Grrrlz Rock: It’s a generic descriptor of sorts, a title for certain roving bands of female musicians performing spirited guitar, keyboard, and drum songs around the Eugene area. Call it grassroots rock and roll. It’s been an established force for amateur local rock music for more than a decade — and most of it is thanks to Matrisha Armitage. Armitage is respected for her unflagging dedication as a musician, teacher, and all around rockin’ spiritual mentor for kids interested in her somewhat unconventional approach to music instruction.
In 2015, Armitage formalized her Grrrlz Rock mentorship efforts under the nonprofit organization Music Education & Performing Arts Association, or MEPAA. Since then, a whole lot else has come into play. Early on, MEPAA was essentially homeless — music instruction and student performances were in temporary spaces provided by various supportive community organizations. During the tight grip of Covid, MEPAA activities were very limited. More recently, the nonprofit has established a permanent home in a school-like setting in west Eugene. Consequently, big changes have blossomed — not only with Grrrlz Rock, but with the adoption of other instructional programs and approaches.
“We went from a community-based nonprofit where we lived and worked in everyone else’s spaces,” Armitage recalls. “All we did was put on events. Now we are a site-based nonprofit, and we see kids six days a week.”
MEPAA currently provides nearly 40 class activities and lesson sessions weekly, with a roster of four instructors serving more than 400 students. And that doesn’t include Kidz Jamz, Teen Jamz, and Family Jamz sessions. There are other program models in development, too: Build-a-Band, Totz ROCK, and MuseArt. Perhaps even more noteworthy, MEPAA now offers drop-in music instruction for kids with special needs.
“We don’t call what we do ‘music therapy’ because we aren’t really trained in that,” says Armitage with a gentle laugh. “We call it Rock Therapy!”