INTERVIEW: Ann Rakowiecki of The Dots / SheRocks Wisconsin
You may not know the name Ann Rakowiecki, but you’ve likely seen her presence somewhere online. Ann is part of SheRocks Wisconsin, a group that helps women in the Wisconsin music community, as well as The Dots, a rock trio that is currently working on a new album. Ann is passionate about local music, and we appreciate her support of not only our site, but the Wisconsin music community. We caught up with her to get some more insight about all of the things she’s involved with:
B&E: Introduce yourself! Who are you?
AR: My name is Ann Rakowiecki and I play guitar for The Dots, and serve as Vice President for SheRocks Wisconsin. I’m born and raised in Wisconsin. My love for the guitar started at about 10 and was affirmed at the age of 12 by my Grandpa, who had been a professional musician in Milwaukee in the 30s and 40s. He split the cost with me on my first guitar. I bought it with paper route money at what was Ralph Hazel’s Music Store, now where Uncle Bob’s is. I’m into Van Halen and Dokken as much as I’m into Brandi Carlile and Ingrid Michaelson and The Strokes as much as I’m into The Head and The Heart. I’m all over the place. My appreciation for music is pretty wide and deep. I could talk all day about music and if love to listen to someone talks to me about their love of music too.
B&E: Describe the mission of SheRocks Wisconsin, for those that don’t know:
AR: The mission of SheRocks Wisconsin is to connect women of Wisconsin’s music industry. That’s artists, performers, engineers, techs, producers, media, you name it. It’s about building community and providing a network. It’s also about giving artists an opportunity to perform their music for audiences that are into hearing Wisconsin made music. We have four singer-songwriter sessions a year, all original music. We also have two showcases a year featuring original music and cover bands and sometimes artists will do a blend. We’ve had great lineups featuring Wisconsin’s rising female artists. There’s a lot of great talent in this town. SheRocks Wisconsin is about lifting these artists up.
B&E: How can people get involved with SheRocks Wisconsin?
AR: If folks want to get involved, there’s a number of ways. First I’d encourage them to attend our events, you’ll see the culmination of what we do. Our second anniversary showcase is coming up on Sunday, January 29th at J&B’s Blue Ribbon Pub. We’ll have a great afternoon of live music. Our organization is completely run by volunteers. So there’s a passion there. We also partner with great venues around town who value live music and our mission. If folks would like to perform or get involved with our events or become a member of SheRocks Wisconsin, visit sherockswi.org. To keep up with our events, check out our Facebook page.
B&E: Which ended up being formed first: SheRocks Wisconsin, or your band, The Dots?
AR: SheRocks Wisconsin was founded two years ago by our President, Ronnie Nyles. Ronnie is a successful musician in her own right. It was her vision to pull all of this together, to build this organization. She knows what it takes to have a successful career, and she wanted to pay it forward. We have a great board that volunteers their time because they believe in it. Some of us are musicians, some of us are great at executing events, some are excellent cheerleaders. It’s a great mix of folks. That’s why I’m a part of it. I saw the passion that these folks have for lifting artists up and it got me excited. Ronnie is a great mentor to artists. Kind of like a batting coach, helps folks get in tune with the finer points.
My band, The Dots has been together for over a decade. It’s like a marriage. We forget how many years we’ve been together! Nikki Beckmann on drums and vocals, Rhonda Lucas on bass and vocals and me. Just the three of us since 2005. No lineup changes, nothing. We truly are a family. Seen each other at our highest and lowest. Our only rule from Day 1 was to have fun. When the fun stopped, the band stopped. And we haven’t stopped yet because we’re still having fun. We’ve been all over southeastern Wisconsin as a cover band and now we’re writing and recording our own music. In fact we’re heading in to listen to the mix. It’s something that Nikki had wanted us pursue for a number of years. Finally the stars aligned. The music just started flowing. We’re very pleased that we made it happen! Imagine all those years building up! Looking to release the record in early 2017.
B&E: We noticed that you share a lot of local music. What local acts do you listen to most?
AR: As far as local artists go, there’s a wide variety of bands and artists in all kinds of genres that I listen to or try to see live, both original and cover bands. And that’s mostly because of the relationships that I’ve developed. If I mentioned five I’d come up with another ten after this interview was over. I try to share what im into and what I’m up to and into on my Twitter account. That’s how folks can see who I’m listening to.
B&E: What is your favorite thing about the Milwaukee Music scene?
AR: My favorite thing about music in Milwaukee is all of the genuine people that I’ve met. So many folks are looking to help others. Whether it’s just to bend an ear, go to each others’ shows, help with leads, share bills. I’ve just seen nothing but support. It’s also like that in places like Rock County, Jefferson County, Waukesha County and Walworth County. I think by nature, musicians share a special language so there’s an understanding there. I like to see others succeed because there’s work that goes into it, work beyond putting on a great show. Also have to say the same for the bars, clubs and venues that believe in the power of live music, they provide us with the outlet. To be more succinct, I truly believe there is great community in the Milwaukee music scene.