Chicks, chords and chardonnay: How all girl music classes are turnin’ mama hensinto songbirds
You can’t participate unless you are over 21 and female.
The over 21 part is for good reason — the first thing you hear when you walk in the door is “white or red?” And a few minutes into it, some of the language being used by the women involved is no longer PG rated.
The female requirement is in some ways out of necessity: “If we let dudes in here it would change the dynamic,” Girl Guitar founder, teacher and multi-instrumentalist Mandy Rowden explains.
“While the music is really important, I want them to get as good and as strong as they can be. I also just recognize the need for just face to face human contact."
“I’m not a feminist and have never said ‘girl power’ or some shit like that. These women just wouldn’t thrive this way in any other environment…because it’s just women, they relax some.”
Girl Guitar is one part music lesson, one part confidence builder, one part girls’ night out social club. It’s a formula that’s celebrating five years of success in Austin. Rowden says Girl Guitar has grown organically and started because she was looking for a way to make some quick cash to get her cell phone turned back on. One successful class in 2007 turned into a thriving business.
“Sometimes I just think I’m the luckiest person. Like how did this happen? You know what I do for fun is hang out and play music and drink wine with people who are hilarious and kind and cool and I get paid for it.”
In addition to guitar, songwriting and singing classes, Girl Guitar offers band classes, putting together a singer, guitar player, drummer and bassist. At the end of 6 weeks, the bands get a chance to gig at Antone’s.
Rowden says her clientele ranges from experienced pickers to up and comers to housewives and moms looking to get out of the house and do something they’ve always wanted to do — learn a musical instrument or join a band.
“While the music is really important, I want them to get as good and as strong as they can be. I also just recognize the need for just face to face human contact — a glass of wine and a nice relaxing evening with a bunch of fun cool people. It’s invigorating and necessary I think.”
Her students will testify to the impact spending an hour a week with some fellow female musicians can have. “It’s just changed my life. It’s made me a better musician definitely. It’s also made me a lot happier. I think it’s made me a more pleasant person all the way around. ” Susan Stockton, a mother of four who loves to sing says. She’s taken several Girl Guitar sessions.
“When you walk in here it’s just relaxed and fun and there’s a lot of laughter and a lot of opportunity to do your very best,” she says. She’s now learning guitar and even jamming with her kids.
“I think for me it’s great to learn but better yet is the camaraderie with the women that we have. They’re incredible…and everyone just gels.”
Karen Jones committed to learning guitar as a New Year’s resolution at the start of 2011. She tackled guitar first and is now learning to play bass. “It’s very empowering,” Jones says. “I’m 50 and for someone my age…they always talk about old dogs and new tricks and to be able to sit down and be able to do it when you were told all these years you’re probably not very good at it…and even if I’m not good at it, I would never know because Mandy is so encouraging and all the women in the class — nobody tells you 'you suck.' Everyone tells you how great you are."
During my session with Karen, Susan, Emily and Mandy, I saw first-hand the magic created when you get a handful of women in one room with a common goal, a guitar and a glass of wine.
“I think for me it’s great to learn but better yet is the camaraderie with the women that we have. They’re incredible…and everyone just gels,” Jones says.
While Girl Guitar has helped Mandy Rowden keep her cell phone on for years now, she says she gets much more out of it than a paycheck.
“It’s the relationships, the friendships. I mean music is obviously fun and clearly that’s something I’m into and have fun doing, but it’s like all these people didn’t know each other coming in but I see all these really kick ass friendships being formed.”
Whether you’re an experienced musician or have no idea how to play a G chord, Rowden says you’ll get something out of Girl Guitar.