The 2014 campers pose for the camera. Photos courtesy of Chelsea Carnes.

Gainesville Girls Rock Camp is a local summer camp that uses music and performance as a platform to promote self-esteem, community and creative self-expression in girls from ages 8 to 17.

The Girls Rock Camp is an international program that began on the West Coast in 2000 and has now spread around the world with hundreds of camps, some as far away as Brazil and Sweden. The Gainesville Girls Rock Camp got rolling in 2013 after I found inspiration from volunteering at Girls Rock Camp Jacksonville. Upon returning to Gainesville, I teamed up with Jennifer Vito, and we began recruiting the summer camp staff of my dreams.

Our local rock camp is volunteer-run by an entirely woman-identified cast of talented badasses, many of whom hail from local bands such as No More; The Ones To Blame; As Is; SODA; GUTS; and Wax Wings. Together each summer, we create a week of music and feminism meant to rock the world of the young girls who attend, who often bring with them crippling insecurities and inhibitions developed from living life as a girl in a patriarchal society.

Our curriculum includes daily group music lessons on electric bass, electric guitar, keys and drums, as well as workshops ranging from “Girls’ Self-Defense” to “The History of Women in Music.”

Campers are broken into bands on their first day, then with direction from their band leaders and music instructors spend the week writing a song. On the last day, we book a local venue, and the girls’ bands perform their original songs in front of a large audience of friends, family, staff and the Gainesville community.

Our volunteers work hard to fundraise throughout the year so that we can offer full and partial scholarships to girls in need. Through these scholarships, we are able to keep our camper demographic economically diverse. We provide all musical equipment as well as daily lunches and snacks. Many of the girls come on the first day having never touched an instrument before. By the time they leave, they have basic knowledge of playing an instrument and have written and performed an original song in front of a live audience.

On the first day, many of the girls are too shy to say their names audibly. By the end of the week, they are comfortable writing down their thoughts and screaming them into a microphone in front of a crowd.

In 2015 we plan to accommodate 50 campers, more than we’ve ever facilitated before. We are offering two sessions, one in July and one in August, and we NEED VOLUNTEERS! No musical experience is necessary you are a woman-identified feminist with an interest in offering young girls a chance to get loud and be heard, please contact us for more information!

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