The second session of GRCA 2010 comes to a close tomorrow with an amazing showcase. Likewise, Wednesday’s music history workshop commemorated the second year Kristen at Act Your Age and I have been involved with the organization. As is customary, I like to write down a few things I learn from each GRCA session. As honed as our workshop has become, it’s always open to modification. And each workshop is its own entity, based entirely on who the girls are. But there is one constant: I’m always challenged and surprised by what each group of girls brings to discussion.
1. Remember to include a section on metal, as many of these girls are fans. I’ve been given some great leads on who to include from blog commentary, friend recommendations, and a particularly informative lunch meeting with Erika Tandy. Thanks for helping out an admitted metal neophyte.
2. Sometimes a girl will come right out and tell you she doesn’t like any female artists. She may be a little smug about it like a pre-teen can be at times. When asked why she’s at GRCA, she may give this hilariously catty retort: “I’ve already gone over this — it’s summertime and I get bored and I need something to do.” Don’t let this throw you and don’t take it personally. Thank her for her honesty and hope that she participates anyway. Acknowledge her when she does.
3. Sometimes a girl will be related to a co-worker. Note the connection and make sure to incorporate her into the discussion while remaining impartial.
3A. You can be amused if she’s quite formal with you, as you were a pretty formal child yourself.
4. If a group of girls are talking amongst themselves, don’t let that bother you. Keep your ears open for a band or artist one of them mentions and bring it up. It’ll let them know you’re listening and also keep them on your toes. 🙂
5. Don’t worry about being cool. You’re probably an old lady to them. But even if they don’t think you’re cool for knowing about MGMT or that Ke$ha signs her name with a dollar sign, they might be amused if you drop song titles or mention that “a girl’s gotta get paid.”
6. Remember to include Lady Sovereign and Selena on next year’s mix CD, because there’s always at least one girl who is excited about each of them.
7. Bone up on your musical terminology and make sure to emphasize instrumentalists’ technique in some of the clips you provide.
8. Improvise and share with your co-facilitator. Technology may always be erratic, so don’t crutch on it. Clips may not always load. Take the lead from your co-facilitator and pop in a mix CD to illustrate your points. While you may not always have as wonderful an instructor to work with as Kristen, being aware of moments in which you can volley off one another are key.
8A. Make sure you extend this openness and trust to the counselors. They will save your ass every time. Hearts to Esme.
9. Don’t freak out if a girl disagrees with you or seems weirded out by something. You’ve been handed a teaching moment. Start a discussion. Ask some questions. Steer the conversation into something productive. And make sure you’re doing as much listening as talking.
10. Some girls may get hung up on Etta James’s fat knuckles. This will bother you, as sizeism has already taken hold. Let Kristen riff on how body types may differ across genres and that skinny ladies aren’t an ideal we should aspire to if that’s not who we are. Mentally clap for her as she drops an important message while keeping the girls on task.
11. It’s always okay to stop a workshop so you can clap in time to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” It’s also a good idea to end a workshop with a dance party.
12. Make sure you pay attention to every girl in the room and give each one a chance to contribute. Be especially cognizant of the girl who sits immediately behind you. That girl may seem disengaged or shy at first, but she is full of good ideas and smart opinions. She might tell you that her mother styled her hair like Salt-N-Pepa and that she grew up listening to The Supremes. She may also give you a hug after the workshop, which will make your day.
I’m also looking forward to what Kristen and I will learn when we take this workshop on the road. We’ll be helping out with Girls Rock Camp Houston on August 13th. As an ex-pat Houstonian, I have personal investment in GRC staking its claim there. While I love GRCA and am proud to be a part of it, Austin is already such a music-friendly city. While Houston has a considerable artistic community, the sprawl tends to swallow it up. Speaking as someone who grew up in a rural suburb equidistant between Houston and Galveston, it was pretty difficult to go to shows and get involved with a scene that was about 45 minutes away from you and scattered about a very large city that’s not always hospitable to girls. So I’m hopeful that GRCH will forge a much-needed communal space for grrrl musicians.