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: Live Nation Marketing Manager, Raychel Sabath

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: Live Nation Marketing Manager, Raychel Sabath

By Myki Angeline

Many musicians dream of making it big in the music industry. Securing that dream recording contract. Nailing the big break with a hit single that gains a million downloads. Performing in sold out venues packed with 50,000 screaming fans – all of them singing along to every song. In order for this type of success to be maintained, an artist’s work needs the right type of marketing and promotion. It simply isn’t enough to be talented; you need the right skills and platform that will bring your music to the people.

Raychel Sabath knows the importance of marketing musicians. As the Marketing Manager with Live Nation, which boasts to be the global leader for live entertainment, her drive to bring an artist or band’s dream to fruition is truly inspiring. She recently relocated to Sacramento, California from Washington D.C. and has quickly fallen in love with their local music community. I reached out to Sabath to pick her brain for this enlightening interview via the WiMN.

WiMN: Tell us about your role as the Marketing Manager with Live Nation in Sacramento, CA (Ace of Spades).  What is a typical work day like? And what is your favorite part in this field?

RS: As a marketing manager with Live Nation Clubs & Theaters, I handle all show and brand marketing for our Sacramento clubs and theaters. So—not only do I handle Ace of Spades, I also work with Punch Line Sacramento!

The typical work day for me is atypical; I love having a job that keeps me on my toes. I handle building out unique paid advertising campaigns for our concerts and venues, scheduling press, creating ideas on fun social media campaigns, planning activations. Even helping with logistics and ops when I can.

My favorite part about working in the entertainment industry is simply knowing on a daily basis I have a part in someone’s best day ever. We have the honor of working with a variety of artists and their dedicated fans, and I love knowing that someone is experiencing a memorable night with their favorite artist in our venue. One of my favorite things is to watch a show from the artist’s perspective and to see fans connecting, singing along, and being fully immersed in the moment.

WiMN: You recently relocated to Sacramento, California. Where did you work before? What was the music scene like there, compared to Sacramento?

RS: I relocated to Sacramento from the Washington DC area. I was working with Live Nation Clubs & Theaters division there as well. In regards to the main venues, I focused on marketing with The Fillmore Silver Spring and Warner Theatre. However, there were many third party venues I had the opportunity to collaborate with as well.

The music scene in DC is pretty strong, but like any market it always ebbs and flows.

What impresses me about the Sacramento scene, is that there is an extremely active community behind it.

WiMN: What influenced you to work in the music industry?

RS: I think everyone is initially starry eyed about the idea of working in the entertainment industry. For me, it was the behind the scenes efforts that really sucked me in. On any given event, club sized or arena, there is a team of people helping to book, market, and build that show. There are so many thankless jobs – and those are the ones that really make the show happen.

WiMN: What sets Live Nation apart from the rest?

RS: Live Nation is unique because of the people that are part of our team! Yes, we are the world’s largest live entertainment company, but in order to maintain that status we have to have a solid team.

An awesome team needs a worthy leader. Our CEO Michael Rapino is an amazing human being. He does a great job making sure employees have access to excellent benefits and programs, including tuition assistance, a Sabbatical Program, and even paid time off to volunteer your time with a community organization.

WiMN: Tell us about your role as the Sr. Producer at HeyDays Vintage TV. How did this project come about?

RS: HeyDays Vintage TV is a fun project that I’ve worked on with my cousin, Nico. She is passionate about all things vintage and retro. She looped me in when she was developing the show and helped me further develop my video production experience. I also got to appear as talent on a few segments, being on camera is not as easy as some people make it look! Definitely a fun experience, I love producing content and video.

WiMN: Do you play any musical instruments?

RS: The piano and guitar, but it’s been a minute!

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

RS: Overall, I’ve had a positive experience as a woman in the music industry. I think the biggest challenge is getting started – sometimes you really have to work harder, be faster, be better, and be funnier than all the guys. But, the industry isn’t as much of the old boys club that it used to be. You’d be amazed at the strong women that are the backbone of the entertainment industry. I’m pleased to see diversity among my colleagues and contemporaries, and this definitely contributes to the high quality of work that is produced.

