Beats By Girlz Founder, Berklee College of Music Associate Professor, Music Producer, Erin Barra

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Beats By Girlz Founder, Berklee College of Music Associate Professor, Music Producer, Erin Barra

By Leslie Buttonow

What do you do when you spend time learning and perfecting a craft, and then realize many others are looking to you to learn what you do? You teach, of course! And that’s exactly what Erin Barra did, but in more ways than one.

After spending some time as a songwriter and producer, Barra brought technology into the fold from a desire to reach certain goals she had for her career. She also used that experience to land a teaching job at a young age at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Along with her use of tech came the realization that other women were interested in learning about how she made her music and the tools she was using, which inspired her to formally encourage other young women in their musical aspirations.

Here, Barra shares some of her story with us, as well as a few musical treats from some of her current projects.

To find out more, visit beatsbygirlz.com and mammabarra.com.

The WiMN: Tell us a little about how you started using technology in music—did you learn traditional instruments first and then incorporate it, or has technology been there throughout your musical journey?

EB: I was trained as a classical pianist from a very young age and didn’t really get involved in music tech until much later in life, when I was around 24 years old.

The truth is, I got into music tech out of sheer necessity because I had goals that needed accomplishing and not enough resources to pay someone else to help me achieve them. The people who control the tech are largely the ones who hold the power and so after years of frustration, I decided that I was going to get behind my laptop and play that role for myself.

The WiMN: What is the most gratifying part of teaching music students?

EB: For me, teaching is a lot like writing, producing and collaborating, which is what drew me to the music industry in the first place. All of those things, including teaching, are just ways of communicating with other people and exchanging ideas, thoughts, and emotions. That’s what I enjoy the most––communicating, and being able to do that with brilliant young creative minds is the best.

The WiMN: Where did the idea for Beats By Girlz (BBG) come from?

EB: Towards the end of my career as being purely an artist, when I really began to master the tools, it became clear to me that people were more interested in how I was making music and the tech tools I was using than actually listening to my music. People started calling me the “Ableton Lady” and wanted to book me on shows that featured women in technology.

At one point, I sort of looked around and realized that I’d been inadvertently cast in this role as a leader and role model for other women who wanted to write, produce and perform with their laptops. Once I figured it out, I felt a responsibility to actively try and fill the shoes people already felt I was wearing, so BBG was born out of that desire to help other women who were looking to me for help and offer role support.

The WiMN: In your role both as a professor and with your BBG workshops, how have you seen girls’ participation in music and music technology change over the years?

EB: I see so many more women in the music tech space than I did five years ago––on stages, in classrooms, in studios––and I also see far more people talking about the issue of gender equity in general. There’s still a massive amount of work to be done, but we’re moving in a forward direction.

The WiMN: Was there ever a time when you felt you had to prove yourself as a woman working in music technology, which has traditionally been more male-dominated?

EB: I feel like I’m constantly being challenged and doubted by the people around me, not only because of my gender, but also my age. I’m the youngest person in my department at Berklee and I lead several committees and groups full of men who I’ve had to work twice as hard as to gain their respect. I even get it from my own students sometimes, since they’re so used to being directed by older white men.

At a certain point, it’s just not worth investing any energy into it. My resume and reputation speak for themselves, so I let those things do the talking and tune out the rest.

The WiMN: You’re also a songwriter and solo artist—are there any projects you’re working on (or recently completed) that you’d like to share?

EB: I just produced a track for a Swedish artist named Matilda I’m really into (listen here); another young American rock artist named Chloe Jane (listen here); and a song I produced for the amazing Leon Waldo just released worldwide (listen here).

I’ve also been creating a lot of video content that features my performances and productions, paired with how to video tutorials that break the whole process down. You can see them here.

The WiMN: If any of our readers are interested in helping to bring a Beats By Girlz chapter to their community, where do they start?

EB: You can visit beatsbygirlz.com for more details and ways to get involved, give to the community and start your own chapter. 🙂 

Front and Center: She Rocks Summer NAMM Showcase and Interview with Julia Jordan Kamanda

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: She Rocks Summer NAMM Showcase and interview with Julia Jordan Kamanda

By Leslie Buttonow

On July 13, 2017, the She Rocks Summer NAMM Showcase took Nashville by storm!

Held at the Listening Room Café and hosted by The WiMN founder Laura B. Whitmore, guests were treated to an enjoyable evening of performances by talented musicians from all over North America, each offering their unique stories and messages.

The WiMN was also pleased to welcome some first-time She Rocks performers to the stage. Featured performers included:

First-time She Rocks performer Southern Sirens is a female duo that calls Louisville, KY home these days. Together, the pair puts an Americana twist on a wide variety of musical genres, performing both originals and covers.

Singer-songwriter Laura Clapp hails from New England, has a love for life, and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Her diverse career experiences include a stint as a backup singer for an 80s synth legend, to demonstrating music technology products, to performing her own original music and recording her upcoming fourth album.

Sisters Charlotte and Sarah perform as Command Sisters, a unique Canadian duo the delivers lush vocal harmonies and guitar stylings that make their live performances stand out. To date, their career has included a winning entry in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a collaboration with a platinum producer, and a private performance for Prince William and Princess Katherine.

Laura B. Whitmore and songwriting partner Jenna Paone also joined in the on-stage festivities, showcasing new original songs such as “Pretty” from their upcoming Girl album, which is a project featuring empowerment songs for girls.

Another first-time She Rocks performer was singer-songwriter Julia Jordan Kamanda. Not only is she a dynamic musician and performer (having toured the world with her father, guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan), but she is also a teaching artist and an author of children’s music books. We asked her to share a little about her musical background, current pursuits, and what music means to her.

The WiMN: How did you enjoy your experience performing at the She Rocks Showcase?

