How was Cafemnee’s ‘How to Bring Your ‘A’ Game’?

MPS teaching leftWhile it was a dull day outside, it was far from dull inside Manor Studios for Cafemnee’s ‘How to bring your ‘A’ Game’. The session discussion topic ‘Your ‘A’ Game Practise’ explored ten hindrances, ten myths and ten tips for improving your practise.

Helen teaching 1Helen Bentley gave an overview of the types of personal and musical aspects that should be part of our improvisation toolkit. This also included improvisation exercises for the women to try.

Pauline and CynthiaCynthia Fearon led an explosive Jam session with Cheryl Richards facilitating the Saxes. The women played pieces and had a chance to experiment with improvisational ideas gained from Helen’s session.


What did the women thing of the event? Here are some of their comments:

Althea and Helen set up‘I feel more confident to improvise’

‘Today more than met my expectations’

‘…I obtained more ideas for practising…’

Saxes set up‘I will organise my practise time so that I can reach my goals’.

‘I intend to be more specific with what I practise’

‘I will create a regular practise schedule and make use of a notebook’

Evaluation 1‘I will practise when I don’t feel like it’

‘It was good to participate in the improvisation session as it help me to gain insight in how to deliver a solo’

‘Today emphasised that I need to have more confidence when pEvaluation 2ractising with other musicians as well as the importance of perfecting my technique’

‘I will use the exercises from the improvisation toolkit’

‘I will experiment with new techniques’

‘Really enjoyed the Jam session’

‘Met new people…great ideas from other people…’

‘… excellent tips, inspiration and good company and food!…’

Next Cafemnee event date to be announced.  Watch this space!



Cafemnee – ‘How To Bring Your ‘A’ Game’ – EventBrite details

Book via EventBrite here:

BBC Radio WM ‘Chatback’ interview 26/07 listen again

IMG_2330If you didn’t get a chance to listen to  BBC Radio WM ‘Chatback’ Show interview by Nikki Tapper and Joe Aldred on BBC iplayer where Millicent was interviewed about Cafemnee then you can hear it on Sound Cloud or again below:

‘Play It Like A Man’ – CFMNE review

It was great meeting the women again and also meeting some new faces to CFMNE ‘Play It Like A Man’.

DSC_0997The discussion ‘Should we play it like a man?’ helped us to get down to brass tacks about our experiences where gender affected our musicianship.  We covered points like the difference in our sound and touch on our instruments; the difficulty in identifying female role models; motherhood and sexualising of female musicians.  But we also identified the positives such as some people prefer to listen to female musicians as they bring a different quality to music; some male musicians prefer females in their band as it brings calm and a change to the dynamics of the group;  Also highlighted was overcoming our knock backs and identifying things we can celebrate about our personal musicianship.

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Wai Sum Chong did an excellent job demonstrating types of articulation and the skill of notation.  She also covered how it impacts and improves our playing plus the good the bad and the ugly of articulation.  A very engaging and thought provoking session.

We had an inspiring Jam session, lead by Cynthia Fearon,  playing through familiar songs, learning chord progressions and exploring musical ideas. The lunch was scrummy.  The moments for reflection and prayer were excellent.  Some women made new friends and others renewed acquaintances.  A packed afternoon!

What did the women think about the event?

‘…boosted my confidence, motivation and determination’

‘I learned, played and had fun’

‘I enjoyed networking and the reminder to remember the different forms of articulation’

‘I really valued the Masterclass’

‘…helped me to play by ear and helped my improvisation skills’

‘ play to the best of my ability and not to compete with men’


Next session: Saturday 5th September 2015

Theme: How To Bring Your ‘A’ Game – Part 1


DSC_1107 Eval

2 Days to CFMNE – ‘Play It Like A Man?’

Are you curious about making distinctive music?  Would you like to change your vibe a little?  More creative in your playing?  Christian female musicians this is for you.   Wai Sum Chong (Musical Director- Midland Theatre Ballet) will be delivering the Master class tip on ‘Articulation’. Cynthia Fearon, (Praise & Worship Musician,  Jubilee Christian Centre, COGOP) will be leading on the Jam session and yours truly will be tackling the theme should we ‘Play It Like A Man?’

