GRA 2017: Day 5

Friday is always bittersweet for everyone at camp. It is the last day of a long and intense week, but it's the end of an empowering experience full of music, friendship, learning, and inspiration. 

We started off our last day with a hip-hop aerobics workshop before heading into the final instrument instruction. Each group finalized what they had learned and most had a song or set of songs/lines/chords that they could all play together. The five drummers, for example, wrote and coordinated a drums-only song that they plan to perform at Saturday's showcase, and the bass players learned six classic bass lines over the five days:

 

Next, the campers headed to a workshop called Herstory of Women Who Rock and Rap. They discussed how the music industry is dominated by men and how there is an expectation that successful artists should have some kind of white, male presence. They split into groups and chose some of their favorite non-male artists, looked up more information about that they may not have known before, and shared with the rest of the group in an attempt to educate one another on female artists and to combat a) the way that the history we learn is saturated with mostly white, mostly male people and b) the way that the music scene in particular is dominated by mostly white, mostly male artists. Both are problems that lead to a lack of self-confidence in young folks who don't have white or male identities, so by having this discussion we hoped to help the campers break through the social barriers of music and the world at large. Some favorite artists they picked were Lucinda Williams, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Auli'i Cravalho, Avril Lavigne, Rihanna, and the androgynous David Bowie.

Lunch was next, and we were extremely fortunate to host Shehehe as our final (female-fronted!) artist. The campers loved their show, and in no time, they were all up out of their seats and dancing, which they hadn't done for any of the previous performers.

 

Friday afternoons at Girls Rock Camp are always chaotic and intense, but fun and exciting, for both the campers and volunteers. For four hours after lunch, our bands rotated from recording in the studio with Joel Hatstat (Joel Hatstat Audio), running through their set on the Boys and Girls Club stage, and practicing and planning with their band.

Recording is always a fun experience for them as it makes them feel like a "real band" and allows them to hear their own original songs in high quality. They are looking forward to receiving the CDs with all the bands' songs on them in the coming weeks! Practicing on-stage helped them get a feel for playing in front of an audience, and we discussed specifics like stage presence in order to help demystify the showcase and calm any nerves.

 

Finally, they had some free time to play and socialize in the gym until it was time to go.

We are so incredibly proud of all the work these wonderful young people have done this week! As one instructor said, participating in Girls Rock Camp is like experiencing a three-year band relationship in just five short days. It can be exhausting and stressful at the same time as empowering and inspiring, and we are always amazed when we watch campers work together, support one another, and ultimately overcome the challenges that inevitably surface when navigating the creative process. It is incredible to watch and to see their progress each day as they work towards their performance.

They are smart, impassioned kids. Many of them are already feminists, proclaiming to us when we asked in a workshop about gender roles which activities are for boys vs. for girls that "they can do anything they want" before we even had the chance to get that message across. They know where our society is lacking in terms of representation and acceptance and they are ready to fight for it.

Overall, Athens' music scene will be in good hands when these young people start to make their mark. They are all amazing, and it was an honor to work with them and watch them learn, play, and just have fun throughout this wild week. We are so impressed with the final results as well as with the way that they conducted themselves and collaborated this camp session!

 

Thank Yous and Extra Information

Every year, Girls Rock Athens is thankful for the support of Athens' Guitar Center and for Athens School of Music. Both donate or allow us to borrow some of their gear during camp weeks, and Athens School of Music has let us use their space for our Ladies Rock Camps in the past. We also have several volunteer instructors who teach lessons at one or both of those places, and we are grateful for all they have done for us over the years! If your child would like to continue learning their instrument of choice, both Guitar Center and the Athens School of Music offer lessons of all styles to all ages and experience levels. The Athens School of Music runs an ensemble program where students can work with a band and perform, and Guitar Center has a music camp in mid-summer.

Girls Rock Athens has other programming throughout the year aside from our summer camp. In the spring, we run a weekend-long Ladies Rock Camp* for adults, and we have various events year-round such as with our GRAY (Girls Rock Athens Youth) Board. We are also laying plans for the future, such as a week-long hip-hop/rap camp with our hip-hop director, Mokah Jasmine Johnson. We are so thankful to her for volunteering at our camp session this summer to teach hip-hop dance routines to our campers!

