Cool Girls with Tag: music

Eugenia Cheng

Name: Eugenia Cheng
Age: 38
Location: Chicago
Occupation: Mathematician and pianist

eugenia-piano-resize-200Britain-born Eugenia Cheng knew at a young age that she wanted to be a mathematician or pianist, but didn’t know that she would grow up to be a wild success at both. Today Eugenia has brought her love of math to ink and paper, writing a new book on the subject called How to Bake Pi.

As a child, she began playing piano at only three years old, and couldn’t find a teacher willing to instruct such a young student until she was the age of five. She also started playing violin at three, but preferred the piano due to how self-sufficient it could be. “Which is funny because now my favorite thing to do with the piano is collaborate with singers,” Eugenia says.

As for her love beyond music, her attraction to mathematics also began at an early age, and that natural, youthful curiosity still hasn’t quit.
eugenia-cake-resize-200“I think I never stopped being the toddler who keeps asking the question ‘Why?’ until all the adults are fed up with them! For me, mathematics provides the most satisfying and irrefutable answers to the question ‘Why?’ at the end of a long string of ‘Whys’,” she explains. But that’s not to say that getting older and more proficient with her skills has made things less vivacious or fun. “The best thing about being an adult is that nobody can really tell me what to do! I can eat chocolate for breakfast, eat ice cream in midwinter, and stay up all night if I feel like it,” she jokes.

While music and math may seem different, Eugenia sees the similarities. “There is a lot of structure in music that is very mathematical to me, but that’s also because to me mathematics is all about structure,” she says. But she also sees how certain artists, like Bach, Wagner, and Chopin, jive with the more creative, less linear parts of her thought process.

eugenia-illuminated-resize“For me personally, music is relief from mathematics,” she admits. “Math is all about logic; music is all about emotion. I balance myself out with those two opposite extremes.” Much like finally solving a complex problem, uniting both of her loves is about striking a harmonious chord!

One might expect such a successful author, mathematician, and musician to have to conform to a disciplined, dull schedule to maximize every hour of the day, but Eugenia keeps her daily life fairly unrestricted, save for a little bit of routine to keep her sleep habits in line with the waking world. “My favourite bedtime is 4am, and then I get up around 9 or 10. However at the moment I’m trying to get up at 6:30am, I then force myself not to look at my phone or computer but to sit and think about pure research for a while,” she says. The rest of a typical day is spent writing and editing, cooking, exercising, practicing piano, and socializing.

eugentia-bagel-resizeEugenia’s next missive is to illuminate some of the lesser-known aspects of the math world, and to reach out to those who may feel distanced from the field itself. She hopes to show people how math can be both “fun and beautiful, not that awful hated subject in high-school.” Her goal is not just to educate, but to inspire. And to young women in particular who might be struggling to find their footing in the world of mathematics, Eugenia has some clever words of wisdom, “Remember: a lot of boys who say they find it easy are actually getting it all wrong!”

As for the future, Eugenia has big dreams, but for someone as talented as her they’re more than possible, they’re as probable and logical as math itself. “I hope to reach more and more people with both mathematics and music, and break down unnecessary boundaries around things so that everyone can share the things I love most,” she says. “I also hope we can get to a point where we don’t need female role models any more, because everyone knows that women can do all the things that men can do.”

For her inspiring triumphs in both mathematics and music, and for writing books that trigger thought and discussion, we think Eugenia Cheng is one Cool Girl!

Danielle Stolzenberg

Name: Danielle Stolzenberg, PhD
Age: 28
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Occupation: Postdoctoral Fellow

Having a Ph.D. isn’t enough to secure a job these days, especially if you’re a scientist. That’s why Danielle Stolzenberg is dedicating nearly four years of her life to an academic residency known as a postdoctoral position. Danielle studies the neurobiology of maternal behavior, which is a fancy way of saying that she tries to figure out how and why mothers respond to their infants’ stimuli. Last year she graduated with a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Boston College, but it’s not as if this Cool Girl was a scientist from birth.

Growing up in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Danielle wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but she knew she hated the science fair and lima beans. “I wasn’t particularly good at science, and I definitely wasn’t a fan of it,” she says. This is a huge difference from the girl who, during the first week of her “Physiological Psychology” class in college, went to the registrar and changed her major and degree from a BA to a BS in order to pursue a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. “Physiological Psychology was rumored to be the most difficult of all the psychology classes, and even though I had never been a straight A student up till that point, from the day I stepped foot in that class everything changed. I got it on a level that seemed to make everything else make sense,” she remembers. She was hooked. As Danielle puts it, “Neuroscience was like the “gateway drug” for me.”