If you’re thinking of coming call me.  The details are below:

cfmne v4

‘Play It Like A Man’ – 4 weeks to go!

Wai-Sum Chong Almost 4 weeks to go!  Not long to the next CFMNE meeting.  It’s gonna be good!

Wai Sum Chong will be delivering the Master Class tips session on ‘Articulation’. Here is Wai Sum’s biog:

‘Wai Sum Chong is a freelance pianist specialising in accompaniment. Based in the West Midlands, she found her niche 7 years ago as a ballet pianist working with companies and schools such as the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, School of Ballet Theatre UK and Elmhurst School for Dance. She is currently Musical Director of the Midland Theatre Ballet. Apart from her dance – based activities, Wai Sum also teaches piano privately and works with dementia sufferers by performing live concerts at Lost Chord and Music in Hospitals. Wai Sum also plays the djembe and spent a few years learning the violin’

Pretty good!  She will cover:

– What is articulation? Have you got it?
– Physical differences between men and women which contribute to articulation
– Accessing good articulation – technique , listening, imagination, knowledge
– Demonstration – ‘The Good, the Bad , and the Ugly’

First Cohort of CFMNE Sept 2014,l hosted by Millicent Stephenson
First Cohort of CFMNE Sept 2014,l hosted by Millicent Stephenson

– Q and A session

Quite a lot to pack in to the afternoon as we’ll also be jamming, praying, networking and discussing ‘Play it Like a Man’ – what it means, should we do so, your experience of it, it’s impact on your playing.  Lunch will be provided.

Date: Saturday 7th Feb 2015

Time: 1pm until 6pm

Venue:  Unit 8, 62-64 Northwood Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1TT

Cost: £15

Since it’s only 4 weeks to go booking and payment should arrive by 30th January so arrangements can be finalised.  Email Millicent for your booking form and payment details at

Spread the word – CFMNE (Christian Female Musicians Networking Event) is for female instrumentalist.  Women who are not Christians or church goers are also welcomed to attend.


Our first meeting

Well I did not sleep much the night before the first Christian Female Musicians Networking Event (CFMNE).  I was wondering how it would go and if everything was in place.  The day after the event I slept even less because I was buzzing with ideas for the next one.  How did it go? Exceptionally well!  The sisters prefer CFMNE! Here are some of their comments:

  • ‘I was able to go for it the next day in my playing because I saw how other women played with confidence and energy’
  • ‘I feel fired up to go for my dream’
  • ‘I’m glad I came because even though I am not a good player I was able to participate’.
  • ‘Really enjoyed it! I’m looking forward to the next one!’
  • ‘Really encouraged by the get together especially the prayer time, sharing and jamming’.
  • ‘I was struggling to come, but I’m glad I made it!’

As with all good things there was not enough time to talk about every aspect of our musical experiences but we covered how and why we play, how we describe ourselves musically, highs and lows, where we are now and our direction. The jam session was not competitive and it allowed everyone, irrespective of their level, to participate in creating new music and to vibe on covers. In the prayer session the focus was about our personal targets for our music.  Some women preferred quiet meditation while others prayed together, very refreshing.

At the end of the afternoon we discussed the way forward for future networking events and decided on the following:

  • Twice yearly meetings. Each session covering different topics.
  • As the term ‘musician’ can include singers, attendees felt that the initial events should focus on the needs of those who play instruments.
  • Women musicians who are not Christians are welcomed. Women who have a faith but do not attend church are also welcomed.
  • This networking event is Christian based and Prayer, discussions about Christian worship services and biblical references are part of the sessions. Any woman who does not want to participate in prayer can opt not to do so.
  • ‘How to’ tips about playing or music knowledge should be included in the sessions.

By the way, fantastic lunch from ‘Blue Lagoon’, thanks Clive!

Next date:  Saturday 7th February 2015

Theme: ‘Play it like a man

See the Debut Event (6th Sept) page for why the event was set up.

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