Because of the way I had planned my transition between two jobs, I had a month off this summer. Fortunately, it fell right during the time when the Girls Rock Philly summer camp was scheduled to happen. I’ve always wanted to participate in Girls Rock in a real way, but I’ve never had a job that was flexible enough to take a full week off for it. Volunteering at rock camp is a big commitment! It’s the equivalent of a full-time job for a week, all volunteer. So I was really excited that I was able to make it work this year.
After two full days of volunteer orientation, the first day of camp came and we were ready to jump in. “Girls Rock Philly is a volunteer-based non-profit music and mentoring organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women from the greater Philadelphia region through music education and activities that foster self-respect, leadership skills, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.”
While music is the central theme for camp, the campers also participate in all sorts of workshops that emphasize having a strong voice and opinion, taking care of oneself, good communication, and being women who feel comfortable taking up space in the world. So many women, myself included, spent a lot of their childhood being afraid to be loud, assertive, aggressive, powerful, etc. We were taught that it isn’t our place or it isn’t “ladylike” or were often talked over when we tried to speak up, and so we kind of fell back and waited for others to take charge. It took me years and years to undo that and I was painfully shy and quiet until I was in high school, and I wasn’t confident and outgoing until college. It took a lot of work to come out of my shell and learn to advocate for myself. Girls Rock is in direct opposition to that, trying to combat it from a young age.
On the first day, I taught a workshop about autobio comics and the importance of telling your own story and reflecting on your own experiences, especially in the larger context of media where often the majority of stories we hear are from men. The kids dove right in. It was really interesting to see how the different age groups interacted and responded to workshops.
A lunchtime game of heads up 7up.
At camp this year, there were 70 campers. On the first day, after a morning assembly of ice breakers and getting the community vibe going, campers are split into bands based on their instruments, age, and some level of preference about who they’re paired with. After lunch, it’s time to get going. The kids have a workshop and instrument instruction in the morning, then a workshop and band practice in the afternoon every day. Outside of being a counselor, I was also a band manager. This was my band!
Most of these girls have never met before, many have never picked up an instrument, and they’re put in a room and are told to make it work. As band managers, we aren’t there to steer their music in any way. We’re there to help them figure out how to communicate with one another and find their way toward writing a song together. It was really interesting to watch that come together and watch their respect for one another grow throughout the week.
Some serious talk about communication and making sure everyone has a chance to give input. It’s really cool to sit back and watch how kids work things out when they aren’t being told what to do. They all genuinely wanted to make it work and were excited to figure out how to be in a band together. They could feel what kind of communication was most productive and that alone kept them together as a team.
The Women in Music History workshop taught through karaoke. Big hit!
Freestyle 101 workshop with Camae. So awesome!
Trying out one of their raps.
Camp was located on the 16th floor of a UArts building. The view from our volunteer lounge was pretty unreal.
Camp is only a week long but it’s a long week! Every day we would show up at 8:30am. 70 campers would arrive by 9. We would spend the whole day herding them around to various workshops, practices, and assemblies, and witness emotional vulnerability, provide unending enthusiasm, encourage participation, and work toward writing that one song they were trying to get done by Friday. The day would end with a volunteer check-in meeting at 6pm. Here they are in a yoga workshop.
Making band art mid-week. Bandanas and one-inch buttons.
Our band, the Cyborg Retrievers!
Talking about different song structures they’ve heard, during band practice, so they could decide what their song might look like.
The song structure they decided on. Why not?
Sweet Tooth, our drummer, left this really sweet note for the rest of her band on the “shout out wall.”
Official band photo
A couple other of my favorite band photos
The older DJ crew. At camp they offered guitar, bass, vocals, drums, keys, and dj lessons!
After a long week, all 23 bands had a song written and were ready to perform for a crowd on Saturday at the showcase.
I made this shirt for my band to wear to the show. They wrote a song about chillin with their band and eating cookies.
Everyone came stage ready, with some last minute embellishments.
The DJ crew got everyone in the mood with their opening set.
The stage crew made the show fly by. They were so organized!
The leadership committee and staff at GRP, including my roommate Laura who is one of the year round staff at Girls Rock.
The Checkered Devils onstage.
The Cyborg Retrievers getting ready backstage before it was their turn to perform. I co-managed this band with Brielle. Every band had a Band Coach and a Band Manager.
The Retrievers on stage, working the crowd. Everyone in the crowd sang along to their chorus, just as they had hoped.
They were fearless!
One of the older bands closing out the show. Their song sounded like Beyonce. It was awesome.
Singing the camp song, one last time.
It was a really awesome week and I’m going to do what I can to volunteer again next year.