Hip-hop with Mokah was a favorite among our kids this week! Open registration for Mokah's VIP (Virtuous Intelligent Phenomenal) Girlz Hip-Hop Dance and Leadership Program will begin soon, and the program runs for four months for girls between the ages of 7 and 14. Girls Rock is proud to be affiliated with VIP Girlz and we are thankful to have had the opportunity to integrate the two programs this camp session as well as have Mokah herself come teach. From the VIP Girlz website: "Mokah is a notable entrepreneur, educator, activist and mother; she’s currently the President and co-founder of Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, an organization designed to combat discrimination through education and activism. Mokah is also the VP and co-owner of “United Group of Artists” (UGA Live) a grassroots event promotions company; the founder and program director of VIP Girlz Dance and Leadership program, the Hip Hop Director for Girls Rock Athens; an experienced adult educator and a civil rights advocate whom aims to uplift and inspire others." Apply for VIP Girlz here! Financial aid is available for eligible participants.

 

*Ladies Rock Camp - Ladies Rock Camp is a program that also functions as a fundraiser. It is a 3 day condensed version of the girls’ camp but for women 18 and over. It usually takes place some time in the spring on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our first LRC was held in 2015. All positions are volunteer during this week so as much of the tuition paid can go back into the organization, Girls Rock Athens. No experience or personal instruments are needed. The cost is $200 for the session, and because it also functions as a fundraiser, there is no financial aid available. However, if you sign up with a friend, the price is reduced to $150 each, and we can also work with you to create a payment plan. You can sign up on our sign-up page or via paper applications (available at our events or through request to have it mailed to your address).

Future program ideas we hope to bring to our community:

- other genres (electronic, hip hop, acoustic, ukulele)

- after school programming

- one-off weekend day program

- sessions (weekend day for 6? weeks)

- community workshops

- more! input welcome!

GRA 2017: Day 4

We opened Thursday morning with a workshop on body image and media literacy led by Executive Director Jenn. Campers discussed how women are portrayed in advertisements, movies, and other media and thought about society's expectations for how women and girls "should" look as well as why some of those expectations are extremely unrealistic. One camper created a hashtag campaign, #represent, and each camper who wanted to participate had an opportunity to share something that they would like to see represented in media:

After the morning's instrument instruction, campers gathered in the stage room for an "open mic." They supported one another and worked on their confidence by putting themselves "out there" to sing in front of all their new friends.

Lunch followed the open mic, and campers watched a band made of three junior volunteers -- Jordan Rhym on drums, Stella Perkins on guitar and vocals, and Emily Rose Thorne on bass -- who then explained to the campers that they had only practiced the set twice and talked to them about the importance and fun of improvisation in a band.

 

After lunch, campers had the experience of making "merch," or merchandise, with their band logos on them. Each band rotated around the four workshops over the two-hour period to make their own guitar picks, stick-on patches, show posters, and - the favorite - screen-printed t-shirts with the logos they designed during Tuesday's Logos workshop.

Next, the bands went to practice. They are finalizing their song(s) to prepare to practice performing on-stage for everyone to watch as well as for recording in the studio tomorrow afternoon! It will be an exciting and important experience for them to practice playing in front of an audience and recording with a professional just like a "real" band.

They wrapped up the day by finishing their zines from the previous days. Tomorrow will be a long and exciting last day of camp, and we are all looking forward to the show the day after!!

 

Showcase Details:

Where: Hendershot's Coffee, 237 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601; Hendershot's is in the Bottleworks building on Prince Ave (near The Grit and Viva! Argentine). There is additional parking in the back of the building.

When: Saturday, August 5, 2 - 4 PM (campers should arrive at 1 PM to prepare)

GRA 2017: Day 3

Wednesday morning began with the campers gathering in groups with others who aren't a part of their band to encourage making new friends. Each group chose a song they all knew and liked to sing on stage for everyone else. We practiced singing a round (each group sang the same part of a song but started at different times for the effect) and sent them to the designated rooms for instrument instruction.

After reviewing the previous days' lessons and learning new chords, notes, techniques, beats, and tips, campers met with Emileigh for a vocals workshop. They discussed breath control, pitch and matching notes, projecting their voices, and singing as a group.

Lunch today was special for the campers because, as there was no performer, they were able to sign up for karaoke on the stage for their friends to watch after they had finished eating. They supported one another as they took turns singing into the mic along to a song of their choosing. Some performed in pairs, some in groups, and some went solo -- they built up energy that they maintained as they headed to the last of the week's poetry workshops.