JJK: I really enjoyed playing at the SheRocks Showcase! It was my first time playing in Nashville, so it was a real treat to have it be in connection with such a great organization like WiMN. I met some amazing other female musicians and left with a sense of excitement for the future.

The WiMN: Tell us about some of your song selections for the evening and why you chose them.

JJK: The songs I selected were a combination of up-tempo, groovy songs and a few mellower ones that are introspective. Depending on where I play, it’s sometimes hard to play the quieter stuff because you’re not always in an environment where the audience is listening intently enough.

For a place like The Listening Room Café, I figured I could bring my voice and vibe down a bit and connect with people on a more emotional level. Of course, I always like to play the songs that are upbeat and filled with positivity. When people hear my music, I like for them to leave with a sense of optimism. There is a lot of sadness and uncertainty in some people’s lives, so I want them to experience my music as a breath of fresh air.

The WiMN: Our readers may not realize that you’re also very involved with children’s music education. Please share a little about that and how our readers can get involved in this great cause.

JJK: There is no way I would be where I am today without the encouragement of phenomenal music mentors and access to a safe creative space while I was growing up. Now that I get to make my own way through the music world, I try to create the same safe space for other young musicians. So, I founded J3 Music Studios (www.j3musicstudios.com), which offers a private lesson program for piano, guitar, voice, and songwriting.

I am also developing a series of children’s storybooks that introduce music concepts to young children. Each book introduces a different musical concept through original stories and globally-inspired music. There is a supplementary teaching guide available that can be used for classrooms, homes, and community programs. You can find out more about the series on my website, www.juliajk.com.

The WiMN: In addition to your music education advocacy and playing solo performances such as the She Rocks showcase, I see you also sit in on some dates with your father. It must be quite an experience playing your original music with him!

JJK: I do sometimes sit in with my dad! It feels very full-circle when we do shows together. You know, my parents never pushed me into music, they both just cultivated a creative environment where I could find my own voice. And as I grew, I found that voice through songwriting.

When I play with my dad, we do a combination of jazz standards (which we’ve been doing since I was a kid), classics like “City of New Orleans,” and some of my originals. The originals are always fun because we do them a little differently every time. And we are very in tune with each other on stage in ways that other duos sometimes aren’t, just because of our connection. It’s really fun for us!

 

Front and Center: Songtradr Director of Creative Services, Erin Dillon

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Songtradr Director of Creative Services, Erin Dillon

By Leslie Buttonow

At any given time, an artist has finished a new music piece they’re looking to license. At the same time – whether across town, across the country, or across the world – any number of brands, apps, television or film studios are seeking just the right song for their new project. The missing piece of the puzzle for bringing both sides together is Songtradr, an all-in-one, global licensing platform that delivers an efficient way for buyers and sellers to connect. Their client list includes the likes of MTV, Netflix, FOX, Amazon, Microsoft, ABC, Disney, and more.

Erin Dillon is Songtradr’s director of creative services. She enthusiastically digs in to their catalogue of music to perfectly align hand-curated songs with high profile placements. Truly inspired by the music itself, Dillon shares how her background in music supervision and as a trained pianist has helped her to excel for her company and its clients, and what motivates her each day in her role at Songtradr.

To find out more, visit www.songtradr.com.

The WiMN: I see you’re a classically trained pianist. Growing up, did you always aspire to have some type of career in the music industry, or was that just a happy coincidence?

I think on some level I always knew I wanted to work in music; my path always seemed to lead there. As I grew up learning the piano, I also fell in love with movie soundtracks. That was what interested me in music supervision, initially. The idea of putting soundtracks together like a playlist seemed like the best thing in the world!

The WiMN: How did your background as a pianist prepare you for the various roles you’ve held in the industry over the years in music supervision and creative control? 

Knowing the language of music theory allowed a deeper connection in working with composers. I felt it made it easier to relate and mediate between the creative vision of a director versus the musicality a composer brings to a project. And with a trained ear you can give better notes and guidance. This is true not only with composers but when working with up-and-coming artists or new talent.

The WiMN: For young women exploring various careers in the music industry, can you share a little bit about your current position at Songtradr and what that type of job entails? 

At Songtradr, I’m the head of music curation, which is comprised of me bringing in new music as well as keeping up to date with everything currently on our site, which is a lot! I make curated playlists for clients looking for specific types of music, along with licensing and artist relations.

The WiMN: What are some things that motivate you each day in your job?

Hearing from the musicians on our site is always the best part of my day. I love building a rapport with the different people whose music I’m listening to every day. Their successes and difficulties are mine as well. Whenever I get to be the bearer of good news and tell someone their music is going to be licensed, it’s a great day. I also love being excited by music each day. It’s part of my job to keep finding diamonds in the rough and listening to new and unusual stuff. There’s still a spark for me when the challenge of a particular search request comes through and I get to be the one to dig and find it!

The WiMN: Many areas of the music industry are male-dominated. Is that the case for your area? Were there ever any challenges you’ve had to overcome in that regard?

It’s definitely a male-dominated industry overall, but I pride myself in being part of a generation that has come up alongside many women my age. I have many colleagues who inspire me and are truly positive, powerful women. The best part about it is, many of the women I’ve come up with, really have the best intentions for each other. We want to see each other succeed and I believe it’s genuine. I can’t speak to particular challenges, but I will say hard work speaks for itself. Once you’ve put in the work, don’t be afraid to use your voice. If you have an idea or a thought, throw it out there. Trust your gut — a woman’s intuition is one of the most powerful forces on earth!

The WiMN: Any advice for our readers who are musicians and may be exploring licensing their own original music?

The best advice I can give is educate yourself. Do your homework, utilize IMDB, speak to fellow musicians who are in your boat or have had licenses. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Decide what it is you really want to do with your music, then go after it. Celebrate the small victories that will inevitably lead to larger ones.

The WiMN: Are there any particularly exciting projects you’re working on (or recently completed) that you’d like to share?

