The six female musicians that make up CC & The Adelitas all come from various cultural backgrounds, but founder Colleen Clark said jazz is what brings them together.
Clark, an assistant professor of jazz at USC, started the band as a way to highlight women in jazz and emphasize the genre's "intersectionality between identity, race, gender and culture."
The band’s initiation began while Clark was a student at the University of North Texas where she was the only woman and drummer to receive a doctoral degree in jazz. While receiving her degree, Clark was required to choose a related field of study outside of the jazz area. She chose ethnomusicology, the study of music in a sociocultural context, because of her interests in both music and people.
"I'm a jazz historian, but I'm also a performer, and I like to show my students that you can do research and still impact people through performance from that research," Clark said.
After taking a course in Mexican music, Clark fell in love with the culture and its history. During her studies, she became especially fascinated with the female soldiers of the Mexican Revolution, the Adelitas.
"The Mexican Revolution, like any war, required help from everybody, right? And so the Adelitas were actually Mexican 'soldaderas,'" Clark said. "They were known as female soldiers."
Clark saw the opportunity to incorporate the powerful symbol of the Adelitas into her music and studies.
“I'm trying to take this idea of women in jazz, in particular, and join it, not only musically, but historically," Clark said. "The Adelitas are the representation of our jazz fighters that aren't known necessarily as individuals, or aren't known as well as I'd like them to be."
Clark also started the band because she believed it could become an opportunity to facilitate intersectionality.
"I'm using this (band) as a representation of the joining of culture, research, performance and incredible musicians that happen to be females," Clark said.
Tonina Saputo, a musician, podcast producer and the vocalist for CC & The Adelitas, joined the band after learning about its commitment to representation.
“I think the story of the Adelitas is so inspiring, and I think representation of women musicians is so paramount to the story that we're telling," Saputo said. "It's all about exposure. It's all about representation. And so, anytime I can be in a band with all women-presenting or women-identifying musicians, I'm happy."
Clark was also interested in the concept of an all-female jazz band because of the discrepancies she recognized in the mentorship opportunities for men's and women's jazz programs.
“Jazz music is highly successful because of the mentorship that we have,” Clark said. “We really are resonating with the jazz community and younger, up-and-coming girls that are trying to play jazz.”
Summer Camargo, a jazz studies student at Julliard and trumpet player for CC & The Adelitas, said it is important to reach out to younger generations through music. Because of the gender inequality in the music industry, Camargo recognized the difficulties many young women face on this path.
“I don't want upcoming, wonderful ladies in the industry to think that they can't do this music. I just want everyone to have an equal opportunity to be able to be what they want to be,” Camargo said.
CC & The Adelitas serves to represent the women of jazz, which, according to Saputo, is deeply important to the band's members.
"It's a seat at the table," Saputo said. "I think it's important to have different flavors introduced to the jazz scene, especially music in general, but especially the jazz scene."