Front and Center: President of Women In Music, Jessica Sobhraj

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: President of Women In Music, Jessica Sobhraj

By Myki Angeline

Jessica Sobhraj is a woman of action. She serves not only as the President of the non-profit organization Women In Music, but also as the CEO for Cosynd, a company that educates and assists creators in protecting their content. Sobhraj loves giving back to her community, especially when it comes to helping out women in the music industry who still battle with issues such as the wage gap, discrimination, and harassment.

She spoke with us recently on how she came to volunteer for WIM, and how much the organization has effectively impacted the music industry in the U.S. and around the world since it’s humble beginnings nearly 32 years ago.

WiMN: What was the initial inspiration for the creation of Women In Music?

JS: Women in Music (www.womeninmusic.org) is a 32 year old non-profit that is dedicated to supporting women in the arts. It was initially formed by a group of women in New York that wanted to host casual gatherings for women in the music industry to network with each other. Over the years, WIM developed into the largest and most far reaching organization for women with a mission to advance the awareness, equality, diversity, heritage, opportunities, and cultural aspects of women in the musical arts through education, support, empowerment, and recognition. Today, the organization is operated by a volunteer staff of 60+ with chapters established all over the world to support thousands members.

WiMN: What are your primary responsibilities as the President of this non-profit organization? How did you become involved initially?

JS: Serving as President of WIM has been one of the most personally fulfilling times of my career. Before I became President, I served on the board from 2012-2015 as the Co-Chair of Fundraising. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to give back on a large scale to a community that faces discrimination, harassment, scarcity of opportunities, the pay gap, and more.

As President, I work very closely with our Board of Directors to set the tone for the organization and to determine the goals that we will collectively work towards each year. There are some responsibilities that are constant and predictable like certain administrative tasks and others that are more spontaneous and creative like structuring partnerships or collaborating on new programming. I’m most happy when I get to roll up my sleeves and tackle something with each of our different committees (membership, communications, fundraising, events). They keep me on my toes and ensure that I never have a “typical day” – I’m so grateful for that!

Personally, I like to think of myself as “Chief Empowerment Officer” of WIM. I get to work with the most talented, altruistic, and incredible people in our industry to support an amazing cause. It’s my responsibility to ensure that our Board members, advisory board, and volunteers all feel empowered and engaged by the organization to accomplish the things that are dearest to them. We all joined WIM to support women in our industry and we all captain specific initiatives that we’re passionate about – it’s my job to define the resources and processes to make those passions reality within the scope of WIM’s mission. For an all-volunteer organization, I’m very proud of the fact that we have very little turnover and attribute that to the dedication our mission inspires within our community.

WiMN: How many chapters are there currently? What kind of impact have you seen with the expansion of WIM?

JS:  Domestically, WIM has chapters in New York, Boston, Chicago, Nashville, and Los Angeles. Internationally there are both established and developing chapters in Canada, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Barbados, and Brazil. We are working on launching four other international chapters in 2018.

WIM has always served as a hub to locate any resource imaginable. Our members use our group to find advice on any topic, career opportunities, housing opportunities, discounts to conferences, referrals to professionals, gear and space rentals, and more. By launching new chapters, we’re able to help our members access new markets and expand their individual networks on a larger scale. WIM is a truly supportive community in a myriad of ways.

During our rapid expansion, we have also remained focused on improving our infrastructure and our dedication to providing valuable programming. Over the last year, WIM has launched a new membership platform, hosted several high value events in major music markets such as our executive brunch at Midem for 100 hand picked executives across 22 nationalities, and crafted a suite of new membership programming in a relatively short time.

WiMN: Do you play an instrument? Who have been your role models?

JS:  I grew up in Toronto, where access to the arts was very important in early education, so I had access to most common instruments. I’ve played both guitar and clarinet…I remember just enough to embarrass myself should the occasion call for it!

There are definitely people in my life that I would have called a role model or mentor at one time or another, but they have since become part of my inner circle of trusted friends – that’s the goal, after all! Mentorship is most fruitful when the relationship can grow organically to a point where there is a genuine desire to want to help each other. Asking my mentors “What can I do to help you?” has always led to a more solid relationship. If I had to highlight (and thank) just one of my mentors, it would be author and angel investor, Kelly Hoey. I met Kelly a decade ago when I interned for her at a major law firm. Now, she is an advisor to Cosynd and a great friend to WIM! Kelly literally wrote the book on networking called Build Your Dream Network. Check it out!

WiMN: You are also the CEO of Cosynd. Can you share with us what Cosynd is about and why it is so important to content creators?

JS: Cosynd (www.cosynd.com) is a simple, cost-effective, and legal way for creators to protect their content. We make it easy for them to create agreements that collectively establish ownership of their content. Our users can also register works with the Copyright Office, and the performing rights organizations, and propose monetization opportunities to their collaborators.

Our founding team and advisors have decades of experience in intellectual property and the hurdles of establishing and documenting ownership of content. We were able to collectively build a powerful, but easy-to-use tool to help creators protect themselves without having to spend a large amount of money (some creators neglect to take this step because they believe it is too costly). Ultimately, establishing ownership is a necessary step that creators have to take if they intend to monetize (license, sell) their content via a service. Doing so early on reduces liability and the potential for conflicts between collaborators when a deal is actually on the table – that’s when things can get really messy!

Similarly there are benefits to registering works with the Copyright Office. For example, registration ensures that there is a public record of your ownership of the content. Registration is also necessary if you intend to file an infringement suit and will permit you to pursue statuary damages as well as attorney’s fees from litigation.

WiMN: Have you experienced any struggles or hurdles as a woman in this industry? If so, how have you overcome them?

JS: Yes, I’ve experienced nearly all of the common hurdles, unfortunately!

Our sister organization, WIM Canada, has actual data on what has been most beneficial to women in overcoming these hurdles. Of the women that participated in their study, they indicated that the following solutions had the most impact on their progression in the music industry:

  • Providing women with more access to networking opportunities
  • Implementing an overall workplace culture that is supportive and sensitive to the needs of women
  • Providing women with more access to mentors

We have also found the following methods to be successful in contributing to the progression of women worldwide

  • Creating a community for women to network
  • Making a conscious effort to hire more women in executive capacities and providing internal support
  • Celebrating our leading female experts
  • Providing educational resources
  • Encouraging and engaging men to support these initiatives too

Within Women in Music, our members will find instances of all of these solutions.

WiMN: Can you share with our readers some fun facts about you?

JS:  I’m a dog mom to a feisty pup that hates the clothes I force her to wear. Yes, I’m one of those people.

WiMN: Do you have any advice or recommendations to women wanting a career in the music industry?

JS: Fear, insecurity, and doubt are the common enemies that we all have, regardless of our career status. Fear in particular can lead to crippling complacency if it’s not addressed. We’re often told to “not be afraid”, but fear is such a natural emotion to have – you can’t help it! It’s our internal gauge that something we’re doing is either a mistake or something truly worthwhile. If you’re afraid, be afraid, but also be fiercely brave too. Keep going until you’ve got clarity on whether you’re on the path to a mistake or your next great adventure…and if it turns out to be a mistake, so what? Mistakes often turn out to be the greatest teachers.

Lastly, I would highly recommend joining Women in Music. For women, it is a highly supportive and beneficial community both personally and professionally. There, you will find a tribe of women that have expertly overcome the very same fears, insecurities, and doubts that you may be grappling with!

 

Front and Center: House of Blues Music Forward Foundation Executive Director, Marjorie Gilberg

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: House of Blues Music Forward Foundation Executive Director, Marjorie Gilberg

By Myki Angeline

With the growing need for music in schools, there is one foundation that is set apart from the rest. For 20+ years, the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation has dedicated their efforts in using music as a bridge to success for budding young artists and musicians. They do so by providing workshops and showcases, inspiring the next generation of music industry leaders.

This small, independent non-profit organization began in 1993 and is run by an efficient team of hard-working, dedicated women and men whose experience and passion fuel their success. Leading the team is Executive Director, Marjorie Gilberg. Her drive to thrive, combined with her many years of working in the non-profit sector has helped HBMFF to grow exponentially.

