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Young Women Learn About Music and Electronics in Hands-On Workshop

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Participants in Girls Rock Philly's summer music institute perform on their handmade instruments at the Rotunda, in West Philadelphia.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

Participants in Girls Rock Philly’s summer music institute perform on their handmade instruments at the Rotunda, in West Philadelphia. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Fishtown nonprofit that teaches girls confidence through musical self-expression held a concert this week.

The “Girls Rock Philly” participants performed Tuesday on instruments they made from scratch during a two-day workshop.

The instruments were simple.  One was a contact microphone soldered to a cable connected to the bottom of a cardboard box.

“Any object that they put inside the box and then played on that surface, the contact mike picks up the vibrations from that object — that’s how you make the music,” explains Suzanne Thorpe.

Thorpe (conducting, at left, in top photo) is one-half of Techne, a musician duo that’s holding rock-and-roll summer camps along the east coast. Their goal: to get more girls involved in music technology.

“They’re learning about basic signal flow and basic circuitry, and basically how sound and electricity are related,” Thorpe says. “Their process of exploration and creativity seems to be boundless.”

The girls spent the summer in Girls Rock Philly’s summer music institute, and the workshop — titled “Electronic Music Powered by Girls” — took their learning to the next level.

“Not only are they playing an instrument, but they are learning the process of how to create it and how sound works,” said Diane Foglizzo, director of Girls Rock Philly.

The girls put their instruments to work at a concert at the Rotunda performance space, 40th and Walnut Streets.  They performed as part of a new and experimental music festival hosted by the Philadelphia-based experimental music group Bowerbird.

“When you start a new instrument that you don’t know much about, you can do a bunch of random things that sound very good,” says Tracy Gresham, one of the ten young ladies who took part in the workshop.  The 17-year-old plays flute, guitar, piano, and bass, and was one of eight girls who took the stage.

“It was really cool,” she says.  “I put rubber bands on a box and I stretched them out and learned the different pitches.  I really learned the inner workers of guitar.”

“I’ve played guitar, keys, drums, and clarinet,” says Kayla Henry, 13.  But did she think she could make an instrument out of these throwaway material?

“Not at all, but I really enjoyed doing this,” she said.

And from the sounds of all the applause, the audience really enjoyed listening to the end result.

For more information on the “Girls Rock Philly” program, go to girlsrockphilly.org.

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