WiMN: Where did you grow up and who are some of your mentors and icons who helped influence your path into the music industry?

RS: I grew up in Maryland, and went to school in Northern Virginia. The DC area is definitely what I consider home.

Honestly, the biggest influence of my path into the music industry when I was growing up was our local music scene. There was a large, strong community of local musicians and fans. We were our own music incubator. As a community, bands were formed, shows were booked, There were marketing campaigns, and everyone came out to support. This solidified my dedication to my career path.

My biggest mentor has been Dr. Lisa Passaglia Bauman. She is without a doubt one of the most interesting humans that I have the pleasure of calling a mentor and friend. She encouraged me to pursue a second degree on a topic I was just plain passionate about [art history]. She has always taken the time to grab coffee and discuss life and career goals, always accompanied by some sound guidance on how to handle a variety of situations.

WiMN: Do you have any advice you would like to share with other women who are considering a career in the music industry?

My advice is for everyone. Dedicate yourself. Be passionate. Be proactive. Ask questions. Remember small things matter. Never stop learning and always be open to constructive criticism. Take responsibility for positive and negative situations. And above all: be a good communicator. Communication –  good communication –  is key to success in any industry.

Front and Center: Artist and Multi-Instrumentalist, ZZ Ward

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: Artist and Multi-Instrumentalist, ZZ Ward

By Laura B Whitmore

Critically acclaimed artist and multi-instrumentalist ZZ Ward is set to release her second full-length album, The Storm, on June 30. The Storm summons the ghosts of ZZ’s chief inspirations such as Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Big Mama Thornton, while echoing over soundscapes situated between gritty hip-hop bounce and moody guitar-and-harmonica riffs.

With a soul-shaking voice and incendiary guitar and harmonica chops, ZZ Ward has consistently delivered powerful neo-blues steeped in hip-hop swagger since the release of her breakout mixtape, Eleven Roses.

2012’s full-length debut, Til The Casket Drops, boasted raucous bluesy anthems like the title track and “Put The Gun Down,” which racked up over 7.4 million Spotify streams and counting, claimed a spot in the Top 10 of AAA radio for 10 weeks, and landed high-profile syncs in the box office smash We’re The Millers, among others. The album also featured standout collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Freddie Gibbs.

Ward is currently on tour in support of this new release. Here we sat down with the supremely talented ZZ to talk about the inspiration for The Storm and more! 

ZZ Ward’s latest album, The Storm, will release on June 30. Find out more at zzward.com

The WiMN: So this album was a very personal direction for you. Was this a cleansing of the demons?

ZW: Yes, it really was for me. I had found inspiration through some of my past relationships and things that didn’t work out. You know, you break up with people, and I had been moving so fast that I hadn’t really had a chance to address a lot of stuff. So this album really was a cleaning out my closet and facing my demons.

The WiMN: Do you feel like, ok, even though you are going to have to play these songs for the rest of your life, that now you can move to a new place?

ZW: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll be in a different place, but the good thing about me is that I do make more out of less. There are pros and cons to that. When you’re a songwriter it’s good because you think about things so much, and they become kind of monumental in your mind. And with that comes the ability to capture a moment.

The WiMN: The songs are so personal but they feel so universal. Do you keep a journal?

ZW: I don’t keep a journal. But I think that sometimes things get stirred up after a relationship is over. You see that person, or you are reminded of all the feelings you once felt for that person. It might be different with each song, but usually if I feel something like that I quickly go to write the song, because I know that you have to capture it when it’s that raw feeling. Because if you wait too long then you are not in that moment any more. So with this things were just stirred up, and as soon as I felt something I tried to capture it.

The WiMN: Your groove is an important part of what makes your songs feel so different. What is your songwriting process like? Do you start with a groove or work on lyrics first?

ZW: It’s different with every song. Sometimes I’ll start with a lyrical idea and a concept. Once you’ve figured out the concept for a song I think the rest is downhill. Because really you can have a great melody, but if you don’t have a feeling or an emotion behind the song, then it’s not special enough for me. So for me it’s usually concept first, but sometimes it will start with a melody that just gives me a certain feeling that will connect with me to tell a certain story over it. I think that’s the beauty of songwriting. You really never have full control over it. You’re almost out of control when you’re writing, and that’s what’s so challenging about it. It’s not like a skill that you get down so good that you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got it.” It keeps you on the edge of your seat! And that’s the highs and lows of being an artist, too.

