COTTAGE GROVE – The GRRLZ are back on the beat, celebrating the work and perseverance of female-musicians of all ages. After a few years of modified and digital festivals — the GRRLZ returned this November to rock and roll all across Lane County.
The month-long takeover of girl power features nearly 50 female-led bands, female speakers, dancers, filmmakers and comedians.
Founder Matrisha Armitage says the success of GRRLZ Rock! lies in its message of inclusivity.
“We promote and inspire existing female artists to honor their craft and do what they do. And that inspires younger artists to see that support and motivation to get involved without being fearful of tournaments or unsafe environments,” she says. Despite the name, GRRLZ Rock events have encouraged and inspired performers and artists from all over the nation and is 100% inclusive to all non-binary and female supportive acts.
GRRLZ Rock is a program supported by the Music Education & Performing Artists Association (MEPAA) which provides access to music education and the arts by removing barriers and identifying resources needed for inclusion, exploration, and success.
MEPAA recently found a new, permanent home in Eugene/Springfield at the MEPAA Music & Arts Center, transforming their programming to include hands-on, in-person lessons and more.
Cooper Morris is a music teacher with MEPPA, for him, facilitating music education is more than just learning to play an instrument.
“We like to call ourselves music educated facilitators,” he said. “So we’re facilitating learning and giving people the tools and opportunity to learn, with less of a strict teaching style. I think that just works for so many more people than the books do.”
“Grrrlz Rock” brought diverse women from all fields to the community. Jam sessions, jazz troupes were scattered across Eugene all the way to the Axe & Fiddle in downtown Cottage Grove.
“Every GRRLZ rock event involves some sort of generational passing of the torch,” Armitage said.
During the pandemic, organizers conducted online festivals and classes to continue to share the power of music in a modified way.
At the Axe and Fiddle earlier this month, two sisters, Zoe and Ayla Edleson joined in on the fun.
Zoe, who is in 2nd grade, delighted fans with her solo-sax rendition of Careless Whisper, while big sister Ayla played some Alicia Keys on the guitar.
“Music is just such an important part of life,” said Eva Edleson, mother. “I started singing to these girls when I was pregnant with them. And we found that music is such a wonderful way to learn and to express an emotion.”
The family, which boasts musicians all around, has yet to start a family band – but dad Max Edleson says it’s at the heart of what they do.
“This is such a celebration of people, kids, families, women and girls, all getting together to make good memories … This is a great reminder that music is a community thing. We’re not isolated. And that’s what we’re celebrating today,” he said.