Songtradr has worked closely with a women’s clothing company called Ardene in the last year. They’ve licensed some awesome music from us – like Bad Bad Hats and Esjay Jones – that really seems to speak to their brand.

Front and Center: SIR Director of Marketing & Artist/Vendor Relations Manager, Jenn Triquet

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: SIR Director of Marketing & Artist/Vendor Relations Manager, Jenn Triquet

By Leslie Buttonow

Anyone who’s ever attended a festival or concert tour can appreciate how much work goes into those full-blown productions. Artists and event managers need to ensure that things will run smoothly – from rehearsing, to obtaining the correct musical equipment for each tour stop, and more. A tall order made much easier with Jenn Triquet on the job! She’s the person they rely on for their musical needs and manufacturers rely on to support their artist endorsers.

Below, Jenn talks about moving up in the music industry as a female and meeting some challenges along the way. She also shares how her musical background and experience on the other side of the desk led to a new opportunity at SIR, who’s celebrating 50 years of service as the nation’s largest musical equipment support service for top musicians.

To find out more, visit sir-usa.com.

The WiMN: Growing up, you played an instrument, and you were very much into music and bands. Tell us a bit about your experience with music and how it influenced you in your youth?

JT: From the moment I started school music classes I knew I wanted to work in music – I remember in kindergarten sitting on the mat in a circle knowing that was something I wanted to do when I grew up. I played the viola starting in fourth grade through an experimental program in our middle school to get younger kids interested in the orchestra and found love!

I continued to play during college at Hofstra University and even after I graduated, in community orchestras. It was my happy place! I also sang throughout my school career and got a partial vocal scholarship. Through my teens and early adulthood, music helped shape who I was as a person and the friends I kept – which were vast and varied. As an example, the first concert ever attended was Rush Counterparts, and the following week I went to see Grateful Dead’s Spring Tour ‘94!

The WiMN: Many years later, you find yourself working at SIR , and learn that there’s an interesting tie-in between your favorite guitar player’s first band and their career-changing experience with SIR. Care to share that story?

JT: As the artist relations manager for Korg USA (which represented Korg, Marshall, VOX and Vestax at the time), I had the opportunity to work with many artists. Of course, I had to keep my professional hat on, but I couldn’t help but get a bit giddy every time I got to work with Marshall endorser, Slash! Growing up listening to Guns N Roses, how could I not? Interestingly enough, years later, I’d come to work for SIR. It was at our Los Angeles office where Slash had rented (and may have absconded with for a brief period of time) a Marshall amp – the famous Marshall #39 (as told in this story) from which he got his signature Appetite sound!

The WiMN: When working with vendors and artists in the touring industry, it’s probably safe to say there’s no such thing as a “typical” day, but take us through an average week for you and what that entails.

JT: As the artist and vendor relations manager for SIR, my typical week involves a lot of endorsement request phone calls and emails from artists and manufacturers alike. I help everyone get the best possible pricing and service from SIR across the U.S. Many times, this involves entering orders for the entire band and making sure all the details are in order for a single show or a month-long tour in multiple cities across the USA. Additionally, as SIR’s marketing director, I just worked to overhaul our website (www.sir-usa.com), I write our monthly newsletters, manage our social media accounts, have graphics made for our trucks, cases, stickers, shirts, etc, — if it involves SIR branding, you can bet done I’ve done it!

The WiMN: You are the first person to formally hold your specific title at SIR. What is something you brought to this position that you’re most proud of?

JT: You’re correct! This position didn’t exist before I began here. I remember as the artist relations person for Korg how frustrating it could sometimes be to have to reach out to the 12 different SIR locations to try to arrange the same thing for my endorsers – there was no central point person who could field my request. Each SIR office had its own email addresses and even websites! It was basically the Wild West – each office for itself!

I’m really proud to say that since I took on this role in October 2008, SIR has become unified with one website, one email address system, one look and feel for our branding, and that we’re now the unified operation we’ve always been but didn’t quite look like since day one. I also love that our manufacturer partners now have someone they can call directly and they now have one central point of contact – I’m here to make everyone’s lives easier in the fast-paced and ever-changing artist relations world!

The WiMN: Are there any particular favorite artists or tours that you and your company work with?

JT: How can I pick just one? SIR has built so many fantastic relationships over the past 50 years that I’d surely leave someone out if I started naming names. However, I do have my own particular favorites and have built lasting relationships with many bands and artist management teams over the years. And being stationed in NY, I am proud of every single order and product we put forward. Just recently, I did the production for the Governor’s Ball on Randall’s Island – that production takes four to five months’ of legwork to put it together! It was the third year I personally worked with the festival, and we’ve really found a groove working with one another

The WiMN: On the flip side, are there any particular challenges you’ve faced working in this industry, overall, as a female in a male-dominated environment?

JT: It’s funny you ask as I had a surprising incident just this week. I answered the phone and was helping a potential customer with an order and answering a bunch of technical questions about an amp. When he was finally ready to place his order, he asked to speak to the salesman! I said “Yep, you’ve got HER!” I’m glad that women in the music industry are seemingly on the rise but you still get a few knuckleheads that just don’t get it. Yes, women can help you out just as well (and sometimes better) than the men!

Breaking the mold of the “boys club” is something I pride myself in doing. Being a girl who’s into baseball, can talk shop about gear, and someone who sold skis (a position at the store I worked for that was typically reserved for men – why? I have no idea!) have definitely given me an upper leg, I think. But that boys club mentality is always there lingering in the background.

The WiMN: Looking back at your younger self first entering the music industry, what advice would you give to someone else at that point of their career?

JT: As a fresh-faced 20 year old entering the music industry, I had no idea how many different areas there were in this industry. I entered college studying Music Merchandising, thinking I would ultimately end up working at a record label or a management firm. Little did I know there was a huge portion of the industry that had to do with the musical instruments themselves. The best thing I ever did was to secure an internship – it helped teach me my strengths and weaknesses and find what I really excelled at. I would highly recommend interning in multiple aspects of the industry until you find your passion.

