Grammy Camp changes focus to build young girls’ skills in music production

Arts / Article

What started as the next iteration of Grammy Camp St. Paul, an ongoing program focused on teaching music-making to young people, has morphed into a new program called Women in Music and Audio weekend Targeting teenage girls ages 13-18, this 2014 Knight Arts Challenge Award-winning project is a collaboration between McNally Smith College of Music and the Grammy Foundation. Its goal is to bridge a noticeable gap in the music industry: women working on the technological side of music production. When Grammy Camp suggested the project to McNally Smith’s Chris Osgood, he jumped at the prospect. “The idea of getting something from the Grammy Foundation that we could help coordinate that would move the needle in terms of getting women into the technological part of the music business was exciting,” Osgood, vice president of organizational development, said. The Women in Music and Audio weekend will be shorter than regular Grammy Camps, which are typically seven to nine days and are non-residential programs. The Grammy Foundation has done technology-focused weekend programs in the past, but this will be the first one that focuses entirely on girls and women aspiring to work in the music industry. Locally, several successful and influential women in the music industry are collaborating on plans for this project, and this cohort makes it clear why St. Paul is a great place to pilot a program like this. The group includes: Veronica Rodriguez, a 2010 McNally Smith graduate who is now senior engineer for the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network; Edie Rae Baumgart, a Twin Cities-based singer/songwriter and former executive director of She Rock She Rock; and Co-director of the Lowertown Guitar Festival Molly Mayer, who has served as guitar tech for Trampled by Turtles and Prince, and is a legend of the Twin Cities music scene. Osgood has also been consulting with electronic musician, sound designer and installation artist Caly McMorrow. Organizers hope the participants leave the weekend with valuable skills, including a capacity to make a demo of themselves at home, the ability to use the tools more and more people have access to at a high level, and the willingness to do these things for themselves.. The tone of the program is focused on both teaching young people how to use production tools and empowering young women to believe that they are capable of making their own things. “We really want to try and get the DIY-components happening for these young women,” Osgood said. Osgood’s own artistic and professional background lends itself well to a program focused on encouraging self-sufficiency. As co-founder of the seminal punk band The Suicide Commandos and label manager of a no longer active independent record label called Twin/Tone Records, Osgood has been a part the world of independently-produced music since 1975. “The first LP the Commandos did for Phonogram was called ‘Make A Record’ and a lot of people think that that’s a declaration of DIY spirit,” Osgood said. “That wasn’t our intention at the time, but I’m happy to cop to that. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.” The other goal for the weekend is a real focus on community building. “We want young women to find each other and get into bands,” Osgood said. While technology is something that can now be accessed on an individual level for a lot of people, building relationships and learning about collaboration in music can be harder to do as a young artist. The community-building element of Women in Music and Audio weekend fits well into the broader goals at McNally Smith. Said Osgood: “I want to have McNally Smith be a kind of clubhouse and have it be identified as a place where other creative people go.” While it’s too early in the planning process to release specific names, there will be many local musicians presenting and participating in the program on Nov. 13-14, likely pulled from a combination of past McNally Smith teaching artists and other highly-regarded local Twin Cities musicians. If the partners, teaching artists and students are happy with the syllabus and how the weekend goes, the Grammy Foundation hopes to use this program as a template for creating Women in Music and Audio weekend experiences all across the country. “At its core, this is about taking compartmentalization away from the idea that boys do this and girls do that. Because everyone should do everything,” Osgood said. The Women in Music and Audio weekend will take place on Nov. 13-14, 2015, at McNally Smith College of Music. Details and registration information will be available in the fall at