By Andrew Catania
What comes to your mind when you think of a guitarist? For most of us – a man! This stereotype stems its root from decades of male dominance in the music sphere. All domains, all genres, whichever the instrument, whatever the style – the music industry has been producing successive batches of musicians, most of whom belong to the gender with a Y chromosome. Thankfully, popular perceptions have started to change, and it’s quite refreshing to see talented women musicians rocking the industry with competence and fervor.
Gretchen Menn is one such name – talented, meticulous and high on life! To her, music is etched in her genes and flows within her veins. From the little three-year-old girl who broke her mother’s violin, to the teenager who couldn’t keep her fingers off the frets – Gretchen was raised in a household that valued the arts. When she fell in love with the guitar, her father, former Editor-in-Chief of Guitar Player Magazine, Don Menn, was quick to support, encouraging her access to his music collection and taking her to concerts of guitarists such as Steve Morse, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Gretchen Menn didn’t leave her education to pursue her musical passion. She completed her degree in music at Smith College, studying classical guitar under Phillip de Fremery, a student of Segovia. In addition to the requite harmony, theory, history, and composition, she created her own special studies program on the work of Frank Zappa.
After graduation, Gretchen decided to pursue a career in aviation as a responsible day job to support her music and enrolled in a flight academy. She got her licenses and ratings and soon after started flying jets. But Gretchen’s heart soon pulled her mind back to the path of her true dream.
Although Gretchen was never really away from the instrument all that while, she decided to prioritize music with full force. She started to experiment with a variety of genres. From progressive to jazz, and from heavy rock to heady classical, multiple genres and a multitude of associations, Gretchen has successfully paved her way in the music industry. From playing jazz standards in high school in her first actual band, Sketch, to her first professional gigs as “Agnes Young” in AC/She (an AC/DC Tribute Band) – Gretchen Menn’s name has become synonymous with versatility.
She is the guitarist in the acclaimed Drummer Clementine’s band Zepparella, a band honoring the music of Led Zeppelin. She toured America with the metal band Bottom. After House of More, an original project with the original members of Zepparella, Gretchen Menn decided to establish her solo portfolio. She laid the foundation with Sticks and Stones, an instrumental trio with Mickael Tremel and Sam Adato in 2007 and in an acoustic duo, Lapdance Armageddon, alongside guitarist Jude Gold (guitarist of Jefferson Starship, Editor at Guitar Player Magazine). Hale Souls, her first solo album, was released in July of 2011 and featured Stu Hamm on bass and John Mader on drums.
Gretchen Menn pays due tribute to Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, Django Reinhardt, and Frank Zappa as her primary and enduring guitar influences. She studies the music of Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven.
At the end of 2016, Gretchen’s second album was released. Abandon All Hope is a concept album based on Dante’s Inferno and blends classical and modern instruments in compositions that evoke a journey through Dante’s underworld. At present, Gretchen is working on her third solo album, is playing her own music live in a trio which includes drummer Thomas Perry and bassist Anna Pfeifer. Zepparella plays constantly. Gretchen recently released an extensive instructional course on JamPlay, regularly contributes lessons for Acoustic Guitar Magazine, taught a week-long workshop in Germany in June, and is working with Zepparella on the Zepparella Learning Channel on YouTube, where each musician teaches how they approach various songs of Led Zeppelin.
For information on Gretchen Menn, please visit her website at http://gretchenmenn.com/