The ASCAP Expo is a bustling event that’s focused on the makers of music. Housed at the Loews hotel in the heart of the lively tourist scene in Hollywood CA, the Expo is a mecca for glamorous and hardworking pop and hip-hop superstars and behind-the-scenes masters, all of whom share their insight and advice with future producers, songwriters and music creators from all walks of life.
Hosted by the hardworking folks at one of the U.S.’ top Performing Rights Organizations, the event focuses on the business of music, attracting thousands from both near and far. And, although there are star-studded speeches, panels and performances that feature artists like Timbaland, Andra Day, Melissa Etheridge and many more, there are few performance opportunities for those who attend.
Three years ago, the Women’s International Music Network (The WiMN) thought it would be a brilliant idea to capture the attention of this audience of labels, producers, superstars and up-and-comers by hosting a showcase of curated female talent. The official She Rocks Showcase at the ASCAP Expo takes place on the Friday evening of the event at a nearby venue. This year, it was attended by hundreds of Expo registrants, guests and fans.
The She Rocks Showcase seeks to give a diverse roster of female musicians a voice by offering the opportunity to perform, as well as to create exposure for both the WiMN in general and the hand-selected artists in particular.
This year, the night was fabulously varied and supported. As the host and as curator, I listen to every submission personally to create the perfect blend of musical styles and performance ensemble mixes, and to build the event from a sublime beginning to a jaw-dropping finale. This year did not disappoint. It’s especially important to me that these musicians also play instruments; this year, they did so in spades!
The evening started with a duet that featured Los Angeles artist Jenna Paone and me performing a song we wrote together. As a host of many open mics and events, I find it fun and ice breaking to start the event with my own performance. Then, I handed the microphone over to Paone, who performed two more originals that showcased her substantial writing, vocal and keyboard chops.
Paone shared, “I’m so proud to be a part of this group of skilled, savvy, supportive women, and to celebrate our collective contributions to the music industry. So many good things—performance opportunities, creative partnerships and friendships—have come my way because of The WIMN. I’m glad to be able to pass that positivity on to others. At the end of the day, The WIMN is a family, and we’re here to cheer each other on.”
Next up was 16-year-old Maddy Vance, a young pianist and singer/songwriter from Orange County CA. The talented Vance’s velvety voice mesmerized the audience, as she deftly wrote and sang of topics far beyond her years. She had this to say about the experience: “An organization like The Women’s International Music Network shines a light on women in the industry and keeps it alive. To be part of something like the She Rocks Showcase is so inspirational. It celebrates not only music, but also the many talented women in music.”
Then, attendees were treated to a larger ensemble that was led by Los Angeles-based artist Anjali Ray. Fresh from a tour of India, Ray, a classically trained pianist, was joined by drums and bass. Her sweet voice, soaring melodies and obvious professionalism brought listeners on a fanciful musical journey as she shared her well-crafted original compositions. “I was especially impressed by, and grateful to see, the diversity of styles and demographics represented at the showcase,” Ray commented. “I believe it takes the exact type of initiative shown by The WIMN to break stereotypes and musical boundaries. It was an honor to participate.”
The teenage sister duo of Facing West was up next. Multi-instrumentalists Caitlin and Sidney Powell drove 14 hours from their home in Colorado to share tight harmonies, well-crafted arrangements, and substantial guitar, mandolin and ukulele chops. Their Americana flair and their sunny, energetic exuberance underscored their joyous songwriting, performance and vocal expertise.
The final performance of the evening highlighted a veteran’s brand new music. Bassist Divinity Roxx was joined by legendary guitarist Kat Dyson and drum pro Benita Lewis as she funked the face off the room with songs from her new empowerment-focused album, titled “ImPossible.” Roxx’s natural, virtuosic funk bass lines underscored her gritty, rap-influenced messaging; it resulted in a style all her own. Her raw passion and natural cool punctuated a show-stopping tour-de-force that was straight from the heart and that left the audience begging for more.
Roxx shared, “The She Rocks Showcase is essential during the ASCAP: I Create Music Expo because it highlights the talent of women who write, perform and operate in all capacities in an industry that, oftentimes, overlooks the contributions of women. It also gives young, up-and-coming artists a platform to display their talent and to hone their performance skills. Being onstage in front of people is the best way to do that.”
The event couldn’t have happened without industry support, and the end of the evening was highlighted by a giveaway from Casio. A keyboard was awarded onsite to one lucky attendee who hailed from Swansea MA. Other supporters of the event included Studio 637, which provided the PA; Ear Trumpet Labs, which shared high-end microphones for the vocalists; Sam Ash, which provided some of the backline; and SIR, which brought in the stage.
Julie Vance, the mother of Maddy Vance, added her perspective, saying, “A year ago, Maddy and I had the opportunity to go to the 2015 She Rocks Awards at NAMM. After the show, Maddy said to me, ‘I have to be part of this group of women. I want to be like them and inspire other women with my music someday!’ She was so impressed with the award show and with being so close to iconic women, and she wanted to do something positive with her music, as so many of them who were honored that night have. So, when we heard about the Showcase, it was truly a very exciting opportunity for her. For the last few years, she has made it an important part of her music to study and learn about women in the industry. So, it was an honor to get to sing with other talented, inspirational women at the ASCAP Expo.”
The Women’s International Music Network will be hosting another She Rocks Showcase during Summer NAMM, at the Listening Room in Nashville TN, on June 23 at 8:30pm. The event is also a fundraiser for the organization, and it’s open to the public. A NAMM badge is not required.
The WiMN also recently opened nominations for its flagship event: the She Rocks Awards. Set to take place in Anaheim CA in January, as part of the NAMM Show, this year marks the fifth anniversary of this spectacular tribute to women in the music industry.
To nominate someone for a She Rocks Award, or to find out more about the organization’s events and initiatives, go to thewimn.com.