Anna is a volunteer and Community Heroes Award Winner for her Twickenham-based, not-for-profit Rock & Pop band project & charity “Powerjam”, for ages 11-18. Originally from Santa Monica, California, Anna attended UC Berkeley and later moved to Tokyo, where she worked in the music industry as an FM Radio DJ, vocalist, and songwriter for over a decade, before moving to London.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? My teen daughter; and Powerjam, of course. It’s actually thanks to her that I started the project. She was close to quitting music grades, and even piano at one point, and now always says that being in a rock/pop band helped her stick with it. She’s just finished her grade 8 classical piano exam, and I’m so proud of her for pushing through and learning to love all kinds of music.
What challenges do you face and how do you overcome them? Rehearsing and preparing multiple bands every term, and then getting them and their equipment to each of their multiple gigs. It’s a bit more challenging, I’d say, because they’re not adult bands. Also, just gaining support from the community, stage organisers and potential funders, so we can continue to give these opportunities to local young musicians and disadvantaged youth. It can be a lot to handle, but I get to lean on my amazing staff, Andrei and Luis, volunteers and parents, and anyone who can help these young people shine and feel good about themselves.
What made you start your own business? Being a volunteer allows me to personalise the project much more than if it were a business-for-profit, and that keeps me motivated. My parents divorced when I was 4, and my mom eventually had to stop giving me and my sisters music lessons. Thanks to a music teacher at school, who helped me gain confidence, I ended up having fantastic experiences working in the music industry later in life. Now I get to give back a little, and being in a gigging band is just such a great way for teens to build self-esteem, lose inhibitions, learn about accountability, and discover how to work closely and creatively with others etc.; these are tools we all need!
What’s your favourite part of the day? After school, when we have back-to-back band rehearsals. It’s crazy and exhausting, but I get to work with two of my favourite things in life: music and teens. And to be honest, they’re often a lot more fun than adults!
Who inspires you and why? These young musicians, hands down! I am constantly blown away by their original songs and their talent and courage, at such a young age, to rehearse hard every week and despite many being quite introverted offstage, to get on these big stages, often in front of hundreds of strangers, and just go for it.
What lessons have you learned? That sometimes you have to say ‘no’ for the greater good, which is never easy. Especially with bands, members often want different things; it’s why so many amazing pro bands break up, sadly. So they need to work as a team, put the band as a whole and the music first, and then it all pays off when they see the audiences’ reactions. Last year, we had bands onstage at Strawberry Hill Music Day, Richmond Riverside Music Festival, Twickenham Christmas and Twickenham High Tide Festivals, The Crawdaddy Club, and more.
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What would the closest person in your life say if I asked them for the one characteristic that they totally like about you? Most likely my passion, but I’m sure it can be the most irritating thing about me as well!
What is your favourite place in Twickenham? Heatham House, where we run Powerjam. It’s a big beautiful old house with a gorgeous garden, a skate park, and tons of activities for young people, from dance and art to football. We’ve just finished recording all the bands’ songs there, with the original songs soon to be on all streaming platforms, and then a final compilation LP. We’re really excited about this and lucky to be part of a community that supports its young people.