ROCKRGRL Day at Musician’s Institute

February 1, 2004

Support and empowerment were—not surprisingly—the resonant themes of ROCKRGRL Day, held November 1, 2003 at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California. Presented by Carla DiSantis, editor and publisher of ROCKRGRL magazine, and M.I. president Phil Burks, ROCKRGRL Day offered a series of educational panels and concerts designed to celebrate and educate female musicians.

Hastily put together within two months after a routine phone call from DiSantis to Burks resulted in a Burks challenge to “do something,” the one-day conference attracted approximately 250 enthusiastic musicians. They brought in heavy panel talent such as Roland’s Laura Tyson (“Record and Produce Your Own CD Without Going Broke” and “Get A Big, Expensive Recording Studio Sound From Your Bedroom”), HITS radio’s Karen Glauber and former-MTV VJ Nina Blackwood (“Why They Play What They Play on the Radio”), and Rogers &Cowan’s Karen Sundell and Brilliant Media 2000’s Suzanne Lewis (“Get Your Name Out There”). Former-GP cover artist Meredith Brooks delivered the conference’s keynote address, and it was an extremely unguarded account on the ups, downs, sacrifices, and treachery she experienced as a player moving from a nobody to a platinum hitmaker to her current incarnation as an indie-label performer (2002’s Bad Bad One on Gold Circle) and major-label producer (Jennifer Love Hewitt and Hilary Duff).

In addition, players could attend a drum workshop by Judy Cocuzza (sponsored by Mapex); a live sound/audio production seminar with Sally Browder, Dee Suiter, and Deirdre Jones (sponsored by Tascam and moderated by Diane Fleming); a songwriting class with Lynne Bronstein, Gina Schock, Lauren Wood, Christene LeDoux, and Janice-Marie Johnson; and a session-player chat featuring guitarists Jennifer Batten and Jennifer Turner. There were even discussions on money management, surviving career bummers, digital downloading, and how to win a Grammy. And, finally, yours truly offered a Guitar Player Dunk Tank, where musicians could rant about the dearth of women artists covered in mainstream player mags.

But, most of all, ROCKRGRL Day was about women who really rock, and I was introduced to some very tough guitar players. Here’s a sample of some of the acts that went from unknown to rotation on my office CD player:

Auburn Court
Auburn Court is still developing its style, but I dig the band’s kinder, gentler take on ’60s and ’70s blues rock. Sarah Dawn’s riffs don’t bark out of the mix with feral swagger, they surf over the rhythm section and support the vocals with an easy-going brilliance. Gear: Gibson Les Paul Standard, Daisy Rock Elite, Fender Pro Sonic. Web:

Gia’s Fix
GF seems to have set its efforts more on chart success than devising a unique and individual style. But that strategy may pay off, as “Done” is a grooving, strutting, fuzz-fest of pop-rock genius. And Leslie Stoddard’s tasty guitar rave-ups strike a wonderful balance between melodic expression and tortured drama. Gear: Ernie Ball Music Man, Marshall 100-watt 30th Anniversary amp, Boss GT-3, Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky strings (.009-.046). Web:

House of Fools
This expatriate band of Swedes pumps out a mammoth sound that’s part Saturday night party rock and part twisted European prog-intellectual. Predictable it’s not, but through all the twists and turns, Kajsa Krantz’s thrilling guitar histrionics keep the music rocking and rolling. Krantz is, in fact, a real find—a crafty technician who’s absolutely ferocious. Gear: Epiphone Les Paul, Fender Stratocaster, Marshall half-stack, Dunlop CryBaby wah, Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, MXR Phase 90, Ernie Ball strings (.009 set). Web:

Led by Shelly Jensen and Brian Trifon (both students at USC’s Studio Guitar Program), Shellack’s music is soaring, seductive, and full of kick-ass guitar moments (especially the stunning “Smoke Screen”). The band also knows how to make recordings that jump out of the box and rumble—my sound system could barely survive the energy waves! Gear: 1965 Mosrite Ventures model, Gibson SG, Marshall JCM 2000, Ernie Ball Heavy Bottom strings. Web:

—Michael Molenda    

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