Gilberg took time out of her hectic, rewarding schedule to talk with the WiMN about her experience with directing this organization, and what life has been like for her as a woman in the music industry.

To learn more about this influential non-profit organization, visit hobmusicforward.org

WiMN: As the Executive Director at House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, can you share with us your chief responsibilities and how long have you been working with the organization?

MG: My primary responsibility is to ensure Music Forward can successfully fulfill our vision and mission—accelerating career skills for youth using music as the bridge to success. Music Forward is building the bench of the music industry. I spend most of my time identifying gaps in our resources—whether it is staffing, funding, or expertise beyond our immediate realm—when I recognize a barrier that challenges our strategic vision, I move as quickly as possible to help eliminate it.

WiMN: What are some of the challenges you face overseeing the HBMFF? How do you overcome them?

MG: In the three-plus years I have been with Music Forward, we have made significant changes—everything from our name and branding (we used to be known as International House of Blues Foundation), to the programs we deliver, to the way we benchmark and hold team members accountable—all aspects of our organization received a reboot.

Securing buy-in for the new direction from our stakeholders was key to make certain we are able to make a real difference in the lives of the young people we serve. Obviously, like any non-profit, we are always looking for new funding sources. We are a 25 year-old organization but we are also essentially a “start-up.” Sometimes it feels like we are just beginning to meet the folks who care the most about our mission and will help support us as we continue to grow.

WiMN: With music programs diminishing in schools, what can folks on the ground level do to keep music education a part of their community and schools?

MG: When I first arrived at Music Forward, I began to work immediately with my team members to conduct a deep-dive survey of each community where we were operating to determine the need based on socioeconomic and demographic data.  Simultaneously, we conducted a detailed assessment of organizations in the “music charity” space. Finally, we looked at our most plentiful assets and resources: What did we do better than anyone else? What could we provide to our communities that nobody else could?

Combining the outcomes of these landscape surveys, we came together and agreed on our collective purpose: create access and opportunity for young people using the music industry as the bridge to success. So, while there are a number of organizations helping to address music in the schools, we see ourselves as addressing next-level issues. Music Forward’s mission and programs leverage young people’s passion for music, and the draw of the music industry, to help them identify potential pathways to a successful future career. Connecting passions to professions is what Music Forward is all about.

WiMN: Can you describe a typical work day?

MG: I have an amazing team of 20 people plus lots of interns working in eight different cities. We are connected digitally and everyone on staff has a camera so we can “see” each other even when we are far apart. Technology is both a blessing and a curse because your day can be interrupted at virtually any time.

My typical day might include a strategy check-in with my exec team, a professional development training session on community outreach (with the entire staff), a brainstorm for a pitch deck to a new sponsor, a call with a potential community partner in a remote location, and if I am lucky, an hour to clean up my inbox at the end of the day.

WiMN:  Are you a musician? If so, what do you play?

MG: I wish I was musically gifted. I studied piano for most of my childhood but I can’t say that I was ever really any good at it. I have always loved to dance so music is definitely a part of my life in a big way—but then isn’t music a big part of most people’s lives? It is what brings us together, inspires us, gets us moving…it is why I absolutely LOVE my job!

WiMN: What is a little-known fact about you?

MG: Most people don’t know that I also own a recording studio—The Invisible Studios in West Hollywood. I am not part of day-to-day but I help manage the operations and advise on client and customer relation matters.

WiMN: Have you ever faced adversity in the music industry simply for being a woman? If so, how did you overcome it?

MG: The music industry is definitely unlike any other. As a career “non-profiteer” with more than 20 years in the sector, I have worked with many different types of businesses but none quite as interesting as this one. As a woman in an executive role, there are many times I find myself alone in a room full of men. I have definitely heard my fair share of off-color remarks. I have also had more than a few meetings in which someone felt compelled to man-splain charity to me even though I was called into the room because of my expertise on the subject.

Garnering the respect of the mostly male power giants in this industry is definitely a challenge but I have always felt that I am up for it. It helps to know that Music Forward is shaping the future of this industry. So while it may be dominated by men now, I see a very different future.

WiMN: Do you have advice for young women who might be considering a career in the music industry?

MG: This industry is evolving so rapidly. The jobs of the music industry today will look very different than they will in five or ten years. I would tell them the same thing we tell all of the young people we work with at Music Forward: there is room for you here. Connect with a mentor, someone who can help you navigate the challenges you will face as you build your career and will support your success.

Front And Center: 2017 She Rocks ASCAP Expo Showcase

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: 2017 She Rocks ASCAP Expo Showcase 

Jenna Paone and WiMN Founder Laura B. Whitmore open the showcase.

She Rocks Hollywood…Again!

By Laura B. Whitmore

The ASCAP Expo at the Loews hotel in Hollywood was the place to be April 13-15, where aspiring songwriters, producers and music-makers of all genres were able to glean insights from today’s hardworking pop and hip-hop superstars and behind the scenes masters. Several thousand attended three full days of master classes, panels, workshops and presentations. This year, the event also included the inaugural presentation of the ASCAP “Key of Life” award, given to Stevie Wonder, for his incredible musical legacy.

At night, it was time to let loose and enjoy the reason for the Expo — the music! As part of the nighttime attractions at the Expo each year, the Women’s International Music Network (the WiMN) hosts the official She Rocks Showcase at the ASCAP Expo. This is an opportunity for attendees to step front and center during a showcase of curated female talent of all ages and styles that attracts the attention of the Expo’s audience of labels, producers, superstars and up-and-comers. This year’s She Rocks Showcase took place on Friday evening at Tinhorn Flats Saloon & Grill across the street from the ASCAP Expo, and was attended by a packed house of hundreds of Expo attendees, guests and fans.

The WiMN founder Laura B. Whitmore shares, “Every year we invite talented female performers to apply to showcase at the ASCAP Expo. I so enjoy listening to all the submissions and selecting a varied program that addresses different musical styles and visions. I was so pleased with this year’s performers. Their unique talents so obviously shown through and the packed house dug it right up until the last note! What a night!”

The evening started off with Kate Mills, a New York City artist who recently released her debut EP, Little Bird. Her performance showcased the versatility of her smooth, buttery vocals and the well-crafted songs ranging from the soulful and sultry “Little Bird,” to the fun, romantic single, “Cherry Tree.”

Kate Mills

This social worker-turned-songwriter has gained a solid fanbase by performing at some of New York’s most famous music venues including The Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall and Piano’s. She has been interviewed on several local radio programs, earned two nominations in the 2013 JAM Awards, and landed multiple TV performances, such as The Gimme Mo Show hosted by High School Musical’s Monique Coleman. In the coming spring, two of Kate’s songs can be heard in the feature film Hits, written and directed by David Cross of Arrested Development. Find out more at katemillsmusic.com.

Laura B. Whitmore and Carol-Lynne Quinn of High Love.

Next up was the high energy half of the four-piece Canadian alternative rock band High Love. Fronted by singer-songwriter Carol-Lynne Quinn and performing with guitarist, Jeff Quinn, the pair confessed it was their very first U.S. performance as they showcased their formidable talents and owned the room. Their single “No Longer Yours,” will be released on April 21, 2017, and their full-length debut is due Fall 2017. Listen to them here: wearehighlove.com

Singer-songwriter Candace Wakefield slayed the room with her vocal gymnastics and obvious command of her talent. She showcased songs from her soon-to-be-released LP, The Journey, which is a project full of inspiring, uplifting songs that tell the story of her life. Wakefield is featured on the five-time GRAMMY Award-winning hit single “Alright” and “i” by Kendrick Lamar. She has toured the globe with Nicki Minaj and is currently working on a host of upcoming projects for 2017. Listen to her here: soundcloud.com/candace-wakefield

Candace Wakefield

Called “ethereal, enticing, engaging and beautiful,” by Flavour Mag, CROWN is the artistic vision of artist Steph Thom. Her fun and mesmerizing set was filled with trippy rhythms and no holes barred lyircs. In a bid to reimagine hippy philosophy for the 21st century, CROWN centralizes her lyrics to instill a message of resistance, openness and honesty: deconstructing taboos, challenging identity constructs and facing the psycho-emotional head on. “CROWN’s ambient, sultry sound marries soul-folk and RnB,” says Hunger TV. Thom is also is creative partner to three-time GRAMMY winner Lalah Hathaway. Listen to her here: sheiscrown.com

The final act of the evening was Trackless, a soul/indie duo based in Los Angeles. Their sound is rooted in the voices of Jordan West and Jeremy Jones, who sing every song as a duet. They are made unique by the fact that West is also the group’s drummer, and Jones is regularly featured on the viola. Their music is influenced heavily by pop, soul, jazz, and rock. They draw inspiration from artists like the Alabama Shakes, Bill Withers, Justin Timberlake, The Police, Snarky Puppy, and the Beatles. They are currently recording a single with Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones), scheduled for release Spring 2017. Find out more at tracklessmusic.com.

The event was also made possible by industry support from Casio, who announced one lucky attendee from New Haven, CT as the winner of a PX-160 keyboard! Other event support included a variety of giveaways including makeup kits from M•A•C Cosmetics, a gift package from Gingja9, and sponsorship by 108 Rock Star Guitars.

The Women’s International Music Network will be hosting another She Rocks Showcase during summer NAMM at The Listening Room in Nashville, TN on Thursday, July 13. The event is also a fundraiser for the organization and is open to the public. A NAMM badge is not required.

The WiMN will open nominations for their flagship event, the She Rocks Awards, on May 1. For the sixth year in a row, this event will deliver a spectacular tribute to women in the music industry and is set to take place in Anaheim this coming January as part of the NAMM show.

To find out more about the WiMN events and initiatives, go to www.theWiMN.com.

Photos courtesy of Lina Bhambhani.

Front And Center: Co-Founder of Girls Rock Sacramento and Vocal Instructor, Larisa Bryski

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: Co-Founder of Girls Rock Sacramento and Vocal Instructor, Larisa Bryski

By Myki Angeline

Larisa Bryski is a prime example of what having incredible talent, drive, and a hard work ethic can produce. She is a devoted wife and mother, accomplished musician, successful vocal instructor, Kaia fit coach, and co-founder of Sacramento’s first ever girls music movement, Girls Rock Sacramento. During her years fronting a band with her husband, guitarist/vocalist Willy Seltzer, she performed on bills with such renowned and diverse national artists as Bad Company, Journey, Oleander, Dishwalla, Berlin, Tommy Castro, John Waite, and Heart. In 2013, she had the honor of collaborating with good friend Terri Nunn of the band Berlin. Their album Animal features her song, “Stand Up,” written by Bryski and performed by Nunn.

Bryski’s work with youth in music includes ten years as the former Program Director for Stairway To Stardom; an 8 week Summer music program for young, non-professional musicians. Her recent accomplishment is a non-profit music program that gives young women, and those who identify as women empowerment and a voice in the Sacramento music community.

Girls Rock Sacramento, now in it’s second year, was founded by both Bryski and fellow female artist Emma Simpson. GRS has already completed two mini girl camps, and two Ladies Rock Camps with a faithful following of volunteers. In 2017, they plan to put on even more camps and will host their finale performances at their studio on June 24, and at the Ace of Spades venue in downtown Sacramento on August 5.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Larisa Bryski over the past 5 years, from interviewing her students, bookings live performances with her students, and volunteering with GRS. I sat down with her recently to learn more on how this dynamic, diverse, and talented woman in music continues to inspire so many.

Learn more about Girls Rock Sacramento at girlsrocksacramento.com.

Listen to my podcast interview at the first ever Girls Rock Sacramento performance HERE.

WiMN: What was your first introduction to music?

LB: I was born in the ’70s. Rock and roll music, folk music, R&B…it was all around me for as long as I can remember. The record player was the center of our universe. I can still see my mom’s brown speakers with the gold mesh on the front.

WiMN: What instrument(s) do you play and how long have you been playing?

LB: I sing and play piano. I also play a little harmonica, drums, and guitar. I started piano lessons at age eight. I began singing actively and with some pretty serious motivation at age five, and studying voice at age 11.

WiMN: Your husband is a singer and musician as well, and your daughter is currently taking lessons. What does having music in your family mean to you?

LB: It means we aren’t millionaires, but life is always fun and busy and ultra interesting. Our daughter isn’t yet a performer as she is only seven. She loves music though, and is taking drum and voice lessons. We’ll see where it goes. My husband Willy and I worked hard to get to be performers on stage. She knows she has to earn that too.

WiMN: When and why did you found Girls Rock Sacramento? How did this movement come about? Feel free to share your experience with GRS so far.

Founders Emma Simpson and Larisa Bryski of Girls Rock Sacramento. Photo Credit: Elle Jaye Photography

LB: It’s part of an alliance of other Girls Rock camps from all over the world. Girls Rock Sacramento is something that Emma Simpson and I founded together because Sacramento needed a safe place for girls and all youth who identify as girls to express their creativity through music without feeling judged or stifled or oppressed. We seek to bridge the gender gap and show that ANYONE can pick up a guitar and rock. The fact that the music industry is male-dominated (for the moment) should never deter a girl from feeling like plugging into an amp, grab a mic, or smack a snare drum. Playing in a band is empowering, collaborative, and FUN. Anyone, male/female/whatever, who wants to should have the chance to know what that feels like, whether they’ve played an instrument before or not.

GRS so far has been a gift in my life. I wake up every morning with a new purpose, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve always felt like I’ve done purposeful work. And to be clear, I’m just a glorified volunteer with the glorified title of Executive Director. Girls Rock Sacramento belongs to the youth of Sacramento, not to me, or Emma, or any one person.

WiMN: How long have you been a vocal instructor? Has being an instructor changed the way you see the music industry? How did it impact your career as a singer/musician?

LB: I’ve been teaching voice for 20 years overall, but as my main occupation for the last 12. My work as a vocal coach hasn’t really impacted my view of the music industry as much as it has impacted the way I treat every singer I meet. Singing is a very personal, physical thing. Every singer is different. I work with people from all walks of life—from small children to retired adults, from touring rock singers to theatre performers, from lawyers to chefs—I meet interesting people who all share this love of singing, and it’s my job to help them bring out their best voice. People who learn to control their voices build confidence in the process. This confidence carries over to other parts of their lives. It’s very good stuff.

WiMN: Have you run into any obstacles related to being a woman during your career? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

LB: All the time. Do you know how many “chick band” shows I’ve played in my career? There were periods of time when I’d only get booked on shows with other female-fronted bands, even if those bands were of a completely different genre. Or I’d get people telling me how to dress (“sexy it up”) or other tired, sexist bullshit. Having a chip on my shoulder was how I handled it for a long time before I realized that killing them with kindness and being ultra-professional was a better way to go.

Now I pride myself on being a good communicator, very organized (most of the time), and even-keeled. Nobody wants to work with you when you’re an asshole, no matter how talented you are. I try not to be an asshole, and I like to think that I have at least a little bit of talent. Because of that, over the years, I’ve made some wonderful and influential friends in the Sacramento scene who I trust and respect, and they return that trust and respect in kind. Every day, I work very hard to nurture and maintain those relationships.

WiMN: What have been some of the major highlights in your music career?

LB: Opening for Bad Company, opening for Heart, writing a song for the 2013 Berlin album and singing it with Terri Nunn (one of my idols who is now a dear friend) at a few of their shows, meeting Howard Jones (shut up, he’s amazing), opening for the Motels, Kings X, John Waite, Journey, Peter Frampton, Montrose… And sitting next to Ronnie Montrose on a plane to SXSW from Sacramento to Austin. He was an amazing man. I’ll never ever forget him and his impact on rock music.

WiMN: What do you have going on for the rest of 2017?

LB: Being a mom, teaching voice lessons, sweating with my Kaia sisters, helping to change lives with Girls Rock Sacramento, and playing more gigs, hopefully.

WiMN: Do you have any advice to women who are just getting started in the music industry?

