Intersections: Rising Girls

April 09, 2017 by Bill Ivey

When you combine sound with goals, happiness, possibilities, you’ve got the perfect storm. - June Millington, from her TEDxShelburneFalls talk, “Rocking the Boat:How Playing Like a Girl Can Change the World.

A guitar strums a four-chord progression. A bass joins in. A rat-a-tat-a-tat on the drums kicking off a solid backbeat. The first lyric, “With your feet in the air and your head on the ground. Try this trick and spin it, yeah.” (Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies) resonates through the gym. Last night’s benefit concert for Girls Rising was off to a great start.

The SBS Upper School Rock Bands were amazing - calm and cool, focused and poised. Their diverse seven-song set included everything from Amy Winehouse to Arctic Monkeys to One Direction, and one original song by band member Edith ‘19 - a reimagining (in Chinese) of “The Little Mermaid” story. She got three rounds of applause for her introduction alone, and deafening cheering following the song. Standing backstage, I could see the band members of Kalliope Jones waiting their turn, moving their heads and tapping their feet, clearly enjoying every minute. Klondike Sound was working this show (and did a wonderful job), and they were deeply impressed.

Kalliope Jones became nationally famous for standing up to a male contest judge who told this group of teenage girls to “use the sultry” when on stage. But before and since that moment, they are highly talented musicians who have been playing together for five years, including at professional venues like the Iron Horse and Passim, and who through hours of careful practice and regular performances are growing by leaps and bounds and clearly Going Places. They powered through an impressive high energy set of original compositions, giving a shout out to the SBS bands and expressing their delight to be once again sharing a stage with Antigone Rising.

Antigone Rising plays high energy country-tinged rock with an underlying social conscience, and every show I’ve ever seen has been a delight from the first to the last note. Besides clearly having fun up on stage as the audience listened in delight (and a couple danced almost unnoticed in the back of the gym), they clearly felt a connection to the teenagers who were also part of the show. Bassist Kristen Henderson talked about how much she had loved hearing the Stoneleigh-Burnham bands, how hard they had clearly worked, and how it all took her back to her own days in Junior High getting her start. They called the Stoneleigh-Burnham bands to join them on stage for “Game Changer” (termed by one band member when she first heard it “the most Stoneleigh song ever!”), and several of the kids ended up sharing the lead vocals start to finish as the full group sang along on the intro, choruses, and outro. At the end of it, Nini Camps, Antigone Rising’s lead singer, gave a big hug to the kids singing on her mic. Later, I saw one of the kids with her eyes and smile radiating happiness and asked, “Was it a good night?” “Oh, yes!” she said. “The best night of my life!”

Afterwards, I got the chance to talk to Nini and guitarist Cathy Henderson (Kristen’s sister), to let them know some backstory and how much the concert meant to the kids. Nini looked wistful for a second and said she wished she had had that chance growing up, to just hang out with girls and play music. Cathy remembered her own childhood, hanging out with up to 10 or more girls playing instruments of every type. The Institute of Musical Arts (co-founded by June Millington), where Kalliope Jones got their start, provides just such an opportunity. As, of course, do we!

The concert ended with Kalliope Jones joining Antigone Rising on stage, to reprise “Angel From Montgomery” from their October 2016 show at the Iron Horse. Antigone Rising had wonderfully kind words for Kalliope Jones, too, whom they’ve been following and supporting for at least two and half years now. Holding a piece of paper on which one imagines lyrics had been scribbled, Kalliope Jones traded leads and harmonized on the third verse: “There's flies in the kitchen / I can hear them buzzin' / And I ain't done nothin' since I woke up today / But how the hell can a person / Go to work in the mornin' / And come home in the evenin' / And have nothin' to say.”

I’m thinking not one person on stage last night is at risk of that. Which, of course, is exactly the point of the work all of us are going. After all, the mission of the non-profit Girls Rising, started by Antigone Rising, intersects Stoneleigh-Burnham’s here: be unafraid to put yourself out there, be who you were meant to be, and do what you were meant to do. Wherever it might lead you.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: Rock Band, Feminism, Mission Statement, Women in Rock, Intersections, #GirlsRock