Show Us Your Riffs: Making Noise At Girls Rock Camps

12 October 2015

Girls Rock camps are one of my favourite places to be. Within the span of one week, they create a place where girls are encouraged to help – rather than tear down – each other, take pride in their accomplishments, and express themselves without fear of judgement or embarrassment. This is a place where girls can find their voices and each other, where they can breathe.

With the assistance of a YWCA Great Ydeas Small Grant, I was able to travel to the US to volunteer at three of these programs in preparation to start Australia’s first ever (!) Girls Rock camp in Canberra. Over three sessions in three different cities (Oakland, California, Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon), I helped three groups of young girls, who had never met each other before, to form a band, write an original song and then perform it live at a public showcase. All within six days.

As band manager, I spent the week hanging out with my band as they attended workshops (anything from self defense to media literacy, screen printing to music history), wrote lyrics and composed music. The songs produced over the week were incredible – nuanced melodies, sharp lyrics and all ridiculously catchy. The songs my bands wrote were completely different – psychedelic rap, goth jazz, hit-of-the-summer pop. And they all killed it at the showcase.

Although they share the same mission of amplifying girls’ voices and the overarching goal of creating a song within the week, each camp is unique. Bay Area Girls Rock Camp has an open mic every afternoon, where girls scramble up onto the stage to play a drum solo or belt out a song, karaoke-style. At Girls Rock Austin, there are workshops devoted to promoting healthy group dynamics, sharpening critical music listening skills and making a music video. Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls has punk rock aerobics in the morning and huge dance parties at lunch time.

This experience was an invaluable opportunity to learn how these programs are structured and run, and meet camp organisers who were generous with their time and answered all my questions. It is inspiring to know that there are spaces where passionate individuals are striving to improve the lives of young girls and women by fostering a more supportive, inclusive community environment through music, and I’m so excited for Canberra to be a part of it.

The inaugural session of Girls Rock! Canberra will be held on January 11-16, 2016, at Ainslie Arts Centre. The program is open to 10-17 year olds who self-identify as female, trans or gender non-conforming. Applications will open this month –  keep an eye on GR!C’s website for more information.

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