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Supporting girls in music - Joanna's story

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14-year-old Joanna wasn’t sure what to expect when she walked into a music studio for the first time. But after taking part in the Here Come the Grrrls project, she’s learned new skills and now feels confident about pursuing a potential career in music.

Here Come the Grrrls is run by creative music-making charity Brighter Sound in Manchester. It offers courses for young female musicians on everything from lead guitar to beatboxing, and helps them explore the possibilities of a music industry career.

Brighter Sound staff had the idea when they realised only one in four young people who attended their activities was female. On the project’s 10-week Digital Vocals course, Joanna learned a range of digital music-making skills, including using software to manipulate her voice.

Challenging stereotypes

One of the project’s aims is to provide strong female role models. Masterclasses have featured Jennifer Baton who played guitar on three world tours with Michael Jackson, and Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer.

“There’s still a big gender gap in the music industry,” says Kate Lowes, Head of Programmes at Brighter Sound. “Role models are really important if we are to change that. When you see people do things, you start to think ‘I can do that’.”

Musician Elizabeth, who taught Joanna on the course, has experienced sexism in the male-dominated electronic music scene and wanted to help change attitudes and inspire young women to consider the genre.

It’s frustrating when people assume a man has written the electronic elements in my music or done the production.


Creating a space for progress

Elizabeth feels the supportive all-female environment helped the girls to progress, and says: “It felt really fulfilling to see Joanna pick up using the software so quickly. I saw her change from being very quiet to more confident.”

Joanna admits: “I was nervous when I started. But everybody was so welcoming. It was really chilled and comfortable learning with a group of girls… We’d probably have had to learn in different ways if there were boys on the course too.”

Although Joanna had played violin and viola, she’d never done any digital music production before. “Now I know how to edit voices, and add reverberations, drums and instruments to music I create.

It’s amazing what you can do to sounds with technology.

Inspiring future role models

Another aim of Here Come the Grrrls is to get more girls taking part in other projects at Brighter Sound. Kate says she’d love to see girls like Joanna considering a career in music and perhaps returning to Brighter Sound one day to share their experiences with other young people.

“I’m thinking about taking music at college and would like to be a singer,” says Joanna. “It’s probably a lot harder to get your name out there if you’re a woman. But listening to music takes my mind off things and I get a good feeling when I perform. It’s really important to me.”

Case study researched and written by Trina Wallace: