CUNY Arts Team Partners With City to Teach Music Industry Skills and Boost Gender Equity
Ask Jemia Bennett, Lucie Bernheim and Tamara Tondreau what they learned from a new program to introduce high school students to the music industry and increase female representation in the field, and the words pour out:
“You have to put yourself out there.”
“It helped me face my fears.”
“Thirty-nine amazing women.”
The girls participated this summer in Sound Thinking NYC, a new education and career-path program primarily for young women in New York City high schools. Launched by The City University of New York’s Creative Arts Team (CAT) and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) in partnership with NY is Music, the free, three-week summer program exposes the teens to industry skills, technology, opportunities and mentors with the aim of creating a pipeline into the music field, where women are underrepresented.
The 40 students, entering 11th and 12th grades, learned about audio technology, engineering, and recording and music production, took field trips to studios, and had discussions with women in the profession. They also learned time management, self-care and leadership skills, said Jeanne Houck, executive director of CAT, an arts and education division under CUNY’s K-through-16 initiative that teaches tools for college success. The girls can participate in workshops this year and apply for paid summer internships. Boys can also apply for the Sound Thinking program.
“The music industry is not just music. It’s finance, it’s writing; there are multiple things you can do,” said Tamara Tondreau, a Bronx 11th grader. She learned audio technology to create “the soundtrack of my life” – a medley of sounds a city child might hear such as “traffic, footsteps, a door closing.” Another highlight: her first time “actually singing into a microphone inside a studio.”
‘Being My Best Self’
Bennett, also from the Bronx, said she was drawn to Sound Thinking “because of the message they were bringing – gender equity.” She, too, performed during the program, with a friend: “We went up there and sang ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone.” She said she learned the importance of “how people present themselves, being my best self, showing respect so I can have that opportunity.”
For Bernheim, of Manhattan, who wants to be a professional songwriter, one highlight was “getting to know everyone else in the program – 39 amazing women.” There was also personal growth: “I have major stage fright, but part of being a songwriter is you have to sing your songs.
The program has really helped me to face my fears head on.” “There’s so much work behind the scenes,” said Tondreau. “I’m keeping an open mind. I really do like songwriting. I might go on the producing side. I want to learn more before deciding what path to take.”