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(NO?) Strings Attached:
Female guitarists in contemporary music

(Released July 2009)

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  by Les Reynolds  

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Gender, and Genre, Bending

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Boston, Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Patty Larkin (b. 1951) is yet another female musician turning the spotlight onto others in her arena. She founded a project, and produced and performed on a CD, called "La Guitara: Gender Bending Strings" (Vanguard) (16). She also produces a wide-ranging production of performances by female guitar instrumentalists (17). In fact, as Dan Ouellette writes in "Acoustic Guitar", Larkin, also a skillful instrumentalist in her own right, had no idea just how far her project would go. Her vision, however, seemed clear as she expressed in the CD's liner notes her belief that women guitarists of the past played a part in the instrument's evolution and their story is largely untold-and present-day guitarists are actively changing preconceptions about gender and guitar "heroes."

On a related note, the article's side-bar reports that Larkin's original idea was partly inspired upon seeing an exhibit of guitars in 2001 at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts related to the book "Dangerous Curves: The Art of the Guitar" in which only a few women were represented. She thought back over all the female guitarists she'd seen over the past 20 to 25 years, and noticed none of them had been truly showcased, with stories left untold. She decided to act.

In a "Boston Globe" article (18), Larkin explains that, despite the growing numbers of female guitarists, her project is necessary to expose people to their music rather than allowing them to remain marginalized.

In a review of one of Larkin's showcases held in Troy, New York, in April 2006, Ellen Geisel wrote that the performance represents an "enormously pleasing step to realizing the depth and breadth of women guitarists' contribution to music." (Dirty Linen, 19)

Showcasing-In Reverse?

The first woman to win the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship (20), Muriel Anderson, based in Nashville, Tennessee, perhaps has nothing left to prove-to men or women-in the music industry. Anderson is a long-time composer and publisher of works for guitar, voice and orchestra who was mentored by the late Chet Atkins, legendary among country guitarists. She is also the founder and director of the Music for Life Alliance (MLA, which procures instruments for underprivileged children), and the host of her own All Star Guitar Night (ASG) concert series, which originated in 1993. This series brings together some of the world's most talented guitarists-predominantly male-in an effort to support MLA. In an informal atmosphere, ASG has begun offering smaller touring shows to find new audiences around the world.

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