2009 Festival Winner Mary Hoffman's recording is available on CD Baby!

Mary Hoffman: Somebody Else

The Chicks Are In Flight

By Mariah Fleming

Rhonda Hitchcock & Pandy Raye

If you are a female singer songwriter, being in the right place at the right time is at your doorstep. Arizona Chicks With Picks, created right here in the Valley, is the mother lode. The wave of interest about this home grown festival, now heading into its third year, is moving along at a powerful speed, attracting national attention on the way. AZ Chicks with Picks has been covered by The USA Today, Phoenix Magazine, New Times, AZ Central and Fox 10 TV, to name a few. What makes the birth of AZ Chicks with Picks especially media worthy is how it came about. The story is contrary to the ordinary 'how to succeed in show business' model.

Arizona Chicks with Picks came to life through the imagination and unflagging effort of two outstanding young Arizona musicians, Pandy Raye and Rhonda Hitchcock. The two women are accomplished musicians who each enjoy solid musical followings. But for these musical entrepreneurs, it's not about their own careers. It's all about nurturing other's musical hopes and dreams, not focusing on the pinnacle of success for themselves. Raye and Hitchcock are able to do this because AZ Chicks With Picks creates a splendidly supportive environment in which competition is as much for the opportunity of meeting other musicians as it is for recognition.

Mary Hoffman & Darrin Mahoney

Raye and Hitchcock organized the first AZ Chicks With Picks festival in March 2008. They and their volunteers, many who are accomplished musicians themselves, worked hard to give talented female musicians a shot at the limelight. It was an all day event that lasted well into the evening at the Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek. Over 1200 people witnessed the dawning of this event. It was such a resounding success that Raye and Hitchcock didn't have time to blink before making plans for the 2009 festival. The second Chicks With Picks Music Fest was held in March 2009 at Tempe Town Lake. The winner was Mary Hoffman; listen to her song "Lucky Me."

Current showcases are being held to choose winning performers for the third annual Arizona Chicks with Picks Festival planned for March 2010. Here's how it works: AZ Chicks with Picks holds weekly open showcases for up and coming female singer songwriters. They take place at various Phoenix metro area venues. AZ Chicks with Picks Festival hopefuls are chosen through a process of juried showcases. At the final showcases, the judges, all with professional credentials in the entertainment business, rate the performances. Through elimination, the winners are chosen who will be featured at the next Chicks With Picks Festival.

You can find the showcases at Aunt Chiladas, C4, Pranksters Too, Press Coffee and Wine Bar, Tempe & Desert Ridge Marketplace, Paradise Lounge and Old Pueblo. Showcases have also taken place at Buffalo Chip and Joe's Grotto. In addition, they have hosted showcases in Sedona, Prescott & Payson. The AZ Chicks with Picks Festival has garnered worldwide attention. Raye and Hitchcock have been approached about taking their festival on the road.

Chicks With Picks showcase

So what's in it for Raye and Hitchcock? Seeing them in action, it is clear that watching people enjoy the talent Arizona offers is a thrill for Raye and Hitchcock. "It almost brings tears to my eyes to watch what they can do," said Raye as she and Hitchcock zipped around at last spring's Chicks With Picks Festival in Tempe. "You just never stop getting goose bumps about all this talent," added Hitchcock.

The frenzied buzz over AZ Chicks with Picks is a delight to read on Google. An overwhelming majority of comments are "thumbs up!" Political correctness is not a barometer for musical success, but there are a couple of complaints about the "unfortunate choice of name" for the organization. "Chicks is degrading to women" one man wrote.

Music has long been the voice of individuality and AZ Chicks with Picks is shaping up to be one of the most important and unusual independent music events to happen in Arizona in decades. Picking a catchy and clever name was a savvy move, even if it causes a little controversy. AZ Chicks With Picks is making music history…or should we say 'herstory"? Either way, if you saddle up for this you're in for a truly unique and fun ride. Get in on the fun at www.azchickswithpicks.com

All images in this article except the Chicks With Picks logo are courtesy of David Campbell.

Chicks With Picks Logo