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'Dust off your musical soul'

LESSON: Millicent Stephenson

HER STORY is as inspirational as the saxophone she plays, providing music for the soul with an eclectic mix of jazz, Gospel, blues reggae, alongside her own original pieces.

Millicent Stephenson, an award-winning sax player based in Birmingham, is a lesson to women everywhere never to give up on their love of creating music – even when the responsibilities of life, work and family seem overwhelming.

For Millicent has brought her music back into the foreground of her life, despite a career in education and raising two children. Now she is encouraging other female musicians to do the same with her group Cafemnee.

Cafemnee, which has grown from an acronym for Christian Female Musicians Networking Event, is a way of encouraging women to dust off their instruments and come back to playing.

“Over the years I have noticed there are not many female instrumentalists in groups or bands, although there are many vocalists,” said Millicent, who recorded her debut single ‘This is Life’ two years ago and is now just completed her second CD ‘Reflective Notes.’

She added: “Many girls learn instruments but very few continue into their adult life. Reasons for stopping include raising a family, disappointments, lack of support or encouragement, or simply developing interests in other areas outside of music.

“I set up Cafemnee because I want to see more successful female musicians, irrespective of their level and place in music. Initially it was aimed at female musicians in churches because I noticed there was a lack of them, hence the Christian element.

“The word Cafemnee is now fixed, but it is not only aimed at Christian women, but for all women who want to achieve the goals they have for their own musicianship.”

Millicent, who was a pupil of the legendary saxophonist Andy Hamilton, MBE, started Cafemnee in 2014 and holds meetings twice a year, but demand is growing to meet more frequently.

As one woman, who joined Cafemnee put it: “I did my grade eight classical piano many years ago. I played in church, but as I couldn’t understand the way the guys speak and was put down by some of their comments, I stopped playing.

“When I returned home after the Cafemnee meeting, I was so inspired by what I had learnt. I removed all the junk that had covered my piano for years, dusted it off and just played!

“As a result of Cafemnee, we have set up a female jazz band and we practise in my garage. We had our first gig the other day and it went down really well.”

The next Cafemnee meeting is on Saturday 17th September between 10.30am and 4.30pm at the New Life Church, New Testament Church of God, 10 Goosemoor Lane, Erdington, Birmingham BN23 5PN.

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