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Sound Thinking NYC trains girls for the music industry, where there’s a lack of female talent

The summer program provides three weeks of hands-on training in music production for city girls, as well as additional opportunities during the school year.

Sound Thinking NYC provides female students in the

Sound Thinking NYC provides female students in the city with hands-on experience in music production to help combat gender disparities in the industry. Photo Credit: Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment

The music industry has no shortage of female superstars, but there is a different tune playing behind the scenes.

Only 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2 percent of music producers are women, according to a study released by USC in January.

However, a summer program coordinated by the city and CUNY aims to reverse that trend by giving teen girls hands-on experience in some of the city’s top recording studios.

Sound Thinking NYC features a class of 46 girls — incoming high school juniors and seniors from all five boroughs — who will learn recording, mixing, audio engineering and other skills during the three-week program.

Ah-Keisha McCants, program director for Sound Thinking NYC, wants students to get past any notion that production roles are just for boys.

“We are understanding that even though the numbers aren’t the greatest, there are [women] there who are building their experience,” she said.

Jeanne Houck, executive director of the creative arts team at CUNY, which worked with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and music advocacy group NY is Music to create Sound Thinking NYC, said the program’s coordinators make sure the teens receive a well-rounded music experience.

In addition to classes, group projects and weekly assignments, the teens take field trips to some of the city’s most notable music locations. During a visit to Downtown Music Studios in SoHo — which has been used by artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Demi Lovato and Ed Sheeran — the girls participated in an engineering booth demonstration and took notes from longtime pros.

“They not only got to sit at the mixing board, and run the levels and speak into the booth … [but] they also went into the booth and sang and got to understand how their voices worked with the different microphones,” McCants said.

They also visited Sunnyvale in East Williamsburg and got pointers on how to set up music for live shows.

Houck said the music production veterans have been more than happy to lend a hand and the girls have already taken a lot from their visits.

“It’s been great for the students to see and visualize other women who do this,” she said.

The summer session will end on Friday with a presentation of projects, but participating teens will also have access to weekend workshops throughout the school year as well as music production-related CUNY credit classes at their schools.

Houck said they plan to grow the program to two summer sessions next year, with 100 new students, and will ask this year’s class to serve as mentors. MOME Commissioner Julie Menin said promoting leadership skills was one of the goals of Sound Thinking NYC.

“Having someone who went through the program and give that mentorship really helps put the new students in their shoes,” she said.


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