It's been quite an eventful March here in upstate New York. We currently have over two feet of snow on the ground, and we're continually getting snow showers adding to that accumulation slowly but surely. Now, I hear we're getting another nor'easter next week. Luckily for me, I love snowshoeing and, although it's been hard work keeping up the trails, I've managed to go out everyday this week and will go out later today. The woods are gorgeous in the snow. I'm amazed at how the snow highlights the shapes of the tree limbs, and there are lots of signs of wildlife, including some gruesome hunts by what I think must have been a fisher. The gardens will surely be happy with this lovely blanket covering them, but after our wonderful thaw a couple of weeks ago, I'm ready to uncover them and get to work.
The weather is not the only thing that's been eventful, though. I hosted a very successful Family Jam. The at least 100 adults in attendance and all of their children made for a lively time. The band was great, and I raised enough money to give out more scholarships in 2018. Next year will be the 10th annual Jam, and I hope to put together a memorable event to celebrate 10 years. In addition to the Family Jam, I did the Songteller Sessions at The Altamont Free Library, which was challenging and fun, and I'm looking forward to W.A.M.M.'s (Women Are Making Music) Open Mic at The Low Beat in Albany.
It hasn't always been easy being a woman in music. I can't even count the number of times I've been discounted at studios, by sound engineers at gigs, by the press, even by band members at band practices. It gets very discouraging. Not all men behave that way, and I've been very lucky to work with mostly the more aware men. But, there are enough of them out there to make life uncomfortable for those of us trying to be in the scene.
I was a founding member of General Eclectic and often the driving force. My husband, Paul, was outgoing and charismatic while I was shy and retiring. He went out and made the initial connections and often booked the gigs. I did the promo (posters and press releases), made the set lists, arranged the songs, found band members and set up band practices. I also pushed him to help write the songs. Later on, we had help from other members of the band, but in the beginning, it was just the two of us. Music has always been important to me, and I was determined to work at it. He got credit for everything we accomplished because he was so gregarious. When we got a scathing review in one of the local papers, they focused mainly on me, barely mentioning the band. "The aging hippie lead singer looked like a milking cow and sang like a cat in heat."
In my younger days, I had a much wider vocal range and could hit very high notes with a lot of force. I needed the volume to hit those notes. I always tried to warn the sound engineers so they could adjust the levels on my mic, though I always leaned away from the mics anyway. They always sneered and often laughed it off. At first, I got a kick out of watching them scramble to the board when those notes came, but after a while it just got annoying.
When General Eclectic ended and Paul and I split up, I jumped into the folk scene with my next partner. I thought it had to be different. I thought rock & rollers were callous and chauvinistic, but folk singers had to be more sensitive, right? It was not really very different, though with the passage of time, things have gotten much better. I remember seeing the promo photo for a folk band featuring a woman whose name was even used as part of the band name. The photo had her in the background while her husband was prominently featured. And, this was the folk scene. Did no one else notice what was wrong? Recently, I had an interaction with three youngish rock & rollers. I've noticed that most of the younger generation is doing much better in this area, but these guys were probably in their 30s or 40s. Out of the three, one was cordial. The others mostly ignored me, even though it was a conversation about music in the area and in general. I've been a working musician for almost 50 years and have worked in blues, jazz, wedding bands, rock & roll, folk and children's music. I've performed and taught, creating specialized workshops and writing songs on demand for specific events. It seems to me that should count for something. I'm really hoping people will come out and support women's music. We've worked long and hard.