LB: My very wise and wonderful friend Jenn makes amazing shirts that say, “BRAVE, not fearless,” which perfectly describes my best advice. Everyone has fears about stepping into the music industry. Those fears are totally normal and what make us human. But being a woman is harder. It just is, dammit. So be a BRAVE woman with that first step. Inhale deeply and then just fu**ing go for it. Be brave. Set your intention. Go.

Below is a video I created from the very first Girls Rock Sacramento Mini Camp in July 2016, with performances by Heart of The Storm (7-11 yrs old), Middle-Aged Xnchilla Farmerx (12-15 yrs old), and the GRS instructors!

Front and Center: Co-Founder of Reverb, Lauren Sullivan

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: Co-Founder of Reverb, Lauren Sullivan

By Gabriella Steffenberg and Tom Gilbert

IMG_0021Lauren Sullivan launched REVERB with her husband Adam Gardner (of the band Guster) in 2004. The organization creates and executes comprehensive, custom programs make tours more green, while engaging concertgoers to take action for the environment.

Over the years, REVERB has worked with countless acts, including Dave Matthews Band, fun., Wiz Khalifa, Maroon 5, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Kacey Musgraves, John Mayer and many more. Today Sullivan works on many of the organizational elements that keep REVERB chugging: financial oversight and development, governance and legal, with some biodiesel coordination thrown in.

With REVERB, Lauren Sullivan is taking great steps to spread the message that all of us can be active participants in protecting the environment and creating real, large-scale, and measurable change.

Find out more at reverb.org.

WiMN: What inspired you and your husband to start REVERB in 2004?

LS: Prior to starting REVERB I was working within the environmental nonprofit world as a campaigner with the Rainforest Action Network and then as a community organizer with Partnership for Parks in New York City. I saw again and again how so many wonderful organizations were unable to get their important work and message out there. I observed many situations in which we were all preaching to the choir and head nodding at each other within our environmental circles. There was so much wonderful support within the environmental community, but we simply were not connecting enough with your everyday citizen who might not have forest issues, or green space or climate justice at the top of mind. I wanted to pierce through that barrier and help give a megaphone to these important issues.

Meanwhile my boyfriend (and now husband), Adam Gardner, from the band Guster, had been touring extensively and lamenting the fact that their bus was chugging through diesel and that they were leaving a plume of plastic water bottles in their wake. The music industry is, by way of performing in a new city each night, a resource intensive one. While we were living a more sustainably-minded existence at home, being on the road left Adam and his bandmates with this deep sense of guilt.

I began talking to Adam about the idea of using the music platform to get the word out to music fans about important environmental issues. How could we best support diverse environmental nonprofits and allow them to connect with thousands of music fans? And Adam wanted to assuage his guilt about his touring life. How could we help bands to minimize their footprint while on tour?

While we were chewing on these questions, my sister-in-law sent me a pamphlet from Bonnie Raitt’s “Green Highway” tour. Bonnie was out there creating this festival atmosphere for her fans where they could engage and learn about environmental issues. It was that a phenomenal revelation to learn that the ideas that we had been thinking about were happening out there in an incredible way on Bonnie’s tour.

After much hand-wringing, I called up Bonnie’s manager, Kathy Kane, introduced myself and Adam, and shared our backgrounds and ideas. Kathy said that she and Bonnie would be happy to lend us all of their Green Highway gear and help mentor us through the beginning stages of what we began to call REVERB.  We think of Bonnie and Kathy as the godmothers of the green revolution in the music industry. Their activism and work are continually inspiring to us.

After I connected with Kathy, Adam immediately reached out to his friends in the Barenaked Ladies, knowing they were committed to environmental issues, and asked if they, along with Alanis Morrissette, would let us use them as guinea pigs on their upcoming “Au Naturale” tour in 2004.

And so the days of REVERB’s touring and work within the music industry began. 

WiMN: How have you seen the green industry evolve since REVERB came to fruition?

LS: There has been a phenomenal shift in the discourse around environmentalism in the music industry and beyond. REVERB began in 2004, two years before the release of the film An Inconvenient Truth, and the environment was still very much a fringe issue for most people. Recycling wasn’t generally happening at venues, and simply put, sustainability was not a priority.

In the past handful of years we have seen a renaissance, and reawakening around environmental issues and citizens realizing that there is an urgent need for sustainability practices to permeate every aspect of what we do on this planet – in our places of work, homes, communities…and thankfully in the music industry.

Venues are much more responsive to the sustainability work and programming that REVERB has out on tours these days. Thankfully, instead of us constantly nudging things along, we’re seeing a more kindred and symbiotic relationship with venues – recycling, better concession goods and food, sustainable papers and thoughtful lighting and electricity reduction. It’s been a wonderful shift…but there is still plenty of room for improvement on all fronts. So we’re excited to continue to work with the folks at LiveNation, AEG and others to make this industry as green as possible.

WiMN: What was your biggest learning curve upon entering the music industry?

LS: Thankfully, because Adam is in a band that has toured intensely for over 25 years now, REVERB walked into our sustainability and environmental work with our eyes wide open about what it takes to make these sorts of programs happen on tour. We are coming at it form the inside, understanding that everyone in this industry is working incredibly hard, and that their plates are full.

REVERB is nimble, we streamline logistics and make sustainability accessible and plug-and-play for the artists, management team and touring crew. We think of ourselves as an eco-swat team that can jump into any situation, any tour, and make things happen for the good of the planet.

WiMN: What has been the most gratifying part of working in the music industry while making a positive impact for the environment?

LS: I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this work…but most notably I love that we can help represent an issue that is near and dear to an artist (street trees, illegal logging, GMO labeling, clean water, etc.) and do this by way of sharing the good work of local and national nonprofits with this artist’s fans. It’s an incredible win-win-win proposition that enhances the concert experience and encourages an elevated discourse around the environment. We aim to spread the word that taking action is something that everyone can do. We can all be a part of the solution.

WiMN: What are some of the most memorable activations you’ve done?

LS: One of the programs that I am most proud of at REVERB is our “Farm-to-Family” program. We’ve activated this on the Dave Matthews Band tour for several years and it’s been a wild success. The gist of the program is that we support local, community-scale farms and hungry families in need across the country. Farm-to-Family donates CSA shares to community food-banks in order to support community-scale farms with valuable capital for the next growing season and provide high quality, local produce to needy families who don’t otherwise have access to it. This program shines a light on the issues of hunger in America and the plight of the family farmer while putting local produce in the hands of families in need and dollars in the pockets of local farmers.

The Farm-to-Family program was born out of our Farm-to-Stage program that REVERB developed and has been adopted by many of the tours we work with. This program connects local farmers and artisans with tour chefs and local caterers in order to put local ingredients on the plates of artists and their crew in every community they visit. This practice reduces the amount of petroleum-based fuel used and the associated emissions related to the transport of food items across the country or the world, and puts dollars back into local economies while supporting community-scale agriculture.

To date REVERB’s Farm Programs have supported over 120 farmers, 120 food banks and raised over $296,000 for this cause.

WiMN: What piece of advice would you give to women who are looking to go into the music industry?

LS: The music industry is a male-dominated one. That balance is beginning to shift, but it can be a very unique work environment for many. Each touring party has its own personality, sense of community and pecking order. Many folks on the road have been working at their craft (as a Tour Manager, Production Manager, rigger, drum tech, caterer, etc.) for decades, and the new kid on the block often has to figure out how to ingratiate themselves into a tightly knit, already-established group. I think, as with any industry or job, one needs to listen, learn, pay attention, work harder than your job description requires so as to earn people’s trust and respect, try to thicken your skin yet maintain a sense of humor. I encourage women to dive in, find a mentor, work hard and enjoy the phenomenally unique world that is the music industry. There is no place quite like it!

WiMN: What are your hopes for REVERB over the next five years?

LS: REVERB has been engaged over the past three years with some phenomenal campaigns that we hope to magnify. We have partnered with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) to delve into illegal logging as it pertains to the tonewoods used in instruments. Adam and I traveled with members of Maroon 5 to the rainforest in Guatemala to learn first hand about this issue, and how sustainable logging models exist which support both the forest and local community which acts as the steward of that land.