The WiMN: Let’s talk about gear for a minute. What’s your go to guitar?

ZW: I play two different guitars. I play a Collings acoustic/electric. I love it. It’s the best guitar I’ve ever played. It has a really nice, deep sound to it and I love the way it feels on my hands when I play it. It’s a beautiful guitar. And then I also play a Fender – it’s a white Stratocaster – which is also just a great guitar. I love the sound out of it. So those are my two babies.

The WiMN: Tell me a little bit about how you got into playing guitar and writing.

ZW: Songwriting I got into through my dad. He was a songwriter and always encouraged me to be creative and supported that. I started writing pretty young, maybe 12 or 13. I used to sit at the piano at my aunt’s house and come up with melodies on piano. I was encouraged to be creative and as a kid, and when you are encouraged to do that, that’s all you need to just kind of go for it.

I got into guitar a little later. I started learning to play when I was 17. My guitar instructor was in the blues band that I was in growing up. He was a great teacher. I think he was also the vice principal of my school. So instead of going to lunch I would go into his office and get a guitar lesson. He was a really cool guy. And I tried to learn everything that I could, really knowing that I use a guitar to help me write songs. It gives me a foundation to help me be creative.

The WiMN: I was thinking about why your songs sound so special. You took the blues and brought it to a new place. Who are your more modern influences?

ZW: I would say my modern influences are people that are influenced by older music and have a way of making that contemporary. And have a way of keeping it authentic. I think some examples of people that have done that are The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes. I think I’m most influenced by people like that because I think that’s kind of where I’m at. I’m very into the blues, and so how do you make that work with a very old form of music and make it work for what’s going on right now? And so I think that anyone who can do that and also keep it authentic is a real influence on me.

The WiMN: Do you write a song that feels more traditional and then just funk it up? Or does it come out that way?

ZW: It depends on what it is. Sometimes if I’ve written a song that feels good in a traditional sense I can sit down and play it on guitar or I can play it with a band, and I know that it would feel good, then I know that when I go in with a producer that I need to make it special. That’s where I add my hip-hop flavor or whatever it is. If the song is good by itself with just guitar, vocal, piano, then the rest is just a calculation of finding the right person to produce it and makes the most sense in bringing your vision to life.

The WiMN: I love how your music introduces a new generation to this classic genre of the blues.

ZW: I did a Son House cover of “Grinnin’ in Your Face” on the last tour and someone came up to me and they had a tattoo of “Don’t You Mind People Grinnin’ in Your Face” on their arm. And I was like, “Woah, great tattoo!” And they said, “I got it after you introduced me to Son House.” And that was a really cool feeling!

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: 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: Vice President of EarthQuaker Devices, Julie Robbins

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: Vice President of EarthQuaker Devices, Julie Robbins

By Lina Bhambhani

One of the most respected manufacturers in the guitar effect pedal community, EarthQuaker Devices started in a basement in Akron, Ohio and is now an international phenomenon employing 50+ proud guitar nerds.

EarthQuaker has received numerous awards, including NAMM “Best in Show,” Guitar World Gold Award, and Premier Guitar Editor’s Pick, with the goal to bring their unique effects to tone-hungry and experimentally-inclined guitarists worldwide.

The company could not have reached this level of success without Vice President Julie Robbins. As the wife of company founder Jamie Stillman, Robbins has assisted her husband since the beginning in making EarthQuaker the premier pedal builder it is today.

Find out Robbins’ story below, and for more on EarthQuaker Devices, visit earthquakerdevices.com.

The WiMN: Tell us about the path that led to the creation of EarthQuaker Devices. What kind of work did you do prior to starting the company?

JR: It was a pretty long one! My husband Jamie Stillman and I have been involved in the music industry for a long time, but on the other side of it. I think EarthQuaker was a natural extension of our skills and interests. We were both always entrepreneurial and started our first business together in our teens.

When I met Jamie in the late ’90s he was running a record label called Donut Friends out of Kent, OH and touring in bands. I was going to college at Baldwin Wallace University via their SPROUT (Single Parents Reaching Out for Unassisted Tomorrows) Program. At some point, I met up with his band for a tour of the West Coast he had booked himself and thought I could do better! I started a booking agency called Musical Adventures and at one point was booking around forty bands.

After college, we did all kinds of stuff to make ends meet. I have done everything from gift wrapping wine bottles to selling silverware on eBay. Jamie did freelance graphic design and tour managing.

After a serious health scare (a DVT!), I felt that I needed stability and benefits, so I got a job at a local bank as a banker. I eventually worked up to a position as a financial planner, getting my Series 7, 66 and life and health insurance licenses, and was halfway through certification as a CFP. I worked with a lot of small business owners and really absorbed as much as could – about what to do and what not to do. I always respected the business owners who were hard working and generous, and that is how I try to be.

It was when we had our daughter Sylvia in 2005 that Jamie was home with her and while she slept he started tinkering with pedals. For a few years, he was completely obsessed with understanding circuitry and experimenting with designs. Actually, not that much has changed!

In 2009 we hired our first employee, Jeff France, who is still with us today as Production Manager. We gradually started hiring more people who were working out of our basement. I was always afraid to leave the bank because it was our source of health insurance.

In 2011, I had one of those midlife wake up calls – the suicide of my son’s father. I decided life was too short and I wanted to have more control of my life and decided to go all in on EarthQuaker. It was the best decision I ever made in my life.

The WiMN: What were the early days of the company like? What was it like to be such a small operation?

JR: It was a very small operation! Jamie would tinker and build all day. I remember him spray painting enclosures in the garage and staying up all night soldering. I would come home after work to help with the books and assembling/boxing. Then when we hired Jeff things really started moving. They were super dedicated and worked like crazy. I remember those two were cranking out 100 pedals a week!

After that, we hired an employee or two just about every six months. At one point there were seven or eight people working in the basement. They all still work for us today! We didn’t listen to the advice you always hear and hired a lot of our friends. The important thing is to hire your friends who are super smart, responsible, hardworking sweethearts who will give you 100%. All of our employees feel invested in our company and it shows.

Things actually aren’t too different from the early days. We still do things in a very similar way, just on a larger scale. We never really took ourselves too seriously and like to keep things fun. I think it might be a Midwestern thing. You don’t really worry about being cool or what anybody thinks of you, you just work super hard and let everyone else decide what they think about it! Life is rough so try to get in some good laughs.

The WiMN: Give us an idea of what kind of company EarthQuaker has grown into — what is a typical work day like for you now?

JR: In 2015, EQD moved in to a 15,000 square-foot building in downtown Akron. We were bursting at the seams crammed into our old shop and had no room to hire any extra office help. Even after the move we had to do serious work to get our infrastructure set up to support a company of our size. Once we had the infrastructure ready we brought in more administrative roles.

I like promoting from within, and my senior management started as builders and showed enthusiasm for the positions we were creating. They understood the products, processes and culture. Coming from a punk rock background, we don’t care about stuff that isn’t important. We direct all of our energy to what is critical for us.

My work day involves a lot of meetings! I have meetings with my production, management, marketing, international sales and party planning teams on a weekly basis. I also have one-on-one meetings with key managers weekly or bi-weekly. So I live by my calendar!

I spend the rest of my time paying bills and solving problems of varying degrees of complexity. I try to fit in Pilates twice a week. I get soup delivered once a week by Splendid Spoon, which has been a game changer for me! I don’t need to think about lunch and can eat healthy. Because I work with my husband, we are never really not working. Mornings and evenings are great times for us to talk things through and brainstorm.

The WiMN: Do you play guitar or another instrument(s)? What is your favorite pedal made by EarthQuaker?

JR: No, I don’t play any instruments. Unless a spreadsheet is an instrument and then I am a virtuoso!

My favorite pedal is the Avalanche Run. It was an idea for so long, and it came to fruition exactly as awesome as we wanted it to be. I am super proud of that one!

The WiMN: Outside of EarthQuaker, what do you like to do in your free time?