For finishing the three-day workshop, they each received a certificate with a unique superlative such as "The Bubbly Poet" or "The Happy Poet."

Afterwards, they headed back into the Hip Hop Workshop with Mokah and her VIP Girlz. Learning the dance moves and coordinating with each other to perform a group dance has definitely been a highlight for them, especially because each workshop ends with a friendly competition between the dancers as they split into two groups. We are very excited that some of our campers have begun signing up to participate in the VIP Girlz program after enjoying the workshops at Girls Rock Camp! (Here's the link to do so!)

Then, they assembled back into their bands to work on their songs. Some bands have written two full songs! Others have one down with another in the works. The campers are doing a great job working together to create their songs, write their lyrics, and work together to prepare for the performance. During practice, the campers took a break to take their band photos with professional photographer Jennifer Keene. These photos will appear in the brochure at the showcase.

Band 1: The Black Stars (Arabella, Lucinda, Myca, and Mollie)

Band 2: Savage Squad (Laniyah, Destiny, Taliyah, Denim, and Jayda)

Band 3: The Verge (Genevieve, Evin, Ruby, and Vail)

Band 4: Personal Computer (Charlotte, Anne, Lilly, and Katia)

 

FInally, they ended with the second installment of the zines workshop. We look forward to seeing them tomorrow to keep up their great work and work on DIY Band Merch in the afternoon!

GRA 2017: Days 1 & 2

The first two days of our summer program are off to a great start!

Monday

On Monday morning, the volunteers greeted our 18 campers and gathered in our main room to set the Group Agreements for the week. Rather than establish rules such as "raise your hand before you speak" or "be quiet," we prefer our campers work together to come up with agreements that they all feel will provide them with the best camp experience. 

Our campers' agreements included "be a croissant, not a bagel," meaning to focus on being open-minded rather than closed-off from others. Later in the day during a Songwriting workshops, they came up with guidelines to remember when writing their own songs and wrote them on the whiteboard.

Our campers' agreements included "be a croissant, not a bagel," meaning to focus on being open-minded rather than closed-off from others. Later in the day during a Songwriting workshops, they came up with guidelines to remember when writing their own songs and wrote them on the whiteboard.

Next, we assembled for instrument instruction: the campers chose from guitar, keyboard, bass guitar, drums, and rap. Volunteers, almost all of whom are performing musicians themselves, spend an hour and a half each morning helping students gain a working knowledge of the basics of their instrument of choice so that they can work from what they learn when building a song with their bands.

Campers then went to a Songwriting workshop led by rap instructor Mariah, who guided the group in picking apart some of their favorite songs to identify which elements made them fun to listen to so that they could use these methods as inspiration for their own songs. On the white board in the photo above, Mariah and the campers brainstormed how to come up with lyrics. Then, they sang along to a catchy song Mariah wrote for the occasion.

At noon, campers went to lunch in the main room. The lunch performer for the day was a group called Palms of Fire, an all-female drum circle playing West African rhythms on traditional drums from the region. They played some of their songs for the campers, answered their questions about the genre, songs, culture, the drums themselves, and the art of performing, and then helped them experiment with the drums.

After lunch, campers went to the first of three poetry workshops. Like the songwriting workshop from earlier in the day, poetry can help them write lyrics for their bands' songs.

Next was one of the highlights of the day, the Hip Hop Workshop. Dancer Mokah, along with two students from her VIP Girlz Dance and Leadership Program, led the workshop and taught dance routines to the campers. VIP Girlz is "designed to develop future leaders by encouraging students to use their voices and/or their bodies to make a positive impact in society" with aims to "build self-confidence, encourage teamwork and ... [help students] identify their purpose and develop lifelong skills needed to succeed in today’s society." The kids enjoyed learning from Mokah and her students and were excited to work together to complete group routines.

Finally, the campers picked their bandmates and headed to their band rooms to work with band coaches in getting started in the collaborative process. Playing with a group for the first time can be a challenge, but each of the 4 bands made a lot of progress in writing and playing an original song as a group! The first day of band practice is a time to brainstorm ideas and get started playing with one another. All 4 went farther than that in the creative process and worked on writing and playing something entirely of their own; some of them even had band names picked out by the end of the day!