Additionally, over the past two years, REVERB has had a wonderfully successful partnership with Nalgene both on tours, and now at four venues across the northeast where we have permanent programs. Here’s how it works: Fans donate $15 and receive a 32oz custom designed Nalgene water bottle, they get free refills throughout the show or festival, and the proceeds get split between REVERB and a local nonprofit to help support the environment and local community. All the while, we are drastically decreasing disposable water bottle use at the show and beyond. By the end of 2015 we had diverted 660,150 plastic water bottles from landfills. We plan to grow this program in 2016 and beyond at shows and in partnership with venues across the country.

Front and Center: Executive Director, Curriculum Designer and Instructor at Phoenix Conservatory of Music, Regina Nixon

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: Executive Director, Curriculum Designer and Instructor at Phoenix Conservatory of Music, Regina Nixon

By Gabriella Steffenberg 

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Regina Nixon second from left

Music and education have always been at the forefront in Regina Nixon’s life. Working with the Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM) since its early days, Nixon has been an essential part of the growth and impact that it’s had in the Phoenix community.

Due in part to its collaboration with Berklee College of Music and its prestigious Berklee City Music Network, PCM became one of 47 affiliate members across the country to recieve the Arts Education Organization of the Year honor at the Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards in 2015.

Head to phoenixconservatoryofmusic.org to learn more about PCM, and read below to find out more about Nixon in this week’s Front and Center.

WiMN: At what point did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to music?

RN: Music has always been a huge part of my life and a huge part of my family. I knew I wanted to be a singer when I was five. I didn’t know until my late teens/early ‘20s that I wanted to be an educator. Music is a part of my soul.

Even though most of the time I spend doing administrative things relating to music education, there are times that I need to sing just to stay sane. It is more than a job; it is a calling, and for me, a mission.

WiMN: You’ve been with Phoenix Conservatory of Music for over 15 years. How have you seen the conservatory grow throughout your time with them?

RN: I have been with the organization since its infancy. When our founder retired, our annual budget was $69,000 per year. Since that time, we have grown considerably, serving our students in a deeper way that has lasting impact and long-term outcomes, and our budget has grown to nearly a half a million dollars.

From my living room to our current 7,500-square-foot facility, it has been a remarkable journey (a nerve-racking, exhausting, harrowing, but remarkable journey), but one well worth the cost and that I would repeat again in a heartbeat. I would not have been able to continue on that journey without the dedication and support of our many donors, volunteers, teaching artists and community or without the love, patience, and commitment to the cause from my husband and daughter who have sacrificed right along with me to make PCM a reality.

WiMN: Tell us of a standout student experience you’ve had at the Phoenix Conservatory of Music.

RN: I always say that the most favorite part of my job is our students. I love these kids. They inspire me and humble me. Here are just a few stories with our students:

Abraham: Phoenix Conservatory of Music changed my life, simple as that. I wasn’t focused, I didn’t follow through on things. When I got to PCM, I was just starting junior high; my grades weren’t that good and I didn’t have good time management. At first, I thought I wanted to play piano, but here I discovered guitar. I loved everything about it; learning theory, learning music history, learning how to compose music, learning how to use my fingers most effectively, learning how to prioritize, how to focus. I discovered I could manage my life better, my grades got better, I am really good at math and at science. Before PCM? Musical, yes – but disciplined, no. Because of PCM, I am a changed person, for the better.

Ben: Before PCM, I lacked follow-through, I didn’t realize I had potential, and I didn’t take my talent seriously. In just two years, I’ve gone from being scared to death on stage to having the time of my life. It’s because of the support team that’s here, the relationships that are built, and the connections we make. I love being the lead singer of a group of amazingly talented musicians. Being part of a master class at Berklee City Music Network really solidified what I want to do with my life. I am going to audition for American Idol this spring, and I’ve got all my friends here at PCM helping me with that audition; they’ve got my back. It’s like the first time I went on stage, I was scared, yes, but then I turned around and saw all those musicians behind me, rooting for me, supporting me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Before PCM? I wouldn’t have been that reliable. I would slip in late for everything; I didn’t think it mattered. Now, I know it does, that we all depend on each other to be the best we can be.

Another one that sticks out for me is with one of our recent PCM graduates. He is currently a freshman at Berklee College of Music. He started with us when he was 12 years old. I was never his primary teacher, but I was a mentor. Musically, he is very gifted. In looking back at our time together, the skill sets we were developing were not just his musicianship, but all the other developmental assets he needs to be successful in life – teamwork, collaboration, positive leadership skills, forward thinking, backwards mapping, developing relationships.

The time had come for his senior year auditions. The auditions went well and he heard back fairly soon that he was accepted to the college. Now we were waiting to hear about scholarships. The day came. We received notification that one of his peers had received a full tuition scholarship, but he did not get any notifications. We were talking, and I asked him if he was ok. He said he was. Later that night about 11 p.m., he called and said he was not ok. We had a great conversation about paths and many roads to get to the same destination and developing a good plan b.

The following Saturday he saw his fellow student for the first time since the scholarship announcements were made. I was a bit nervous about how the interaction was going to go. He went to his band mate, and gave him the most sincere congratulations and a huge hug. It made my heart happy. This is the moment that we live for in education. At that moment, I was more proud of this young man than if he would have gotten a full tuition scholarship because of the strength of character that he had shown. This is why we teach. To top it off, later that night he received notification that he also received a full tuition scholarship – but that was just icing on an already pretty sweet cake.

WiMN: What is your involvement with Berklee College of Music? How have they helped grow your program?

RN: In March of 2010, we were paid a visit by the Berklee College of Music in Boston – one of the premier music schools in the country. Through a highly competitive process that included a site visit, student performances, and consideration of our organization’s health, Berklee College of Music awarded us an affiliate membership into The Berklee City Music Network. This is a stamp of approval from one of the premier music schools in the country for our programs. There are 47 affiliate members throughout the country – only 5 in the southwest region – and we are the only school in Arizona. As an affiliate member, we bring an amazing resource to our community through the Berklee PULSE Program.

PULSE is an online learning network that stands for Pre University Learning Systems Experience. Its goal is to teach quality college preparatory music education through technology. This allows us to take a STEM experience and integrate Technology with Arts to turn STEM into STEAM. Because of this amazing partnership, we began to grow and hone our niche in our community.

In 2011, Metrocenter Mall donated 7,200-square-feet for a unique community music recreation center to house our newly formed college prep program ensembles. We started the ensembles so we could give the students the skill sets they needed to be successful in a college environment. With just 15 kids we started the program, and we needed space for them to rehearse. The mall stepped up. So now, we have this new program and this new facility.

We decided to leverage both for all they were worth and developed a community music learning center in our local mall. For many years, community centers have proven themselves to be vital for the improvement, engagement, and investment of families and revitalization of neighborhoods. Phoenix Conservatory of Music used the community center model and created a community music recreation center that actively promotes arts, specifically music education. These two elements combined really pushed us to the next level of our organizational development. Our earned and contributed revenues are growing and we are gaining local and national recognition for program facilitation.

Our partnership with Berklee provides much needed professional development, mission alignment, and the chance for our organization to be a part of a national paradigm shift in music education. In 2015, Phoenix Conservatory of Music was honored as the Arts Education Organization of the Year recipient at the Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards. In 2015, we had seven seniors. We had three seniors who auditioned for Berklee College of Music, and all three were accepted.

Since 2013, we have a 65 percent acceptance rate to one of the most prestigious music colleges for contemporary music study in the world. In 2015, Berklee City Music Network awarded only 15 full tuition college scholarships. Two of those scholarships went to Phoenix Conservatory of Music students, a total value of $360,000. The rest of our 2015 class has been admitted to Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University, and Arizona State University studying music, pre-med, economics, and education.

In addition to the great benefits that we utilize through Berklee College of Music and the Berklee City Music Network for our students and our teaching artists, as an individual I find it empowering to be a part of a group of people that I absolutely admire and respect. I sit on several committees and feel like I am making a difference on a national level. Being around such like-minded people who are just as committed to our young people and helping them fill their potential through contemporary music education helps me personally to recommit to my personal mission in my community. I am honored to get to be part of such an exciting movement.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 2.10.57 PMWiMN: What’s your favorite part about working in music education?

