on fire. She had an idea for a documentary project, and Amanda and I had been talking about this idea for a collaborative group to amplify women, non-binary and trans folk in Canada. And then it just kind of happened. We had a weekend where we got a bunch of grants, and the rest is history. It was a wild experiment. I hadn’t met half the band before. We got together, made an album, did some gigs and made a documentary. We had a long list of people we wanted to work with; it wasn’t just those first seven. So we wanted to have something that was flexible, that we could invite people in project by project, depending on the vibe, the theme or the story. We hope it becomes a project and a platform to amplify people who have tended to be not on the stage as often. And ultimately, we’re a lighthouse for anyone who sees themselves in us — anyone who sees themselves as a sister, not even as a gender thing, but anyone who wants to be part of the sisterhood.
In the documentary, you were very open about your experience in this business dominated by men, and what it felt like for you to work with this group. How hard was it to be that open?
In the moment, we were just talking honestly. But then when you look back on it, it’s very emotional to watch. I’m the oldest person in the band, so I felt a sense of relief that it existed and that it was so great. The level was high, everyone could really play and they’re at the top of their game. Also, imagine you’re a man in your forties and you’ve never really played in a band of male peers — only ever women. I love my musicians, I love men, and I’ve been overwhelmingly supported by this scene … but I would say that when I was surrounded by a group of women playing this music, it felt very unique and different. I’ve done the odd thing with women, but it’s primarily been with my lovely men. So, it was emotional. I cried in the documentary, which was weird and vulnerable. You get an honest take from seven of us. We actually had one gentleman who stood up after the documentary weeping, saying, “Everyone should watch this.” I think our lovely men don’t notice that there are no women around until we say, “There’s no women around.” It adds a different energy to the space and perhaps brings something new to the music that I think it’s waiting for. Jazz is waiting for 50 per cent of the population to be involved in it. We wanted to do something beautiful, positive, joyful and really fun. People will call us an all-women band and it’s like… We’re just a band, just like an all-men band is a band.