Music, gender, and coming of age in the lives of indie rock performers
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Using interview data from thirty-eight women and men independent rock musicians living in Athens, Georgia, this study analyzes the gendered life course pathways that characterize entry into musical participation during young adulthood. The data illustrate the ways in which women and men’s lives are increasingly gendered as they progress through the life course. During childhood, musicians have similar experiences in musical interest and development. During adolescence, however, women’s and men’s experiences begin to diverge, leading men to develop skills and experiences earlier than women. These experiences benefit men in early adulthood, the time during which they begin seriously contemplating a career in music. Men have a smoother entrance into the music world and are able to start or join bands more easily than women. Gender influences both participation in music and the development of identity. Men identify as musicians much earlier in the life course than do women. In comparison to women, men have a broader definition of what constitutes musicianhood and define it in such a way as to ease their inclusion. As a result, more women are hesitant in claiming an identity as a true musician. At the same time, both women and men see the music world as a context in which innovative constructions of femininity and masculinity are possible. During the transition to adulthood, musicians must deal with the dilemmas of adulthood. They respond in one of three ways. Some persist in music, defining it as an adult-like career no different from traditional lines of work. Others decenter their identities as musicians, switching to more normative non-performance related aspects in the music world. Others begin to abandon their identities as musicians, changing routes to more traditional careers. In general, independent rock musicians are innovative in their attainment of the core characteristics of adulthood. Although their simultaneous status as musicians and as adults is somewhat tenuous, they cite ways in which their participation in music provides them with a securely adult identity.