RN: For me, it’s all about the kids. I just happen to be a musician, so this is how I reach out. If I were a baseball player, I’d be working with a baseball team for kids. But I’m a musician and its how I can communicate and help future generations find that special part of themselves that will help them to fulfill their personal potential.

WiMN: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your time working in the music industry?

RN: Good music making is really about listening and having a conversation. We have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak.

WiMN: What pieces of advice to you have for women looking to work in the music business and education?

RN: Find your passion. Work is a four-letter word.

I was watching a comedy skit (I think it was with Chris Rock), and the comic was talking about the difference between jobs and careers. The gist of the routine was that in a job, you watch the hours drag and the minutes tick by. But with a career, people have to remind you to stop working and go home.

Have a career. Have a calling. Life’s too short to watch a clock. Do what you love, what inspires you and inflames you, and figure out how to monetize it to provide for you and yours. Don’t give up. Being in the music industry or being in the education industry is not easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But your voice matters; your experiences can nurture, inspire, create connections and reach people.

WiMN: Where do you hope to take the Phoenix Conservatory of Music within the next five years?

RN: There are things I desperately want for our organization: a permanent facility with actual walls designed to minimize sound bleed; more lesson rooms; a functioning recording studio; a window in my office; infrastructure and staff to continue to serve the growing need in our community; the resources to securely pay for the infrastructure and increase of staff needed to run more programs because of the growing need; twice a week janitorial services – these are all things we need. In addition, we need a working cash capital reserve and six months of funds in the bank; an endowment to pay for private lesson music scholarships for students in need; and a slush fund to pay for programs that are risky, innovative and creative.

In my heart of hearts, one of the long-term creative risks I want the organization to undertake is starting an artist development branch and youth-run label where we can nurture young talent in an even deeper way than we are, providing them with the practical skill sets that they need in their craft development, but also in their professional development including budgeting, marketing, and industry knowledge.

 

 

Front and Center: NAMM Director of Public Affairs & NAMM Foundation Executive Director, Mary Luehrsen

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: NAMM Director of Public Affairs & NAMM Foundation Executive Director, Mary Luehrsen

maryluehrsen_webWe are honored to feature today’s Front & Center subject and 2016 She Rocks Award recipient, Mary Luehrsen.

A senior executive with NAMM, Luehrsen oversees the organization’s federal level policy development and government relations efforts around issues affecting access to music education and global commerce in the music industry.

She also serves as executive director of the NAMM Foundation, a supporting organization of NAMM that supports music research, philanthropic, public service programs and leads national advocacy efforts for music education.

Luehrsen was a professional flutist for 20 years specializing in chamber and contemporary classical music. As a certified music educator, she taught elementary general and instrumental music for 16 years.

To find out more about Mary Luehrsen’s work, visit namm.org and nammfoundation.org.

WiMN: What are some of the challenges you face overseeing NAMM’s federal level policy development and government relations efforts? How do you overcome them?

ML: Over the years of targeted advocacy for music education, we have educated elected officials about the value of music education. It is not unusual to go into an office of a Member of Congress and have him or her and the staffers quote to what the research tells us about music education – much of the research that is cited has been funded by NAMM. So the facts are out there and working about the value of music education and research reinforces core beliefs about its important role in education.

However, it is a continual challenge to get these same folks who say they believe in music education to actually DO something and this is true on all levels of policy and advocacy from federal government to local school districts. We have to clearly articulate what we want in terms of policy and funding and we have to stay at this until we keep moving access and opportunity forward.

WiMN: With music programs diminishing in schools, what can folks on the ground level do to keep music education a part of their community and schools?

ML: First of all, I’m not sure that the phrase “music programs diminishing in the schools” is accurate, or at least, I’m not comfortable using that phrase universally. Data (we have some national data, but not enough!) tells us that music education is offered in a vast number of schools, but the type and quality of learning is a concern. And we know that where strong music education traditions have been established, these programs have a way of being strong for decades and that comprehensive music education programs are more likely to be found in suburban – “affluent” – communities as compared to urban schools.

An accurate phrase could be that music education opportunity is at best patchy, and is NOT universal and what we are working for, truly, is access and opportunity for all students to receive a high quality music education, taught by certified teachers as part of the school curriculum.

Our advocacy efforts focus on the grassroots level via our SupportMusic Coalition. Parents, teachers, school administrators and community leaders can and do come together to form local coalitions to re-instated and build music education programs and it takes shared and sustained commitment to build true standards-based music education programs in schools. And I must tell you, some remarkable re-instatement and program build outs are occurring throughout the country – we just have to keep cheerleading and celebrate and model advocacy efforts from one community to the next.

WiMN: Can you describe a typical work day?

ML: Oh my, I basically multi-task all day long. A real luxury is to actually be in my office all day, make a list very early and by the end, see these crazy scratches and notes all over the page. Then I take that page and re-write it to be the list for the next day though I may be working from a train or plane (I’m on a train right now!).

I schedule phone calls – and sometimes I have calls, including web-based meetings each hour of the day – begs the question – when does real work get done? And finally, I facilitate between task-oriented work (writing a magazine article, reviewing podcast scripts) to big picture and management stuff. Sometimes, I just get dizzy and jump on my bike and ride to the drop stuff off at the post office. I bet every woman you interview tells you her day is sort of like this – we are born multi-taskers, I think.

WiMN: Are you a musician? If so, what do you play?

ML: I was a professional flutist for 20 years – all my degrees are in music. I had an active solo and chamber music ensemble career – those were wonderful years, but there was a part of my brain that was crying out to do other things and I listened. Now I play the ukulele for fun, and am very serious live music listener!

WiMN: What is a little-known fact about you?

ML: I have running lights on my pedal kayak so I can stay out on Long Island Sound past sunset – makes me weep just thinking about it.

WiMN: Have you ever faced adversity in the music industry simply for being a woman? If so, how did you overcome it?

ML: I’ve been a professional working woman for a lot of years and in this industry – and others – I think adversity is just part of job and career growth, for both men and women.

There is a great deal to learn as one comes up in the working world – I see this with my precious daughter now who is just starting out her career. I think some old fashioned attitudes exist, and I have found it wisest to not ignore this reality, when encountered, and assess with both feet on the ground if these attitudes are going to inhibit my own develop and ambitions. I guess it’s fair to say that the scale of adversity is possibly measured by one’s reaction to it.

WiMN: Do you have advice for young women who might be considering a career in the music industry?

ML: Land a job with people you think you will get along with and will help you be successful from day one in your job. Move on from any job if you find yourself not being identified as someone who is sincere and making a contribution and remember, a job is called WORK for reason – sometimes you just have to dig in and work hard, show solid results and then move on to make the next contribution.

WiMN: What does it mean to you to receive a She Rocks Award?

ML: This is a wonderful award and I’m so honored to be included in the group of other woman who have received it in the past and are receiving it this year. It is just nice – like warms my heart – to know that my efforts are recognized. And the news of the award came on a day when I was dizzy with multi-tasking – too busy to take a bike ride – so it was like a pat on the back. I am very grateful.

Front and Center: Sound Engineer, Singer-Songwriter, and Founder of Guitars 4 Gifts, Anna Clark

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: Sound Engineer, Singer-Songwriter, and Founder of Guitars 4 Gifts, Anna Clark

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By Gabriella Steffenberg 

Think back to what you were up to in high school – attending school sports games, going to the homecoming dance, studying for tests, catching up with friends during lunch block, and gearing up for your next chapter in life. This is what 15 year-old Anna Clark does too, but her story is a little different from the rest.

At 11 years old, Clark started the organization Guitars 4 Gifts, which was founded upon the principal of giving guitars to underprivileged youths through various established organizations. As of 2015, Guitars 4 Gifts has given away over 40 guitars.

For more information and to keep up with Guitars 4 Gifts, check out their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

WiMN: What inspired you to start Guitars 4 Gifts (G4G)?

