Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My latest column for the Sentinel Newspaper


 Let’s hear it for the Girls!
           In the Zone by Tommie Vaughn

When I was a little girl, all I wanted to do was sing. I would grab a hairbrush, jump onto the brick bench that was built into our fireplace and instantly I was on stage performing for everyone (or no-one) who would give me a chance.  My parents would laugh and shake their heads in wonder at me, calling me their “dramatic child” but never really knowing what to do about it. Sure they thought I was cute in my many performances, but never did it occur to them that maybe, just maybe they should put me in some music lessons, dance or performance class.
Who am I kidding, I’m not really sure anything like that existed at the time in my sleepy small coastal town in Oregon, but come on, maybe piano lessons or something? Nope. My parents watched me my whole youth perform in any way I could, so they weren’t too surprised when I moved to Los Angeles, CA to pursue my singing dreams, but they never really understood it all the same. I think it scared them more than anything, frightened for my well being in the big city, afraid that I would be naïve and get myself into trouble.
Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock n’ Roll High School
I did of course, but I had one hell of a good time doing it and the lessons I learned growing up in Hollywood, attending the “University of Rock n’ Roll”, a real world type of school where my classrooms were the dirty stages of the Viper Room and the Roxy, the Kibitz Room and the Hotel Café and my teachers were my peers as we sweated our way from the underground, to become masters of the D.I.Y. music revolution.
Now… fifteen years, four albums and hundreds of shows later, I’m a mom with two very rock n’ roll kids who perform for me every chance they get, and instead of smiling and shaking my head in wonder, I cheer them on as I smile, knowing that when they are ready, (and if they really want to) I will gladly give them every lesson they would ever need to get a head start into the wonderful world of musical expression.
That being said, I have been doing my research into the many musical outlets for kids in Santa Barbara and one name keeps repeating as my go-to-girl in SB’s children’s music scene- that name is Jenny Baron and she is the founder of an amazing, empowering program called Girls Rock Santa Barbara.
Dream until your dreams come true
Oh my performers heart be still, and what a program it is! With 44 classes running each term like Rock Band, Music Journalism, History of Music, Intro to Songwriting, Photography and Film Making for beginners as young as six years old to teens of fifteen. As well as semi-private or small group lessons available for every instrument, a Pop Classical Quartet for advanced string players and an Amplify Rock Band for teens with at least 1 year of experience. All of these after school 10-week programs are crafted to each student, teaching the girls the Girls Rock Motto- “To be confidant in who they are, to know they are enough in all that they do, and to follow their passions- whatever they may be.” The classes are taught by instructors from the world’s leading music conservatories, who are extremely talented musicians and teachers as well as amazing mentors for each child in the program. They are even offering for the first time a free after school program for girls ages 12-15 at Santa Barbara Jr. High, but open to girls from any school in SB.
But it doesn’t stop there. At the end of each 10-week session held at the Makenzie Park facility (3111 State Street, enter via Las Positas), students that are part of the Rock Band program and the Intro to Songwriting program (along with a few others)- get to record their song in a professional recording studio (a partnership with Notes for Notes). That same song that the girls wrote collaboratively with their “band” will be performed live at a sold out, showcase at Soho Music Club in Santa Barbara.
Well-behaved women, seldom make history
I caught up with Jenny to find out more about her empowering program, how she got started, and why in the world would a program this great have to be just for girls.
TV: So how about a little backstory, how did this all get started?
JB: Girls Rock is a program that started up in Portland, Oregon in the early nineties, coming off of the Riot grrrl scene. (For those who are not familiar with this term-Riot grrrl is an underground feminist hardcore punk movement that originally started in the early 1990s. It is often associated with third-wave feminism, which is sometimes seen as its starting point. It has also been described as musical genre that came out of indie rock, with the punk scene serving as an inspiration for a musical movement in which women could express themselves in the same way men had been doing for the past several years.) And now there are over 86 non-profits all over the world, all separate entities, standing for the same concept- music and self-empowerment for women and young girls.
TV: How do you find your teachers and how many are there?
