Molly Countermine of Pure Cane Sugar

Molly Countermine of Pure Cane Sugar performs with her bandmates at the State College Presbyterian Church during THAW festival on Saturday, Feb. 28th, 2015.

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While some take to the stage with just a guitar and their voice and others play in a full band with drummers, bassists and pianists, State College is home to a wide variety of female musicians.

These women cover a diverse range of genres from folk, to Americana, to jazz-rock, to dream pop and country-punk.

Araelia Lopatic of the band Ma’aM grew up in a musical family, which is where her love of music stemmed from.

“My dad is a musician… so I’ve been around music my entire life,” Lopatic said. “The main thing that made me want to be in a band was when I was in fourth grade and my brother gave me a No Doubt CD… I was all in from there.”

When it came to actually starting a band and performing, Andrea Miles of The Extra Miles said she began by playing at open mics with her friends.

Miles said she asked her two best friends to learn the guitar and banjo.

“We lucked out in how we started our band as friends already,” Miles said.

However, folk singer Hannah Bingman said she misses performing live.

“You kind of get out of practice without regular performances and audience interaction,” Bingman said. “[But] you do get more time to focus on creating.”

Kat Leverenz agreed with Bingman and said it has been a more difficult time due to the lack of touring. Leverenz graduated from Penn State in 2020 with a degree in music.

“Most of my music time was spent performing and preparing for live shows before the pandemic,” Leverenz said. “All of a sudden, all that preparation and income was gone.”

Leverenz said she has spent much of her time during the pandemic posting to social media about her art.

Only a few have been able to play shows during the pandemic. Smaller bands like The Extra Miles have been able to play sets with all their members, while Leverenz’s band Canary has played with only two band members.

Being a woman, however, has different effects on each performer’s perspective.

For singer/songwriter Anna Pearl Belinda, her gender has had little effect on her songwriting. She graduated from Penn State in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

“Maybe with women we have an image that… [stereotypically] needs to be upheld,” Belinda said. “But in the music world, at least I like to think, there’s less judgement.”

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Leverenz said she sees gender as an instrumental part of writing songs and the perspective she takes when making music.

“I think from early on in my songwriting, I thought to myself, ‘Obviously my songs would come from a female perspective,’” Leverenz said. “I would say [my songs] definitely have more feminine qualities to them.”

Lopatic encourages newer artists to not be afraid to try to express themselves musically.

“I sound like a Nike ad, but just do it,” Lopatic said. “Learn an instrument or do something they tell you that you can’t do. It’s not gonna hurt you in any way.”

Patti McKenna of The Extra Miles echoed Lopatic’s sentiment.

“Play because it’s joyful and keep coming back,” McKenna said. “The more you do it, the easier it is to do it and the more you love it, really.”

Natty Lou Race of Raven and Wren said authenticity is an important trait to maintain as an artist.

“It’s like friendship,” Race said. “You have your intimate friends [with whom you] let your guard down, and that's when deep, deep relationships form, right? It’s the same as performing for your listeners.”

Particularly for young women, Jenn Henry-Dashem of the band Anchor&Arrow said these young artists should be fearless.

“[Don’t] be daunted by anything,” Dashem said. “You have the power to create anything you want and put it out there and just not give a s--- who listens to it or not. Write it for yourself.”

Ruth Williamson of the Extra Miles said she enjoys the benefits of playing with friends.

“I think one of the best things you can do in life is make music with friends,” Williamson said. “I think we’ve been blessed to do that. And we laugh more than we hit notes correctly sometimes, but that's what it's all about. That's what music is about.”

Finally, Penn State professor and member of pop-rock duo The Hi-Fi Molly Countermine encouraged anyone interested in music to “follow your heart.”

“It isn’t just about playing instruments [and] playing in front of people,” Countermine said. “It’s about playing with other musicians… connecting with a crowd… the physical act of making music… It will always be part of my life.”

This article originally ran on collegian.psu.edu.

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