MEOW Con is a conference for women in music that was created by Carla DeSantis Black, Founder and Director of Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women. The event was held last week in Austin, Texas and was a huge success; and, of course, why wouldn’t it be as Ms. Black is an experienced publisher with success in the music industry from her former ROCKRGRL Magazine and ROCKRGRL Music Conferences.
According to Ms. Black, “MEOW Con is a conference for women in music and is dedicated to exposure, empowerment and community-building for women in all genres of music.” The event was filled with keynote speakers, panels and workshops, film screenings, interviews, book readings, and entertainment (more on this to follow).
It was a “Chamber of Commerce” welcoming to Austin with the beautiful weather and the very friendly staff at the Renaissance Hotel for those attending MEOW Con, and things kicked into high gear with the Women of Valor Awards Banquet.
Women of Valor Awards Banquet Honors Margaret Moser and Suzi Quatro
The banquet room was meticulously decorated and the evening opened with very emotional and touching speeches by longtime friend, EA Srere, business colleague, Jody Denberg of KUTX-FM, and musician, Sara Hickman, all paying tribute to one of the Women of Valor Award Winners Margaret Moser for her journalistic skills, while at the same time trying to elevate the status of women in music. Margaret Moser is an author, the Senior Staff Writer for the Austin Chronicle, Director of the Austin Music Awards, Austin Music Commissioner, and a self-described former “Groupie.” There were stories of her passion for music, how she started her career, about her commitment to bringing music to children, how she was known as one of “The Texas Blondes,” and even an escapade of her driving a golf cart into a swimming pool…you will have to Google that story! Sara Hickman said that Margaret is the best writer at the Austin Chronicle and, “Her words will be treasured for generations and generations.”
Margaret Moser accepting the WOV Award
Then, Ms. Black took the stage to introduce Suzi Quatro as a recipient of the “Woman of Valor” Award for her lifetime achievement to music. A self-described recovering bass player, Ms. Black spoke of the first time she heard Suzi Quatro play her bass and that she knew at that point that woman could rock! Suzi’s sister, Patti, took the podium and spoke of their early family years growing up in Detroit, their love of rock ‘n’ roll and Motown music, and the support of their parents. She spoke of how they formed their all-girl band “The Pleasure Seekers” and how they got their first gig. There was even one night that Jefferson Airplane was at the house jamming in the basement when Dad showed up in his boxers and jammed with them!
Kathy Valentine (The Go Gos) had the honor of presenting Suzi Quatro with the award and spoke proudly of how Suzi was the pioneer for women to take the stage and rock. She spoke of when she was 15 and she first saw Suzi perform on TV in her signature leather outfits and described her as a “glam rock Elvis Presley trapped in a woman’s body.” It was then that she realized that she, too, could become a rock star.
Suzi proudly accepted the Award in typical Suzi style and told a few jokes and even a funny family story. After reading the inscription on the placque which said “The Woman of Valor Award is presented to Suzi Quatro on October 24, 2013 in appreciation of your role in challenging gender stereotypes in popular music and in recognition of your 50 years as an entertainer – all hail the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” she humbly said, “How lucky am I?”
Carla DeSantis Black and Suzi Quatro as Suzi receives her WOV Award
Attendees of the awards banquet were later treated to a special performance by Suzi, her sister, Patti, and then was later joined on stage by Tony Scalzo of Fastball. After all these years, Suzi can sure still ROCK it and own the stage!
Patti Quatro and Suzi Quatro perform at MEOW Con 2013
Let the Conference Begin…
After an evening of fine food and entertainment, the two day conference officially kicked off on the following day. There were keynote speeches by Suzi Quatro and Kathy Valentine; and there were panels and workshops covering topics like building women communities, how to be interviewed, why do good girls go bad covering Britney to Miley, sexism, blogs and online journalism, girl summer camps, lack of female festival headliners, how to build your online presence, Kickstarter campaigns, how to create YouTube videos on a tight budget, and so much more. For an entire list of all the events, visit the MEOW Con site HERE.
Suzi Quatro’s keynote speech was held on Friday morning and she talked about how she was inspired to become a musician, all of the musical instruments in their home, her 1957 Fender Precision bass, leaving Detroit to start a career in England with Mickie Most, her several Elvis epiphanies, her early struggles when she first arrived in London, her successes, Leather Tuscadero, and her life today. Suzi is a great speaker and had the crowd laughing and even sometimes bringing a tear to their eyes.
