Guitar Girl’d: Girls Rock Camp. All Play, No Hassle
Face it, guys; we gals want to rock just as much as you do, and we don’t want any negative, "you can’t do this" energy standing in our way.
Enter Girls Rock Camp, a place for females of all ages to grab a guitar, a keyboard, a microphone or whatever else they desire and immerse themselves in all that is fine and soul-fulfilling about making music. With no distracting testosterone floating about in the air.
I took a few minutes to talk to Marisa Anderson at the Girls Rock Camp in Portland, Oregon, where the idea of a haven for girls to feed their musical passion took root.
What made you start your program?
We started in 2001 as a graduation project. Every senior has to do a project that involves community service, and the very first rock camp in 2001 was to fulfill that requirement. The camp ended up being so exciting, and there was so much support for it that it built up little by little over the next four years. It started off as a one-week summer day camp, and in 2003 we obtained a year-round site. Currently, we run summer day camps, including a week-long camp directed at Engineering and Recording, and one on Beat Making.
But you’re more than just a summer camp, right?
Yes! We have an after-school program for girls 8 to 17 that meets twice a week. The girls get a few hours to get instruction for their instrument and play in a band. At the end of nine weeks they play a show and do other projects like silkscreen their own shirts.
We also offer two ladies weekends every year, one in the spring and one in the fall. They are three-day weekend camps for women 21 and older to come and hangout. Their setup is like the kids; they get instrument set up, they play in bands and they play a show. Some of these people have not played their instrument before and are performing a show by Sunday. All of the songs must be original because we don’t do covers at our shows. So part of learning your instrument is learning to play and arrange the instruments sounds. The instruments that we mainly teach are guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and keys.
I really wish I had that as a kid!
Right. That’s why we have the adult weekends! It’s hard to explain, but it just reaches something deep in our culture in the way that women are perceived in playing music. Women don’t always get the chance to freely explore in the way that they want to and Ladies Rock Camp gives them that opportunity.
Our mission here at the rock camp is to build self-esteem in ladies and girls and we use music to accomplish that mission. For that reason, we don’t primarily consider ourselves a music program. Music and learning to play these instruments are the byproduct of the camp, not its focus. Its that experience of learning an instrument, working to make songs, and performing their piece are what this camp is all about even if they don’t have a background in music.
With such a great program do you have any repeating members in camps?
Yes! In all of our programs we have many girls who come back multiple times to go through the course again. Especially in the Ladies Rock Camp we get entire bands who have met together their first or second time and come back to play through the camp again.
Do any of your students ever go on to play professionally?
Yes, locally there are a few bands that are made up of rock camp alumni. I remember playing a few shows and seeing the bands at local Portland clubs. There was this one girl from Austin who came to rock camp, and then moved out here when she was old enough and is playing gigs all around the area.
Find out more at girlsrockcamp.org.
If you wanna rock in your neck of the woods, there are Girls Rock Camps all over the nation. Find a list of a whole bunch of 'em here.
Oh, and sorry, boys. We love you, but you’ll have to find your own kick-ass rock amp. This one’s taken.
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.