Guitarist and public relations professional in the music industry, Pauline France is a classically trained guitarist and started playing in her early teens. Born in Southern California, France spent a great deal of time in Mexico and studied guitar and music extensively. France ultimately changed her degree and graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism/public relations.
After college, France landed a job as the corporate publicist for the famed musical instrument company Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). France recently made a career change to work with Mad Sun Marketing where she is the public relations and content manager for the boutique music marketing company.
Not only does France enjoy a career where she can spend a great deal of time around one of the things she loves the most – guitars – she also teaches and inspires students for the love of the instrument.
In 2013, she won the “Next Generation Award” at the Women’s International Music Network’s She Rocks Award at Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) 2013 for being a woman in the music industry “who works tirelessly to do the right thing.”
We had a chance to learn more about France, her musical background, her career in the music industry, and her collection of guitars.
GGM: We met several years ago at NAMM at the She Rocks Awards Breakfast where you received the “Next Generation” Award. What an honor! Can you share with us the meaning behind the award and your experience at the awards breakfast.
France: Wow, I was completely caught off guard with the award, as it was given to me at the very end as a surprise by my dear friend, mentor and now boss Laura B. Whitmore. It wasn’t part of the program, but she planned it far in advance.
Receiving that type of recognition from someone I have tremendous respect for, and in front of hundreds of my peers, was truly humbling and exhilarating. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
GGM: You’re a classically trained guitarist. When did you start playing guitar and what was it that inspired you to play the guitar?
France: I first picked up the guitar when I was 15. I became interested in it after seeing my cousin’s boyfriend play in his band, but it wasn’t until I met another young girl in Mexico, where I was living at the time, who really encouraged me to pick up the instrument.
We both went to Guitar Center, where I bought an entry-level electric, and tried starting a band, but it never came to fruition.
GGM: Where did you study and can you tell us a little about your musical background?
France: After I bought my first guitar, my mom said she’d only let me pursue it if I did it seriously, so she enrolled me in the Centro Hispanoamericano de Guitarra in Tijuana, a guitar institute that is part of the conservatory of Baja California in Mexico.
I was there for a few years, and then majored in music education for many years at Southwestern Community College in San Diego County. There I learned a lot of advanced music theory and took several performance courses, but I realized I didn’t necessarily want to teach music in a large classroom setting.
At that point I switched majors and pursued journalism with an emphasis in public relations, which is what I received my major in from San Diego State University.
I should note that the music teachers that have had the most influence on me were both women, Teresa Madiedo at the conservatory, and Dr. Cynthia McGregor at Southwestern College.
GGM: That’s great! You also teach guitar, correct? What’s the best piece of advice that you would give a beginner student?
France: I do, and it’s a very special part of my life. I started teaching at 17, and when I was living in San Diego I had a nice army of students, teaching both privately and in studios.
For beginner students: It’s all about your attitude. Believe in yourself, be kind to yourself and know that you’ll get there in time. All of the guitar prodigies you look up to were once in your exact place – they just never gave up. Learning guitar is no different than when you were learning how to walk, when you were crawling, or learning to speak when you were mumbling as a baby. You did that, and you can do this, too. Most importantly, have fun with it!
GGM: So having worked with Fender, you must have quite an arsenal of guitars. Can you tell us about your gear?
France: Oh gosh, don’t even get me started. It’s quite atrocious how much gear I amassed in only three years, but I feel quite blessed because I was once a struggling college student that quivered with sadness every time my students arrived with better guitars than I had as their teacher and role model. It was embarrassing.
Now I’m lucky to say I own the guitars I’ve always dreamed of. A few of my favorites are: my Fender Cabronita Telecaster Thinline in Shoreline Gold; Fender Pawn Shop Offset Special in Shell Pink; a Jackson JS22-7 DKA Dinky JS Series 7-String Electric Guitar; and a black Ovation Standard Elite Model 2778 AX.
Amp-wise I’ve got a pretty eclectic and colorful collection: a Fender Greta tabletop radio that also functions as an amp; a limited edition Fender Hot Rod Pro Junior III in Plum Crazy; a Mustang IV and a Frontman 212 R decked out in Cobalt Blue Tolex. Interestingly enough, I never bought a Stratocaster (Fender’s bread and butter), during my tenure at FMIC!
GGM: Quite a collection. Maybe you’ll get that Strat soon. Not only are you a musician and instructor, you are very involved in the business side of the music industry, as well, having worked as the corporate publicist for Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Sounds like a fun job. What types of activities were you involved with?
France: Yes, I absolutely loved my time with the company, and feel very fortunate to have experienced what I did when I did, because I embarked on the thrill of a lifetime with my first-ever job right out of college at Fender.
I did everything from pitching products and corporate announcements, to coordinating media for the grand opening events, and everything in between.
My favorite thing out of everything, though, was to take media to the Fender factory in Corona for them to witness and show the world the truly magical vibe that goes on inside the factory. Even after visiting there time after time, I was always left in awe. It’s something every music lover should experience.
GGM: I’m sure you met some iconic rock legends during your tenure with Fender. Any one particular moment that stands out from the rest?
France: The times I met Eddie Van Halen and John Mayer. It was one of those things where you had to be in the right place at the right time. I met them both at the FMIC booth during NAMM on separate occasions, and they were very kind and personable. It’s times like those that, again, I feel very grateful for getting to do what I love for a living.
|Eddie Van Halen and Pauline France
|Pauline France and John Mayer
GGM: I love them both – excellent musicians. What a treat! Well, you recently left Fender and are now working with Laura Whitmore at Mad Sun Marketing. Laura works tirelessly in supporting women in music. What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities in your new role?
France: She does! I am so lucky to be working with a woman who is not only encouraging but also inspiring. My co-worker, Tom Gilbert, is also a huge supporter of women in music and a really great person to work with.
A good challenge I’ve had since the beginning of my career is educating people on the music products industry, and changing perception that we’re antiquated or stagnant. I believe I am in a great position to help change this belief in my current role.
I want to help our industry and clients by creating positive awareness, showing people the immense talent we have to offer and innovation that actually goes on in the music industry. I believe that’s both a challenge and an opportunity.
GGM: Some would say you are in a traditionally male-dominated field – does that intimidate you in any way and what do you see as your best angle for success?
France: I’ve never really been self-conscious about it because I feel so comfortable in my own skin. I am not intimidated because I know just as much as they do, and perhaps am even at a vantage point because of my fresh perspective as a woman.
My best angle for success is to master my craft, keep learning, and believe in myself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? People can see right through you.
GGM: Well that’s a great attitude and I wish you the best of luck in your new role and look forward to seeing you at NAMM in a few weeks!
France: Thank you so much! I’m so grateful for all the support you’ve provided us with. You’re truly a champion in our industry and a wonderful person to work with.
GGM: Wow, thanks! I truly appreciate it!