Women In Music: Female Students At GRAMMY Camp Are Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Reagan Priest

Welcome to GRAMMY Camp. A place where the best and brightest young music industry hopefuls gather to learn, collaborate, and plan for the future. The camp brings together 87 high school students from around the country to USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, California for the most immersive five days of their young careers. Each participant was handpicked from over 300 auditions, making it one of the most competitive music camps in the United States. Students gain experience in one of eight educational tracks spanning everything from Vocal Performance and Songwriting to Music Business and Video Production. The classrooms are filled with some of the most driven teenagers you’ll ever meet.  And if that weren’t impressive enough, almost half of these students are young women fighting for their place in a male-dominated industry.

A recent study done by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that of the 600 most popular songs from the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2017, only 22.4% of all performers were women. Only 2% of producers across 300 of those songs were female. That equates to a ratio of 1 female producer for every 49 male producers. To say that the music industry is lacking in the involvement of women is an understatement.

This is why it’s so important to have 42 talented and amazing young women at GRAMMY Camp Los Angeles. These girls are breaking the glass ceiling in an industry that so desperately needs it. They are on their way to becoming the strong women that future aspiring musicians will look up to. A few of these incredible young ladies agreed to talk about their experiences in the industry so far and their hopes for the future.

Stephanie Chow comes to GRAMMY Camp from Bloomington, Illinois, and is a member of the Electronic Music Production (EMP) track. Chow started getting into EMP when she was in fourth grade by messing around with GarageBand, but she is also a classically trained pianist and plays jazz guitar. She is one of two girls in the EMP track, which is made up of 14 students. When asked about her experience in her track, she didn’t hesitate to answer. “I entered kind of expecting there to be like a boy’s club atmosphere. But I don’t feel like it’s really a big thing, per se. It would always be nice to have more girls, but I don’t feel too ‘odd one out’ or anything because the guys are really cool.” Chow’s ability to stand her ground and fit in as a female producer will serve her well as she moves forward in her career.

GRAMMY Camp’s only female drummer, Becca Webster, spoke to her experience in the industry. Webster is from Westport, Connecticut. She’s been drumming for about nine years, and she currently plays in a yacht rock band called Big Yachty. Webster painted a bit of a picture of what it’s been like to be the only female drummer at camp. “I mean it’s definitely expected. I’ve done a bunch of other music programs where I was the only female drummer, or sometimes even the only female musician… It’s definitely a problem, but it’s not something I focus on.” It’s clear that Becca’s drive is more than enough to overcome the barriers she will face as a female musician.

Then, Abby Kurtz, a female bassist, joined the conversation to discuss being a woman in a male-dominated field. Kurtz is from Mooresville, North Carolina, and she’s been playing bass for two years. It's a short period of time compared to the lifelong musicians that claim majority at GRAMMY Camp. However, that only underscores her talent and drive. Kurtz discussed the pros and cons of being a female bassist, saying, “I feel like sometimes we’re forgotten about, but at the same time, there are more opportunities because there are less females.”

While they're just starting their careers, it’s mostly agreed upon by these students that the lack of women in the music industry is a problem. As these girls work to change that, they shared their hopes for what the female future of the industry will look like. “I don’t know how music will change, but I think the culture will change. It will probably change for the better,” Webster said hopefully. Chow agreed, explaining that, “The more diversity you add, the more perspectives will be thrown into the mix.” Kurtz also added that she hoped that seeing female musicians would be more natural.

In order to encourage the involvement of more women in music, we must support them and their endeavors. While Chow, Webster, Kurtz and all the other amazingly talented young women here at GRAMMY Camp work to break the glass ceiling in the music industry, everyone is rooting for them and their success. We hope they will continue to smash barriers and become inspirations for other women striving for a career in the industry.

In the Spotlight

Katherine Ho

GRAMMY Camp LA 2015


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