AC: I started Guitars 4 Gifts after giving guitars away to the Christmas Basket at my Church. It was one of my family’s traditions to save up money during the year, and then to give toys away at Christmas. As I got older, I really wanted to give away something for people my age, and I really loved to play guitar, so that was what I decided to give. Afterwards, I wanted to give guitars away more often, so my dad helped me to set up Guitars 4 Gifts.

WiMN: Which organizations have you worked with through G4G?

AC: Currently, G4G is working with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County to help start a music program. Every year, we also give guitars away to Kids on Stage Summer Academy. This is really cool for me to do, because Kids on Stage was a summer camp that I go to, and it is where I learned to run sound. I have met some great teachers and friends there, and it has helped be to become a better musician. Through Kids on Stage, we have been able to give guitars away to kids in China. One of my friends also went to Africa on a mission trip, and G4G gave him a guitar to leave with the village.

WiMN: When did you first pick up an instrument and how did it change your life?

AC: I started piano lessons when I was in first grade. I am really shy and quiet, so playing an instrument helped me express myself. In second grade, my aunt gave me a guitar for Christmas, and I started taking lessons through my piano teacher. My teacher really helped me to be interested in the music industry and writing songs.

I liked to sing when I was young, but I was also really shy (so I would rarely sing in front of people, and if I did, they could barely hear me). Music has helped me love to learn, to love hard work, and to love being myself. My vocal coach has really helped me to be more confident, which has definitely helped me have more fun. I think that music has helped me to break out of my shell, especially since I hardly used to talk. It has helped me feel like I am heard, and it has made me enjoy life and enjoy being different.

I started performing at a kid’s open mic at Two Old Hippies in Nashville when I was about 11. This helped me to get out of my shell because the people who work there are very supportive and encouraging, but can also teach kids a lot about performing because a lot of them are experienced musicians.

I started running sound at Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork when I was 12. Kids on Stage was having a series of contests there, so the owner let me help run sound for those, and afterwards, I helped running sound for the Thursday open mic. I also started performing out there, and that helped with my stage presence. Running sound there really changed my life, because it gives me something special to look forward to each week. There weren’t many musical extra-curricular things to do at my middle school, so it gave me an outlet to do what I love. I don’t think I would be anywhere near as happy as I am today if I hadn’t been given the chance to run sound at Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork.

WiMN: Are there any women in your life and/or within the music industry that you look up to?

AC: There are a ton! I really look up to Renee Armand. She is a vocalist who has been super supportive. She really helped me to not be afraid to show how much I love music. I took her vocal class at Kids on Stage. She is very welcoming to every student she has, and also enjoys learning about everyone’s individual style. I also really look up to Rachel Klein. She is super passionate, and has really helped me to show how passionate I am about running sound and recording, and she has taught me how to be professional.

WiMN: Who are a few of your favorite bands and musicians?

AC: I really love Joni Mitchell because of how much she seems to pay attention to the details in her songwriting – I also like how unique she is. Some of my other favorite artists are Brandi Carlile and Christina Perri, because of their voices and songwriting. I also enjoy Florence + the Machine, because I think it’s cool how one of the members is a female music producer and remixer! Another one of my favorite artists is Emma King. She used to play at Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork, and she just released an album that I love listening to all the time!

WiMN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

AC: In ten years, I would really like to have grown Guitars 4 Gifts to give away guitars nationally and internationally on a regular basis. For work, I want to be a songwriter/music producer/studio engineer. I would love to have produced and written some hit songs. I also want to have a song I produced and/or wrote in a movie.

I want to inspire other teens to go after their dreams, and to love music and stay determined. There are a lot of people who try to talk you out of doing what you love (I have had that happen to me before), but I really want people to realize how important it is to work hard, and to love what you do.

WiMN: How do you stay balanced between school, music, and G4G?

AC: Sometimes it’s really hard! Ever since I have started setting goals and priorities, it has become a lot easier. I try to carve out time every day to practice what I feel I need to most. I have started working with someone from Deviate to help me stay organized and focused (since I am one of those really creative types who has a hard time with that). I really try to keep a healthy lifestyle, and to exercise every day and eat well, so that definitely helps me get more done.

WiMN: Tell us about your experience working with Kevin Bacon and the Bacon Brothers.

AC: They were amazing! Someone from Kids on Stage had known them for a while, and there was a kid who was getting a guitar who hadn’t been able to receive it at camp, so Kevin and Michael Bacon signed the guitar for me to bring to him. They both have really inspired me to keep going, and to have fun doing what I love to do. They are really down to earth and super kind people.

WiMN: What are your hobbies that you enjoy doing during your down time?

AC: I really enjoy playing with my dog, Charlie, who is a lab mix. I like to read; Harry Potter is my favorite book and movie series! I also like to write and exercise.

WiMN: What are you plans for 2016 and for the future of G4G?

AC: This year, I want to start releasing some of my music and start producing other artists. I would also love to help other teens realize their dream and go after it, and to help get teens involved in running sound and producing.

As for the future of Guitars 4 Gifts, as mentioned above, I would like to be able to give guitars away internationally and to be able to help start more music programs. I have really loved helping with the one at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County.

Front and Center: D’Addario Foundation Executive Director, Suzanne D’Addario Brouder

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: D’Addario Foundation Executive Director, Suzanne D’Addario Brouder

Suzanne 2As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of musical accessories, strings, reeds, drum heads and more, D’Addario and Company have been part of the fiber of music for over 100 years.

In addition to providing top quality music products, the company has a separate mission that is carried out by the D’Addario Foundation and its Executive Director, Suzanne D’Addario Brouder.

A 4th generation D’Addario family member, D’Addario Brouder directs the non-profit organization as it inspires and assists the growth and appreciation of music throughout the world by partnering with passionate music educators.

For over 30 years, the D’Addario Foundation has relied on the generous support of D’Addario and Company to provide the resources to award grants and product donations to educational programs that offer sustained opportunities for active participation in music making – particularly to those that might not otherwise have the opportunity.

You can find out more at www.daddario.com and www.daddariofoundation.org.

WiMN: What influenced you to become involved in the music industry?

SDB: My family has been in the music industry for over 100 years in the U.S., manufacturing instrument accessories under the brands D’Addario strings for guitar, bass and orchestral instruments, Evans Drumheads, Promark Drumsticks, and Rico Reeds. Our ancestry as string makers goes back over 400 years to a small town in the Abruzzi region of Italy called Salle, where strings were made out of the intestines of animals. The town and the traditional string making still exists and there is a wonderful museum there honoring the string making families from the town.

WiMN: Tell us about the D’Addario Foundation. How did the foundation come about and what is its mission?

SDB: In the late ’70s, D’Addario had perfected professional quality classical guitar strings but could not get any artists to try them. My father and uncle also saw that up and coming artists were struggling to breakthrough and make a living. The D’Addario Foundation, in its first iteration, was born out of a desire to connect with these artists and support the development of their careers.

A Performance Series was established in New York and a few other cities to present talented emerging artists at that time, such as Ben Verdery, Paco Pena and Michael Newman and Laura Oltman. After about 10 years of presenting the series, the D’Addario Foundation decided to shift its focus to support music education programs as there appeared to be a very strong need.

WiMN: Can you tell us about any projects you’re currently working on for the Foundation?

SDB: The mission of the Foundation has changed as needs have changed in the landscape of music education. Starting in the ’70s we began to see music and arts programs being cut from regular school curriculums and unfortunately those cuts continue today. We are trying to offset the elimination of music instruction in schools by supporting private sector not-for-profits who go into a community and really feed that community with sustainable, intense and affordable or free instrument instruction. Our strength as an organization is in identifying the most transformative music education programs with the greatest chance for success and assisting with their growth and development.

Making it possible for kids to study music is an essential element to education and we want to support programs that give a child that opportunity through all stages of their education. Learning to play an instrument teaches collaboration, discipline, focus, resilience and confidence. It also has been proven to enhance a child’s academic ability not just in mathematics, but in language and science as well, unlocking abilities to think in creative and innovative ways. When given these opportunities, what we are given back are children making a conscience effort to be better citizens of the world.

