Monday, June 21, 2010

Confidence For Girls

One thing I love about being a guitar teacher is seeing girls play the guitar. What I love even more is that the boys think it is perfectly natural to see a girl with a guitar. The truth is that the music industry has been pretty misogynistic since before the days of Bach.

Even in the old days, it doesn't seem like there were many women making music. Yes, I'm sure there were, but can you name any of them?  Hildegard von Bingen and Clara Schumann. I only know that because I'm a music teacher.

Hildegard was a Nun who wrote music for church worship, and Clara was just filling in for her husband, the guy who thought he could exercise his weakest finger by building his own finger bowflex.  He permanently handicapped his fingers, and Clara had to perform all of his compositions.

Even in our Modern Era, women are sadly missing from music history. It's been 13 years since the first "Lilith Fair," yet I still don't think the guys at the Guitar Center believe I really play. It was really pretty common, when I was growing up, to only see guys with guitars. All of that is changing now.  I see girls playing guitar all over the place. No one would ever dream of calling a girl unusual for playing the guitar these days. (Thank you Kathleen Hanna, Joan Jett, and Ani Difranco, just to name a few.)  However. Every 10 -15 years, it seems to become noticeable to the pioneers that their work is being taken for granted.

All the baby boomer feminists teaching my college classes just couldn't understand how we could take our freedoms for granted the way we do.  I see younger girl musicians now, and I also start to pick out the things that they are doing wrong. One thing bothers me more than anything is advertising musical mistakes. When I see a new female musician on stage, it is almost guaranteed that at some point in the performance she will giggle and apologize for forgetting a chord, when really, no one in the room noticed. This is the fastest way to look like an amateur. Don't do it. Take control of that instrument and believe in yourself.

Confidence is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for a girl musician.  When I see a girl make a mistake on stage and laugh at her silly self, I just cringe inside. I cringe for all those times I sat on a stage and tried to ignore the heckler in the back of the room and just play it tough like I didn't care. I feel embarrassed for the time that jerky clarinet player sitting next to me in Music History class told me that guys just understand music better than girls. For the time my teacher revealed the most sacred of all performance secrets: "Just keep going and never let on that you messed up. They don't know if you don't tell them!"

Teachers, show your girls how to play with confidence, even if they have to fake it at first. Girls, don't be afraid to take some chances. We have a lot of work to do, and no time to wait for someone's approval.

1 comment:

  1. KT Tunstall is pretty bold with her guitar:

    I keep on thinking about this content. There is far too few women who show their marvelous strength.