Jamming with Hilken Mancini & Girls Rock Campaign Boston

Our community never ceases to amaze us. For instance, did you know that the owner of Jamaica Plain’s 40 South St, Hilken Mancini is also the rock-star founder of Girls Rock Campaign Boston? Well. She is. And we’re so pleased to announce that this year the GRCB is our charity of choice during the holiday season. We’ll be supporting their fundraising efforts through our annual holiday giving events, including our annual gift wrap drive in Jamaica Plain, as well as special shopping events on First Thursday (December 3) and JP Shop with a Cause (December 5) where we donate a percentage of all sales made during the event.

We’re always on the look-out for charities that serve the JP community and we couldn’t help but fall in love with GRCB‘s mission to empower girls to believe in themselves by providing a supportive community that fosters self-expression, confidence, and collaboration through musical education and performance.

We’re also excited to get the inside scoop on their origin story from Hilken herself!

FO:How did you find yourself in Boston?
HM: I moved here to go to the Boston Conservatory 1988 and quit in 1990 to be in a rock band. My band, Fuzzy, that I sang, played guitar and wrote songs for was signed to Atlantic records from 1993-1997. We toured extensively throughout the states and some of the UK/EU with bands Dinosaur Jr, The Lemonheads, Redd Cross, Buffalo Tom, Belly and were managed by Fort Apache Records (the same people that managed the Pixies and Tanya Donelly’s Throwing Muses and Belly and Juliana Hatfield) We put out 2 records on Atlantic. After we were dropped from Atlantic I founded Punk Rock Aerobics – the anti exercise fitness revolution – and co-wrote the book Punk Rock Aerobics released on DaCapo press in 2004. We held the classes only in rock clubs until I started doing it at Girls Rock Camps.

FO:What brought you to Girls Rock?
HM:I was asked to lead a Punk Rock Aerobics class at the original Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland Oregon back in 2007. I went there to volunteer and was leading the girls through Punk Rock Aerobics in their morning assemblies. When I got there the organization and what they were doing totally blew my mind. I felt like PRA was a good mission match for the RnRcamp4 girls, serving the “misfits” and challenging stereotypical feminine expectations and images of beauty. What they were doing was incredible. All these girls and women supporting eachother, teaching eachother to play music and building eachothers’ self-esteem up!

I wanted Boston to have something just like it. I knew so many amazing women in rock in Boston. So it changed my life. That’s also where I met Nora Allen-Wiles who is the co-founder of GRCB and our Executive Director. Coincidentally, she was born and raised in Somerville MA – so we planned to get together and see if we could pull something like this off in Boston. We did! And Here we are 5 years later!

FO: How has music empowered you personally?
HM: Being a musician, as a woman, you had to be really strong about what you wanted. I constantly felt challenged and defensive because I was wearing a miniskirt and mascara.I was in mytwenties when we were on tour and most sound engineers at rock clubs were men. They would tell us to ” turn down your Marshall so we can hear your pretty voice” and talking down to us as if we didn’t know what we were doing or wanted to do. People assumed I was the “girlfriend” and not the lead guitar player.

Also touring helped me grow a really thick skin. Opening up for bands like Dinosaur Jr. it happened a lot that the crowd hated us because they were just there to see the band they paid for – and definitely not us. I remember being on the road with them and saying in the mic “ok this is our last song” and people cheering and saying, “YEAH! Get off the stage,” It would happen a lot and it made me able to brush of that kind of hatred and be like “No. You are gonna listen to me and my song and what I have to say…” it empowered me to stand up for myself in a sold out house.

FO:How many instruments do you play?
HM: I play guitar really, that’s my jam. I can sing pretty ok. I am a bad drummer – but I like to think I can play drums. And I can play bass sometimes. But not really.

FO:How does your work with Girls Rock impact you as a working musician?
HM:Even though I just went on tour to Europe, I’m not actually a working musician. It’s one of those, “You do it cause you love it,” things. I own a vintage clothing store – 40 South St. JP and I work part time as the Program Director of GRCB and that’s how I buy my groceries and pay my rent. As far as playing music in Boston – I think we have a ton of support from everyone who is involved and helps out with GRCB, and we go to each other shows which is a totally awesome and very supportive environment. Two bands I am active in are Shepherdess and The Monsieur’s.

FO:GRCB is going into it’s 6th year, what’s the impact you’ve seen in the work so far?
HM: We’ve grown a ton! During our very first year in 2010 we held one summer session with 45 girls and 1 ladies rock camp with about 45 women. That’s it.

This year we held two sessions of our FOR GIRLS program over the summer which means a total of 127 girls were served. We had 26 bands perform at 2 showcases; 100 volunteers worked over our two sessions; and we ran 5,842 total program hours and 6,350 total volunteer hours over both sessions. In our FOR LADIES sessions we were also able to hold two sessions which means 80 women were served by 70 Volunteers over 3,280 total program hours 3,220 total volunteer hours. And over the last 5 years we’ve added an after-school program CLUB GRCB where we serve 10 girls with 7 volunteers over a 10 Week Session.We also have 13 active, year-round volunteer teams with 45 members.

FO:What are your “big dreams” for GRCB?
HM:Well I just got out of an all day strategic meeting with our Board and operating team so I can talk to you about our Strategic plans for 2016 til’ I am blue in the face. However – a big dream is to find a location – a space where we can hold programming year round and have our office space and our gear all in the same place. This would help our programs and after school club grow so we can support more girls and give more lessons and hold more workshops and drop in spaces for other organizations within our community.

Join us as we celebrate and support this awesome, creative, feminist organization by stopping in on Thursday December 3 from 6pm – 8pm and Saturday December 5 from 10am – 2pm when 10% of every purchase will be donated to GRCB!

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