Organization Spotlight: Girls Rock Camp ATL!

Volunteers welcome campers to GRCATL 2015 | Photo courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

Volunteers welcome campers to GRCATL 2015 | Photo courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

I am beyond excited to present this spotlight on an all-around amazing feminist nonprofit organization, Girls Rock Camp! Their work in several cities, including Atlanta, is a perfect example of the positive impact that occurs when empowerment, education, and opportunity go hand in hand. I had the privilege of attending the end-of-camp concert for this past year’s Girls Rock Camp in Atlanta. The energy and excitement made the walls vibrate, and the performances by these young stars-in-the-making were beyond inspiring. It was invigorating seeing so many families and community members (enough to fill the theater and more) come together to celebrate this camp’s efforts toward music education, girls’ empowerment, and of course, ROCK!

Photos courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

Photos courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

I spoke with co-founder/director Stacey Singer about Girls Rock Camp and its mission. Check it out below!

1) First, please give us an introduction to Girls Rock Camp: what is it, and what do you guys do?

Girls Rock Camp ATL is a charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering girls and women of all backgrounds and abilities through music education, creative expression, and performance. We provide leadership opportunities, build self-esteem, and create a culture of collaboration among mentors, peers, and the broader community.Currently, our core program is a six-day summer camp where girls receive instrument instruction, form bands, collaborate to write an original song, participate in workshops geared towards personal/community growth and empowerment, and then play a big concert on the last day of camp. 100% of campers receive automatic tuition subsidies and, historically, we have provided further financial aid in the form of no-cost or sliding scale tuition to 85% of our attendees. This summer we taught music to 60 girls and have just rolled out our first after-school music program in partnership with the Warren Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta.

2) What was the inspiration for Girls Rock Camp? Did it grow out of a particular experience or encounter that its founders had with music education?

I was inspired to create Girls Rock Camp ATL after volunteering at Southern Girls Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp in Murfreesboro, TN, and after observing Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, OR. I conducted a ton of interviews at the Portland camp and wrote a Master’s thesis on feminism and Girls Rock Camp. During these experiences I witnessed the importance and impact that these types of mentorship programs have on the campers and the mentors and felt like there was a need for Girls Rock Camp in Atlanta. Heather Gibbons and Karen Garrabrant are Girls Rock Camp ATL co-founders and were instrumental in helping to get GRCATL started.

Photo courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

Photo courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

3) What is the mission statement of Girls Rock Camp? 
Girls Rock Camp ATL is a charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering girls and women of all backgrounds and abilities through music education, creative expression, and performance. We provide leadership opportunities, build self-esteem, and create a culture of collaboration among mentors, peers, and the broader community.
4) How does the mission of the camp spread through the daily lives and experiences of the campers? How do you think it can help them to grow as musicians and young women?
We encourage the campers to support one another, to listen, to share, to speak truthfully, kindly, and bravely, to take risks, step outside of comfort zones, and to be in control of their own volume. They certainly do this while they’re at Girls Rock Camp and we hope that they engage with these practices at home, at school during the year, and wherever their paths unfurl. The intention is that they feel supported on their journeys of self-discovery and they feel empowered to seek their truths, either through music or whatever passions they discover.
5) Is there a connection between rock music and feminism, especially for these young campers? How does their time at GRC help them, if at all, in that regard?
I could write pages and pages on feminism and music making. The short answer is that the act of placing tools that amplify a girl’s voice in girls’ hands is a feminist act in and of itself. We use instruments, like electric guitar and drums, that are widely considered “masculine” tools and encourage girls to be in control of their own volume, not just in the context of music, but also as it pertains to her own self-expression in all its forms. And we provide campers with other resources like mentors, workshops, practice space, and performance space, where they engage with powerful and empowering experiences like risk taking, collaboration, self-expression, and public performance. Hopefully, their time at Girls Rock Camp helps them to recognize that they are capable of taking risks, collaboration, and self-expression, and hopefully they feel empowered to engage more regularly with these constructive and powerful practices.
A young camper rocks out at the end of camp performance in ATL, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

A young camper rocks out at the end of camp performance in ATL, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Girls Rock Camp ATL

6) Do you have a favorite story from past GRCs that you’d like to share with us?
We have been around for long enough now that we have seen campers grow up before our eyes. Recently, we have seen a number of former campers return as volunteers. This summer, some of our young leaders (and former campers) volunteered to co-facilitate a Black Lives Matter workshop for current campers. They collaborated to present wise, brave, important, and engaging perspectives that led to amazing conversations with our campers and older mentors. For many of  our younger volunteers, it was their first opportunity to engage with direct mentorship and leadership, and they totally nailed it. The workshop facilitators led by example and also exemplify the Girls Rock Camp mission.
7) What do you envision for GRC’s future? Does it have plans to expand? 
We just rolled out our first after-school program, a six-week guitar class that we’re providing for interested girls at the Warren Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. With continued funding, we can continue to provide these programs where there is a desire and need. We’d also like to eventually rent or own our own building so we can conduct drop-in programs and other music education and youth empowerment programs regularly throughout the year. Some of our campers say they want us to provide more or longer summer camp sessions, or offer an overnight camp, or be a school. We’d love to do all of those things and more…but that takes money.
Imani
8) What are some ways that our readers can help support GRC, programs like it, and music education/empowerment more broadly? Are there any other resources besides GRC that you’d like to recommend to aspiring campers?
There are so many ways that anybody can support Girls Rock Camp ATL! You can volunteer to be a music instructor or counselor or support crew at summer camp. A lot of our volunteer positions do not require musical knowledge or skill. And there are year-round volunteer opportunities, too. (We’re currently looking for a CPA to help us with an audit.) You can donate new or used gear, grocery store gift cards, hardware store gift cards, fuel store gift cards. If you work in a restaurant or know people in food service you can make a food donation.  We are always looking for new board and committee members. You can participate in Ladies Rock Camp, a three-day fundraiser where adults participate as campers. And there are a number of ways you can make a financial contribution in any amount that feels right for you. Our new sustainer program is a great way to support us year-round!
Don’t forget to connect with this amazing organization!
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