Rocking at Girls Rock Camp

My July was rather busy, hence the lack of blog posts. One activity was that I took a week’s vacation in order to volunteer at the July session of Girls Rock Camp Boston. I substituted 8-hour days at a computer for 10-hour days co-teaching drumming plus coaching a newly-created band of 8, 9 and 10-year-old girls who wrote an original song and performed it on stage at a major Boston nightclub in front of 300 people!

What is the girls rock camp movement and why might you be interested in supporting it whether or not you happen to have girl children?


“Girls Rock Camp” is an idea that started in Portland OR in 2001 and has subsequently grown to include 34 independent programs around the US plus 6 in Europe (the 3rd program began in 2003 in Sweden!). Girls rock camp is a non-profit music camp where girls learn an instrument, form a band, write an original song, and perform a concert at a live music venue.

Girls rock camp exists in different parts of the world and can look a little bit different depending on where you are  - see the networking group Girls Rock Camp Alliance. Each shares a desire to achieve a reality where gender and culture do not decide whether a person can play music. Until we reach that goal, girls rock camp is a way to provide a space for girls where they can identify as musicians. Girls rock camp  uses methods to encourage the campers’ creativity, provide a variety of different musicians and mentors as role models, and a curriculum that is a broad introduction to the world of music.

GRCA camps value diversity and strive to be as inclusive as possible. They  usually have a very low tuition, sliding scale and/or provide financial aid, and value female mentorship and leadership.

I have to say I was rather nervous about volunteering when asked – not only did GRCB want me to assist in the kit drum instruction classes (about which I had only learned this spring at their Ladies Rock Camp fundraiser) but since they were also in need of band coaches I jumped in for that too, despite having NO experience interacting with under-18s since I was that age myself!

And… it was an awesome experience! You may be wondering “How do they teach girls to play guitar, bass, keyboard or drums in 5 days?!” – but that’s not the goal. The point of the week is to give the girls the same environment boys in our society generally get to mess around with instruments and have fun without being told they have to be perfect, or even good, immediately (think of some garage bands you’ve heard – my neighbor’s band’s Saturday practice sounded horrible in 1996 but they kept chugging away and now sound decent).

So as band coach I didn’t insist that the guitarist or bassist learn more than one chord, or that the vocalist have lyrics whose line lengths balanced, and I hid behind the amps on stage in order to cue the 8-yo drummer to switch drum hits between the chorus and verse. We had lots of breaks for them to doodle in their notebooks. And on Saturday they stood in front of more people than I ever have at Brighton Music Hall and rocked:

Cat Nap at GRCB Showcase

I am behind the amps behind the singer, cueing the drummer!

If you do have a daughter/granddaughter/niece/etc between 8-17 I highly recommend checking out Girls Rock Camp if you have one in your area. But even if you don’t have a girl to refer, there are many ways to support the experience for other girls:

♦ If you play guitar, bass, keyboards or drums, or are a singer, consider volunteering to teach.

♦ If you are not a musician (or don’t feel confident in teaching/coaching) there are many other volunteer slots needed: band manager (like a camp counselor), support crew for gear moving, prepping/serving donated food, an on-site nurse, office tasks (e.g., preparing the programs for the showcase), etc.

♦ Do you own/manage a food service (cafe, grocery, restaurant, catering, etc) that could donate food for breakfast or lunch? As volunteers our only “pay” was getting awesome food from local cafes and restaurants.

♦ Do you own/manage a music store that could donate supplies? Guitar Center is a big sponsor of GRCB and donates picks, drum sticks, strings, gift cards and gear.

♦ Are you a professional photographer or videographer? In Boston, photographer Kelly Davidson comes to take photos of each band.

♦ Donate music gear you aren’t using, or cash!

Check the website of your local GRCA organization to discover what you might be able to offer – you won’t regret it!