For Girls about to Rock! Camp Prepares Girls for Life of Music and Empowerment

By Mishkin, Kate | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

For Girls about to Rock! Camp Prepares Girls for Life of Music and Empowerment


Mishkin, Kate, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Lisa Nakamura is teaching the class how to say "no." Actually, she's teaching the participants how to scream it.

The self-defense instructor goes around to each student and taps her on the shoulder, asking her to imagine she's being attacked. Each student takes a second to muster up the strength and bellows "no." The room erupts in laughter and giggles.

It's not customary that a self-defense workshop would be taught at an all-girls band camp, but at Girls Rock in Pittsburgh, all kinds of stereotypes are being broken.

The camp was founded in 2007 in Portland, Ore., as a facility for helping girls "build self-esteem and find their voices through unique programming that combines music education and performance, empowerment and social justice workshops, positive role models, and collaboration and leadership skill building," the website claims.

This is the third session held by the Girls Rock Pittsburgh location at Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside. This time, the weeklong session has attracted young women from around the country between the ages of 8 and 18.

The young women are led by a team of volunteers, most of whom are involved in music outside the camp. Campers are divided into bands at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week each band will have come up with a name and written a song to perform at the final concert.

In between rehearsals, campers attend workshops in various areas, from garage band to improvisation and stage presence. One of the workshops is on body image.

"It's crazy to hear that at 8, 9 and 10 [years old] there's pressure to wear makeup, be thin and look good for boys," co- organizer Madeleine Campbell said. "Our main objective is not to discourage girls from doing that but to encourage doing it because they feel empowered that way."

The girls, she said, are "acutely aware" of the media's influence on their lives.

Ms. Campbell works professionally in the music industry as an audio engineer -- a field that is predominantly male.

"The one thing I would say is I wish I had a camp like this," she said. "The goal is to provide campers with as many resources as possible. At the end of the day if none of them even touch an instrument again, that's fine. They have a community and a support system if they want it."

SHE'S WITH THE BAND

Females are gaining prominence in the music industry, and girl bands are gaining popularity in the mainstream. Acts such as Tegan and Sara, Haim, and Lorde are headlining major music festivals and dominating airwaves. Pittsburgh is no exception in the national trend.

When Pittsburgh-based band Brazilian Wax (which plays R.A.N.T. on Saturday) formed two years ago, it was all female. Now, the three- piece band, described as "grunge, girl punk," replaced its female drummer with a man.

"We looked for another female, but it's so rare, it's like finding a unicorn -- Actually, it's a little better now in Pittsburgh," said bassist Athena Kazuhiro. She emphasized that the drummer, Luke Ondish, is a feminist.

Although there are more all-female bands in the music industry and specifically Pittsburgh, Ms. Kazuhiro explained that it doesn't take an all-female band to have a feminist image. In fact, she'd rather Brazilian Wax not be referred to as a "girl band" at all.

"I don't mind being called a feminist band or a political band ... Some of my favorite bands were all-male, like Pink Floyd or Nirvana, but I do want it known that women can make music, and they can make really good music, too. It's not a secondary thought. Our fans are equally men and women. We've had a very positive reception here in Pittsburgh," she said.

Still, Brazilian Wax has a clear message. …

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