My former boss, Larry DeMarco, once told me – and I’ll never forget – “You have to find a job you love going to every day or you’ll never truly be happy at work.” He was absolutely right. Coming to SIR is never a chore for me; it’s my second home. I love the people I work with on a daily basis, and after almost nine years here, I’m still very passionate about my job. Find your happy place and it’ll never be work!

The WiMN: This year is the 50th anniversary of SIR. Anything in particular you’d like to share about that?

JT: It’s been wonderful seeing many of the artists we’ve worked with over the years offer such nice testimonials about their experience with SIR. They’ve shared some fun videos and stories that you can see here.

Front and Center: Guitar Center Manager | Music Marketing & Artist Relations, Maria Brown

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Guitar Center Manager | Music Marketing & Artist Relations, Maria Brown

By Leslie Buttonow


In the music world, there are rock stars, people who support or promote the rock stars, and – every once in a while – people who are a little of both, in their own way. Guitar Center’s Maria Brown fits into that last category. If you ever attended a Guitar Center Drum-Off or King of the Blues competition, watched the Guitar Sessions TV show series, or saw the induction of a drummer into the Guitar Center RockWalk, you’d agree. Brown is one of Guitar Center’s resident “rock stars,” as the driving force behind those and other popular programs across the country.

She recently spoke with us about finding her groove in a career that perfectly suits her, how it almost didn’t happen, and some challenges she met along the way. And, naturally, we asked her to name-drop some of the interesting musician’s she’s had the opportunity to work with!

To find out more, visit guitarcenter.com.

The WiMN: Tell us a little about how you came to your current position at Guitar Center, and how would you describe your current role?

MB: My career at Guitar Center (GC) almost didn’t happen. I was in my early twenties trying to get into nursing school, interning at a music magazine, waiting tables and going to shows 3 to 4 nights a week, when someone recommended me for a spot at GC. I turned down the offer at first but called back a month later to see if it was still open, and I’ve been with GC ever since. My love for music, passion for helping others, and ability to juggle several things at once turned out to be just the right combo for a job at Guitar Center.

I first started as an assistant on the Promotions team, which evolved into event coordinating, artist relations, partnership development, and eventually program management. While at GC, I’ve had the opportunity to do everything from executing contests to pitching sponsorships, programming a radio show, booking talent and venues, developing marketing campaigns, and producing content and artist profile features.

In fact, I’ve had the chance to produce some of GC’s artist empowerment programs – Drum-Off, King of the Blues, and Get Out of the Garage, as well as our artist-driven content series, including the radio show Connections Made by Guitar Center with Nic Harcourt, our podcast & web series At Guitar Center, our TV show Guitar Center Sessions, and artist editorials.

The guiding force behind what I do at Guitar Center is supporting musicians and celebrating music, whether that’s by making it easier for musicians to get their hands on gear, giving them opportunities to further their craft, helping to extend their reach to a bigger audience, or telling their stores in a meaningful way.

The WiMN: Were you involved in music growing up, or did you have any musical influences around you?

MB: Music has always been an ever-present part of my life. I grew up in a house with a piano, took three years of lessons, was in choir, and played flute in our middle-school band. On top of that, music was just always on… tapes, CDs, the radio, MTV. My parents were avid music fans, and a shared enthusiasm and curiosity for exploring music became something I connected and bonded over with other people.

In my early 20s, my best friend at the time – who played guitar – bought me an old 1976 Fender Musicmaster bass. I think he was looking to convert me into a bandmate! We both felt fervor over much of the same music, and he encouraged me to mess around on keyboards with some of his original music. I eventually got a couple of synths of my own and practiced and experimented with his band.

Ever since, I’ve been consistently engaged with music in my life: whether making mixes for others, joining a good friend a few years back for a spell of DJ gigs, or going to concerts (this past Coachella was my 13th year in a row!).

The WiMN: Entertainment marketing and artist relations have traditionally been male-dominated areas until recent years. Have you ever faced challenges being a female in those roles? If so, how did you handle it?

MB: There’s a tendency to assume that women just play the role of an admin type. I think it’s hard for some to grasp the fact that women are capable of leadership roles. I’ve definitely been mistaken for someone’s assistant before on more than one occasion and have politely had to correct that perception.

I’ve also had some experiences with men having a hard time taking direction from women. That’s been jarring at times because it makes you second-guess yourself. I think it’s good advice to try to own what you do. Take pride in it, and have confidence – you have to be your own advocate.

The WiMN: Do you see more opportunities for women in those roles currently, and what do you attribute that to?

MB: It’s been encouraging to see more and more women taking on prominent roles and carving out their own lanes. I think more women are coming together in an ongoing effort to bring the female perspective to the table and more boldly enlighten others to the fact that we have a unique point of view and just as much to offer.

The WiMN: What advice do you have for young women looking to break into our industry in some capacity?

MB: Always be on the lookout for those golden opportunities. Find your voice and use it in a way that resonates. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you’re not sure what exactly you want to do, start somewhere. Your skills and abilities should guide you, but sometimes, unfortunately, you may have to work even harder to get the same opportunities as your male counterpoints.

I’ve been guided by a spirit of service to the arts. Being able to understand what’s important and valuable to an artist while thinking strategically about how GC can further their musical ambitions has been invaluable to my role on the team. If you are genuinely excited about what you do, that can be infectious.

The WiMN: Any memorable stories working with artists that you’d like to share?

MB: I have a lot of gratitude for the things I’ve been privileged to work on at GC. One of my favorite things about working on Drum-Off over the years has been being able to do something special for the drum community and honoring drum legends with a Guitar Center RockWalk induction at the show. Each of the ones I’ve worked on (examples: Steve Jordan, Jim Keltner, Steve Ferrone, Clyde Stubblefield & Jabo Starks) have been incredibly rewarding.

