Top Jazz Female Instrumentalists in Mexico

By: Estefanía Romero

In the conclusions of my article “Women in Jazz”, an extensive research on women in the history of this genre, it was revealed a ridiculously small percentage (3%) of jazz women instrumentalists females performing nowadays in Mexico.

That’s the reason why today, March 8th, the International Day of Women, I present you the names of females with a solid career and a vast knowledge in jazz language. Although most of them have worked to educate themselves and performed around the world, their print is certainly visible in Mexico. These ladies have been rewarded and supported by renown institutions, and they have been well received by the audiences.


Patricia “Pilla” Piano

We all love “Pilla Piano” in Mexico. She is an excellent piano player and educator.

She founded the band Ameneyro, and she is considered to be a jazz pioneer in Los Altos de Chiapas. She also created the project Jazz: Mujeres y Disidencias (Jazz: Women and Dissidence), which includes minidocumentaries that expose the relevant women in jazz history (finally in Spanish!), those who seem to have been excluded from our jazz lessons.

Pilla’s music is caracterized by free improvisation and Mexican folklore. Wujeres y Disidencias (in the cover picture) is her most recent project, a big ensemble that includes diverse musicians from Siria, Venezuela and Mexico.

In her own words:

“My vision in life today is to create solidarity in every possible sense, with all the people, no matter the gender or nationality”.


Pilla Piano. Photo: Alejandra Barragán.


Carolina Mercado

Composer and tenor saxophone player, who is looking to reshape the traditional jazz concepts to make it embrace more genres. Carolina is looking to project her feelings and memories through unexpected notes and rhythms.

As she says:

“Music is one of the artistic expressions that, I think, might create a direct impact on people. As an artist, it is very important to me to develop my creativity so that I can clearly show what I mean to share. I want to inspire people and transcend throughout my creations. Music is my lifestyle and my truest means of expression. My vision in life is to inspire, to impact and to innovate”.


Carolina Mercado. Courtesy of Carolina Mercado.


Odalys Villavicencio

She is Cuban gold. It was evident when we heard what she did with the project Síncopa Jazz, at the Festival de Jazz Nuevo León 2021.

Her work as a composer, arranger, director reaches a very impressive level. She knows how to narrate a story along and adventurous but balanced colocation of melodies, motives, timbres, rhythms, and improvisation.

Odaly’s music places Cuban sounds on its base, like danzón, chachachá or son, where she adds jazz harmony and improvisation. This mix reveals that music commonly used for dancing can turn into a very complex meditation. Sometimes the creator goes wider on her ideas and uses samba or sounds from African tribes, like the Yoruba and the Kongo people. “The objective is to keep the mission of breaking structures to create a new musical perspective”, she said.

When I asked her about the actual purpose in life, she answered:

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything that’s not music”.


Odalys Villavicencio. Photo: Eduardo González.


Dulce Resillas

A very attractive and intricate jazz is what she has to show us. This composer, arranger and piano player is managing to create very attractive music.

Dulce has presented her music in a high number of venues. She might perform with a trio, a quintet, a sextet or a big band. Her themes and interpretations recreate the power of funk, afrocuban motives, cubop, glimpses of bebop and hardbop, huapango and scat.  

The vision of Dulce is:

“To generate reflections in people through art and music. To make them wake up from apathy and disunity, so that we can have better opportunities for everyone”.


Dulce Resillas. Photo: Carlos Rosales.


Ania Paz

From Perú, she had gained a special place in the jazz core of Latin America. Her tours around Mexico have made us fall in love with her distinguishable voice as a composer and as a piano player.

Her work reflects intelligence, creativity, structure and knowledge, but also sensibility towards the vast universes of the classical music and Latin American folklore.

All these abilities are usually highlighted by the notable communication Ania tends to show with those that work next to her, whereas recording or on stage. Her improvisations are spectacular! She is an innovator and she knows how to speak to us.

She told us her vision:

“I try to be a better human being in every aspect, personal and professional; I try to inspire people through creativity”.


Ania Paz. Courtesy of Ania Paz.


Migdalia van der Hoven

With a huge energy, Migdalia takes a precise and refined beat to the jazz drums. Even though she’s really young, she has 25 years of experience with diverse genres, like funk, fusion, Latin jazz, pop and world music. The reason is that she comes from a lovely and united family of musicians. “They used to call me Karen Anne, like the drummer from the Carpenters”.

She recently launched the first single “Girl Facing South” of her last project: The Migdalia van der Hoven Quartet, which is acquiring lost of respect for her development in Europe and Mexico.

She highlighted her vision today:

“Sorority. To inspire women in the music industry to come together and create their own opportunities. To share their music and new proposals without the fear of rejection. The more we help each other, the bigger the core becomes in which everyone is invited to join!”.



