Esmeralda Tijhoff

Some thoughts on History, Politics, and the Art of Living

How my bands helped me to give lectures for a large audience

Like many young professionals, I too struggled to find the confidence necessary to address a (big) audience during and after my studies. When I started my job as a lecturer at the University of Groningen years ago, the first thing I did was to hire a coach to help me find my cool and Zen in front of the students. He did help me and I was able to pass as a ‘real’ teacher. Students listened and most of them seemed to enjoy the lessons and discussions we had. But I never felt at ease, nor did I truly believe I belonged in front of those classes. Now, almost ten years later, I still get nervous to give a lecture or workshop. But in those ten years, I have found trust in myself. Yes, I belong in front of those classes and audiences. Yes, I have faith I have interesting stories and knowledge to share. And for a big part, this self-assurance is due to my experience as a musician in punkbands.

For years I have been involved in the Groningen music scene. But even though I played the guitar in a band, arranged my own equipment,  composed songs and performed on stage, I never felt I was a ‘real’ musician. I never received a proper education in music, and I never properly learned to play an instrument. And I though it showed.

 

 

My first guitar was an electric brown one, given to me by my metalhead neighbor in Almelo. I lived on my own during the last years of High School and the two young lads who rented rooms next door quickly introduced me to punk, squatting, beer, and freedom in general. I still got through my VWO-exams with ‘ok’ marks, which was an absolute miracle –> replace this with ‘last minute hard work and lots of intelligence’.

In that last year, I learned a lot of life lessons, and I learned to play the guitar. I started with punkmusic because that required only one accord that you could move on the neck of the guitar to get differed tones. I hang out at the repetitions of the Ketters, a local punk band with a big attitude. They made, looked and behaved old school punk and they were extremely proud of it.

I loved the atmosphere in this scene. It gave me a change to experiment with my identity, swapping images and cliches by combining and wearing different styles on different days. It was totally unproblematic to wear gothic clothes one day, and show up in pink panties and green skirts on rollerblades the next day. We were proud to be different. We chose to be The Other. We were a community and safe haven for queer and alternative youth. The laws of the ‘normal’ people were not our laws. We broke free from gendernorms.

 

Hun wetten niet de onze.

And so I wanted to play in a band. It took me another couple of years to gain enough skills to be able to do so. My first band was called LinK. We made old-school punk with political lyrics. Our first gig was in the Op Drift, a squat in Groningen where we were regulars. We played while hiding behind our instruments and with our backs to the -very limited- audience. It was nerve wrecking but we made it. We kept on doing our thing, with all our many mistakes and embarrassments. And in the end, we actually became a bit well known within the punk scene and played regularly at all kind of venues.

Going on stage as a women made me realise people will always talk, judge, and/or support. Men and women won’t hesitate to comment on your looks or clothes, ranging from ‘I totally wanne bang that one’, to ‘Where did she get that dress?’. Going on stage gave me enough experience to just don’t give a shit anymore. I started wearing heels and lovely dresses to our punkgigs to maximize the shock effect in the audience once they realized I was not an accidental lady-outsider but part of the band. My girly pink guitar made a lot of people uncomfortable, to the point where one guy actually refused to borrow it when his own guitar broke during his show. That band rather cancelled the gig all together than be seen with a pink guitar,….

 

 

Not giving a fuck also helpt me to start giving lectures, write articles and head discussions and workshops in feminism and women’s history. Those subjects really matter to me, so who cares what people now think about me on stage or in front of class? They better pay attention to the words in my performances and presentations. Or I will make you fail your class.

Bam!

Check out my present band at www.introns.nl

Check out all blogs about my band Malamondo.

Check out all blogs about my band de Introns.

 

 

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