A little girl sees a female musician performing, wanders up to stand in front of her, stops, and stares.
It's a familiar scene to local singer/songwriter Anna Robinson.
"Every time that happens — and it’s happened a couple times — I just kind of wonder ‘How often do they see a woman up on a stage playing music in front of people?'" she said.
Wouldn't it be great, she thought, if little girls saw more women up on stages?
She expressed those thoughts to newfound friend Hillary Presecan while they were hanging out in downtown Rapid City, discussing the #MeToo movement, female empowerment and female representation in music.
Robinson, who performs as Anna Robins, was particularly perplexed at the lack of female presentation in the local music scene. She wanted to do something about it, but told Presecan "I can't do it by myself."
"I'm not that organized," Robinson said with a laugh.
Presecan immediately volunteered to help. That was in late October/early November. Just four months later, and the pair will debut the Singing Doe Workshop and Showcase on March 3, an all-day event geared toward practicing and aspiring female musicians in the region. It starts at 10:30 a.m. at Racing Magpie, with workshops lasting until about 4 p.m. followed by an artist showcase at 6 p.m. at Harriet & Oak.
The workshop is for women of all ages and experience levels to attend, giving them a chance to meet other local female musicians, ask questions and gain insight into building a career as a musician.
"I really feel like, especially in this day and age, women need to be here to support and bring each other up, and not bring each other down," Presecan said. "And I see the workshop in particular is a space, a safe space, for women to come and empower one another and support each other in the arts and music."
The day will start with a networking brunch at Racing Magpie. Robinson said networking is vital for musicians, and the brunch will allow women to practice networking while actively making connections.
Then, there will be a panel with four local female musicians: Kim Bachman, of Aces & Eights; Jami Lynn and Eliza Blue of The Nesters; and Lakota singer Tiana Spotted Thunder.
The panelists will talk about their careers and experiences as musicians, and attendees will likely have the chance to ask questions, as well.
Following the panel, there will be an open folk-style jam session. Robinson said the jam session provides women a chance to bring their instruments and have some fun, but also break down folk-style jam session etiquette. She said folk jam sessions have unwritten rules that first-timers may unwittingly break, making them intimidating to jump into.
Robinson and Presecan said people are welcome to come and go as they please throughout the day, attending whichever parts of the event they prefer. After the workshop ends, there will be a break before the artist showcase at Harriet & Oak.
No tickets are needed for any part of the day, and the workshop and showcase are free to attend.
Doors open at 5 p.m., with the showcase starting at 6 p.m. The lineup includes an eclectic mix of folk/Americana, blues, rock, punk and Native American music. It was a priority to include artists from as many different backgrounds as possible, Robinson said.
"From what I’ve observed of the music scene here, not only is it more dominantly male, it’s also more country, more folk/rock — which is great, I come from that genre too, I love it," she said. "(But) along with our mission to include women and women of different backgrounds, we wanted to show that women can be included in all aspects of music, not just the ones we’re typically seen in."
Despite being a committee of two at the start, Robinson and Presecan said outstanding community support helped them realize the event quickly, and local sponsors quickly signed on to donate time, equipment and help to keep the event free for the community.
"When we were promoting this idea to our sponsors, they jumped on it instantly. They all saw the need for it, and were excited about it," Presecan said. "Rapid City has made it known to us through the sponsors that this is a need and they’re in full support of it."
That the event falls the weekend before International Women's Day, on March 8, adds a nice touch, she added.
A perfect pair
Robinson and Presecan met at Racing Magpie during one of the venue's monthly open house art nights, and formed a fast friendship that soon blossomed into the Singing Doe event.
Though neither is a South Dakota native, both had lived in western South Dakota and moved away before coming back. Robinson, who just turned 29, moved back to the area in the fall of 2016 and said she plans on "sticking around for a long time."
Presecan, 32, jumped at the opportunity to move back last fall after a stint in Denver and also sees herself staying long-term.
"Something keeps drawing me back to the Black Hills," she said.
Both come from creative backgrounds, and their skill sets complement each other well for planning an event like Singing Doe. Presecan, who now works at a local nonprofit, has a bachelor's in art history and worked as a museum professional for about four years before returning to Rapid City last fall.
Robinson, a freelance media professional in Rapid City, has been playing music her entire life. She has played in bands, and studied music in college, first as a music major before switching to a minor while still composing and playing.
Performing mostly folk/Americana music, Robinson said she's been able to get more serious about performing in the last few years.
She feels fortunate about the amount she's able to perform in the area, but considers herself the exception. Overall, she sees the music scene in the Black Hills as a male-dominated one.
And even when she is on stage, she experiences objectification and harassment. She recalls a performance a few months ago where a man told her how good her breasts looked on the guitar.
"Really? That's all you paid attention to?" she said of her reaction. "It was just so blatantly in my face that night that it really threw me off."
But the incident only motivated Robinson more to bring the Singing Doe event to fruition, she said.
A drop of golden inspiration
Ask Robinson and Presecen where the name "Singing Doe" came from, and they'll look at each other and laugh.
"This was a hard conversation," Robinson said, still chuckling.
They wanted something female, but not "too feminine." And Presecan, who both described as the logistics arm of the duo, analyzed each word choice with extreme care.
"We didn’t really want to focus on the feminine, because, we — we’re aware we’re women," Presecan said. "We don’t want to be put into a niche where it’s like, ‘Aww, it’s so cute.’"
"Because I’m not the most 'girly girl' person you’ll meet, so I actually get turned off by groups that have strong 'goddess' kind of imagery," Robinson said. "I don’t really identify with that."
After agonizing over multiple suggestions, Robinson stumbled onto the answer while absentmindedly singing "Do, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun" — the lyrics to one of the signature songs from "The Sound of Music."
"I was like doe — a female deer! And it’s a song! It’s singing! We’re Singing Doe!" she said, re-enacting the moment of the epiphany.
Robinson immediately sent the name to Presecan, whose response was a cautious "I think that's something we can work with."
"I've grown to like it," she said, noting her main concern at first was whether people would understand it. But both women hope the event will become an annual affair, and they hope that increased familiarity will lessen the chance of confusion.
"I’m more focused on the mission that the name is representing now. The focus on empowerment and support," Presecan said.
Mixing music and politics
Despite the desire to effect change and citing the #MeToo movement as inspiration, Robinson and Presecan don't want Singing Doe to become a political event.
"We don't want to ostracize anyone that has a political view," Presecan said. "That’s not what we want to have happen, but it’s something we need to acknowledge as a society is going on, especially within the arts."
Robinson admitted it's a lofty goal.
"I actually had a conversation with my dad, who is also a songwriter, and I was like ‘Yeah, we’re going to try to keep politics out of it,’ and he just laughed. He was like ‘Oh, good luck with that,’" she said.
Politics and music don't seem directly related, Robinson said, but she said many of the artists in the area are also songwriters. That means they are often expressing a point of view — one that may clash with others.
Ultimately, Robinson and Presecan won't censor anyone, but they want everyone who attends to keep an open mind and be respectful of others' voices and opinions.
"Because the ultimate goal here is just to allow a platform where women can showcase their hard work and their art," she said.
Which includes support from men. While the workshop is geared toward women, they said they won't turn away anyone who wants to attend. And the artist showcase, they said, they encourage men and families to attend.
"It’s really for the community, so we want the community there," Presecan said.