This morning I was a panelist for a talk on non-musician careers in the music business. It was part of the last day of Girls Rock! Chicago, a summer day camp for girls ages 9-16 that initiates the lasses into the ways of the rock. Judging by the 50 or 60 smart, canny-looking little faces that stared out at us, it's either working well or they don't need much help.
My co-panelists were Elizabeth Elmore, front woman for Sarge and the Reputation, now a sometime entertainment lawyer and teacher; Jenny Lizak, WLUW DJ and Metro publicist; Alexis Wilson-Castaldi, a photographer who brought postcards of her work to give out; Amy Butterer of Billions Corp; and Liz Bustamante, a sound engineer who seemed to inspire the most awe and who gave out possibly the most appreciated advice—something about experimenting with microphone placement. The girls didn't seem interested in platitudes about empowerment. They wanted nuts-and-bolts suggestions of how to do stuff. Which is as it should be—angst about one's place in the universe and gender roles need to take a back seat most of the time to learning how contracts work and how to get a photo pass and how to get the best sound out of a microphone. Then your angst can be loud and proud, instead of something that keeps you in the basement and never lets you out.
The only good piece of advice I think I had to give was one I have trouble following sometimes: 90 percent of life is showing up. So even if it doesn't come naturally, even if you're nervous, if you think it's something you might want to do, just show up.
The graduates of this year's program will strut their stuff at Metro tomorrow at noon. It's a fund-raiser ($6 admission) and of course it's all-ages. The Web site promises "a special area roped off in the front row for our friends under 5-feet, so bring your rock & roll-lovin’ kiddies!" (What a great idea. I'm 5'6" and have often wished for a roped-off section for people under 6 feet.) According to the poster, there'll be performances by Hot Pink Streaks, Screaming Candy, Crimson City Chicks, the Turpentines, Ironics, Electrolytes, Pandora's Box, Spazz Atak, Prime Time Primates, Sugar Rush, Contagious Love (of Chicken & Potatoes), Never Knows Best, Sandstorm Girls, 13 Black Cats, and Skittles. Clearly they've already caught on that naming your band is half the battle and half the fun.