Girls Rock empowers female musicians

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As a drummer and blogger, I have discovered three areas that remain vital for the success of female musicians: education, visibility and community.

The Girls Rock Columbia “Volunteer and Supporter Showcase” event on March 28 at New Brookland Tavern promoted all three. The venue is on 122 State St, West Columbia, S.C.

Girls Rock Columbia is a week-long day camp where girls between the ages 7-18 choose an instrument to learn, write a song and perform in a band. The camp is intended to build girls’ self-esteem through music education and performance.

Girls Rock Columbia is one of 43 camps that make up Girls Rock Camp Alliance, a coalition founded in 2007 at the initiative of Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, a nonprofit organization.

In its third year, Girls Rock Columbia, lead by camp organizers Mollie Williamson and Jessica Bornick, hosted an event for women over the age of 18 to do just what the campers do.

When I first saw the flyer advertising the event, I immediately became excited for a couple reasons. First, I was thrilled to participate because it would allow me to play drums for the first time all semester, as my kit is four hours away at my house.

Secondly, I knew it would increase visibility of female musicians in the Columbia area while building a community for women in music.

Women make up only 26.9 percent of professional musicians, singers and related workers, according to a 2013 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stereotypes surrounding women in music contribute significantly to the low number.

Studies conducted in the 1970s through today show that, from a very early age, people associate gender with certain instruments.

Women are widely unrepresented in popular music, unless they are portrayed as sexualized objects. Female musicians in nearly every genre are often judged by their gender rather than by their ability. In the 32 years of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s existence, women claim only 49 spots of the total list of 299 inductees.

Two months before the showcase, I began practicing with my band members, who were all grouped randomly and who didn’t have experience playing their instruments. Many other participants had little or no experience playing an instrument. Collectively, we fulfilled the purpose of the showcase: to promote an environment for women to express themselves through music, regardless of ability.

Practicing, writing a song and performing with three other strangers – all brought together through a love for music– was a very uniquely powerful experience. We supported each other despite our different abilities, and I grew as a musician and individual as a result.

The showcase was a bigger success than expected.

“I thought 20 women might sign up. Forty-four signed up. I didn’t know if people would show. It sold out,” Williamson said.

More than 200 people packed the venue for the event, which lasted nearly three hours.

Performing and watching other women perform in a noncompetitive environment was unique and encouraging.

Community is an essential part of growth and success in any field. Girls need role models. Women need colleagues.

We must continue educating, learning, connecting, performing and striving.

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