Women’s Music Cooperative helps women in Peoria connect to the music scene

The founder of the Peoria Music Community Women’s Cooperative Facebook page says the shortage of female musicians in Peoria was one of her motivations for starting the page — which has extended to in-person meetings.

Sarah Marie Dillard of Sarah & the Underground is the new administrator of the Peoria Music Community page. She spoke to WCBU’s Jon Norton in this slightly edited interview about co-op.

WCBU: You also said that making friends with other women on the scene was a challenge. How?

Because it’s set up in such a way, not just in our music community, but in many music communities, it’s set up in such a way that our male colleagues like to quietly put us in competition with each other. Not just like we would normally compete with anyone, including our male colleagues. But put the women in competition with each other as if there was only one place available. So when you met another woman from the community, it was hard to be friends because you immediately felt like you were supposed to be hostile to each other.

Do you think it comes from the way men and women are socialized to view women in our society? Or do you think it’s more specific to the Peoria music community, subtly or not?

I think it’s more of a generalized thing that we’re… that’s a good way of saying it, that we’re socialized in such a way that we felt like we had to compete with each other. And again, the mindset of scarcity comes to mind. So I don’t think it’s a Peoria problem only. But just because it’s not a Peoria issue doesn’t mean we can’t work on it in Peoria.

So that’s one of the reasons why it was important for me to form the women’s cooperative. So that this one, we can find each other. But also, when we meet again, we will be in a very safe, friendly and non-competitive community environment, where mutual support is the norm, because our cooperative establishes this culture.

You had two face-to-face meetings. What are some of the questions or topics or topics that people really wanted to talk about?

Due to the number of new people present who did not know each other, a large part of the meetings was devoted to introductions. Here is my name… This is my group… Here is how you can follow us. We shared struggles over responses to the formation of women’s cooperatives. We shared business issues we encountered and needed advice on. We’ve shared upcoming events that we’re really excited about. And one thing that’s really important for me to emphasize at every meeting is something that each of us wants to celebrate. So we celebrated a lot of our wins and encouraged each other and built that momentum. So it’s not all sad, sad, sad, but it’s good, good, good.

During these meetings, were you able to delve into something a little more specific about the music business?

One of the things that really excites me and that every meeting is going to lead is the location of that meeting. So we change location at each meeting. Last meeting, we had a private after-hours tour of the amazing Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts in Peoria Heights, named after an incredible female performer. And that’s run by an amazing woman in our Peoria music industry named Jenny Parkhurst. She was kind enough to accommodate us to give us a private tour of the facility and tell us about the history of the facility. And she’s the talent buyer. That’s one of the amazing things about these meetings. Not only will members visit facilities they might never have seen before and get a behind-the-scenes look, they’ll also meet talent buyers they’ve never met before, they’ll meet owners and managers of halls. they have not met before.

My personal goal is for everyone who attends every meeting to walk away with a new business partner. So even though we tend to go on the side of personal travel, rather than focusing on professional celebrations or professional struggles, there will always be music, commercial elements at every meeting simply because of our setting, because of our opening networking session. And because of the insider visits and information we are going to receive from these site and facility operators.

It’s a group of women. But could you explain how men can be allies?

Specifically, pay attention to allied events because we are going to have certain meetings where allies are invited to learn more about the projects we are preparing and how they can help us in a more committed way.

But in addition to watching these happenings, a great way to support the women in our music community is to consider them your favorite artists. And how do you treat your favorite artists? They are the first people you look for on your streaming platform, they are the first people you try to go see if you have a party. They are the first people you tell your friends about. And that doesn’t mean you can’t keep promoting your favorite male musicians. But that’s my encouragement to say, “maybe just move us forward in your mental landmark.” And in your everyday music, your relationship, your relationship with music. And when you hear someone in your community talking about women as less than complete or less than deserving, that’s the time to shut up. Whether it’s awkward, or there’s a pause or silence afterwards, or maybe it’s your friend, or maybe there’s someone you’ve never met before. It’s worth that social awkwardness for a single moment to shut that person down. Because if they say these things out loud again, chances are no one else will stop them. So please be that person.

Women make up 50% of the population, but we know they don’t make up 50% of the music scene. What is the music scene and our community in general missing by not having an equal representation of voices?

Well, we know what the women in our community are missing. Because you just said the word: they lack their own representation. They miss hearing songs from their experiences from their hearts from their voices. They miss a lot of cool musicians they would like to listen to. Lots of amazing songwriters were sitting at home playing what might be the most amazing song you’ve ever heard, but since no one gives them stage time, no one will hear it for very long.

And men miss out on the other half of life! And I just want to take this home. Having a woman on stage doesn’t mean you pay the price of giving up your own point of view throughout this listening experience. It means that you are given the gift of an experience that you could not have through your own thought process and through your own point of view.

Sarah Marie Dillard says in-person meetings of the women’s co-op meetings are held the last Sunday of each month from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. with intermittent group outings between monthly meetings. This next meeting will take place on Sunday, July 31 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Three21 Studios in Peoria.

Virginia S. Braud