It started in 2017 as Women in Music Festival. Now after two successful renditions of the festival built on the idea that the most powerful alliances that women in the music industry can build are those with other women, the festival is rebranding as Women Sound Off and broadening its scope to include women creatives in every field.
Elder and Carmena Woodward, Women Sound Off’s co-founders chose the name to be more inclusive to women outside of music and media. “We decided on Women Sound Off because we sound off naturally,” said Elder. “We don’t hold back. That entire festival weekend is literally us sounding off about issues and topics we care about.”
While the annual festival will be back in next April in the same format, the programming is set to include more workshops and panels aimed at women in creative fields outside of music and media. “You’re going to see some more panels that have to do with culture, who’s shaping the culture, female changemakers, female entrepreneurs,” said Elder.
Women Sound Off also aims to shift from operating as a festival to operating as a platform with year-round events. Starting in 2019, this will mean more workshops outside of festival weekend. In the coming year, Elder also hopes to place more of an emphasis on promoting mental health and general wellness. Because she sees a lot of creative women stop short of reaching their full potential for mental health reasons, she would like to use the new platform to teach women how to balance creativity, entrepreneurship, and wellness.
For all that’s changed, the new platform still has the same mission as the original festival — to create women-first spaces, to uplift women of color and trans women, and to incorporate Oakland and Bay Area women into a broader network of women creatives. While Elder notes that, due to the size of Oakland compared to other cities with strong creative pulses, the community of women creatives can feel limited. With Women Sound Off, she and Woodard hope to show that women from Oakland and the Bay can hold their own with artists and creatives from other cities.