Girl Guitar Austin is a women-only music school in Austin, Texas.
It is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/teacher Mandy Rowden who, after teaching privately for ten years, combined her love of teaching, playing, wine and good old-fashioned fun to form Girl Guitar in 2007.
I interviewed Mandy for Women’s Views on News and have reproduced the article here.
Rowden: I used to teach at the Austin School of Music and I’d always thought it would be fun to have a girl guitar class but I’d never had any luck starting it.
I came back from New York and didn’t want to teach private lessons anymore but I was super broke and so the Austin School of Music let me try to put a class together. At that time I guess I was just broke enough that I was really motivated to try to make it happen!
I managed to get enough people for a full class so I thought I would just do one six-week class, get my cell phone turned back on and that would be that. But we had such a good time that they all wanted to sign up again. Then random strangers started calling me wanting to do a class and it started getting too big for the space available at the school of music so I moved it.
I never planned on it being a full-time job but we just kept having fun and getting all this attention so I thought “ok, let’s keep doing this.” After about two and half years I was able to quit waiting tables and just do Girl Guitar full time.
WVoN: What was the motivation behind the girls-only aspect of Girl Guitar?
Rowden: I’ve never been a big feminist, it just sort of happened.
It’s kind of boys-club playing guitar and there are so many women that want to learn but for some it’s like going to a gym – some women just feel more comfortable without dudes there.
I had wondered whether a girl-only class would make a difference and when we tried it, it was so much fun. Someone brought a bottle of wine and it turned into our own girl’s club. That sounds cheesy when I say it, but the women did seem to respond well. A lot of people told me that they wouldn’t have felt as comfortable if there were guys there.
WVoN: What was the atmosphere like in your first class?
Rowden: It was so fun, we laughed so much! You know there is a lot about guitar that when when you talk about it it sounds kind of sexual so we just ran with that and laughed our asses off. Everyone has improved and it’s been great watching the girls become friends.
At the end of the course there is a showcase and we have huge crowds at our showcases and everyone is so supportive. I don’t know if they’re more supportive because we’re chicks or just because these women are trying to learn something new, but they’re supportive anyway.
WVoN: What do your students say?
Rowden: They seem to love it! A lot of them tell me they wouldn’t feel as comfortable if there was guys there. I don’t know why. Maybe we think that guys would make fun of us or make us feel bad or maybe we assume that guys know more than us.