JR: In my free time I like driving my kids around, cooking dinner, and doing Pilates. I also love traveling, and we are very fortunate that we have a lot of opportunities to do that.

Lately I have gotten into a lot of great podcasts. I never have time to read books anymore and podcasts have begun to replace them, for me, in terms of that kind of distraction or information. If I am pondering a question or problem, I like finding some relevant podcasts to give me perspective. I am a total news hound and love the coverage of podcasts like Democracy Now.

So, yeah, I’m pretty exciting! Woooo!

The WiMN: Tell us about your experience as women working in this industry. Have there been any challenges you’ve had to overcome?

JR: Having a child so young was very difficult. I was 18 and had my son a month before high school graduation. I didn’t have the support of my family so I had to do it on my own. I was really lucky to go to Baldwin Wallace. The SPROUT program allowed me to live on campus year-round for the price of room and board. There was a great daycare on campus. I lived with other women in the same situation and we supported one another. That experience also really set my mindset. I think I felt like I was ultimately responsible for myself and my child, and I hold myself to high standards. But I can’t worry about what anyone else really thinks about what I’m doing. I have to do what is best for us and it’s not my problem if you don’t like it!

There were definitely challenges as a woman in the banking industry. The glass ceiling is real. The whole system really did not accommodate being a mom. I was completely underpaid for the work I was doing. There was no flexibility.

The music industry in general is very male-dominated on every side. I think about it a lot – why it is like that and how it can change? But I am pretty insulated here in Akron. I’m the boss so nobody is going to discriminate against me. My employees are super respectful and total sweethearts. When we were small, I used to be the only woman. When we started growing I was able to hire more women, and I think that is really important. We are not as balanced as I would like but its closer than it has ever been.

When we are doing our marketing, I am always pushing my team to present the world we want to live in. So it isn’t all white guys with beards. I am really proud of our most recent product launch for the Erupter. We did some teaser videos leading up to the announcement featuring some of our employees as bad-ass Viking women sacking our factory to build the perfect fuzz. I want to do away with the labels “female musician” and bikini models. I want a culture that is inclusive of all kinds of people, so that is what I try to create internally and project externally.

The biggest challenge I have right now as a woman is running a household and business with your spouse and maintaining your sanity and sense of humor. I now have the flexibility to do stuff like take my kids to the dentist or whatever. That is something I pass along to my employees. We offer very flexible shift scheduling so people can juggle things around the way that works best for them. If you have the right people, this works really well.

The WiMN: Can you share some advice for young women looking to enter this industry?

JR: YES! Young women, please join the music industry. We need you. Don’t let anybody fuck with your confidence! You got this.

The WiMN: What’s next for you and EarthQuaker Devices?

JR: I am really focusing on our infrastructure and growing our international markets. EarthQuaker Devices just launched our latest pedal, the Erupter Fuzz on May 10.

There are a lot of videos we are working that I am really excited about. As far as new products, we have tons of cool stuff in the works, but it’s all still a secret!

 

Front and Center: Americana Singer and Songwriter, Shannon McNally

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: Americana Singer and Songwriter, Shannon McNally

By Myki Angeline

Sometimes, the greatest gifts are born from our lowest points in life. It’s often said that there can be no light without darkness. Songwriter Shannon McNally lives out these ideas with the amazing talent and strength displayed on her latest album, Black Irish. 

The album concept began back in 2013 during personal struggles for McNally who experienced both a painful divorce, and having to care for her terminally ill mother all while raising her daughter, Maeve. She had difficulty writing and found solace in playing songs by artists she found inspiration from. It was when McNally connected with producer and Americana icon Rodney Crowell that the album began to take off.

McNally was raised in Long Island, NY and has lived in Los Angeles and even New Orleans, but makes her home in the Mississippi hill country. As an activist, she lives her life as the change she wishes to see in the world by bringing awareness to it. I reached out to her and learned more about this inspiring artist, mother, and activist.

To learn more about this inspiring woman and purchase Black Irish, visit her website: shannonmcnally.com

WiMN: When did you become interested in music and what led you to a career in this industry?

