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    A Banner Year for Women’s Music

    bannerBy Melanie DeMore

    My first encounter with Women’s Music happened in my senior year in college in 1976. I was dating a woman who was in the military (and, by the way, looked just like Phoebe Snow). She said a friend of hers was playing a little concert in an apartment rec room, and asked if I would like to go. I said, “Sure, why not?” There were about 15 people there, and the music was really good. Oh yeah, the performer was Meg Christian.

    My next encounter happened when I moved to Austin in 1979. I lived around the corner from a women’s bookstore, and having never been in one, I was, of course, quite curious. It was there that I first heard “Changer and the Changed,” and “Ode to a Gym Teacher,” and Margie Adam’s “Unicorn.” When I first arrived, I didn’t have a record player (remember those? going round and round…ah, the good old days). On the day I got one, I went to the bookstore and picked up “Somethin’ Moving” by Mary Watkins. It’s the one with Mary sitting on a stool at the counter of the old Brick Hut. This was the album that drew me into the Women’s Music scene. I bought it because there was a Black woman on the cover, and when they played it for me in the store, it was so funky; I had to have it. After that, Cris (Williamson), Margie, Meg, and Alix (Dobkin) all became part of my musical landscape.

    During that time, I was playing in clubs around Austin, doing theatre and being Head Chef at Mike and Charlie’s Restaurant. I also starting singing with a Black Women’s a cappella group called Scintilla, and we were asked to open for Sweet Honey in the Rock at the University of Texas at Austin. What an amazing experience…some serious Sistah energy all around. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon told me that if I should find myself in the D.C. area…well, needless to say, I was honored.

    Scintilla did lots of gig around Austin, and one of my favorites was at the one (and only) Austin Women’s Music Festival. I was living in a great house on Canyon Rim Road, and all the women musicians who came to Austin stayed at our house. That’s where I met (and played flute with) Alive!, Teresa Trull and Julie Homi. But the meeting that was to change my musical life forever was when I met Linda Tillery and Mary Watkins. They were the headliners at the festival, and they were extraordinary.

    Fast forward: I was fortunate to be a Redwood Recording Artist, (got to do a double bill concert with Laura Nyro produced by Redwood Cultural Work) and record my CD “Share My Song” at IMA, June Millington’s studio in Bodega.

    I have had the pleasure of making music with some extraordinary women over the years: Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Casselberry and Dupree, Ronnie Gilbert, Holly Near, Odetta, Cris, Sweet Honey, Ysaye Barnwell, Margie Adam, Erika Luckett, June and Jean Millington, Ani DiFranco, Ferron, Julie Wolf, Toshi Reagon, Gina Breedlove, Mary Watkins…I’ve performed at Mich Fest and conducted the Gospel Choir; National Women’s Music Festival; and many, many others.

    The festival circuit and the incredible women who produced and made spaces for us to share our music gave us opportunities to play and thrive. This is a banner year for Women’s Music. We say goodbye to Michigan and thank you for making a home for us all these years. All of us are forever in your debt for making a place where we could sing loud and proud and strong. It’s the fortieth anniversary of Mich, National, and Changer and the Changed.

    We give honor to those who came before us, and hope we’ve laid down a solid foundation for those who are coming today and beyond. I am so glad to be welcomed at the table of Women who have lifted up other Women with a song.

    Grammy Award nominee Melanie DeMore will be performing in the “San Francisco Bay Times” Pride Parade contingent. http://www.melaniedemore.com/