Continue reading Danielle Stolzenberg

Carly Bogen, aka Straight Razor

Name: Carly Bogen, aka Straight Razor of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Age: 25
Location: New York City
Occupation: Language Services Quality Manager/Vice President, Gotham Girls Roller Derby

Even though Carly Bogen played guitar in her bedroom for years, she never got the guts to join a band. You’d think that someone who was too shy to rock out on stage wouldn’t become a trash-talking, bruise-giving, point-snatching roller derby icon, but that’s exactly what happened.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Carly’s daytime persona is the quality services manager of a language services company in Manhattan. She spends her working hours typing at lightening speed and relaying the latest tales of her other life at the roller derby as Straight Razor, which is Carly’s nickname on skates. Growing up, she wasn’t the athletic type, though she dabbled in various sports, she never got involved on any deep level. “I ended up as a pretty sedentary teenager. It wasn’t until my college years that I became physically active and discovered how awesome it feels to be athletic and competitive,” she says. These days, one of her biggest challenges is making up for that lost time. Many women in roller derby grew up playing sports and being physically active, so Carly struggles to attain the same level of athleticism and endurance.

“I have two main challenges these days,” she says. “Finding enough time in my life to run a non-profit business, practice three times a week, hold a full-time job and still manage not to lose my mind. My other main challenge is to continue to improve at the sport despite the injuries and the constant physical and mental challenges it presents.”

Carly didn’t grow up on skates, or have a starry-eyed relationship with the sport before competing. In fact, she didn’t know a thing about roller derby before she saw it with her own eyes. “I met Lemony Kickit, a now retired Gotham Girl, at a party about a month before her first bout in early 2007. She suggested I come check it out. I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about, but it sounded cool, so I went. I feel immediately in love, bought skates, and started training my ass off!”

She isn’t the only one to have been in the dark about the sport. In fact, most people only have only heard about it through pop-culture, or their older relatives’ memories of its earlier notoriety. [Note: The author of this profile only had heard about it because her late aunt had competed in a league back in the ’70s, much to her family’s chagrin.] Even though Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page recently brought attention to roller derby with their film Whip It, the sport has been around for years. Back in 1922, the Chicago Tribune coined the term roller derby in an article about multi-day, flat-track roller skating competitions. The thing is, this article was citing the banked-track roller skating marathons written about in The New York Times back in 1885 an 1914. The roots of the derby run deep.

Over the years, promoters began to highlight the physical contact that came with the sport, as well as the element of teamwork. Although they were known as being endurance competitions, the sport of roller derby went through cycles of popularity throughout the twentieth century, even being broadcast on the radio and television during the 1960s. Towards the end of the last century, the attention and enthusiasm for roller derby waned, until a bunch of women came together to start a grassroots, non-profit league in California around the year 2000. Suddenly the sport began to catch on, its emphasis on campy humor, brutal physicality, and a do-it-yourself spirit it attracted a host of new players and veterans alike. All across the country non-profit leagues started, practicing together and competing against one another. The bouts had rules and refs, the players had outfits and protective gear, and the teams and personalities had names that combined some wicked wordplay. When Carly Bogen began skating, a transformation took place.

“I was at Nationals in Austin in 2007, asking everyone around me what I should be called,” she remembers. “I wanted something that wasn’t your standard pun. Someone suggested Straight Razor and I went with it. Robin Drugstores from the Philly Roller girls has one of my favorite names. In fact, the entire Liberty Belles team has some pretty incredible derby names.”

Although the names are hilarious and the outfits (at times) scandalous, there’s much more to roller derby than simply girl-power and ferocity. Many people don’t realize that it is a non-profit, which means that scraping together pennies for practice areas, transportation, and, yes, those very outfits, requires ingenuity and hard work. Straight Razor knows about this all too well.

Carly Bogen

“We practice at a warehouse which we pay a huge amount of rent for,” she says. “There are no roller rinks in New York City, so it’s a fight for us to find a place to skate. We practice four times a week, from February through November.” That’s nine months of rent to find a way to afford.

The Gotham Girls league was founded back in 2003 and consists of four teams: the Bronx Gridlock, Brooklyn Bombshells, Manhattan Mayhem, and Queens of Pain. The league is part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and not only do they play one another, but they play out of state WFTDA teams as well. The Gotham Girls also consist of two inter-league teams, the Wall Street Traitors and the Gotham Girls All-Stars. The Gotham Girls All-Stars compete in the sanctioned WFTDA inter-league matches, and points from those bouts count towards national rankings. The Gotham Girls league even has a team of rookies, known as the Meatpacking District.

