A COEHD professor tackles advocacy and awareness through rock and roll

“Ever since I was young, I’ve been drawn to rock and roll,” said Tiffany Farias-Sokoloski. Fascinated by gender – from memento mori from album covers to rebellious artist personalities – Farias-Sokoloski bought her first guitar at age 15, taught herself to play and formed a band with friends.

“Three angsty punk rock girls,” she recalled. “We were horrible. We never played a show.

It’s a scene that’s played out in countless garages and basements across America. But while most of these angsty teenagers continue to hang up their axes, cut their hair and join the professional world, some will always take a bit of rock ‘n roll with them wherever they go – or, in the case of Farias -Sokoloski, a lot of rock’n roll.

Tiffany Farias-Sokoloski is an assistant professor of education in the College of Education and Human Development. She works with clinical educators, helping them prepare for their certifications, teaching classes, and organizing trainings and orientations. Those who know her from the amphitheater or the classroom may not realize that she is equally at home on stage. But the stage, she says, is what brought her to class in the first place.

“I can see how you can’t associate rock and roll and education,” she said, “but to a large extent I took that and used it to advocate for my students, by just being brave and speaking up for them and their families.”

Farias-Sokoloski says performing, especially with her current band Yoshimoto, has helped her grow tremendously, allowing her to come out of her shell and be creative without being perfect. It also exemplifies his worldview and empowers him to act on his beliefs, such as advocacy; Yoshimoto has raised money for a variety of causes, from homeless LGBTQ youth to feral cats. Her experiences as a rocker and educator inspired her to take on another role: founder and executive director of the nonprofit San Antonio Girls Rock (SAGR).

SAGR is a summer camp for girls aged 10-16 that helps them learn an instrument, form their own band and perform original songs. But while the camp has many of the things you might expect — like music teachers and songwriting coaches — it also offers workshops covering topics like body image and social justice. Farias-Sokoloski says this approach was inspired by her own musical journey and based on a similar program in Austin.

“I realized that something had to be done so that girls who are like me, in their teens, upset by all these different things and want to learn more about themselves through music can come together and do that,” she said.

Farias-Sokoloski is proud of the work SAGR has done (she estimates nearly 100 girls have participated since the camp launched in 2017) but says the journey hasn’t always been easy. One of his main challenges has been to ensure that the SAGR remains sustainable; she says she never viewed the nonprofit SAGR as a lucrative business. Although there are tuition fees to attend SAGR, Farias-Sokoloski says denying those who cannot afford to attend would go against his mission to provide opportunities for all. girls.

“It really didn’t help me in terms of the business model,” she jokes.

But ensuring access to as many girls as possible is no joke to her. To keep costs down, Farias-Sokoloski says she became SAGR’s unpaid webmaster, social media manager, grants writer and after-school program coordinator, to name a few.

Another challenge that SAGR may face is the difference with other music camps and non-profit organizations. For example, while most music camps focus exclusively on theory and technique, that’s not Farias-Sokoloski’s primary focus.

“We’re not talking about perfection, we’re not talking about ‘you have to learn the fundamentals, like this is a G chord, this is a C chord,’ that’s not what we do,” she said. declared. “We’ve actually had several bands over the years that are pretty noise, and we encourage that because I mean it’s like, ‘Hey, get up there and you create!’ That’s who we are.

Likewise, unlike many other nonprofits that serve girls, it does not specifically prioritize academics. But Farias-Sokoloski argues that academics are enhanced by creativity and self-expression.

They create something timeless that no one can take away from them – it’s theirs.

“We don’t target academics directly,” she said, “but indirectly because of the way we support girls’ creativity and self-esteem; we provide them with that outlet to channel their energies in a way that gives them immediate gratification through music. They create something timeless that no one can take away from them – it’s theirs.

SAGR’s slightly different focus also caused some parental pushback in its first year, Farias-Sokoloski recalls. At stake were the workshops, including one on social media and the other on gender and self-expression. Some parents felt that some themes were too mature for younger girls, while others objected to the political overtones and asked the camp to stick to rock and roll. Since then, Farias-Sokoloski has worked hard to communicate to parents what each workshop covers, and the issues have gone away, but the advice to “stick to rock and roll” still amuses her.

“In my mind, I’m like, ‘How can you rock and roll without politics? Or all that. How do you rock and roll without feeling?’”

“In my mind, I’m like, ‘How can you rock and roll without politics? Or all that. How do you rock and roll without feeling?’”

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has also posed a serious challenge to SAGR’s mission. In order to continue serving girls during the pandemic, Farias-Sokoloski says SAGR has partnered with another local nonprofit, San Antonio Sound Garden. Together, the two groups hosted an online experience that allowed the girls to virtually collaborate and learn about using electronic instruments and software. This allowed SAGR to continue its services, but came with other drawbacks.

photo of students having fun

“It was really difficult because a lot of what we create in our summer camp is through in-person experiences, and it’s been really hard to build community in the same way that we normally would” , said Farias-Sokoloski. “Being online is convenient, but it’s extremely limiting…that organic kind of community building doesn’t exist.”

Despite these challenges, Farias-Sokoloski has worked to expand SAGR’s reach from a week-long summer camp to an ongoing after-school program.

“This is our second semester with our in-person afterschool program, and it’s been fantastic,” she said.

SAGR has partnered with the San Antonio Independent School District’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy. As with the summer camp, the girls do not need any previous musical experience and instruments are provided for those who need them. With the longer time frame available, the girls spent the first half of the semester learning their instruments; after that they began to form bands. Now the girls spend their time rehearsing with their bands. In addition to his musical growth, Farias-Sokoloski has also experienced tremendous personal growth.

“They seem so confident, even more so than they were last semester, and I’d like to think the music played a part in that,” she said.

For her lifetime work in the San Antonio community, Farias-Sokoloski was recently nominated for the San Antonio Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award.

“It’s truly humbling and a huge honor to be recognized [as] part of a group of people doing different things and impacting the community in a similar way,” she said.

San Antonio Girls Rock is currently seeking full-time and part-time volunteers. Anyone interested in learning more about the program can visit https://sanantoniogirlsrock.org/.

-Christophe Reichert

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