It started off as a twinkle in my eye last year. And, like giving birth, nine months later, the Women’s Music Summit came to life. And what a crazy cool music making extravaganza it was!
Housed at Full Moon Resort in the Catskill Mountains in Big Indian, New York, the event kicked off with a cocktail party and open-mic night that offered all of the ladies attending a chance to share their talents.
The next morning, we dove right in with a songwriting and collaboration exercise lead by guitarist Malina Moye and myself. The ladies were given an assignment: Brainstorm and write a song with your group that you will share by the end of the Summit. The pressure was on!
Malina Moye turns it up
Later that day, Ms. Moye treated us to her awesome guitar goodness as she performed a few tunes and then shared her unique insight into the business. Let me tell you, not only does she kick ass on guitar, but she is one ballsy but fabulously likeable lady. Finesse is her middle name. Malina had this to share, “I had a great time at the first annual Women's Music Summit. I learned a lot and met a lot of great people and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Full Moon Resort. I’m excited about the next one!"
Marnie Stern taps it out
Next up, guitarist Marnie Stern schooled us on her fabulous guitar tapping technique and had us all learning how to shred! She gave us a peek behind the curtain, so that we could learn the tricks behind this skill. An eye-opening experience for all. Later she lead an experimental song jam where a large group contributed to what came next and vocal parts were made up on the spot. Super fun and creative! Marnie had this to say about the experience, “It was so inspiring for me to be able to interact with such a talented group of women with such like-minded goals. The collaborations were so fun, and I would love to do it again!”
Melissa Auf der Maur shares insight
You might recognize her from her stints with Hole and Smashing Pumpkins. Ms. Auf der Maur (better known as MAdM) shared incredibly interesting tales about her start in the bass world and her experiences on the road. Her Live Performance as Art workshop concluded with the screening of an avant-garde music video that blew our minds. But it was her evening bass and vocal performance that perhaps moved us all the most, as she nervously took the stage after a 10-month maternity hiatus (she has the cutest baby in the world, btw). Her timidity melted away with her heartfelt performance. It was a peek into something magical.
Meshell Ndegeocello plays along
Perhaps the most thrilling segment of the Summit came when bassist Meshell Ndegeocello not only talked about her experience and took questions from the audience, but also brought up some of the women attending the Summit and worked with them to understand how to translate their vision to the band. Attendee Kaela Bratcher brought her song “Like Kings” to life with a full band with Meshell jamming along on bass. Later Meshell played with several groups of attendees for a once in a lifetime performance session. It seems the day was special for Meshell as well. She shares, “Sometimes I forget how unusual it is to speak to a classroom of just women. It makes for a much different kind of a time. I can't say exactly why it's different but the exchange of ideas, or information, just seems to happen on a different level. I was happy to be there and happy to pass on what I knew.”
Here’s a video of Taina Asili and Sonia Montez performing their collaboration with Dorit Konig on percussion, Kiki Vassilakis on drums, and Meshell Ndegeocello on bass. Wowza!
We finished off our afternoon sessions each day with an industry panel that provided valuable tips and advice. Wednesday we talked with Tobi Parks from Sony Music Entertainment, Laura Taylor of Guitar Center and Kirby Desmarais from Everything Independent. I literally only asked the very first question on my list and the conversation was off and rolling, covering publishing, licensing, changes in process and so much more.
Thursday’s panel focused on PR and Promotion and I was joined by publicist Carise Yatter of Hired Gun Media, Jessica Sternick from Red Entertainment and Kate Pokorny with Indaba Music. Not only did we talk about practical strategies for getting exposure, but we also answered loads of burning questions from the audience.
One of the favorite features of the Summit was the nightly open mics and jam sessions. Everyone had the chance to share their material, and perform for their peers. I admit it; even I stepped up to the mic once or twice! The final evening all the collaboration groups shared their projects, and Malina Moye cranked out a killer blues. Two or three groups performed with Meshell Ndegeocello on bass and all delivered on their collaborative assignments with flair and fun!
Thanks are due
The Women’s Music Summit could not have been possible without the generous contributions of many supporters. Our own parent company, NewBay Media offered media exposure and support. Dean Markley Strings not only funded several scholarships, they also sent their Helix strings for everyone to try. Ampeg was crazy awesome and sent multiple backlines’ worth of bass and guitar amps for us to plug into, including a few for giveaways! Guitar Center provided loads of additional backline support and even provided gift cards for everyone! Martin Guitars funded scholarships and sent along picks that came in very handy. Fishman Amplification also funded a scholarship and shared clip on tuners with the gang.
Roland US really came through with two RD-700 keyboards that got loads of use. Fender and Girl Rock Nation provided a guitar and amp for lucky winner Polina Kourakina and shared some super pink t-shirts and picks. Earthworks Audio sent along some extremely hot mics for use to try out (wowza!). And our friends at Lagunitas Brewery funded a scholarship and supplied a limited edition private label amplifier for lucky winner Alessandra Small! Biggest thanks of all go to Full Moon Resort. Check out the rest of their Music Masters Series too. These folks know how to do it right!
My mind is blown
Perhaps the most surprising and delightful element of this event was the blow me away talent of the ladies that attended. Each brought her own contribution, from 13-year-old Charlie Dane to veteran Mahazi Roundtree and everyone in between. There were beginners, like Johanna Ridley-Casseus who performed live for the very first time, and Nadine Pierre, who only knew three chords on the guitar. And there were pros like singer/songwriter Sonia Montez, vocalist Taina Asili and drummer Kiki Vassilakis, dancer and performer Dorit Konig, guitarist and looper extraordinaire Kristen Stillwell, and tons more. Each amazingly unique! When many walked away saying the Summit had changed their lives in the most fabulous ways, motivating and enlightening them, I was humbled.
If you want to see more photos and find out more about what’s next for the Women’s Music Summit, head on over to our Facebook page.
freemyheart.com (Meshell Ndegocello)
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Dean Markley, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the co-producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.