As a 501c3 non-profit organization, the Girls rely on ticket sales, donations, merchandise, and sponsorship to keep the machine of their league running. The players are unpaid when it comes to money, but get rich with their rough-n-tumble reputations and near rock-star status among roller derby groupies. In fact, the Gotham Girls are one of the country’s top-ranked teams.

Of course, roller derby is known for being a contact sport, and contact can easily lead to injuries. “I broke my front tooth at my very first scrimmage,” Straight Razor recalls. “With my mouth-guard in! I also had to sit about four months early last year due to tendonitis in my hip flexor. There was also a minor separated shoulder last November, but that healed up quick. Injuries are part of the game, but I consider myself lucky – I still have two good knees…knock on wood!”
Her passion for roller derby is what helps the bruises to hurt less, and running the Gotham Girls has helped every bump and scrape feel like a badge of honor. “I don’t keep it a secret,” Carly says about her roller derby fervor. “I’m proud of it. I love it. I spend more time playing roller derby and running the non-profit beast that is Gotham Girls more than I do anything else.”

For reviving the sport of roller derby, and helping the Wall Street Traitors and Manhattan Mayhem skate to victory in 2010, Straight Razor is one Cool Girl!

If you’d like to witness some derby madness in your area, look online and see who your local teams are, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association site (http://wftda.com/) is a great resource. For those of you in the New York metropolitan area, the Gotham Girls Roller Derby website (www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com) is the place to find out where the next match up is taking place, and to donate. Remember if you go, to cheer on Straight Razor!

Leslie Yeargers

Name: Leslie Yeargers
Age: 47
Location: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Domestic Engineer (“It sounds better than “homemaker” or “house wife,” she jokes,) Astrologer, and Volunteer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, Emerson School, and Jackson Middle School

Leslie Yeargers brings the noise. A volunteer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, Leslie has reveled in helping build girls’ self-esteem through music, both as a volunteer and a parent of two little campers.

Growing up in Nevada, Minnesota and Washington gave Leslie a multifaceted view of the country, and allowed her to daydream in all directions. As a child she wanted to be an actor, the first woman on the moon, and an astrologer. In college she attempted to pursue Organic Chemistry, and then studied German and Technical Writing, a background that helped lay the foundation for a job with a German software company. Eventually she was hired as a technical writer with Microsoft, a job that lasted a decade.

During her formative years, Leslie faced a lot of social challenges. As a tall girl, she was always treated as though she were older than her years. She developed anxiety when she was left alone in the halls, or sat by herself in the lunchroom. Then, at fourteen, she was in a car accident that left her face scarred and her front teeth missing. Competitive swimming became her saving grace, giving her the confidence and a social circle that helped her to rise above the difficulties the car accident had put in her path. This intimate knowledge of how fragile self-esteem can be for girls helps Leslie to make a difference in her volunteer work.

Growing up, Leslie took music lessons. Though she learned to play piano, guitar, and violin in school, she didn’t look at it as a competitive or high-pressure pursuit. “As a kid, I found that music, especially piano, was a great way for me to unwind, relax and express myself. When I became an adult, I gave up on playing music. My job and life just took over. While I continued to attend concerts and listened to music daily, I stopped playing myself.” Then, at the age of forty-one, her husband gave her the gift of a bass guitar, and she’s been playing it ever since.

These days, Leslie draws her strength not only from music, but from her family. Living with her two daughters and loving husband, she has also created an extended family circle with her friends and co-volunteers. “Through the experience of parenting I’ve learned a great deal from my kids. My two girls constantly push me to grow and be a better person. My husband and friends are there as a source of support and advice when I need it most. Through volunteering at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, I’ve met some outstanding women and girls that consistently inspire me with their creativity, courage, and dedication.” When she’s not reading Astrological charts or lending a hand, she’s playing with her husband. The two of them are trying to start a band, and she cites music as being one of the biggest influences in her life.

“I attended the very first Ladies Rock Camp fundraiser about eight months after I started playing the bass,” Leslie remembers. “I can honestly say it was the best gift I could ever have given myself. I had a blast, and from there on out, I was hooked. The following year I signed up to help plan and coordinate Ladies Rock Camp, and I’ve been doing it for the past six years.” As her daughters started growing, she enrolled them in the summer camp and signed up to volunteer. It has been a driving force in her life and the life of her family. She’s had the opportunity to help others while witnessing her daughters learn, grow and perform.

