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Lisa Borst of Fredericksburg All Ages performs at the Sharps Sessions. Borst would like to see more women in music.
BY RYAN BROSMER
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
This past Saturday evening, a small group of men and women gathered in the back of Read All Over Books to discuss an imbalance in the Fredericksburg music scene. The scene is, like the music industry as a whole, dominated by men.
This meeting, the first of a new initiative called Take Back the Stage, was organized jointly by Fredericksburg All Ages and Hollaback! Fredericksburg. Panelists discussed reasons why girls and women are underrepresented in the music scene, and suggested solutions for bringing more of them into the fold.
Kana Zink, leader of Hollaback! Fredericksburg, and Lisa Borst of FAA organized the event and facilitated the discussion with featured speakers Amy Scheer of Girls Rock! DC and Emilie Tweeddale of Richmond's West End Comedy troupe.
Zink made it clear early on that it's not the men in the music scene that are the problem, just the lack of women.
"We're not saying we don't love them, that they're not great bands," Zink said of the male musicians. "It's just a little unbalanced."
Hollaback! Fredericksburg is part of a larger national Hollaback! organization that looks to use social media to bring attention to the issue of street harassment. FAA has been working since 2008 to make the Fredericksburg music scene as inclusive as possible. Together, it's a good match of organizations to come up with solutions.
Zink, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music and a board-certified music therapist, hoped this initial meeting would help figure out what the next step will be.
Scheer suggested some initiatives similar to what Girls Rock! has tried. These include introductory-level music lessons, clinics to expose people to a variety of instruments, and something very simple:
"You have to ask, are you asking women and girls to play music?" Scheer said.
Scheer and Tweeddale, one a musician and one a comedian, both shared that they were "pushed" into their respective fields by friends who knew they had the desire.
"All of my guy friends were in bands," Scheer said, "And I desperately wanted to be in a band."
A friend recognized this desire and pushed her to join in. Sheer suggested that such encouragement is one of the most important and most lacking ingredients to get girls involved in music.
Lisa Robinson, a musician from Arlington, was in attendance and shared her own challenges balancing societal expectations, familial responsibilities and music.
"I had kids and I was their primary caretaker," said Robinson, a piano and fiddle player. "So I wrote my music as midnight. I had less time to work than a man might."
Add those sort of gender-role expectations to the often hyper-masculine world of music, and it can create an uncomfortable atmosphere.
"For a long time, it's been very much a boys' club," FAA vice president Janus Chidester said of rock and punk music. "Females weren't really accepted. The shows are very masculine."
Zink came out of the event feeling positive about the future of women in the Fredericksburg music scene.
"A major theme that I walked away with is that not only can providing gear, community space, and outlets to perform and develop a craft like music be vital, it is also just, if not more, important to provide role models," Zink said. "We need to increase billing female-fronted bands at FAA and we need to set up a mentor program with female musicians for young women."
In the end, Zink hopes Take Back the Stage will inspire others to take more of a lead role in changing the music scene for the better.
"We're not here to save the world, or Downtown Fredericksburg," Zink said.
"But we want people of all ages and genders to come together and realize that there is an imbalance in this town's creativity process and then do something about it together. And then somewhere down the road, we won't have to call someone a female drummer, but just an awesome drummer."
Ryan Brosmer is perfectly willing to give back the stage if you just ask nicely.