Women take the spotlight at NAMM’s She Rock Awards

Mindi Abair receives an award during the NAMM's 2015 She Rocks Awards.
(Paul A. Hebert / Invision / Associated Press)

Historically it has not been easy to rally women in the music industry around any cause that resembles feminism. After all, females tend to succeed in male-dominated fields by being intensely individualistic pioneers, Sarah Palin-style. The key to advancement is to bond with the men who run things, and to separate yourself from the pack of “typical girls.”

There are few trades more male-dominated than music-instrument manufacturing, music merchandising and music retail. Those are precisely the trades that gather every year in the shadow of Disneyland for the sprawling showbiz bacchanal known as the NAMM (National Assn. of Music Merchants) Show, taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center through Sunday.

When Beyonce is putting “feminism” in lights and female talent dominate the pop singles chart in record numbers, women are also emerging as a force amid the hairy-knuckled sausage-making at NAMM. Friday night at least 1,000 industry insiders filled the Pacific Ballroom of the Anaheim Hilton Hotel for the third annual She Rocks Awards, sponsored by the Women’s International Music Network. The 10 honorees included artists the Bangles, Colbie Caillat and Mindi Abair, and music-biz professionals Craigie Zildjian and Paula Salvatore.


“I never get to hang with the girls,” said Abair, the Joan Jett of saxophonists, before jamming with guitarist and She Rocks co-host Orianthi. “The girls get to hang for a night.”

The evening’s highlight was a performance by the Bangles. Sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson and singer Susanna Hoffs are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut album, and they sounded muscular and bright. Accepting their Icon Award, Vicki thanked the “community supporting us.” But the guitarist had tech problems for their first song, “Hazy Shade of Winter.” “Some things never change,” she noted wryly, as they paused for a change of gear. Finally, the sound of steel strings filled the room. “I have power!” Peterson shouted.

Caillat was honored for her video for the song “Try,” which shows several women, including the artist, peeling off layers of makeup and hair processors as Caillat sings lyrics of self-empowerment. “The whole point was for every single one of us to accept and embrace who we are,” Caillat said. “I’m just learning it myself.”

The professionals honored also spoke of the importance of confidence and of mentoring.

“I couldn’t picture myself as CEO, maybe because that CEO picture has always shown males,” said Zildjian, the first female head of Avedis Zildjian in the cymbal-maker’s 400-year history. “We all need role models.”

Also honored were retailer Gayle Beackock, Berklee College’s Debbie Cavalier, marketing executive Amani Duncan, journalist Katie Kailus, and Robo Records President Rob Christie, the first male recipient of a She Rocks trophy. The show was hosted by WIMN founder Laura B. Whitmore and Orianthi. All of the honored artists performed. For the finale, the honorees and the house band took Cleopatra poses for a rollicking rendition of the Bangles’ hit “Walk Like an Egyptian.”