Getting the opportunity to first sit down and talk with these artists and dig into their incredible life experiences and careers – then fold that into a script, take the music, photos and videos, and work with our production team to create this tribute to them at the show – has been so much fun and personally rewarding. Then getting to stand on the side of the stage while they take in the recognition they deserve, has been very touching.

The WiMN: Are there any upcoming Guitar Center events our readers may be interested in watching, attending, or participating in?

MB: We’re working on some new content initiatives to get people excited about music. They’ll provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what goes into music-making by demystifying the process, digging into the tools for shaping sounds, and recognizing how your environment impacts you creatively. Stay tuned!

Front and Center: Sr. Manager Education Division, Korg USA Tiffany Stalker

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Sr. Manager Education Division, Korg USA Tiffany Stalker

By Laura Whitmore


Many of us have heard studies that demonstrate how kids who learn music do better in other areas of life, including academics, behavior, responsibility, and confidence. Couple that with today’s exciting music technology offerings, and you have a winning formula for motivating new students to learn about music. However, all too often, budget cuts force schools to downsize or eliminate their school music programs. And that’s where a select group of music industry companies, non-profits, and leaders such as Tiffany Stalker come into play, to address this important topic.

Stalker is the senior manager of the Education Division of Korg USA, where she has the opportunity to help schools learn about and incorporate technology into their programs, while also developing programs and creating awareness for ways in which schools can obtain funding to keep their music programs strong. The goal is to impact the lives of children in a positive way through music, while enabling our music industry to grow in future generations, which is something she’s very passionate about.

As a strong music education advocate, Stalker is also very active in publicly promoting strong music programs and touting the benefits of incorporating technology. She can be seen attending the NAMM organization’s Music Education Advocacy Fly-in sessions in Washington D.C., sitting on the board of TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Educators), and out in the field at music education conferences and speaking engagements.

For more info, visit education.korg.com.

The WiMN: Please share some of your background. How did you initially become involved with promoting music education?

TS: As a child, I played multiple instruments both in the classroom and through private lessons, so I know what a positive impact music can have on a child. When the opportunity arose at Korg to help create opportunities for more music in the classroom, I was excited to be a part of it. I’ve always been passionate about building brands, and by nature am very competitive, so those two qualities motivate me to think outside the box and collaborate with Korg and others to create more music makers.

The WiMN: Were you a music lover or surrounded by music growing up?

TS: Yes! Beyond playing instruments, there was lots of music in our house. One of my fondest childhood memories is what we now refer to as “Saturday Morning Records” – back when people played actual records and it wasn’t just a novelty. My dad had an amazing collection of some of the greats – Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago, Al Jarrreau, Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, Styx and many more. Each Saturday we’d wake up to something new and fun to listen to.

The WiMN: You’re responsible for many aspects of your division. Tell us about some of your responsibilities.

TS: I’m fortunate to work for a great leadership team. We collaborate on ideas to grow our outreach in schools, assist our dealers to have an impact locally, and create programs to help music educators provide a great student learning environment. I’ve had the opportunity to lead our development team in creating a new successful hardware/software lab system, I get to work with our brand managers to create innovative approaches to selling products in the school market, and develop programs like our Keys for Kids Fundraising Program to help schools raise money specifically for music programs through direct donations.

I also manage SoundTree and the great team that works so diligently to increase music technology in schools via labs, studios, and other installation projects. I love that the scope of the job is wide! It allows me to creatively address our schools’ specific needs to help them overcome challenges and ultimately put more music in the classroom.

The WiMN: How did you develop your audio technology skill set, and how has that benefited the schools you serve?

TS: I had a small amount of tech background before starting at Korg, and honestly, I found audio technology intimidating at first. Over the years, through mentors and experts, I’ve gleaned enough knowledge to confidently tell educators, ‘If I can do it, you can too!’ The best thing about today’s technology is that it’s easier than ever to use, implement and teach. Many music educators aren’t quite sure how to integrate tech, but it’s a necessity for the longevity and growth of sustainable programs. Kids thrive on technology and it’s hard for them to imagine doing anything without it. We’ve heard countless success stories from failing programs that experienced revival by integrating something as simple as an iPad. Add some electronic instruments, speakers, a DAW and a microphone, and magic happens! There are many great funding opportunities available for technology that our music educators need to take advantage of to invigorate their programs.

TheWiMN: While the general education field has traditionally been female-dominated, the general music industry tends to be male-dominated. Have you faced any challenges as a female in music education marketing, or is the playing field more level in your scenario?

TS: First and foremost, I’m a mom to four beautiful, talented children who inspire me to make a difference every day. When I go to work – whether it’s at the office, a school, or a conference – I don’t really see the male vs. female challenges typically seen in other industries or markets. I see amazing people who are passionate about teaching music and making sure the arts are strong for future generations. In this field there’s also a different effect, because my kids give me credibility. They’re my sounding boards for new ideas, they’re my beta testers for lesson plans or new program ideas, and they give me the confidence to say we’ve tried it and it works.

The WiMN: What advice would you give young women starting out and trying to acclimate to a position somewhere in our music industry?

TS: Patience. This industry is unique in that we’re surrounded by musicians who are extremely passionate about what they do and have been doing it for a long time. Take your time and appreciate their wisdom, learn from anyone you can, and prepare to be the newbie for at least five years. I’m also a huge advocate of networking and facilitating introductions. When you’re somewhere new, don’t be afraid to ask a co-worker to connect the dots. Once you get a feel for where you are, it can end up being a small world, and it’s fun to get to know people. Stick your hand out and introduce yourself.

The WiMN: Why is outside support for music education more important than ever? Is there anything our readers can do to help support this cause?

