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BHR hosts second annual Women in Music event

On Thursday, Mar. 7, Blue Hawk Records (BHR) hosted its second Annual Women in Music Event to honor and participate in Women’s History Month. The event, which was around three hours long, was Barbie- and female empowerment-themed. Everything, from the program, to the posters, and even the balloons, featured a Barbie-like figure in honor of the event.

The event consisted of panelists speaking about their experiences in music, answering questions, networking with students, and, of course, musical performances by women in music who attend Monmouth.

Throughout the night there were lots of emotional moments. There were tears and laughter among the audience, but most importantly, there was an honest open talk about the struggles women in music go through in the music business.

The event was supposed to have five panelists originally, but due to some complications, two did not end up showing and an emergency panelist came instead. The five original panelists were Lexi Todd, Arina Martin, Tianna Grolly, Cheyenne Arnold, and Karen Gross. The additional panelist was Michelle Ettiene.
Todd is an in-house attorney and the Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Wave Music. She handles contract drafting and negotiation and other legal matters for Primary Wave’s music publishing, recorded music, artist management film and TV, and marketing and branding divisions as well as various business and operational functions.

Martin is a Monmouth ‘21 graduate with a degree in music with a concentration in music industry. She then landed a role at Sirius XM/Pandora as a Multicultural Brand and Social Media Marketing Coordinator. In July 2023, she was then promoted to Social Content and Growth Marketing Specialist.

Grolly works at Atlantic Records as a Creative Services Production Assistant in New York and learns to produce photoshoots for Atlantic’s in-house photographer, where she focuses on album and single covers as well as press photos for the artists on the label.

Ettiene works in headhunting music industry professionals for executive and upper management jobs, after also graduating from Monmouth with a degree in music industry.

The panelists who were unable to join were Arnold and Gross. Though Gross could not attend after all, she did send a message to be read to the audience, which was read out by Monmouth’s Women in Music Chapter President Amani Adelekan, who also performed at the event. The speech contained thank yous, an apology for not being able to attend, and some other uplifting words. It also contained important statistics on the limited number of women who currently work in the music industry.

These statistics stated that, in 2023, less than one-third of the artists on Billboard’s year-ending charts were women. Only around 14% of credited songwriters are women. That’s around 6.8 men to every one woman. Only around 3.4% of producers in the industry are women, and even less than that are women of color or ethnic minority background. Only 13 of the 50 female producers found were of color, which is 26% of female producers. This means that just around 1% of producers are women of color or ethnic minority background. These limited numbers, though anxiety-inducing when first looked at, are something that these panelists hope to change both by being women in music themselves and by helping to inspire girls to pursue this career trajectory, as well. Which, according to these them, is very important.

“[Participating in this panel] means everything to me,” said Grolly. “It’s so important to have mentors to teach you the nitty gritty and the hard parts of the industry.”

Rashida Scott-Cruz, adjunct for the Department of Music and Theatre Arts, is the faculty advisor of the new Women in Music Chapter here at Monmouth and was also as the professor who helped BHR President Abby Garcia start this event in 2022. Scott-Cruz explained, “As a woman in the music industry, witnessing other women stepping up and claiming visible roles amidst a landscape dominated by men is both empowering and uplifting. In any circumstance it is important that you remain committed to your goals despite obstacles you may face along the way.”

The night also included a Q&A portion where attendees could ask panelists personal questions pertaining to the industry or to their own experiences such as sexual harassment or inappropriate interactions they’ve had with male coworkers, how to stand out among their peers in the business, and what it feels like to have so little women, especially women of color, in the industry to work with and be surrounded by.

Throughout the night there were three different musical acts, all women, who sang songs on theme. Performances included junior music industry major Olivia Melfi who sang “Invincible” by Kelly Clarkson, senior music industry major Samantha Jordan singing Taylor Swift’s “The Man,” and freshman music industry major Joleen Amer who performed Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” with a guest appearance of Jeff “The Piano Man” Mendez on the piano.

The event was largely packed with music students, but contained those from multiple majors, years, and genders. The event, though titled with the word “women,” was also for men and important for the male attendees, according to the panelists.

Cameron Bacon, who is on the BHR executive board and attended the event, said, “[It’s important that men support women in music] because everyone deserves an opportunity. Decisions shouldn’t be made based on you being male or female; it should be based on the quality of your work that you do. If you’re going for a position, you should be able to get it whether you’re female or male.”

“For all women encountering barriers in the music industry, navigating these challenges can feel daunting, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there are steps you can take to overcome these obstacles and carve out your path in the industry,” said Scott-Cruz.