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January 11th
School News Antigone Rising's Guitarist Studies On the Road with Berkleemusic Online

by Mr. Bonzai

Antigone Rising - Kristen Henderson

Antigone Rising
Pictured L-R are Cathy Henderson, guitar, vocals; Cassidy, lead vocals; Dena Tauriello, drums; Jen Zielenbach, bass; Kristen Henderson, guitar, vocals.
Photo by James Minchin

For the past decade, the five lady rockers of Antigone Rising have been criss-crossing the country, playing as many as 250 shows a year. Hard work and distinctive talent have paid off for the New York City-based quintet. The group's 2005 live album, "From the Ground Up," became a big hit, and early in 2006 Antigone Rising opened for The Rolling Stones, a desirable spot which put the group on stage in front of stadium crowds.

Kristen Henderson, guitarist and vocalist with the group, recently completed the Blues Guitar Workshop at Berkleemusic, the online extension school of Boston's famed Berklee College of Music. Henderson studied online while in the midst of a grueling tour schedule which included opening for The Rolling Stones earlier this year.

Interview with Kristen Henderson

BONZAI: When did you start playing the guitar?
HENDERSON: Actually, I didn't start playing guitar until I was in college. Originally I was a drummer, the drummer in our band, and one of the songwriters. My sister Cathy plays lead guitar, so there were always guitars laying around. I would pick up the guitar and pluck away, and then in college I started writing songs on the guitar with the three chords that I knew. When I became one of the primary songwriters in the band, it was decided to bring me up front, because we got some gigs that were acoustic only. I was brought forward to play guitar on these dates, and people decided I was better up front, playing guitar and singing harmonies. Management and producers started looking for another drummer, and I thought this big change was just crazy enough to work. I started playing rhythm guitar in the band, but I still thought of myself as a drummer and not a guitarist. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to take the Berkleemusic online course.

BONZAI: How did you learn about the online school of Berklee?
HENDERSON: I recently got a new Mac computer with the GarageBand software, and I have been demo-ing my songs in GarageBand, working around in the program. I wanted to learn more about that, so I did a search on the Internet and Berkleemusic came up first. It was a Sunday night this past January, and it said this was the last chance to sign up for the class because it started the next day on Monday. I cruised around the site and I found three courses that I really wanted to take, the Blues Guitar Workshop, the Garage Band course, and one on Sequencing.

I signed up for all three on Sunday night and then Monday I logged on and looked at the course load and I thought, "My God, I'm insane, I will never be able to keep up with all three of these courses." I dropped two and stuck with the Blues course, because we were going out on tour and would be doing some dates with the Rolling Stones. I knew it was going to be a crazy schedule, but I stuck with the Blues course because I really did want to learn how to play more leads. My sister and I do a dueling lead at times in the show, and some songs I will play lead with Cathy. But she is usually showing me exactly what to play. I didn't have the confidence to step up with my own ideas, and I didn't know the scales well. I wouldn't know where to go.

You know, sometimes when we are out touring, we are on the same bill with jam bands, like The Allman Brothers, and the Dave Matthews Band. There are times when the guys might say, "Come on out and join our band, we're playing in A." I don't even read music, and I didn't always know exactly what type of chord I was playing. I really wanted to have some fundamental basic stuff under my belt.

BONZAI: Did studying online work for you?
HENDERSON: Oh, totally. It was amazing.

BONZAI: It seems that intuitively you have the chops, and you have experience. Did a class like this help you to organize your own knowledge?
HENDERSON: Yes, exactly. I never had time to take lessons, because my schedule is so crazy. I am never in one place for very long, so I can't get into it with a teacher you see every week. I have tried studying with DVDs, but I was never able to get my head around the instruction. By doing it online, and having the weekly assignments that are due, it was so much more in depth and thorough. It was great to work with the teacher, Mike Williams, who is awesome. He gives you the charts, and everything is laid out for you. It was perfect for me, and suddenly it all made sense. I looked at the neck of my guitar and it no longer looked like a foreign object with a foreign language anymore. I know where things fall now.

BONZAI: Did you get to hang out with the Stones backstage?
HENDERSON: We did a little bit and it was great, but the security is very tight during the shows. There are so many people backstage that its like a small city. We got to meet them, and they sat and watched our shows. We play a Faces song, "Stay With Me," that Ron Wood wrote when Rod Stewart was in that band. Ron heard that we covered that song and called out for us to play it, and they all watched us. It was very cool.

BONZAI: What are your recording plans?
HENDERSON: Our first major label record came out last May, "From the Ground Up," and was a joint effort between Lava Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic, and the Starbucks Hear Music label. Right now we are writing material for our upcoming studio album.

BONZAI: Has your Berkleemusic study effected your songwriting?
HENDERSON: Yes, it already has. In one of the writing sessions that we just had, I started playing one of the Blues licks that I learned in the course, one of the Blues progressions. And it morphed into something else, which then inspired one of the new songs we wrote together. I am now playing leads, and if I write a song I come up with the lead riffs. After the Berkleemusic experience, I am now a different player.