TS: In today’s political environment, it’s more important than ever to make sure your local and state government knows you care about adequate funding for school music programs. As federal education budgets get cut, we’re seeing programs wither away and entire schools do away with music. That is unacceptable if we expect our industry to grow and thrive, and it’s up to us as industry professionals to do what we can to help these programs stay strong. Elementary music, middle school orchestra, high school marching band – they all feed into remarkable programs that transform students into effective leaders.

If I could inspire readers to make a difference, I’d encourage them to find a local organization that could use help. Carve out a few hours a month and get involved. I’d also challenge readers to learn what their state is doing to implement the new ESSA Federal Education Law. This has a localized impact, so letting your local representatives know you care about music as part of a well-rounded education might benefit your neighborhood schools right away. NAMM’s Support Music Coalition also has some amazing outreach tools.

Front and Center: Drummer, Vocalist, Songwriter and Roland Product Specialist, Jordan West

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Drummer, Vocalist, Songwriter and Roland Product Specialist, Jordan West

By Leslie Buttonow

Once in a while you meet someone with so many abilities you wonder if they snuck back on line when the talents were being handed out. Jordan West is one such woman. In her LA-based band Trackless, West makes use of her talents as a drummer, vocalist and songwriter, and she uses her business savvy as the group’s manager and booking agent.

Her original music has been featured on a handful of radio stations, and she has won several music industry songwriting contests. The band’s newest, self-titled album can be found on iTunes and Spotify, and they are currently recording their first single with Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen) in LA, scheduled for release in summer 2017.

West also travels to festivals and trade shows as a product specialist demonstrating Roland drum and percussion products, and conducts clinics. Her gig as a Roland product specialist has taken her to the NAMM Show, CES, Starry Nights, SXSW, Gearfest, and PASIC. She also recently traveled to Roland’s headquarters in Japan to perform and demonstrate new products, and participate in some research and development meetings.

For more information, visit jordanwestdrums.com.

WiMN: You’re a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and vocalist. Please share with us the progression of things—how and when you came to discover each of those talents and interests, and what musical training you had.

JW: I went to a fine arts magnet school where they made each student choose an instrument to begin playing in third grade. I wasn’t sure what I wanted my official instrument to be, so my parents took me to a musical aptitude test. Basically, there was one of every instrument in a room and I got to try everything. The woman running the test told me I should highly consider playing drums and percussion. So naturally, I chose french horn! After a year of whole notes and running out of breath, I switched to a drum set. I was lucky enough to continue on to a middle school with an excellent music program. I was trained mostly in jazz throughout middle and high school and began gigging professionally in college, all the while taking private lessons once a week.

Around the time I was 21, I enrolled in a songwriting class for fun. I didn’t really know music theory at that point, but the class forced me to go outside of my comfort zone. I started my band Trackless so we could play original music, and now that is one of my main professional focuses. I drum, sing, and write songs in the band, and I love how it utilizes different aspects of my musicality. I also play piano and guitar – mostly to accompany myself at solo gigs or to write.

WiMN: Did you have any musical influences growing up, either from people around you, or through musicians you admired?

JW: My parents have always loved a wide variety of music. I grew up listening to everything from System of a Down to Cher to Bob Marley to Tool and everything in between. Much of my training on drums was centered in jazz, where I learned about legends like Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Joe Morello, and Tony Williams. I love listening to innovative drummers like Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Mark Guiliana, Sput, Steve Jordan…the list goes on forever. In terms of songwriting, I love Bill Withers, Carole King, Karen Carpenter, Amy Winehouse, and countless others.

WiMN: When did you clearly know that music was what you wanted to do for a living?

JW: I think I was 12. Middle school was really where I felt like music was something I wanted to center my life around.

WiMN: Drums are your main instrument. As there are considerably fewer female drummers than there are male ones (although they seem to be catching up slowly!), were there ever any instances where you were faced with discrimination, and if so, how did you overcome it?

JW: There have been plenty of times over the years where being a woman seemed to matter more than anything I played – for better or for worse. Some people are impressed that I know how to hold sticks and play quarter notes; others accuse me of being (or use me as) a novelty item. It used to make me mad — really mad. I was letting it get to me and forgetting about the fact that when it comes down to it, all I care about is the music. If I am working hard on what I love, and proud of what I’m doing, that’s all I can do. And other musicians who are focused on being their best will gravitate to that. The rest is just noise.

WiMN: You’ve had a wide array of performance experiences, including recording sessions, live club dates and jazz festivals, and trade shows/clinics. What do you like about each? Any favorite(s)?

JW: To me, there is nothing better than playing live for a great audience. Whether at a huge festival or a club or hole in the wall show, I love that feeling. The energy is amazing. I really enjoy being in the studio, too. It’s fun to build a song and add what you can to it; that can be a really creative atmosphere.

Clinics and trade shows are fun because they challenge me — it’s half performance and half public speaking and teaching. I love interacting with other musicians and showing them cool stuff they can use. I think I like the combination of each of those experiences. It keeps me on my toes and forces me to think in different ways.

WiMN: As a Roland product specialist, you demonstrate percussion products and teach people how to use them. What do you enjoy most about teaching others?

JW: I especially love teaching young people who are just starting out. Their excitement is contagious and they’re like sponges. They don’t have any preconceived opinions so they are usually open to trying everything and come up with some really creative stuff. I also like showing drummers how to integrate technology into their setups. It can be intimidating to try to enter the electronic world, but it opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

WiMN: What advice would you give to young girls who are looking to possibly pursue a career in music, either as a performer or in some other aspect of the industry?

JW: Stick with it. Music isn’t an easy career choice and can be unstable and discouraging at times. There is no one way to be successful, no clear path to take. But that’s also exciting and freeing. If you want to be a player, focus on the music, work hard, and always stay true to who you are as a musician.

