Amy R. Klein

When she arrived at Harvard, Amy R. Klein ’07 found that many of her female classmates were “very polite, often shy, very well put-together, and only expressive to a certain extent.”

Klein decided that she would shatter the stereotype.

“I wanted to provide a different image of what a female Harvard student was,” the Lowell House English concentrator says.

“Female children are often encouraged not to shout, not to make a lot of noise, not to scream,” says Klein. Women often are wary of performing publicly “for fear that they’ll sound ugly,” she adds.

Klein faced that fear head-on. By her own account, she embraced “ugly noises” and unleashed “frightening” and “disturbing” screams.

In the process, she transformed the Harvard music scene.

Klein’s all-female ensemble, Plan B for the Type A’s, started underground—literally. Four years ago, the band debuted in the basement of Pennypacker Hall.

Klein believes that “music is accessible to anyone—regardless of formal training.” Plan B put that hypothesis to the test. The band’s guitarist had played the instrument for only two months before the first show. They had “no real equipment,” Klein recalls, so band members balanced a broken microphone on top of a bucket—using duct tape to keep the contraption in place.

By all accounts, the performance was well-received, and within months, Plan B’s members would be the youngest performers at the Ladyfest East expo in Brooklyn, N.Y., a festival dedicated to supporting women artists.

Plan B still screams to much acclaim at Cambridge clubs and campus events—though the band’s name continues to perplex some audience members. “Fellow students ask if we’re affiliated with the birth control,” Klein says. (They are not.)

In the past year, Klein has also set out on her own as a soloist. And she is the guitarist for the Sinister Turns, a co-ed indie rock group.

She has juggled all this while working as a WHRB radio host and as a member of The Harvard Advocate’s poetry board. And she will graduate tomorrow with an array of accolades—a Hoopes Prize for her creative-writing thesis, induction into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and a George Peabody Gardner Fellowship, which will fund a year of “purposeful travel.”

At the final interview for the Gardner fellowship, Klein says she squeaked, headbanged, and drummed on a table, to mixed reactions from her interviewers. “Some were really into it, some looked like they wanted to kill me,” she says.

Klein will use her hard-earned grant to study gender in the underground music scene in Japan. “Basically, I’m going to go to a lot of concerts and Harvard will be paying for it,” she quips.

But first, she will work at the New York branch of the Rock ’n Roll Camp for Girls, a program for aspiring female performers and songwriters as young as age eight. It’s the third consecutive summer that Klein will be involved in the camp.

“Many teenage girls feel that someone is always watching them,” says Klein, citing a string of studies in adolescent psychology. “It’s difficult to overcome,” she says—but musical performance can be therapeutic.

“If you can be confident in front of a huge crowd and do crazy things,” says Klein, “it helps you learn to be confident just with yourself.”

And Klein, for one, has plenty to be confident about.

—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at hemel@fas.harvard.edu.