In addition to supporting hundreds of not-for-profit programs annually, the D’Addario Foundation began its own El Sistema inspired instrument instruction program in a school district on Long Island close to the D’Addario headquarters. Many of D’Addario and Company’s employee’s children attend these schools and the schools in this district have not had a string program in over 30 years. We provide free instruments and instruction three days a week, for two hours a day, to a group of 40 3rd, 4th and 5th graders – 70% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. We hope to use this program as a call to action to our industry to express the importance of getting involved in supporting the development of these types of programs that make quality music education available.

WiMN: What is it like to be a member of such an important family in the music industry?

SDB: Wow, that is very nice, thanks. All of this success is born out of very, very hard work, but we do it for the love of the company, the legacy, and our consumers and employees. Just like the most impactful and gratifying things in life, it is an amazing blessing and an amazing challenge at times. Our business is truly an extension of our family. We spent our summers as children sitting in the factory hand-winding strings and now our children are learning about the business as well. We work really hard to maintain this culture even as we have grown and diversified. The challenge is the intensity of it, the desire to continue such a successful legacy, the demands of running a multi-brand global business, and the commitment to family and finding a way to maintain a healthy culture.

I always laugh when describing the dynamics of our business to my friends – my father, my brother, and my uncle are my bosses. Let’s just say that there is not a single family event or simple meal that takes place without some form of discussion about the business. I feel bad for our spouses.

WiMN: What is one little known fact about you?

SDB: Although I am a D’Addario, I never thought I would be a part of the family business. I left New York at age 17 to go to college and never returned to the East Coast –  I settled in Chicago and embarked on a career in fashion. I always had incredible respect and admiration for what my family had created but wanted to explore things independently and, frankly, my father always encouraged us to do so. In fact, we have written into a family constitution that our children – before being considered for a job in the family business – must work for someone else for a period of time.

WiMN: Who are some of your female heroes in the music industry – artists or otherwise?

SDB: I am more deeply rooted in the philanthropic side of the industry where female presence is actually pretty strong. So my female role models are people like Margaret Matlin; founder of the Harmony Project, Katherine Damkohler; executive director of Education Through Music, Felice Mancini; president of Mr. Holland’s Opus and Mary Louise Curtis Bok; founder of the Curtis Institute of Music. These women have collectively transformed the lives of thousands through their efforts to bring music education back into schools and communities in a deep and impactful way.

WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been any challenges?

SDB: This is certainly an industry dominated by males, and sure, that can lead to some challenges. But if you are interested in being a part of this industry, chances are you love music, so bringing that passionate and creative energy is the most important thing of all. I have met some really dynamic women, but we need to attract more at all levels from consumer to executive. Everyone in this business should be addressing the fact that we have not done that much to attract 51% of the population to music. It really is a great opportunity.

I would also say, as the mother of three boys, I feel a pretty heavy responsibility to teach the next generation of men to break some of these traditional cycles of thinking. These boys should never know that women do not get paid the same as men because of their gender, or women can’t get the same education as men simply because of their gender. I want to raise boys that can express their feelings, that believe in gender equality, and of course, it wouldn’t hurt if I could also teach them to cook and to put the toilet seat down.

WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career in the industry?

SDB: You definitely need a strong dose of determination and persistence. But most importantly, be authentic and believe that your differences can be a great contribution. I grew up listening to “Free to Be You and Me” in the ’70s, where the message was gender neutrality. Yet we still read headlines today about women in business who have to do much more in the workplace and are less indebted than their male counterparts. As I said earlier, we are at a tipping point in many ways and young women in this industry and beyond can be a part of a powerful shift.

Front and Center: GLAM Creator and Director, Amy Mertz

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: GLAM Creator and Director, Amy Mertz

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 5.59.07 PMGLAM (Girls Leadership Academy for Music) is an innovative new program for high school girls interested in pursuing leadership positions in their schools or careers.

Through workshops, guest speakers, practical rehearsal experience and more, attendees learn a variety of skills and gain the confidence to become musical leaders in their own communities.

As creator and director of GLAM, Amy Mertz utilizes her extensive background in music education to guide these young women. Mertz has taught music on both the elementary and middle school levels, and in addition to her work through GLAM, serves as assistant director for admissions and community programs at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University.

You can find out more about GLAM in our interview with Mertz below, and check them out online here.

WiMN: Can you tell us about your background in music and how you became affiliated with GLAM?

AM: My background is in music education. I have both a bachelors and masters in music education. I have taught elementary, middle school and college music, I have worked as a concert and operations manager, and am now the Assistant Director for Admissions and Community Programs at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University. As far as my affiliation with GLAM goes – I am the creator and director of the program.

WiMN: Tell us about GLAM. What is the goal and mission of the organization?

AM: GLAM stands for the “Girls Leadership Academy for Music.” The program is for high school girls involved in music with an interest in leadership. It is in its second year, and meets for a week (5 days) in July. The goal is to envelop young women in all of the skills that they need to be musical leaders in their schools communities, and ultimately have that spill into their lives as productive adults in the working world.

WiMN: What kind of programs/workshops does GLAM offer?

AM: GLAM has four main workshops: Personnel Leadership, Professional Leadership, Music Leadership and Event Planning.

These young women will go back to their schools and become leaders of a cappella groups, executive board members of their Tri-M society chapters, drum majors, section leaders, etc. Through the workshops they learn about budgeting, time management, how to “build a team,” how to run rehearsals, how to plan an event from start to finish and more.

There is also a practical component – we actually set the girls up with a small ensemble of their own to rehearse for the week, and the entire program culminates in a performance of all of those groups.They work with a mentor to evaluate their performance each day, and plan for the next rehearsal. “Academy” is where we address current events for women – for women in leadership and for women in music. We also bring in guest speakers to give the girls a sense of “what might come next,” as they contemplate their post-high school years.

WiMN: How can young women in high school benefit from participating in music?

AM: Music has such a breadth of leadership opportunities. Section leader, drum major, musical director, stage manager, music librarian – there are so many different options at that age and each would help build confidence and provide them with practical leadership experience. They also look pretty great on a resume or college application.

Plus, music has built in differentiation. Most sections are broken down in multiple parts such as “first violin” or “alto two.” Whether you plan to go on to a career in music, or you just happened to pick up that trumpet you found in your attic – if you dedicate yourself and practice – your peers will see that almost regardless of your ability level. You will be able to positively contribute to the whole, and that is a powerful feeling.

WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career in music?

AM: Think “broad.” Right now your experiences are likely limited to whatever your high school offers – and those are terrific – but there is a vast musical world out there. Thousands upon thousands of people make their lives in music everyday. They perform it, compose it, write about it, record it, teach it, promote it, film it, protect it, defend it – and most of us actually do a combination of those things. There are so many possibilities.

Talk to your music teachers, your peers attending music schools, your college admissions counselors, and reach out to people in the industry. The music world is small, and I’ve found that the majority of us are happy to help and advise the next generation.

WiMN: Who are some of your heroes in the industry – musicians or otherwise?

AM: Certainly Marin Alsop and JoAnn Faletta. Those two women are hardly the only female orchestral conductors, but their prominence in such high-level, full-time, professional orchestras means they bear the burden of helping pave the way for women in a predominantly male field. I hope that through their success and the success of other women, we start to converse about “conductors” rather than “female” or “male” conductors.

I did an exercise with the girls in GLAM this year where I asked them to raise their hands if they had been in orchestra, and to keep them raised if they had ever had a female orchestral conductor. One person kept their hand up and said “one time for an honors ensemble” but other than that, there was no one. It was a real revelation for the girls, who had never really noticed how the female music teachers had largely evaporated from their high school education.

WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges for you or any of your peers?

AM: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if there have been any challenges for me. Early in my career it didn’t even occur to me that we were still talking about gender equality. I thought that was already checked off the cultural “to do” list.

Some of my peers have reported to me that it can be tough to get gigs in male-dominated parts of the industry (like percussion, for example, or even high school band). Others have mentioned how the advice to women seeking jobs is often to make themselves look like more like a man – that they should wear a suit, minimal jewelry, minimal make up, hair pulled back, etc. So while I do not have any one horror story, there’s an accumulation of subtle things that add up.

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