My private instructor told me, “You’re never going to be Steve Gadd, and he’ll never be you.” If you want to be in the industry, know your stuff! Be up on the latest products, music, festivals, etc. Whatever aspect of the industry you’re interested in, know about it. Live it. Breathe it. Become a part of that world.

 

Front and Center: SIR Nashville General Manager, Laura Ford

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: SIR Nashville General Manager, Laura Ford

By Leslie Buttonow

For those not familiar, SIR (Studio Instrument Rentals) is the nation’s premier provider of musical instruments/gear rentals and rehearsal facilities for musicians preparing for music tours or TV appearances, as well as for major festivals. They are located in most major cities across the country, and Nashville is no exception. Laura Ford has worked at this location for the past 29 years, first as their office manager, and then after a few years, as their first and only female general manager – a position she holds to this day.

Although SIR Nashville is located in the heart of “Music City,” they serve a territory that spans far and wide, including cities such as Dallas, Charleston, New Orleans and Detroit, delivering gear rentals directly to a wide array of performance venues. With that kind of responsibility and geographical coverage — and the ever-changing nature of tour productions — they need someone who can stay organized and exemplify the expression “grace under pressure.” Luckily, Laura Ford is just that person.

To find out more, visit www.sir-usa.com.

The WiMN: You’ve been driving the bus at SIR Nashville for quite some time. What are some of the day-to-day business areas you’re responsible for, and how many people are on the team at your location?

LF: There are 15 of us altogether. I do a lot of paperwork and accounting, but I also research and make a lot of the purchasing decisions, and do research on touring and recording trends to keep up with the equipment demand.

The WiMN: What are some things you feel have kept you successful in your career over the years? Any particular habits, skills or personality traits you find especially helpful?

LF: For one, you have to be a complete crazy person with multi-tasking. You have to stay calm with everything that’s thrown at you. Nothing stays as planned, and so every moment, you need to think about how to solve problems. Shows and tours hardly go off as planned, but if you can get everything to work at the end with minimal stress for everyone involved, then you’ve done your job well.

The WiMN: SIR celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – that’s a LOT of artist support! Are there any favorite artists you’ve worked with during your time there, or stories you’d like to share?

LF: In my 29 years, I have a ton of stories. Once I came around the corner of the hallway at our facility and ran into Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings comparing open heart surgery scars. They turned to me with their shirts open and asked me whose scar looked better. Yeah, I told them to button it up; I wasn’t going there! Ha ha!

Another time we had a big snow here in Nashville. I let all my employees leave to get home and I was waiting for the last order to cancel. Eddie Money walks in the door complaining about the Nashville drivers in the snow. He had called to have someone pick him up because he didn’t want to drive with all the crazies, and he proceeded to tell me that I needed to shovel so people could get in our parking lot. I told him it was fine and that it would be gone tomorrow. Just then, the phone rings and it’s my last customer cancelling their order. When I got off the phone, I was looking for Eddie to find out when his ride was coming. He wasn’t in the lobby or in the back. I looked outside to check if he was there, only to see that Eddie Money had grabbed our shovel and was shoveling our parking lot!

That’s just two of many…

The WiMN: Working with all of those artists, tight deadlines and last minute requests must be stressful at times. How do you and your team keep your cool during those times and work through it together?

LF: I think for the most part, I keep my staff calm because I stay calm. I always remind them that getting upset only hurts them and doesn’t get the job done. Plus at this point, I think we are all used to it.

The WiMN: What has your experience been like as a woman in the industry––any challenges you’ve had to overcome?

LF: When I first started, I really was the only woman in a higher position in this end of the business – the male-dominated end of the business. So there are always challenges; unfortunately, even now. You have to do it right and do more without complaining. Then you earn the respect of the male counterparts. But it’s great to see that there are a lot more women in my end of the business now.

The WiMN: Any advice for young ladies looking to break into the performance side or business side of the music industry?

LF: Definitely go to school and remember as a woman you have to do it right and do more. Once you earn the respect of the males, then the playing field is even – sad but true.

The WiMN: Are there any big tours or festivals you’re preparing for currently that we can expect to see in the spring or summer?

LF: Our two huge events we do in June are Bonnaroo and Firefly Festival. They’re a very big undertaking, but very satisfying when all goes well.

Front and Center: Guitar Center Director of Merchandising, General Accessories / Media, Kristy Porter

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Guitar Center Director of Merchandising, General Accessories / Media, Kristy Porter

By Leslie Buttonow

Kristy Porter is all about business––the music retail business, that is. Since 2001, she’s been a top performer at Guitar Center, where she’s held a number of roles in their retail stores and at the chain’s Westlake Village, CA headquarters, receiving several promotions and distinctions along the way. She has also put her experience as a guitarist to use in recognizing a customer’s need for an enjoyable, stress-free shopping experience in Guitar Center stores.

Below, Porter shares some of her story and advice, as well as a behind-the-scenes tidbit about life behind the counter at a music retail store.

To find out more, visit guitarcenter.com.

WiMN: You’ve held a number of roles at Guitar Center, working hard and climbing the proverbial ladder. Can you share some of your previous positions there, and how long you’ve been with GC?

KP: I’ve been with Guitar Center for 15 years. I started as a sales associate at the front door in our Oxnard, CA store when I was 18 years old. I quickly moved into the Accessories department, then became the Accessories department manager, and soon after, I was promoted to Assistant Manager of the whole store. Along the way, I took several training courses to learn all about pro audio and guitars, so that I could sell in all departments. I was also the top salesperson for three years running while I was there.

Several years into my career, a job opportunity came up at Guitar Center’s corporate office in Westlake Village, CA for an assistant category manager of accessories. That was my dream job, so I applied, and got it. I became the first female to have a buying role at GC at the time.

WiMN: Please share your background as a musician. Is that part of what attracted you to join the Guitar Center team initially?

