It is nearly impossible to describe SistaStrings’ sound. The two classically trained pastor’s daughters’ music is as unique, creative, and original as it can be. “We grew up appreciating different genres from classical to gospel to soul to hip hop,” Chauntee Ross shared on our weekly #RockTheStream Zoom, “Our music is a criss-cross marriage of all sorts of genres to make it something truly our own. It’s music for the soul.” Those words could not ring more true when thinking about Monique and Chauntee Ross’s music… “music for the soul.” The sisters’ charisma and passion are evident whether performing as a duo or playing with other artists around town. Their project, Sista Strings, began in 2014 when the sisters began creating arrangements for local hip-hop artists. From there, they continued to expand their sound collaborating with artists of all genres. Chauntee on violin and vocals and Monique on cello and vocals bring their passion for their music and zest for life to every performance, whether in-person or online.
Chauntee laughed during our video call, “performing online was a challenge at first, while it’s a bit odd with no applause between songs, performing online allows us to focus on the introspective part of playing music and really helps me focus on delivering the music itself, even if it’s across a screen.”
These are incredibly important and historic times, and as music educators, Chauntee and Monique both feel hopeful about the youth of today paving the way for a better future tomorrow. “Young people need more education,” Monique stated, “The full history of our country is not taught in schools. We need to know history to make sure it does not repeat itself.”
Enter, PEARLS for Teen Girls. Since its inception in 1993, PEARLS for Teen Girls has been a stalwart organization in Milwaukee, helping foster relationships with teens in high-risk communities and empowering them to be their best selves through mentorship and connection. PEARLS is an acronym for Personal Responsibility, Empathy, Awareness, Respect, Leadership and Support. PEARLS Executive Director, Gerry Howze shared in a recent Zoom call, “You cannot begin to describe the power of our impact with our girls. We don’t prescribe what girls need to be their best selves, but rather listen to them and give them a space to find out who they are. Now more than ever, this is so vitally important.”
Like many organizations, PEARLS has had to pivot its programming as a result of COVID19. Howze shared, “We have been really fortunate to be able to provide programming as early as the first and second week of April, and finished our semester of programming for this school year. We are now working on our virtual summer programming for 5th-12th grade girls. Amidst everything it is so very important to provide consistency for the youth we work with, pairing them with an adult who they trust and a safe space for being with others they’re used to being with. Now, more than ever, girls need a safe space. Being a woman of color and serving girls of color, providing this space to process is so important. No matter what happens we’re committed to serving the girls in any way we can.”
Chauntee Ross also shared about the value of creating and providing safe spaces for youth to be creative, reflective, innovative, and inspired. “Grace Weber’s Music Lab at 88.9 Radio Milwaukee has done some great work with creating spaces for youth to get involved. Through that, I have met a lot of cool local musicians. Young people need to have a voice and have opportunities for others to listen to them.”
This show will be especially special for Chauntee and Monique Ross along with Gerry Howze and PEARLS for Teen Girls organization. “SistaStrings played our annual gala at Discovery World the night the NBA shut down,” Howze reminisced, “Their performance was awe-inspiring.”
In response to these historic times and ways we can all learn more from one another, Howze shared, “We as educators and humans should learn as much as we can, and be ok with being uncomfortable. We can’t hurry up and ‘make things alright.’ We need, as adults, to force ourselves to be courageously curious.” The passion that Monique and Chauntee Ross and Gerry Howze have for their community, their craft, and their organization is extraordinary. Enjoy what will certainly be a memorable performance you won’t soon forget when SistaStrings hits the airwaves for Rock the Stream Thursday, June 11 at 7:00 p.m.
Please consider donating to support SistaStrings and PEARLS for Teen Girls
Funding format: 100% of the funds donated from the live-streams are split equally between the musician and nonprofit. The nonprofit partner accepts the donations and distributes half to the artist. DONATE HERE
About PEARLS for Teen Girls
PEARLS’ mission is to improve the quality of life and strengthen our community one girl at a time by empowering young women with self-development tools, guidance, and support to strive for better, brighter futures by living out PEARLS values: Personal Responsibility, Empathy, Awareness, Respect, Leadership, and Support.