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Interview With Ivy Ross Ricci, Champion of Women’s Voices

Singer-songwriter Ivy Ross Ricci is a national advocate for the voices of girls and women

Singer-songwriter Ivy Ross Ricci is a national advocate for the voices of girls and women. Her latest music video, “Girls Sit Screaming,” provides an anthem for cultural shift. The video, from a song on her eighth album, It’s Hard To Know, was selected to kick-off the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival. The song bares the double standards currently prevalent in classrooms, workplaces, and society.

Ricci’s advocacy isn’t merely lip service, as she devotes time and energy to The Keepers of Wonder and teaching at the Youth Music Project. She is truly making a difference.

How would you describe yourself?

I am an ever-evolving collection of particles that seems to enjoy thought, movement, resistance and sound. I am a friend, a community organizer, a fire-starter, a lifelong student, and a patient and passionate artist.

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

Now this is an interesting question. At first blush, it seems so playful, but the more I ponder it, the more harrowing and indicative of the injustice of our culture it becomes for me. The word trouble has its root in the Latin word turbidus, turbid, muddy, confused, disturbed. From a more vernacular perspective, getting into trouble has everything to do with power structures. In our society, different people get into trouble for different things, and it seems that some people do not get into trouble at all because of their privilege, be it due to race, gender, or socio-economic status. Taking all of this into account, I would have to say that the most trouble I have ever gotten into was being born into a culture in which 1 out of 6 women has been sexually assaulted, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites, students don’t feel safe in schools, 4 out of 5 representatives in the US house of representatives are male, while more than half of the population is female, and we are a species that has knowingly orchestrated our own extinction!

What do you do for fun?

Plan multi-generational rollerskating parties that I can look forward to.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

“The Greatest Love of All.”

What kind of guitar do you play? And why?

I play a Guild. I was on tour in West Asheville in 2003, when I found the guitar that I now call Guilda (Radner) in a pawn shop. I was hunting for an acoustic guitar to have and to hold. I was traveling with a host of hand-me-down instruments, which were just fine, but none the perfect fit. I had an instinct to stroll into this one little store, and there she was, leaned up against a glass case, the lone instrument in a shop of leather jackets, electronics, flasks and jewelry. I picked her up, and played a little tune and right then and there I traded in all of my instruments, amp and effects pedals for that one sweet mahogany guitar and a hundred dollar bill which seemed to go a long way at the time. The day after I got her, I serendipitously stumbled into Richie Havens’ concert. He played only Guilds, left-handed. After his show Richie and I shook hands. I gave him a copy of my most recent album at the time Foolhardy Sketches and he took it and looked me right in the eye and said, “You know what this is? Real good airplane food.”

Which musicians, singers, and songwriters influenced you the most?

Bob Dylan, Queen Latifah, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Odetta, Neil Young, Mahalia Jackson, Michael Jackson, Patti Smith,

How would you define your musical style?

Folk/BUCORO (Buddhist Country Rock).

How do your musical influences impact your music, if at all?

They inspire me with their social justice bent, devotion, poetry, gospel tendencies, thoughtfulness, and irreverence.

What is your song writing process? Do the lyrics come first, followed by the music, or is it the other way around?

I get a lot of song seeds in dreams. I wake up with a tune and sometimes lyrics and record them onto a tape machine or a phone, and then when I have time, I revisit them and see if a song has sprouted. I write quite a bit and as time passes, I go back in to those writings and sift through for lyrics, concepts, and feelings that I would like to explore further. I meditate each morning, and sometimes insights arise during those moments as well that lead me to create new material. And I get tons of ideas when I am teaching music in the form of melodies, chord progressions and lyrics!

What was the inspiration for your new single “Girls Sit Screaming?”

“Girls Sit Screaming” was inspired by my experience of feeling underestimated as a musician because of my gender over my years as a recording and performing artist. As a music teacher, I want to make sure that the next generation of female musicians feels welcomed and respected in the field. So I sat down one day and found myself writing a song filled with the tenderness, questions, sorrow, and frustration that resulted from the lie that our culture propagates: that girls and women are objects, that our form is more important than our content.

The video for “Girls Sit Screaming” was chosen for POWFest. What significance does the video’s selection carry for you personally?

The song and the video came into being as a result of my deep resolve to make a change and contribute to a more welcoming and safe environment for girls in music in particular, but for all youth in the future to self-actualize free of the constraints of cultural expectations around gender. Its selection for POWFest furthers this aim.

What is the goal of your after-school program The Keepers of Wonder?

The Keepers of Wonder exists to provide an environment in which girls can work together creatively by: implementing projects designed to spark wonder in their surroundings; collaboratively planning and problem-solving; and having fun while they’re doing it! I believe that nurturing the full creative expression of girls that consumer culture strives to hinder might give the planet a chance at survival.

How did you become involved in the Youth Music Project? And what is the extent of your involvement?

The current director of YMP was the lead guitarist in my band when I lived in Portland many years ago. A few years back, when I had a songwriters’ birthday party, he told me about the work he was doing, and mentioned that there were no female guitar, drum or rock band instructors which really blew my mind, being that Portland is so full of rad women in music.

At that point, I resolved that if I ever had the opportunity, I would work there. They run a summer camp program that happens in week-long sessions, so in 2016 I started teaching there one week at a time as my schedule allowed. I also started substitute teaching at YMP if I was in town and an instructor needed a sub.

Last fall, two of the instructors that I had been subbing for were moving on, and I was offered a full roster of about 50 students. I teach a host of instruments, and as a result of some of the female teachers who teach voice and piano expressed their desire to learn drums, I now also teach an instructor Tools of Rock class so that one day, the women instructors who presently teach voice and piano might also be able to teach Rock Bands!

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