KP: I have been playing guitar since I was 14 years old. I went to the Oxnard store to buy some strings and was quickly impressed by the cool vibe and gear in the store. My love for music inspired me to apply to work there.

WiMN: Your current role focuses on a specific business segment––musical accessories. Many people may not realize how something so seemingly small can be so impactful, yet your track record proves it to be true. How important is that segment of Guitar Center’s business and how do you keep it a success?

KP: The accessories business is a vital part of Guitar Center’s overall business. From a merchandising standpoint, the power of presentation is very important. We want to ensure we have the right selection, and that our products are easy to identify, easy to shop and easy for our customers to buy. It’s also important to analyze the business on a daily basis, look for opportunities, try new things, and take risks.

WiMN: Time to dish out a little dirt––during your time working on the retail side of things, what challenges did you have from customers? And what songs were the most overplayed by customers in the guitar department all day long? 😉

KP: I think with any retail store, you will have great customers and also difficult ones. I always viewed the difficult ones as an exciting challenge for me to make their experience great. I’ve had a few customers not want to deal with me because I was a female and they thought I didn’t know my stuff, but I saw it as an opportunity to prove them wrong.

I’d say the most over-played songs in my store would definitely be “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.

WiMN: Your company seems to be very supportive of female customers and employees, from the ground floor up. During your time there, what changes and advances have you seen, and what do you attribute that to?

KP: When I started, the industry was very male dominated. In all the positions I have had––from a salesperson, to category manager, to director––I was the first female in Merchandising. Now, I see more and more women joining the industry every year. Guitar Center has worked hard to change the ratio of female/male customers and employees, and it seems to be increasing.

WiMN: What advice do you have for young women looking to break into our industry?

KP: The biggest advice I can give is to be assertive and tenacious; don’t be afraid and seize every opportunity. Learn who you are and don’t let fear of failure talk you out of taking risks, branching out, and putting your best face forward.

During my time as an assistant category manager, a head accessories buying position opened. I spoke to my boss and told him I was very interested. He was reluctant because I was only in the assistant buyer seat for a year. Instead of accepting that answer and waiting, I asked him what I had to do to prove myself, and he told me to write up a business plan for the department, so I did. He was very impressed with my plan, and I got the job.

Remember, you are your own business card. Tap into the confidence you were born with so that you can stand toe-to-toe with anybody and be successful.

WiMN: Any new events or promotions coming up at Guitar Center that our readers may be interested in?

KP: Guitar Center recently launched a free mobile app for musicians that makes it easy to shop, browse used and new gear, read reviews, build wish lists and more. It’s available now on the iOS App Store and Android Google Play, with all the unique features musicians need to help find their sound.

Additionally, Guitar Center’s Sixth Annual Singer-Songwriter competition Grand Finals will take place on March 24, at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. After nearly 10,000 submissions from across the country, the top five undiscovered songwriters will compete at the Grand Finale event. GRAMMY® Award-winning producer RedOne (Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Usher) will choose the winner. If you can’t make it to The Troubadour, go to Guitar Center’s Facebook page to watch the event broadcast live.

Front and Center: Korg USA Marketing Coordinator, Jennifer Reinhardt

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Korg USA Marketing Coordinator, Jennifer Reinhardt

By Leslie Buttonow

Jennifer Reinhardt is a woman with her hands full!

As a core member of the busy marketing department at Korg USA, she manages several key areas and ensures that all runs smoothly. And she does it all with finesse and the confidence of knowing who she is, what she’s capable of, and where she wants to be.

Reinhardt recently sat with us to share some insights from her ongoing personal and professional journey, and to fill us in on where her path has led her thus far.

For more on Korg USA, visit korgusa.com.

The WiMN: You’ve had a hand in many areas of marketing during your time at Korg USA. Tell us about some of your current responsibilities there.

JR: I am pretty fortunate to have had a few different roles here in the past four years. I currently manage the social media accounts of most of our brands, which entails putting together social media strategies (campaigns, contests, etc) and executing them. I find and post content and engage with our audience to acknowledge and answer their questions.

Another main role is creating new ways to get our name out there and working with the department to make it happen. I work with our product development team to plan out product launches, brand announcements and overall marketing campaigns. I outline what the department will do 30 days out, six months out, and so on, to keep the buzz going.

I also plan events with our Public Relations and Artist Relations team, play an integral role with our NAMM show planning, and book all our advertising.

The WiMN: Please share some background about what led you to pursue the world of marketing?

JR: I graduated from Marist College in 2010 with a degree in Communications, but it was during the worst economy our country had seen in years. I had a few internships under my belt, but none of it was enough to find a job in the field I wanted. I wound up working for a bank in a position I knew wasn’t for me. So, after a few years, I quit my job and backpacked through Europe for two months, which gave me real insight into what I wanted to do and more importantly, who I wanted to be. A few months after being home, I landed my job at Korg USA and I couldn’t have been happier.

The WiMN: Were you a musician or music lover prior to coming to the MI industry?

JR: Yes, I am a musician, so landing this job was a dream come true. I sing and play piano, so what better place to work? I’ll play piano or try out some gear during my breaks and it’s still the coolest thing to me. I can’t say that for most work places!

The WiMN: How has it been thus far as a woman in this traditionally male-dominated industry?

JR: As a woman in any field, you have to work twice as hard and be one step ahead. Thankfully, I haven’t witnessed anything personally and have found myself surrounded by wonderful people, both male and female, who are supportive and a pleasure to work with. Our marketing director in Japan is female, the director in the United Kingdom is female, and up until recently, our director here was female, so I think it’s really cool how women are empowered at Korg USA.

The WiMN: What advice would you give young women just starting out and trying to acclimate to our industry?

JR: This is corny, but it’s true: be unapologetic about who you are. Speak your mind, don’t be afraid to share your ideas, and be confident in everything that you do. Because, ‘You got this, girl!’