Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rose Gardina: An Unbowed Visionary.

by Doug Holder

Rose Gardina does not just walk into a room—she bursts into it. For a small woman she is a powder keg of creative energy. Gardina, a guest at the Friday morning editorial meeting at The Somerville News office in Davis Square, talked about her fascinating life as a writer, poet, photographer, activist, and founder of an independent record label “Thundamoon”, not to mention
being the brains behind the magazine the “Boston Girl Guide.”

In 2000, at the age of 38, after working in retail management for a number of years, Gardina started a print magazine for women in the creative arts, “The Boston Girl Guide.” Gardina over the years had worked with many female artists in many mediums, and decided she wanted to create a forum for independent women artists of all stripes. She felt and feels that women have a tougher time of it than men in the art world, and are often subjected to a double standard. In spite of working a 40 hour a week job, Gardina used her precious spare time to launch her magazine. The magazine, now online ( ) has music reviews, promotes independent artists both female and male, publishes poetry, and has an extensive listing section. Gardina told the News that the “Girl Guide” website gets between 60,000 and 100,000 hits a month. Gardina, in her role as a journalist has interviewed such singer/songwriters as: Joan Osborne, Sarah Lee, Sophia B. Hawkins and others.

Gardina’s ambitions have not just been with publishing. Since she was a child she has been in love with music. A favored uncle introduced her to the music of Janice Joplin, Neil Young, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ian Hunter, and Arlo Guthrie, to name a few. Once stricken with this body of work, Gardina was like a dog on a meat truck, and never looked back. She started an independent record label “Thundamoon,” that has signed the well-regarded singer/songwriter Jennifer Matthews.

Matthews has performed at two of the three Somerville News Writers Festivals and has performed extensively at venues in Somerville including the Jimmy Tingle Off Broadway Theatre, Burren, Toast Lounge, O’Brien’s, Tir-Na-Nog, Johnny D’s, and The Somerville Theatre. She was brought to the attention of Gardina initially by Deborah M. Priestly, the co-owner of the Out of the Blue Art Gallery in Cambridge. After Gardina’s music editor insisted she listen to Matthew’s CD of beguiling original music, she was hooked. She first saw Matthews in person as she emerged from a cloud of cigar smoke in an Italian men’s bar in the hinterlands of East Boston, where she regularly performed. Gardenia was impressed by Matthew’s ethereal and sensual voice and her expert and inspired guitar playing. Matthew was as adept at acoustic playing as she was at hard rock. Matthews, who is an accomplished poet, and whose book “Fairytales and Misdemeanors” is archived at the Harvard, Buffalo, and Brown University libraries, also caught Gardina’s attention with the accomplished lyricism of her songwriting.

Since their meeting “Thundamoon” has released her critically acclaimed CD “The Wheel,” and just released an acoustic CD by Matthews, “Sunroom Sessions.” Matthews and Gardina have toured Europe and just finished a successful tour of Alaska. They plan a formal CD release in the late summer or early fall.

Gardina, who is gay, has a long history of activism. She said that even at the age of 6 she knew she was “different.” When she was 14 or 15 she frequented gay bars in Boston. She experienced the pain of prejudice against people with alternative lifestyles. She was once involved in an incident where a group of men tried to attack a group of gay women in a bar with lead pipes. Since these early awakenings Gardina has worked with gay youth, AIDS committees, and a host of socially conscious programs.

Gardina feels that musicians and artists in this country are treated like lesser beings. She said in the 60’s and in Europe today, bands are fed, housed, and treated like respected people, who are devoted to their craft. Now she feels its all about money and the “biz.” She finds the music and the style of musicians rather uniform as opposed to years back.

In spite of not making any money of note in her many projects, Gardina remains unbowed. Gardina continues, and will continue. She said: “Even if I don’t ever make a dime, I will still do what I love. You have to have a purpose in this life, and you have to follow it.”

Doug Holder

For more info on Gardina go to

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