by Gina Astesana
Upon arriving in Seattle, I was lucky enough to have been introduced to a local group called the “Seattle Ladies Jam.” It was a fairly new, but thriving group of gals dedicated to regular ladies jams and general community support through a growing private Facebook page and a simple strategy of strength in numbers. Sound familiar? During those first few months in a new land, I tried to make it out to as many of the Seattle Ladies Jam (SLJ) events as I could. I was anxious to explore my new community and found comfort in the familiar sentiment. As a cofounder and board member of The Handsome Ladies (The HL’s), I knew that I would eventually begin taking steps toward starting a Seattle Chapter. In order to do that, I needed to figure out where we would fit in. As time went on, it became clear that not only was there plenty of opportunity for both organizations, but that their tandem existence would actually compliment one another.
Because of the obvious overlap, there has been a fair amount of confusion about the differences between the Seattle Ladies Jam and The Handsome Ladies. See the following Q & A for some clarification!
Rachael Snyder is a Seattle local and one of the newest additions to the HL board.
Anna Culver is a Seattle local, HL Board Member and co-founder of Seattle Ladies Jam.
Gina Astesana is a Seattle local, co-founder and board member of The Handsome Ladies.
Find more information about all of our board members here.
Rachael: What is the Seattle Ladies Jam, and how did it get started?
Anna: Seattle Ladies Jam, or SLJ for short, brings women together for bluegrass jams, but it’s also a space on social media where we can share other women-centric bluegrass events or content. Right around the time I was trying to find my own niche in the bluegrass community here, a few of us had been talking about how great it would be to have a women’s jam. After we did the first one, it went so well that we kept having them. And then it just became easier to make a Facebook group, and now that group has been a way for us to connect in other ways.
Rachael: Is it (SLJ) just bluegrass?
Anna: SLJ was born out of the Seattle bluegrass community, but styles such as oldtime and swing are played at our jams too and are welcome.
Rachael: What kinds of things does the Seattle Ladies Jam do?
Anna: SLJ developed organically to provide a mutual space to plan and announce all-women jams, and that’s still the main purpose. But the Facebook group in particular is used for a few different things. One of my favorite things we do is post a “song of the week” by women in bluegrass. It's been a really fun way to engage with a lineage of women artists. We also share articles, events, and shows with each other. It’s a great way to network with each other and it is a supportive atmosphere, for others too I hope.
Rachael: What do you think are the most important differences between SLJ and The HL’s?
Gina: The first thing that I always tell people is that The Handsome Ladies is specifically Bluegrass while SLJ welcomes all genres. That’s the simple answer. Secondly, when it comes to jams, SLJ jams can be hosted anywhere by anyone while HL jams must be hosted by a board appointed Ambassador. Also, Handsome Ladies jams work hard to uphold standard bluegrass jam etiquette while SLJ jams are more casual, less structured.
Rachael: How do you think the HL’s and SLJ complement one another?
Gina: Having both organizations is incredibly convenient. If you’re a songwriter and you want a safe and supportive place to share your song, SLJ is there for you. If you’re obsessed with learning bluegrass harmonies and you want to talk about The Stanley Brothers all night, there’s an HL jam that you can go to. Also, I think that getting to experience both scenarios in a safe and inspiring way offers a unique opportunity for new players to figure out what they like or what they want to work towards. Additionally, most players just want to get out and play and having both the HL jams and SLJ jams to choose from is always a plus.
Anna: Agreed. I think having both organizations means we have more ways to jam, more ways to connect with each other, and ultimately a great network of women musicians to pick with and get to know on a deeper level. Sometimes a private jam, like a house jam through SLJ, is exactly what I’ve been needing. And the HL jams are so empowering because of how public they are and how we take up space. I’m a better musician because of both organizations, and having that community is such a big part of it.
That’s a wrap! Thanks to my co-writers and fellow board members, Rachael Snyder & Anna Culver. Let’s pick!
Gina Astesana,: signing off.