Not too long ago, you would never hear a radio deejay play two female vocalists in a row.
And until recently, all-women music festivals and concerts were rare.
“A lot has changed for women in the last 10 years,” said Yukon musician, Nicole Edwards.
She would know. Edwards was one of a handful of women who met at the home of Lucie Desaulniers 12 years ago to discuss the lack of opportunities for female musicians in the Yukon.
The group eventually went on to form the Yukon Women in Music Association in 2000. It was led by 18 inaugural members.
Ten years later, the group has grown to 56 women and has several concerts and CD compilations under its belt. This Saturday they celebrate the 10th anniversary of the organization with a concert at the United Church.
Over the years the group has elevated the horizon of what is possible for female musicians in the territory, said Edwards.
“It’s amazing how many people started with YWIM and just ran with it,” said Edwards.
“Once these women realize that they’re supported they just fly.”
Edwards points to one of the Yukon’s best-known exports, Kim Beggs, as an example.
Before she joined the music association Beggs was strumming her songs around campfire. Only a few years later she’s doing cross-country tours and travelling internationally with her music, said Edwards.
“It takes crossing that first barrier and having that support to do it.”
A year before the Yukon Women in Music Association formed, Edwards was playing in a band with all male musicians. At the time she thought it was the only way she could be on stage.
She was offered to play her first solo show by the Yukon Women in Music Association.
Not long after that experience she ditched her band and began recording solo. “Now I have three albums under my belt; I’m a band leader, so to speak,” she said.
Whereas young boys are really confidant about starting to play music, young girls and women want someone beside them at first, said Edwards.
Erica Heyligers can relate.
The Yukon luthier dabbled in music for years before she joined the Yukon Women in Music Association seeking out other female performers to jam with.
“The group gave me lots of inspiration and motivation to work on my music,” said Heyligers.
Because of the organization she’s found herself on several concert stages. She’s also part of the newly formed group, The Bluegrass Babes, which includes her 13-year-old daughter, the youngest member of the association, she said.
Being involved in the organization has also given Heyligers an opportunity to learn about music management and administration. Heyligers sat as president of the association for two years, an experience that gave her a sense of “empowerment in her music and in herself.”
As president she co-ordinated the third compilation album of Yukon women musician, Tether, Hooks and Velcro.
It was an exhausting experience, she said, explaining that the whole process was done entirely through volunteer work.
But the results were encouraging. As soon as the album was released in 2008 stores could hardly keep the CD on their shelves, she said.
“We’ve sold hundreds of those CDs. It’s been a big hit.”
Both Heyligers and Edwards are looking forward to the concert Saturday and hope it will bring more women into the fold.
You can catch the 10th anniversary show in the basement of the United Church, 601 Main Street. Tickets are $10 and the doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Vivian Belik at