Suzi Quatro Keynote Speech
Kathy Valentine’s keynote speech was held the following day where she also talked about her desire to become a musician. She spoke of how she became one of the The Go Go’s when she was called on to become a temporary bass player. She didn’t play bass at the time, but immediately went home and spent the next four days learning every song. There was also a very interesting “groupie” story!
Kathy Valentine Keynote Speech
Beth Marlis of Musicians Institute had a one-on-one interview with legendary guitarist Jennifer Batten about her first guitar, her time as a student at Musicians Institute – and being the first female to graduate from MI – her career with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, and her current performing career.
Jennifer Batten and Beth Marlis at MEOW Con 2013
I was somewhat overcome by the multitude of panels to attend, but I was able to key in on several, one of which was entitled “Guitar Heroes” moderated by Beth Marlis (Musicians Institute), with panelists Janet Robin (artist), Leni Stern (artist) and Laura B. Whitmore (Women’s International Music Network) which revolved around the question of “why are there so few female guitar heroes?” Ms. Marlis gave some very informative facts outlining the disproportionate percentage of women listed in the major guitar magazines as Guitar Heroes (Rolling Stone at 2% and Guitar Player at 4%), how some are even typically models holding guitars in very suggestive poses, the enrollment of female guitar players at Musicians Institute remains at only 5% year after year, and that women buy only 7% of electric guitars in the United States. Discussions were held regarding the changing landscape with the many up-and-coming female Guitar Heroes including Orianthi, Bibi McGill, Kristen Capolino and several others.
Panel Members (Left to Right): Leni Stern, Laura B. Whitmore, Janet Robin and Beth Marlis
Other panels I attended included the topic of “Relatively Speaking: When Your Family is in the Band” with panelists Nancy and Patti Quatro (Artists), Meg Frampton (Artists), and Kristy Smith( Artist) discussing the sometimes difficult situations of working with family members; and “The Girls of Summer: The Music Camp Revolution” which was moderated by Laura B. Whitmore with panelists Laura Mendoza (Artist and School of Rock Instructor), Dr. Monika Herzig (Girls Create Music), Madeleine Campbell (Co-Director, Girls Rock Pittsburgh) and Jessica Boettger (Program Director, Girls Rock Austin). Each panelist talked about their programs, how they teach the girls to pick an instrument, start a band, learn about women in music, and empowering them to know that they too can play in the male-dominated world of music.
|“Relatively Speaking: When Your Family is in the Band” with panelists (L to R) Meg Frampton (Artist), Kristy Smith (Artist), Nancy and Patti Quatro (Artists) and moderated by Shelly King (Artist)||“The Girls of Summer: The Music Camp Revolution” with panelists (L to R) Jessica Boettger (Program Director, Girls Rock Austin), Madeleine Campbell (Co-Director, Girls Rock Pittsburgh), Dr. Monika Herzig (Girls Create Music), and Laura Mendoza (Artist and School of Rock Instructor). Moderated by Laura B. Whitmore (Women’s International Music Network).|
The film screening of SheRocks! Documentary was showcased on Friday afternoon to a full house. The documentary showcased the evolution of great female guitar players, past and present, and their unique perspectives on what it takes to succeed in this generally male-dominated field. She Rocks! includes interviews and performances by Suzi Quatro, Kathy Valentine, Orianthi, Jennifer Batten, Bibi McGill, Donna Grantis, and many others. The documentary was directed and produced by Steve Swersky and Greg Conway. Several of the artists in the documentary were in attendance including Suzi Quatro, Patti Quatro, June Millington, Jennifer Batten, Beth Marlis, Kathy Valentine and Janet Robin.
Pictured left to right: Nancy Quatro, Doug Conway, Patti Quatro, Suzi Quatro,
June Millington, Steve Conway, Jennifer Batten, Beth Marlis and Janet Robin
There were several book readings that I was able to catch a few moments of including “Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways” by Evelyn McDonnell and “What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal” by Laina Dawes.
|“Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways” by Evelyn McDonnell||“What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal” by Laina Dawes|
In addition to the all-day events, every evening was full of entertainment. I was fortunate enough to see Jennifer Batten, June Millington, Kathy Valentine and her band The Bluebonnets, Janet Robin, Eljuri, Leanne Summers, Sara Hickman, Daisy O’Connor, Leni Stern, Paula Boggs, Sara Pierce, Lani Ford, Starflight, Deborah Crooks, Jo Wymer, Emily Herring, and Taylor Cullen…and I am definitely looking forward to MEOW Con 2014.
|Jennifer Batten||Leni Stern|
|Los Angeles Women in Music Performers||Starflight|