Ashley Shabankareh

Musician, Director of Programs at Preservation Hall

June 6, 2016


How old are you?

I am 27.

Where are you from originally?

Born in California but I moved around a bunch as a kid. I lived in Houston right before I moved to New Orleans

How long have you been in New Orleans then?

Almost ten years.

What brought you to New Orleans?

I originally came to go to Loyola for the music education program and then I ended up falling in love and buying a house.

Why are you still in New Orleans?

I love this city. It’s really hard to leave it. And I built up my career here really quickly. So fuck it, I’m here.

In what capacity would you describe yourself as a part of the New Orleans music community?

The obvious one would be my job at Preservation Hall. I work as their Director of Programs and obviously Preservation Hall is known as the historic, hallowed venue of New Orleans. That’s one side of it. And the other side is working as a musician. You’ve got the best of both worlds. Like Hannah Montana. That’s right, that’s on record.

What bands are you in?

Let’s see. I have to remember what bands I’m currently in. Marina Orchestra, the Asylum Chorus, the Local Skank—which is technically on hiatus but we haven’t called it quits just yet. And then I’ll sit in with other groups from time to time.

Do you remember being told or taught anything growing up about your behavioral expectations as a girl that your male peers were not?

I feel like I have a different perspective on this because depending on the region, I was taught different things. In California it was more of “you be you, you do you, who gives fuck?” And then you had states like Texas where they separated the girls and the boys for sex ed.  It was very, very strange.

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

In New Orleans, it happens a lot more frequently than in some other states especially working in this music industry. There’s this culture in New Orleans that says ‘this is the role of the man’ and ‘this is the role of the woman’. I think the newer anti-sexist ideals are really confusing to a lot of older folks in New Orleans but their behavior is not always overtly sexist. A lot of times because they feel there’s this division of the sexes they need to keep that balance between the two. So it feels different in New Orleans because there are a lot of these weird social norms based on the culture.

You mentioned how sexism is not always overt. Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?

The majority of the time, yes.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

At this point, I feel like it’s engrained in our culture. There are very few times when I feel like I’m going to be offended by a comment because quite frankly, some people are raised in a completely different manner and don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong. I just let it all slide off my back.

Have you ever had an experiences with a sexist comment coming from your own sex?

Oh yes. Duh. I feel like we can be the worst to each other in terms  of not raising each other up. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific conversation but I know we all do it. We all get catty. These things happen.

Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced either overt or subtle sexism against you that have maybe stuck with you?

One of my favorites was at a festival I played. I went off on the guy afterward because it was so ridiculous. We were still trying to plug in all of our mics and all of our Dis and before we were finished, the sound man says, “I need to check your monitors.” And when we asked him for another minute to finish setting up, he responded with, “Your monitor is the little triangle in front of you.” I stopped and gave it back to him and said, “I understand that the triangle in front of us is the monitor but if you listen closely you would notice that we aren’t finished being set up yet so I’m not going to check my monitor. Also, I have my degree in this and I know everything that you’re doing right now is completely wrong.” Seriously? You just told me that the monitor is the little triangle in front of me. You think that I haven’t done enough gigs that I couldn’t figure this out for myself? I’ve also had a few incidents where I am playing a show and get to the door with my horn and the guy at the door says, “Are you on the guest list?” And I’m standing there going, “No. I’m playing on that stage. You let me in now.”