Although it’s only for one week during the summer, Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls transforms lives. In a nutshell, the camp is a self-esteem and empowerment program for girls, ages eight to eighteen, that uses music as a medium of self-expression. During that week, girls go to the camp and learn the basics of songwriting and music creation: from fundamental guitar, bass, keyboard and drum lessons, to vocal coaching. They form bands where they create their own original songs, and then perform them at the end of the week at a musical showcase that’s attended by 500 to 700 people, including many beaming parents. The beauty of Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp is that it doesn’t simply rely on teaching music, it also offers workshops in song writing, self-defense, zine writing, and silk screening where the girls can even make their very own band tee-shirts. In an image and identity workshop they are encouraged to talk about their experiences with other girls and societal pressure. Even at a young age, this opportunity to share frankly and openly about what they have already come up against can be revelatory and freeing.

“The environment at camp is extremely supportive, upbeat and positive,” Leslie says. The staff of the camp work as band managers and band coaches to help guide the girls through writing and performing songs. They also help to foster an environment that builds communication and close relationships, teaching team building and collaboration. “The main role of the instructors, coaches, managers, staff, and volunteers at camp is to create a positive and supportive environment in which every girl feels safe and encouraged to take risks expressing herself to her fullest potential,” Leslie explains. “Essentially, the girls learn that it’s okay to own and use their creativity and voices. They also learn the proper way to treat other girls. As a mother of two girls who faced a lot of social pressure, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the camp exists and what a special place it is for so many girls who struggle with their own uniqueness and self-esteem.”

Fortunately, the summer program isn’t the only offering. A year-round after-school program is available, too. Running two and a half hours, one day a week, there are three sessions that span ten weeks apiece. After the girls become young women, there’s a Ladies Rock Camp for women ages 19 and older, only the format is compressed into a long weekend. “The women who attend Ladies Rock Camp often longed for a girls rock camp when they were kids, and come away from it having similar experiences regarding self-esteem building and feelings of accomplishment that the girls do,” Leslie says.”In terms of Ladies Rock Camp, I can’t express adequately how rewarding it is to bear witness to the personal break throughs and accomplishments of grown women who held the mistaken belief that they were too old to learn an instrument. It is incredible to see women, who believed they would never be able to write a song and perform it, get on stage at a rock venue in front of an audience, thereby breaking the barriers of their own limiting beliefs.”

Of course, working in a collaborative environment with a large number of young girls can create some unexpected and profound experiences. “Last year, I had a girl with Downs Syndrome in the band I was coaching. I had never worked with a child who had special needs before, so she presented me and the rest of her band mates with an interesting challenge. But in the spirit of camp and the positive environment that exists there, we looked at this as an opportunity to learn something,” Leslie says. “The band members had to stretch themselves to fully accept her and not let their frustrations impact their treatment of her when she refused to practice and said she didn’t want to perform. When the entire band – including her – got up on stage at the showcase together and performed, I was so proud of them and the work they had done to get to that point. The main lesson that took place had nothing to do with music. It was more about girls learning to accept one another and work together to accomplish a task, even when major differences might impede their ability do so.”

As a homemaker, Leslie’s time is often a hot commodity, but she’s been able to create a flexible and nurturing environment for herself, allowing her to be a productive, active mom, while also being a practicing musician and business woman. Her weeks are a mix of mothering, volunteering, and Astrology. Each day could include everything from paperwork for Rock Camp, going on a field trip, assisting a teacher, working on a client’s Astrological chart, grocery shopping, or housework. But hopefully every day includes practicing bass.

When she listens to music, Leslie sometimes struggles to find songs and bands that are a mix of being interesting and inspiring. She stretches her ears to hear music created “for the sheer joy and artistic need of it.” She’s not impressed by a lot of the current popular music of today, with its ambition for money and commercial fame. “What inspires me most is someone experimenting with a different technique or sound in their home recording studio with a minimum of bells and whistles. It’s raw, honest and real. I’m not a fan of the radio like I used to be. If I do listen to commercialized music, it’s mainly on the alternative or indie stations,” she confesses.

Although Leslie helps girls reach for the stars, her future aspirations aren’t too far from the heavens either. “I hope to have a thriving Astrology practice, which I’m just starting to get going,” she says. “And I hope to be playing music out more with the band my husband and I form. We don’t want to be famous, we just want to have fun and do what we do with integrity. I hope to have a good, healthy relationship with my kids and hope I raise them to be confident people who are happy with their lives.”

She plays conductor and helps girls march to the beat of their own drum, and for that we say Leslie Yeargers is one Cool Girl!

Leslie is available for Astrology chart readings in her own business, Astrology With Heart. She can be reached for readings at leslie@yeargers.net. She can do charts long-distance through an emailed written report, followed-up by a phone consultation to provide clarification and answer questions. Chart readings are $50.00 each.