For prominent composers like Clara Schumman, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Louise Farrenc, composing beautiful pieces was only half the battle in becoming successful, influential figures in the classical music canon. They also had to deal with the social inequality faced by women in music and in a variety of other professions, making their musical accomplishments even more commendable.
If these women were alive today, perhaps they’d have an easier time making names for themselves- they’re no longer required to compose whilst in rib-squeezing girdles, they can exercise their right to vote, they can get musical education just like their male contemporaries. But women still face obstacles as musicians, no matter the genre.
Fortunately, there are a handful of organizations and institutions working to combat this gender gap. Locally, Girls Rock Charlotte (GRC) works “to educate and empower girls through music, creativity, and collaboration.” The annual summer camps and workshops are part of a national organization with the same goals, the Girls Rock Camp Alliance.
At these camps, campers (most of whom have never played a musical instrument), form a 5-person band, write an original song together, learn how to play their instrument and practice all week for a community concert. New campers learn basic chords, melodies and rhythms while returning campers become increasingly sophisticated with their original songs and arrangements. The campers practice all week, learning to collaborate across diverse identities as they perfect their timing and performance.
Girls Rock Charlotte Executive Director Kelly Finley notes, “they cheer each other on and grow evermore confident as they prepare to rock the stage. In between practices and instrument instruction, campers attend workshops on leadership, confidence-building, gender equality and more. It’s a powerful mix! By the night of the concert they are in true rock star form – impressing their families and delighting the crowd. These Girls Rock Charlotte concerts are open to the community and they are the perfect, family-friendly musical event sure to inspire!”
The aforementioned female composers and their contemporaries would surely appreciate the development of such a program – one that arms young women not only with musical skill, but self-confidence, empowerment, and role models. In fact, they might go so far as to tell the girls to rock on.
You can learn more about Girls Rock Charlotte, and how to get involved, at their website here.