SM: My folks played a lot of music around the house. They weren’t musicians but they had a great record collection. So I’ve always listened to music closely. I got a guitar when I was twelve and discovered the blues. It didn’t occur to me to try to be a professional musician until I met and saw the band Los Lobos just after college. Something just clicked. I got signed shortly after that.

WiMN: Would you tell us a little more about your new album, Black Irish which is set to release June 9?

SM: Black Irish is my tenth album. It feels like with it, a lot of personal circles are completing. The phrase “Black Irish” means different things to different people. To me it conjures images of the Irish immigrants who left Ireland in droves for the new world of whom I am descended. They brought with them the verse/chorus song structure and story telling traditions that we associate with folk and country music as well as the blues. When that was mixed with African rhythms it made that incredible art form known as rock and roll. As an artist I feel tied to both the future and and the past. I try to draw from both in the present.

WiMN: Do you have a song that really stands out to you from this new album?

SM: ”Banshee Moan” is about the power of the subconscious female voice waiting to know itself fully. Everyday we get closer to it. When it blows it will change our collective consciousness for the better. Right now our culture is still dreadfully afraid of female power because it’s misunderstood. As humans begin to be truly honest with themselves on a deep primal level beyond fear (of women) we will know peace.

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

SM: Well, I’ve played clubs where the green room was actually the men’s room (yes, a bathroom with urinals on the wall and everything). It was as though it never occurred to anyone that there might be a woman in the band, and if it did occur to them, they didn’t give a damn. It has felt to me many times that the industry (like many industries) has so over looked our existence that I wondered if in fact I was invisible.

Male-centered society has felt nearly impenetrable to me most of my life. The challenge for me has been to find myself as an adult woman with very few role models. Being a woman can be a challenge to camaraderie with other artists. As I get older the subtleties of being a straight female artist with a strong streak of male energy gets easier to manage but it takes a long time and a super human determination to stay in the ring sometimes. It also helps to stop caring who likes it and who doesn’t.

WiMN: Tell us more about your role as an activist and any current projects you have in the works.

SM: Being an activist is as much about embodying the change you want to see in the world as it is being politically active. I do both. I try to bring my whole spirit, sense of right and wrong, sense of truth and humor, poetry, sensuality, my sense of song and history to the stage with me. It’s a tall order that I’m still working on. I don’t think of saying my truth as a kind of conflict. I don’t like conflict so I try to approach subjects from a common beginning and humor.

The top of my list right now is bringing people’s awareness to the planet as a living and sacred organism. Of utmost importance to me as well, is the idea that women and only women should have control of their own bodies. Motherhood is highly misunderstood to be something more like a simple vessel when looked at through a patriarchal lens. Having been pregnant I assure you that mother and child are a single being for an incalculable length of time and that forced pregnancies and forced abortions are equally cruel and wrong.

WiMN: Describe a day in the life of Shannon McNally. 

SM: I spend as much time as possible being still, being quiet and being grateful. I am very sensitive to noise, smells, visual order and energy. As such, taking care of myself and my child by eating clean and getting good sleep take up a good bit of my day. Waiting for songs to strike, feeding my soul with good music and putting my hands in the garden dirt are my hobbies.

WiMN: What are some positive changes you aspire to make in the industry?

SM: I would like to see more humor on stage. I would also like to see the words “content provider” be replaced with “artist.” Art is not “content.” To be reduced to content or filler is degrading and demoralizing. The system is backwards.

WiMN: How many instruments can you play?

SM: I play guitar and sing as well as little bit of violin and even less piano.

WiMN: Let’s wrap up with one of your favorite quotes…

SM: “There’s two kinds of music; the blues and zippity do dah.”

Below, watch the video for “Banshee Moan.”

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: Singer and Songwriter, BeLL

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: Singer and Songwriter, BeLL

By Lina Bhambhani

Singer and songwriter BeLL started her career by writing for other artists, including Natalie Imbruglia and The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue. She has collaborated with renowned producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and David Hodges (Kelly Clarkson, 5 Seconds of Summer), and has had songs placed in a Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial as well as popular TV shows The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars.

