There isn’t that much rock in my life these days. Laundry, soccer games, arguing with my daughter about getting dressed—yes. Rocking, not so much. Which is why I was so frigging excited to hear about a Willie Mae Rock Camp’s Ladies Weekend. Three days not extricating stinky sweat socks from the archaeological dig that is my son’s room! Instead, I could write songs about extricating stinky sweat socks from the archaeological dig that is my son’s room! Sign me up.
Surely you’ve heard of the Willie Mae Rock Camp, where since 2005 female musicians have donated their time to teach girls how to play music. It’s an offshoot of the Rock Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, which was founded in 2000. Volunteers have included luminaries like Kathleen Hanna, whose work in Riot Grrrl was partially about inspiring girls to play music, and Joan Jett, a pioneer for badass women in rock. “I think rock camps are good forums for girls to learn an instrument and to immerse themselves in music with like -minded women and girls,” says Joan. “If it leads to the next big thing, great, but mostly, its important for girls to have a place to express themselves, because sometimes the real world isn’t as accepting when people, particularly women, break out of stereotypes. Girls playing rock and roll are ‘breaking the rules,’ just by the nature of it. Gathering together builds strength of conviction in young girls that will benefit them when they become women.”
When I was a kid, rock camps had not been invented, and I didn’t know one girl who played guitar until I went to college and lived next to a Stevie Nicks fan with an acoustic. I never learned to play an instrument. But I actually have some experience being in a band. When I was at Sassy, I was encouraged by a musician friend to start a band. I recruited some co-workers, and we even managed to record a single that was chosen as Single of the Week in two British music publications. We played at CBGB’s, opened up for the Lemonheads and other bands. I wrote the lyrics and “sang.” I can’t sing to save my life, but I really miss writing songs.
“We started our Ladies Rock Camp because so many women who heard about our summer camp for girls were saying ‘I wish they’d had that when I was a kid!’” says Karla Schickele, the executive director of WMRC. “It’s a great way to raise money for the scholarship fund ($30,000 so far) while giving grown-up women a really amazing experience, too — we’ve found it’s win-win all around.”
Beth Carey signed up for the camp because playing music makes her “feel this crazy awesome wonderful feeling.” Kathy Libraty was inspired to enroll by her daughter. “She joined a similar rock camp a couple of years ago when she was sixteen,” says Kathy. “She is now writing her own songs and playing guitar. I decided to try my hand at it too. It’s really a milestone when the teacher becomes the student, and the parent can be inspired by the child. I can’t wait to ROCK OUT!”
You don’t have to already know how to play an instrument, and no experience is necessary. Participants form a band for the weekend, practice and write a song, and take workshops in things like songwriting and sound and recording. On Sunday night the bands get to play in an all-ages concert. How cool is that? How badly do I want to do it? And all proceeds go to the Financial Aid Fund of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. The Ladies Rock Camp costs $475. The sessions are July 31 through August 1, or August 13 through August 15, and it’s at the Urban Assembly School for Music and Art in downtown Brooklyn. To register, check http://www.williemaerockcamp.org/lcamp.html. Maybe I’ll see you there?