Camp gives girls a chance to shine in musical spotlight


Lara Lookabaugh, 26, left, and Meredith Kite, 28, host their radio show, “Female Trouble,” on Grow Radio every first and third Monday of the month from 11 p.m. to midnight. They are also volunteers for Gainesville's Rock and Roll Camp for Girls.

Kelsey Grentzer/Correspondent
Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.

When local musician and activist Chelsea Carnes was a teenager, she frequented the now-defunct Tim and Terry's all-ages bar and venue.

Facts

Information

What: Gainesville's Rock and Roll Camp for Girls
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5-9
Where: Studio Percussion, 2512 NE First Blvd., Suite 500
Register: Camp applications will be accepted May 1-8, and can be picked up at 1982 Bar or online at www.girlsrockcampgainesville.com.
Cost: $100, but a limited number of scholarship and reduced-pay options are available. Space is limited to 30 girls, and each participant will be notified by June 1 of their status.
Also: A showcase performance by camp participants is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 1982 Video Game Bar and Venue, 919 W. University Ave.

There she met older bluegrass artists who welcomed the young banjo player and supported her efforts to start a band, Dirty Fist!, at age 17.

Today, as an established Gainesville musician, she hopes to create a new generation of rock stars. And she plans to do it all in one week.

Gainesville's Rock and Roll Camp for Girls will be a week-long, intensive camp in which girls ages 8 to 17 will hone their creativity, self-esteem and musical talents.

They'll learn how to play guitar, bass and drums as well as receive vocal instruction.

At the end of the five-day camp, the girls will perform their original songs at 1982 Bar downtown.

Jen Vito, owner of 1982 Bar and one of the camp's organizers, said in addition to technical instruction, the girls will learn important lessons about self-expression.

She said, as per its mission statement, the camp uses music and performance as a platform to promote self-esteem and creative expression for girls.

"Our goal is to empower. They'll learn it's OK to be loud. It's OK to express yourself, and it's OK to play in front of other people," she said.

Carnes, a music instructor at Studio Percussion who organized Gainesville's first camp with Vito, said her experiences volunteering last summer at a similar camp in Jacksonville prepared her on how to use a language of solidarity and encouragement to motivate the campers.

"We trained the girls not to say ‘I'm sorry' when they missed a chord or messed up," she said. "When they said ‘I'm sorry,' the other girls would say, ‘No, you rock!' "

On the first day of camp, the girls will be grouped into several bands.

Each day of the camp, the girls will receive technical instruction, attend workshops on topics like the history of women in rock 'n'roll, women's self-defense and zine making, and attend performances by local female rock groups, with opportunities to ask questions afterward.

Many of the camp's organizers and instructors are in area bands, including Carnes' group Dirty Fist!, The Ones to Blame, Alien Summer, No More, Oriflamme and The Womyn's Noise Choir.

During the camp, Carnes will act as a band leader, closely working with her assigned group of girls through every step of the process, including the difficult and rewarding task of song writing.

"I'm their coach. I'll be with them the entirety of the camp," she said. "And they'll come to rely on each other. It's a big team-building experience. It requires a lot of communication."

At the Jacksonville camp, she said, a group of older girls realized during the songwriting workshops that they all had grown up with absent fathers.

The group channeled their experiences into a song, which they performed at the showcase at the end of camp.

"There were tears. All the counselors cried when they performed. It was beautiful and dramatic," she said.

Carnes said the girls at last summer's camp in Jacksonville underwent a complete transformation.

At the camp's outset, girls were shy and withdrawn, barely able to share their names with the group. By the end of camp, the girls were unrecognizable from their former selves.

"During those last days, they were completely uninhibited and demanded to be heard. That's the kind of transformation I imagine will happen at our camp," she said.

Rock and Roll Camp for Girls was started in Portland in 2000, and has since spread to several other U.S. cities, as well as Canada and Sweden. In Florida, there are camps in Central Florida, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

Vito said the Gainesville camp will be run solely by female volunteers, a fact she hopes will inspire the campers.

"Everywhere they look, they're going to see women doing stuff. And they'll think, wow, women can do this? We know enough rad ladies to fill all the jobs," she said. "It's a good space for female bonding and lifting each other up."

Carnes said she hopes campers can use this experience as a jumping-off point for their burgeoning musical careers. She said by holding camp at Studio Percussion, which can offer the girls rehearsal space and technical lessons long after camp is over, and by having the end of camp showcase at 1982 Bar, which is known for giving young musicians their start, they can provide the campers with tools necessary to continue performing on Gainesville's stages.

"They're being exposed to places that are relevant to them starting out as musicians," she said.

Vito agrees.

"I think there will be a lot of good things to follow," she said.

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