JB: Right now there are 11 teachers, including myself, as well as student interns from UCSB. We do a lot of recruiting from Berkeley School of Music in Boston, and all of our teachers are very accomplished musicians and are able to teach multiple instruments, which is really helpful when in a group setting such as the Rock Band class.
TV: Being a musician, I’m curious on how you can teach a child an instrument in only 10 weeks?
JB: Ours is kind of a backwards approach to classical music training. We do so many icebreakers and bonding experiences, that I think we show them the joy in music and learning an instrument, that their love and excitement gets them there, they want to learn it and they are very capable. They learn these life skills of working together, especially in the band experience, all tailored to the child and their capabilities. I mean, for anyone to write a song within a group, record it and then perform it on stage in front of their friends and families, even if it’s a seven year old who can hold down an e-string, that girl is going to rock it and feel total confidence. It’s a really beautiful thing.
TV: When I was younger, my parents didn’t really know what to do with my musical dreams. Do you find that parents are much more receptive to their child’s aspirations these days? 
JB: Absolutely. Our parents are wonderful and are super supportive of our programs. But we get a wide range of girls coming to us, some yes, have musical aspirations and do have some background training, but others have no experience and especially with the younger students, parents bring them to us hoping to give their shyer children confidence and acceptance. Our program teaches girls how to work together and empower each other, support each other and feel safe within their peer group, being able to identify together with a common love and goal.
TV: I have to ask, because I do have a daughter who although she is too young at the moment, will love your program when she gets older. But I have to play devils advocate- I have a son, who is every bit a rocker and I would love your program. Why no boys?
JB: (laughing) I have a son too, and I have to explain to him all the time why he can’t be a part of this. You see, there are so many different musical programs for boys in Santa Barbara, like Notes for Notes and Rockshop; we just wanted to create a safe bubble for girls where they didn’t feel like they had to worry about how they look or act, where they could just be themselves without the worry of what a boy would think. We are just trying to build confidence and somehow even out the playing field. In the past most people were accepting of a female singer, and now more and more girls are stepping behind the drum kit or strapping on a bass, it’s so cool to see the girls having that confidence to take on what used to be a male dominated instrument.
Just give me a reason
Jenny’s passion and exuberance for her program is awe-inspiring, and she is an incredibly busy lady, wearing many hats in GRSB, all this and only a year into her successful non-profit.  2014 was an incredible year for her and GRSB, not only becoming a legal non-profit on their own right, but garnering the attention of local news, radio and some celebrity attention too, with none other than new Valley local- “Pink” attending her last Soho showcase with her sweet daughter Willow in tow (who, hint hint, if your reading this Alicia, Jenny would LOVE for you to become involved with GRSB in any way!). The New Year holds many more exciting opportunities not only for the enrolled students but also for Girls Rock itself, being a non-profit that is dependent on the generosity of our powerful Santa Barbara community.
Give it all you got
The first fundraiser begins NOW, with every Wednesday in the month of January at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, the Charity Tap handle gives 50 percent of profits of the selected beer going towards GRSB.  Grab a brew every Wednesday and help out the scholarship program at GRSB, so all girls, no matter their parent’s income, can join in the fun and learn the beauty of music. In conjunction with it all, on March 7th, GRSB is the selected charity for the highly successful Girl on Fire 5K & 10K Run (www.girlonfirerun.com), and both GOF and GRSB will be at Fig every Wednesday from 6-9pm to answer questions and learn more about both programs- And it looks like Jenny and her girls are planning a super special show on the final Wednesday of the month (the 28th) too, so mark your calendars now, get on down to Fig in the Funk Zone and show your support for Girls Rock Santa Barbara, a program we are so blessed to have in our community, empowering girls through music, promoting an environment that fosters self-confidence, creativity, and teamwork- challenging gender stereotypes, encouraging collaboration and tolerance among peers, and providing a comfortable space for girls of all backgrounds to express themselves. Through music lessons, workshops, group activities, and performance, girls learn skills that help guide them throughout their lives. Let’s hear it for Girls Rock! For more information, go to www.girlsrocksb.org give them a call at 805-861-8128 or email Jenny Baron at girlsrocksb@gmail.com

Read it HERE

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