BeLL recently debuted a haunting cover of REM’s “Losing My Religion” that reached #1 on Hype Machine and has earned her plenty of industry and blog buzz. Since then she has taken another massive step forward with the sizzling original “Bang Bang (Remember My Name).” The powerful song has already made its way into the new trailer for ABC Family’s Famous In Love and is destined to build BeLL’s rapidly growing fan base.

BeLL spends her spare time volunteering as a keys instructor in the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls and Awaken Arts, teaching songwriting to at-risk youth girls. She is currently donating proceeds from “Losing My Religion” to the National Center of Victims of Crime.

Get to know more about BeLL at iambellofficial.com.

The WiMN: What inspired you to choose a path in music?

BeLL: I grew up listening to Paul Simon and was inspired by artists like Michael Jackson, Queen, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Stevie Nicks. I started writing songs on piano at age seven, and it was a passion I just never outgrew. When I realized there was absolutely nothing else I’d rather be doing, I moved to Los Angeles and hit the ground running.

The WiMN: Tell us about your cover of REM’s “Losing My Religion.” Why did you choose the song?

BeLL: I collaborated on that one with talented female producer/songwriter Adrianne Gonzalez; we’re both REM fans and thought the song and it’s message was haunting and powerful. The song always struck a chord in me. I interpreted it as a portrayal of the heartbreaking effects of religion being used to justify violence and ignorant hatred. It was an honor working with female director/photographer Jen Rosenstein on the music video for it as well.

The WiMN: Any other musical projects you can tell us about?

BeLL: I’m honored to be collaborating with some top-notch producers and songwriters, including the amazing Paul Williams. I’ve been a big fan of Paul’s work for a long time and it’s been a dream come true cowriting with him for my new releases.

The WiMN: Have you faced any challenges being a woman in the music industry? How did you overcome them?

BeLL: First of all, I’m grateful to have the privilege of working with great men in the music industry who respect women and aren’t threatened by strong females who know what they want. I also have the honor of working with talented women who are supportive and see me as a teammate rather than competition. That being said, I have had my fair share of challenges.

I’ve had writing sessions that were uphill battles, especially at the beginning of my songwriting career. It felt like I needed to jump through hoops to be heard and seen as a peer. Often my ideas were more questioned and second-guessed than my male cowriters.

When approached by producers or managers interested in working with me, it was discouraging whenever I found out too late that their motives were not business-related.

Specifically, I was once told that my choice in drum sounds were too “masculine” and that my voice would be more attractive if it wasn’t so “bass-y.” I’ve been in sessions where if the song didn’t literally turn them on, they said it was a waste of time.

In a male-dominated industry, we can either choose to let hardships make us bitter or wiser; either one is a choice. I would not have survived this long in this industry if it weren’t for my healthy, supportive relationships. I just kept putting myself out there and learned from mistakes as I went. Setting healthy boundaries helped. As I worked with more people, I started seeing red flags right away and started developing relationships with talented, trustworthy people. I try not to let bad experiences taint the good ones. It’s a weeding-out process finding relationships with mutual respect. Just keep in mind that you’re not alone and don’t give up!

The WiMN: Who are some of your musical heroes?

BeLL: Sia, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton and Nancy Sinatra.

The WiMN: Tell us about your experience volunteering with L.A. Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls.

BeLL: I’m so grateful to be a part of it. I volunteer as a piano instructor. It’s so important for young girls to see women in the music industry working together and supporting each other. The media cultivates and encourages women to be in competition with each other. It’s organizations like this Rock Camp for Girls that allow young girls to be inspired and see teamwork among women played out. Also, they are encouraged to be themselves; It’s pretty cool seeing shy girls come out of their shells when they have a safe space to improve at something they love doing.

The WiMN: Any words of advice for young women looking to pursue a career in music?

BeLL: Be willing to learn and grow in your craft, but listen to your gut. Regardless of where you are in your career, be humble. It will take you farther than you think.

The WiMN: What’s next for you?

BeLL: I’m getting ready to debut a song that is airing on an episode of Freeform’s new TV series Famous in Love on May 16 and will be booking some shows along the West Coast in the meantime. Very excited to release the new material I’ve been cowriting with Paul Williams as well!

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.