Migdalia van der Hoven. Courtesy of Migdalia van der Hoven.


Nathalie Braux

The book Los desafíos del jazz en Jalisco, by Braux, made it clear that she is part of our country. I’m talking here about a composer, clarinetist and saxophone player, who has dedicated herself to music since she was 8. She is also a Historian and a Musicologist.

Her call is mostly to be on stage, where she performs jazz, klezmer, Latin American rhythms and music from the Western Europe. Why joyful and playful work reflects the sweet and profound soul of this smart creator.

She also works with music therapy: “Recently I’ve been more aware of the music’s curative value, which brings us together, gives us hope, makes us remember, helps us to dance and express hidden emotions”.

Her vision today is:

“More than ever, I feel that life can change from one moment to another. It is urgent to impulse more musicians, to find their music, to share, to develop and to record my ideas with them and to work with artists coming from other disciplines”.


Nathalie Braux. Courtesy of Nathalie Braux.


Reona Sugimoto

A rich and original groove. Reona makes you vibe from the very inside.

Her aesthetics is way too specifical, very colorful. Even though she is a drummer, the spine of her music comes from different sounds that evolve together into a beautiful universe. The organ plays an important role on her compositions, which is not very common to hear in our times.

She was born in Morioka, Japón, but she lives in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. Her album “Kokoro” (2021) is just Delicious.

She says that her vision in life today is:

“To be creative, with an immensely inquisitive mind”.


Peona Sugimoto. Courtesy of Reona Sugimoto.


Ximena Constantino 

She is the first woman who accomplished a bachelor’s degree at the Mexico’s National Conservatory of Music, with a specialty on saxophone.

Se has worked in prestigious wind ensembles, orchestras, symphonic bands and today she directs the Ensamble de Saxofones Mujeres de México (“Ensemble of Saxophone Women of Mexico”)

This artist has taken knowledge from diverse geographical points in Europe and America, and her experience comes from classical music and jazz to Mexican folklore.

She has gained accomplishments for being an activist for women equal rights in art. This endeavor got an specifical place when she founded and started directing the Encuentro Internacional de Mujeres Artistas (International Encounter of Women in Art), whose aim is to present female creators and researchers.

Ximena is also interested on communication, which led her to launch the magazine: Clave: El Sitio del Músico.

She commented that:

“My vision today is to fill my everyday doing what I love while I build. I think that if you make things right and with a strong conviction, then something is meant to happen”.




Carmen Fuerte

The restlessness of her childhood is today a printed mark on her career. Carmen is a musical director, a composer, and we mostly know her as a saxophone player, whereas she also knows how to play the clarinet, the flute and has experimented with her voice.

Plenty of her work comes with smooth jazz and jazz fusion. She is now the front woman of the 6 a 8 Big Band Jazz, and the project Carmen Fuerte y Jazzosociados.

As she says:

“My actual vision is to love each other and to respect one another as people. The human motions that stand out the differences exist only to separate us. Humanity is only one, let’s just be one”.


Carmen Fuerte. Courtesy of Carmen Fuerte.


Karina Colis

After sweeping more than 20 countries, this Mexican drummer, composer and vocalist has reached some of the most spectacular scenarios in the jazz world, like the Lincoln Center in New York. She has also collaborated with very prestigious players, like Speranza Spalding.

Her career involves jazz, fusion, Afro-Caribbean music, flamenco and music from India. We should highlight that Karina is constantly going to this country as a drums teacher, a role which she is popular for in San Luis Potosí, México.

Her vision in life is:

“To be open for change, to create and to keep growing in every aspect”.


Karina Colis. Courtesy of Karina Colis.


Pilar Sánchez

She creates a great atmosphere of energy and emotions when she is playing live. She has a strenght that a few double bass players can achieve, creating rhythms of all kind, and reaching a solid an forceful sound.

This composer and double bass player is made of all the music that she loved when growing: corridos, classical, jazz, rock, tango, bolero, trova, cabaret.

Her musical personality has made her probably the most requested double bass player in jazz projects in Mexico. Her long career includes a diversity of ensembles of different music, such as Naina, Pepe Moran Trio, the Pinups and JAM Ensamble Sonoro, among many others. The latter is dedicated to film music, for which only a fraction of its repertory is jazz, and Pilar considers the experience to be on it highly motivating. She loves the diversity of textures, vibrations and the constant learning of her musical experiments. This artist is also working today on creating her own jazz themes on double bass for the Pilar Sánchez Trío.

Her current vision in life is:

“Without fear of transformation.”


Pilar Sánchez. Courtesy of Pilar Sánchez.


To be continued…