Tatamagouche Summer Free School

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Interview: Abigail Lapell

Questions by Dru Oja Jay

What motivated you to start a discussion about "gender, performance and musicality"?

i was initially interested in doing something about playing music, like a guitar clinic or some kind of skill-sharing, with a focus on dealing with the kinds of challenges people experience about confidence, performance etc., picking up an instrument. women in particular seem to often feel really intimidated or excluded by music "scenes" or whatever, and that's something i'm interested in from a lot of angles: as a musician and event organizer, and sometimes-music-teacher, as a student, a feminist.... so it started to seem like there was a lot to say about these themes of gender identity and music. and that that conversation could be more open and unpredictable than a hands-on workshop, and that it would give me a chance to hear about other people's experiences around this stuff.


What kinds of things did the other participants bring to the discussion?

people talked about personal experiences of gender roles sort of through the lens of musicality, which bore out a lot of the stereotypes about women being, for instance, more quiet or isolated or tame as musicians. a couple of women talked about dealing with these kinds of issues as mothers, both as far as gender roles and child-rearing, and also the limits that parenting places on your own time for things like music.

Did you discuss possible responses to these kinds of roles?

i talked a bit about different models of organizing women's music spaces and raised the question of how these can work or not work as a kind of corrective. the theme of pedagogy kept coming up, too. it was interesting to hear from someone who home-schools her daughters, who talked about how playing music together is a really important and fun part of their education.


What do you think men's role is in addressing the issues around musical confidence and acknowledgment?

that's so hard to answer because these things emerge on such a specific and personal level. i feel like even talking about it or being aware and supportive in those minute ways goes a long way -- and i found it striking how, among both men and women who attended the seminar, there really were similar perceptions about how and why people feel excluded along gender lines. to me it's encouraging when men want in on that discussion, because this shit affects everyone.


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