Tucked away somewhere in the city of Portland, Ore., is a place where girls ages 8-18 can explore their inner rock star. It's called the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, and since it was started in 2000 by Misty McElroy, it has developed into a place where girls from all over the world can learn instruments, play in bands and be introduced to the world of rock music in a way that makes sense to girls.
"What has impacted me the most about (the camp) is the amount of trust and confidence that gets built up in a week with young girls playing music together and sort of exploring themselves in a way that I don't think really happens anywhere else," explained Amy Rude, a local musician who worked at the camp as a mentor last summer. "There's no other space that's just devoted to girls pursuing their music in that capacity. It's so simple, but that's what's so special about it."
The camp has been growing exponentially in the past five years; so this year, the camp initiated the "50/50 Fundraiser": 50 shows in 50 states to benefit the camp.
Sts, who is the 50/50 benefit organizer for the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, said, "The idea behind it was to find a way, because the camp serves on an international and national level, to get more national attention." The support, added sts, "has been amazing."
Here in Arizona, three benefits have been planned. Phoenix and Flagstaff had their shows already; Tucson's will be at Solar Culture on Friday, Jan. 14, with Galactic Federation of Love, Loveland, Naim Amor, 50 Cent Nose and Sara Belham performing.
Rude, who is organizing the Tucson show, jumped at the chance to get the word out about the camp on a local level. In addition to the benefit show tomorrow night, she is hoping to start a year-long after-school program in Tucson that would be similar to the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls' Rock Institute.
"There's this core group of girls who hang out in Portland and who are really making it as a band together, and those are the girls who attend the Rock Institute, so they're the ones who are really learning their instruments and really get a chance to get good at what they're doing," said Rude. "I thought Tucson would be such a great place for this since there's such an amazing music scene, and I already knew so many wonderful women musicians here and other musicians who would be supportive of that. My ideal situation would be to align with the camp and have it be affiliated and have it be this girl rock institute in Tucson that would be sort of a sister program."
The idea is still in the planning stages; what people can do immediately to support the camp is attend the benefit show, which has a sliding donation at the door of $5-$10.
Even though the camp is for girls only, there are boys playing the benefit show as well. "I wanted the lineup to not just be girl bands because I do want it to be an effort that everybody can get behind," said Rude. But the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls attempts to answer the question of why there are fewer girls than boys playing rock music, and start evening the playing field.
"I was a judge for the Battle of the Bands here in Tucson, which was a totally great experience. I'm judging for the finals in February, and I really loved doing that, and I love hearing this music that is coming out from young people; but it was 32 bands from the Tucson greater area, and not one girl among them," said Rude.
"I'm convinced that it's not that girls aren't playing music. That's the one thing about the rock camp that was so illuminating for me ... here I was, in this mentor role to help these girls write their songs, help them with equipment--it was just sort of an overall role to help them--but they really didn't need much help. They knew far more than I expected them to know about music. So that spoke to me in the fact that it's not as if they aren't learning; it's not as if they aren't interested or passionate about it; but it's something about the performance of it, and sort of the arena of live music that guys tend to pursue more than young girls."
The Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls seeks to demystify the live music arena and show girls that their music has a place. The camp offers instrument lessons and workshops on everything from 'zine writing to recording to songwriting. The money raised through the 50/50 benefit shows will go toward the scholarship fund, so that girls from low-income families can attend the camp.
"I didn't need to know much about Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls to lend my support," said Dawn Copps of 50 Cent Nose, one of the bands playing the show. "Any place that's going to teach a girl to play music and the biz involved, affirm her inner musical language as real and protect her natural self-authorization before the boring-techie-how-many-bands-can-you-name-types get to her--any place like that gets my thumbs-up."
Frankie Estelle, whose band, Sara Belham, will be performing at the benefit, feels very fortunate to be able to be involved in helping the camp in this capacity. "It just seems like a really great cause. I mean, how cool is a girls' rock camp?"