Girl Guitar in Austin Woman


Musically Inclined

Girl Guitar Owner Mandy Rowden turns her passion into a business.

By Sarah E. Ashlock

Mandy Rowden is a singer-songwriter with two albums under her belt. She’s also the owner of Girl Guitar, a business that offers music classes and workshops for women in Austin. As she casually takes a seat at Opa Coffee and Wine Bar, it’s clear she’s more than a talented musician, teacher and entrepreneur. She’s just plain cool.

It Started With Music

Rowden has Texas roots and learned to play music as a kid.

“That’s the good thing about being home-schooled; everyone plays music. You’ve got a lot of time to practice,” Rowden says, laughing, “because you’re not burdened with things like friends or a social life.”

After a stint in New York City, she settled in Austin. The creation of Girl Guitar almost a decade ago was happenstance.

“I never masterminded wanting to own a women’s guitar school. It has been very, very organic,” she says, noting that with a need for some cash, she created a page on MySpace called Girl Guitar and started friending women who marked music as an interest. “I was pretty diligent. Granted, I had no job and no money to go out and do anything.”

Her guerilla marketing paid off, and eight women showed up to the first class.

“Somebody showed up with a bottle of wine, and I thought, ‘Sure. Why not?’ So it became a social thing,” Rowden says. “Every night after class, we’d go out and do stuff together, like listen to music or just go drink margaritas.”

As the class came to a close, the ladies weren’t ready to say goodbye. So one class turned into one more, and so on.

“Their friends wanted to join,” Rowden says. “Then we had too many people, and we had to make it into two classes. Then we wanted to do songwriting, so we split off and did that.”

Now, Girl Guitar offers dozens of classes to women 21 and older, ranging from how to play in a rock band to mastering the art of songwriting. Rowden is proof that women can grow in their careers while remaining true to themselves and kind to others.

“Songwriting is a discipline, and it’s about the accountability of bringing your stuff each week and the support group of everyone sharing together,” she says. “I will never tear someone down about their art, their writing. It would be nonproductive.”


No Boys Allowed

Why does Rowden solely offer womenonly classes?

“You make yourself so vulnerable,” she says. “When you’re new at it, having a really supportive and gentle group around you is huge for a lot of people.”

Rowden didn’t just build a business; she built a community. She met her best friend through Girl Guitar, and Rowden’s mom, a pianist, has played in many of the bands. This embracing space can be a major bonus for students new to Austin or new to music.

Rowden possesses a certain magic. She’s talented and funny yet also sensitive and perceptive. It’s no wonder women are hooked on Girl Guitar.

“In the songwriting classes, we joke that it doubles as therapy,” she says. “You write this stuff and go to this weird part of yourself and make yourself vulnerable and read it off to strangers. It’s terrifying to people.”


Balancing Act

Talent mixed with persistence is at the heart of Rowden’s success. While her musical endeavors and Girl Guitar complement each other, she also has the support of a built-in fan base.

“When I’m touring, I can have other teachers cover my classes and still have income when I’m out on the road,” Rowden says. She has co-produced both of her albums, and her most recent release, These Bad Habits, has what she describes as an “Americana sound.” While creating music independently means Rowden pays for it all, it also has its benefits.

“The brilliant side of it is that I get complete creative control, and I have time on my side,” Rowden says.

Being a boss lady isn’t always easy. While she says it’s a dream, Rowden has a refreshingly real outlook on her career as a business owner and musician, a relatable struggle for those who work in the realm of their passion.

“When you do music all day long, you don’t want to come home and start writing,” Rowden says. “I have to crack the whip on myself to get stuff done when I’m feeling just lazy. It’s that thing all artists complain about: We want to make our passion our living, but then your passion is your living.”


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