GRAMMY Pro Songwriters Summit: Women Making Music | New York
By: Jaqueline Smiley
On March 20, 2017, The Recording Academy's New York Chapter and The Apollo Theater Education Program gathered together to present GRAMMY Pro Songwriters Summit: Women Making Music, held at the world-famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Three dynamic women – Andrea Martin, Emily King, and Kendra Foster – sat down to discuss their unique experiences in the music business as singers, songwriters, and producers across their successful careers. Their candid and compelling conversation was moderated by Tracey Jordan, Director of Artist and Industry Relations for Sirius XM and New York Chapter Board Governor.
To kick off the evening, Apollo Director of Education Shirley Taylor shared some background on the iconic theatre’s eighty-three year history, highlighting The Apollo Theatre Education Program's commitment to preserving the venue's legacy and to passing knowledge down to younger generations. Nick Cucci, Executive Director of The Recording Academy’s New York Chapter, also addressed the audience to touch on The Recording Academy's efforts to create a supportive community for all music creators.
The panelists answered a series of impressive, thought-provoking questions by Taylor, as well as questions from the audience. Each songwriter has written hits for top-billing recording artists like Toni Braxton, D’Angelo, and Nas, but all have also written and performed huge songs of their own. These women are storytellers and visionaries; each is multi-talented and unafraid to step outside of their comfort zone in pursuit of her dream.
Each panelist lent valuable perspective and shared humorous anecdotes on topics spanning the creative process, their first breakthroughs and the best (and worst) performance memories from their careers. Andrea Martin recounted how she got her start singing background vocals, which in turn led to writing vocal demos for mega-hits such as Robin S’s “Show Me Love.” Without missing a beat, Martin broke from her story and sang the song, sailing effortlessly through the high notes and enchanting all within earshot.
A persistent challenge faced by all three women across their careers: misogyny. Emily King described the obstacles she faced as “A series of transformations. I think one of the big distractions that women face that men [don’t] is physical appearance. It’s a distraction from the music that you make and what you are trying to do.” King revealed that she would often wear suits to channel a feeling of "masculine energy" because it allowed her to focus more on what she was doing.
Kendra Foster spoke from the heart about the dichotomy she faced as a performer between trying to appear simultaneously fearless and vulnerable on stage. A tactic she learned from George Clinton and Erykah Badu is that they both go for it at all costs. “Being yourself in the moment, without being afraid to show it and allowing yourself to root into the music and open up, that is when I feel I have my best performance,” she explained.
We would like to thank The Apollo Theatre for hosting this insightful discussion, and a heartfelt thanks to all who came out to the event, see you at the next one!