Our story back in July about The Handsome Ladies generated a lot of interest. This group of ladies who pick formed after meeting at the Grass Valley festival in California, and discovering that they were all learning to play, and lived close to each other in San Francisco. Now they host regular meetings and jam sessions and can boast of a membership of over 100 who attend to play a tune and enjoy each other’s company.
There is no bias against male musicians, they just prefer to have an environment where women feel welcome and wanted, and can find a friendly face along with an encouraging word while stretching their bluegrass wings. For some members it can be an eye-opening experience, while others might just enjoy a chance to get away from home and just have some fun.
Since that piece ran earlier this summer, we have learned of two new chapters of Handsome Ladies, in Seattle and Nashville. Both were formed by original board members who moved away from the Bay area and wanted to find that same sort of cordiality in their new homes. Michelle Haft got the Nashville chapter going, as did Gina Astesana in Seattle.
Both are directly affiliated with the San Francisco chapter, organized under the parent group’s legal status.
With three chapters up and running, Michelle says that they are getting requests from women all over the country who are interested in starting a local chapter.
“As an organization, we are certainly interested in forming additional new chapters, and in fact, we’ve gotten quite a few requests from women in other cities including Los Angeles, Chico, Denver, and Portland. Because of this demand, we’re currently developing a plan how to equip new chapters (that weren’t formed by original HL board members) with the info and materials they need to get started, and also stay true to the mission and brand of the Handsome Ladies. It’s been helpful that two of our original board members have recently gone through this process ourselves, as its given us good ideas for how to guide others through it and what they need to succeed.
As a non-profit organization, its been an interesting challenge learning how to approach scaling sustainably. We’re thrilled to see the growth and positive reception nation-wide, but it’s also important to us that our mission translates with authenticity to these new cities. We’ve been researching other non-profits that have a similar format for local chapters so we can learn from others’ experience.”
It’s just common sense. If you want more of something, like women in bluegrass, you’ve got to raise them up. And The Handsome Ladies are doing just that.
Or as Vice President Jennifer Brecheisen shared with us back in June…
“Our mission is simple: Through opportunity and resources, we support and encourage women bluegrassers of all levels, promoting the advancement of the individual musician within an inspired and connected community.”
If you would like to be involved, you can contact the Ladies through their web site, where you can also read more about their rapid growth.