Ruth Gerson: Taking Back The Night Through Music
Ruth Gerson, a talented musician noted as an underground songwriting master, has a lot to share with the world. Her music speaks volumes and it’s no wonder, because this woman has been through a lot. Growing up in a violent home, Ruth often used music as an outlet and a means of expressing herself. Instead of resorting to drugs or hanging out with the wrong crowd, Ruth turned to music. Teen Voices was very fortunate to speak with this musician about how she landed a spot in the music industry. During the conversation we learned more about how and why Ruth donates to domestic violence organizations. This empowering musician advocates for teen girls to realize that they can leave any violent situation and urges those who need it, to get and accept help.
Teen Voices (TV): Please tell our readers about how you got into music and how you broke into the music industry.
Ruth Gerson (RG): I started writing songs as soon as I could talk, or at least that’s what my parents say. My experience with music was really interesting; the piano was in my bedroom, not a family room, so I could just spend hours in there. As a kid I was 90 percent self-taught. My mom was a classical musician who went to Juilliard and had a rigorous schedule, so her approach with me was completely hands off. I did not plan to do music as a career. I grew up acting and doing theater. Music was something I did inside my room and I didn’t necessarily share with people. I didn’t decide to go into music, as a career, until after college. I received a lot of encouragement from professors around me to pursue music and during the very early days I received a lot of good press, which launched my career. This threw me into a career, which I didn’t expect.
For me, music was my sanity. I grew up in a pretty intense household and for me, music was a sanctuary. There was nothing that could interfere with that world when I was in it.
TV: How would you describe your music?
RG: I would say it is contemporary adult pop. So if you like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, even Christina Perri, you might be interested in what I write and play.
TV: Who would you consider as a role model in your life?
RG: I went to public school in New York City and feel fortunate that I had so many kind, brilliant, and energized teachers who were extremely devoted. In 6th and 7th grade, Carl Spooner was my most influential teacher, mentor, and role model.
TV: You’ve chosen to give back to domestic violence (DV) organizations. How have you been able to do so?
TV: Why is it that you’re so passionate about giving back to your local community through your dedication to domestic violence organizations?
RG: Well, I donate all profits from CD sales and everything I can get from the digital downloads of my album, Deceived. I’ve done a series of house and living room concerts for DV organizations. These concerts are great; you go to someone’s house and the people invite all their friends. They potluck it and bring food. Several years ago, I did a year’s worth of house concerts for charities, and I let the host pick whatever charity it was, and over the course of the year, I raised almost $100,000.
My goal with Deceived was to do a series of living room concerts and raise $100,000 for domestic violence organizations.
I grew up in a very violent household. I had many teachers who gave me the strength and support I needed to make it through. There were people that reached out to help me and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. I am very committed to doing everything that can be done to help others, because I think when you’re talking about domestic violence, you are talking about violence against women and you’re also talking about violence against children. I also feel that on a higher level, we can’t expect to have peace in our society without having peace in our homes.
TV: Do you think your music reflects elements of your past?
RG: Some songs, yes, absolutely. But I also write songs about other things.
TV: Was music, in a way, an escape for you when you were younger?
RG: I wouldn’t say it was an escape; it was more of a sanctuary. It was a place of peace.
TV: What do you think teen girls should do if they find themselves in a violent or unhealthy relationship either with a significant other or with a parent or if they don’t feel safe at home because of a violent atmosphere?
RG: I was completely unaware of all the real help that was out there. If you find yourself in an abusive situation, it can be hard to look at the whole thing, so you can approach a piece at a time. Remove yourself from any violent situation as soon as you can. Talk to adults who can help and be a resource for you. You need to recognize that certain things aren’t normal and when you live a life with violence, and then you live a life without violence, you look back and you cannot believe the life you were living before.
Helping organizations, like Sanctuary for Families and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, are really important because these organizations are reaching out to the people who need help.
It’s overwhelming when you’re a teenager because you don’t know anything else, and you don’t necessarily have the resources you need. So I guess, if there is a teenage girl reading this article who is in a violent situation, I would want her to know that there is help out there. That she is not alone.
Try to look at the situation as if this was happening to your best friend. What would you do if she was in a violent situation? You would call the police. You would tell a teacher, “Hey this person needs help.” Often times, you would do it for someone else, but you might not do it for yourself...There’s a reason you won’t do it for yourself and that has to do with the fact that you’ve been abused. Protect yourself as if you weren’t yourself—as if you were someone else—a friend or a sister, who you cared for very deeply. If anyone hit your best friend or hit your sister, what would you do? Then do that for yourself.
TV: How can teens raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence?
RG: I think starting a discussion group or maybe a book group where you’re reading books about these issues and then discussing them. There are also marches like the “Take Back The Night” march on college campuses. I think it’s important to be gender inclusive and include men in these conversations, when possible.
Find yourself in a violent situation whether at home or in a relationship? Get help now by calling the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 1-800-799-7233.
For more information on domestic violence, see: www.ncadv.org/
For more information on Ruth Gerson, see: www.ruthgerson.com
Read a Teen Voices review of Ruth Gerson’s album Deceived.
Photos provided by Ruth Gerson.
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