January 12, 2007

Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls = Rad

This is pretty much one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen: New York City’s Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls provides instruction for girls aged 8-18 on how to be a kickass female rocker. Girls come from all over to learn how to play musical instruments, write songs, perform, learn about different types of music, and generally “rock out” in a way that too often eludes the fairer sex. I can only imagine the wonders that that does for their self-confidence. I know how invincible I felt the first time I let loose on the drums in front of an audience.

The camp is named after Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, a blues and rock performer / songwriter who was one of the first women to play the music that came to be known as rock n’ roll. She did “Hound Dog” with a lot more pathos and growl before Elvis swiveled his hips to it. The camp grew out of the Portland, Oregon-based program Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls, which was founded in 2000.

During the summer camp, each day consists of instrument instruction (drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals, DJ/turntables), band practice, and workshops on a variety of topics, from sound engineering and songwriting to self-defense. Games and crafting activities (including making band t-shirts and buttons) are interspersed throughout the day.

Take a look at some of the bands that were formed during the 2005 Girls’ Camp: everything from Coco Chanel & The Zeppelinettes, to Hellish Relish, to The Pink Kitties. Fantastic.

There is a benefit concert in New York on January 23rd for this amazing project, headlined by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, which will take the stage along with bands formed by former campers — Tiny Masters of Today, Kimya Dawson, Magnolia, Alice Smith, and Tamar-kali. It’s at the Bowery Ballroom and tickets are available here. Since it’s a fundraiser, tickets range from $50 to $250 and up.

Hound Dog – Big Mama Thornton

Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Oh, and they have a version of Rock Camp for grown-up girls too (!!) of all levels of musical experience, a weekend program that helps to raise funds for the girls camp. Oh yes, I want to go in a huuuge, gaping, all-consuming way. That has now been officially added to my list of things that I will do before I die, and hopefully I will get to do it soon. How revolutionary.

Volcano Girls – Veruca Salt


  • More cities need a program like this. I’m trying to teach my 11 yr old daughter to play guitar and think a program like this would be beneficial.

    russmc — January 12, 2007 @ 7:46 am

  • This has to be like the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of.

    Lauren — January 12, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  • Let’s not forget about the many rock schools out there, notably in New York and Philadelphia. I’ve known girls who have participated in both cities’ rock schools, and all have had extremely supportive, fun and educational experiences despite the presence of boys. Look around, I’m sure there’s some sort of rock and roll program in or near your town. It just might not be girls-only.

    Sal — January 12, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  • There has been a program here in Portland, Oregon that has been doing a camp like this for the past 5 years……..they sell tickets for a “final” concert that they put on after the camp is over

    Jeff V. (portland, or) — January 12, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  • god, i love the song “volcano girls!”

    jeffro — January 12, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

  • now im wishing i had thought of the name “hellish relish”!

    Don't Need Anything — January 12, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  • program like this has been going on in sweden for a couple of years now. it rules. http://www.camphultsfred.se/

    Anonymous — January 16, 2007 @ 7:45 am

  • i know there is one in portland, MAINE too, as kimya dawson taught there in ’05 me thinks

    Uppity Disability — January 18, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  • There’s a similar program for girls & boys called BandWorks in the San Francisco Bay Area and they’re going to be teaching in Portland soon: http://www.bandworks.com

    They also have year-round classes for kids and adults. So if you want to rock out with your co-workers, you can do that. In fact, that’s how the “Eye Witness Blues Band” got created – it consists of newscasters from the local KCBS station. They took band lessons and had their first gig at Ashkenaz through BandWorks School of Rock.

    Anonymous — January 31, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
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—Hunter S. Thompson

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