During our closing assembly, each camper had the opportunity to share something they learned about themselves and something they like about the person next to them in the circle.

 

Tuesday

Campers arrived this morning excited to get back to work with their bands. We started off the day with a workshop called "Don't Box Me In," which is more of a group conversation about what boys and girls are generally expected to consider "for boys" or "for girls" and why it's okay to break out of that "box" we create for ourselves. The example used was football -- while campers agreed that football is traditionally "for boys," they also all agreed that girls are allowed to enjoy it, too.

Then, it was back to instrument instruction. Campers reviewed the chords, beats, notes, and lines that they learned yesterday before jumping into new material. Afterwards, they got with their bands in the main room for our Logos workshop. Each band worked together and designed a logo to represent their band, drew it out, and prepared it for screen-printing onto their own patches later this week. 

Next was lunch, during which our volunteer keyboard and vocals instructor, Emileigh, performed her original songs on guitar and mandolin. Like each lunchtime performer, she offered time for the kids to ask questions about music, performance, life in the music industry, specific songs, or whatever else they might want to know.

After lunch, they attended the second Poetry workshop and then went back to Mokah and her VIP Girlz to revisit yesterday's routine and learn another. Split into two groups, the campers learned from their peers in the VIP Girlz program and ended the workshop with a showdown. They supported one another and had a blast dancing together.

At last, the bands went back to practice. By this time, most were getting far along in their original songs. Yesterday they worked on coming up with their individual parts and bringing them together to create something cohesive; today, they largely delved deeper into that process and focused more on timing and switching from one part of the song to another. Building off of each other's ideas and supporting one another in the creative process is extremely important, and this did not prove to be a problem for the campers. The bands are coming together and some are already planning specific elements of their performance for the showcase this Saturday!

Then they gathered with special guest Prosper to create their own zines, a small magazine representing their personalities and interests.

Tomorrow's Stage Presence workshop will help them get even more ideas and a greater sense of preparedness for the showcase!

 

Showcase Details:

Where: Hendershot's Coffee, 237 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601; Hendershot's is in the Bottleworks building on Prince Ave (near the Grit and Viva! Argentine). There is additional parking in the back of the building.

When: Saturday, August 5, 2 - 4 PM (campers should arrive at 1 PM to prepare)

 

For more photos and videos of camp week, follow us on Instagram at @girlsrockathens!

Meet the Volunteers: GRA 2017

Tomorrow is the first day of our summer program! Last week, we "met" the campers by reading their responses to some open-ended questions. Now, we've asked this summer's volunteers to answer the same questions we asked our campers on their applications: 3-5 favorite musical artists, why they want to volunteer, what they hope to learn as volunteers, what they are most excited to teach, and who their biggest female role models are.

1. Jenn W, 34, is the executive director of GRA. Her favorite artists include Salt N Pepa, Tom Waits, and Biggie Smalls, and youth empowerment is her passion; "it comes from remembering when I was a teen and not feeling heard or adequately having my feelings or thoughts respected." Aside from creating an environment that encourages self-expression at GRA, Jenn is most excited to teach the Body Image and Media Literacy workshop to help kids understand that "we are being sold unreachable expectations of ourselves." She hopes that the workshop will help kids "remember to love who and how they are at any moment, knowing that no one can sell them that love in a bottle," but she wants to learn what the campers have to offer, too; their perseverance reminds her to keep trying, and their kindness reminds her to be kind and to understand that the world is more than the anger and hate displayed in the media. (On the lighter side, she hopes to see what kids find "cool" these days after being shocked to find that some kids aren't interested in Beyonce.)

2. KyKy Renee Knight will be 25 next week and aspires to be like her mom, who she describes as fierce, fearless, giving, caring, sure, and strong, always carrying herself with compassion and grace and calling out "problematic and adverse positioning ... without apology." For now, KyKy is a member of the band Harlot Party and is excited to volunteer with GRA after an "irreplaceable experience" band coaching and giving guitar instruction at this year's Ladies Rock Camp. She knew then "that I wanted to work with the young campers, to watch them pull their talents to create something cool and unique" just as the adults did. She is amazed by kids' insightfulness and ability to tackle challenges, so she is excited to watch them create, problem-solve, and come together to write music. While of course she is thrilled to teach them guitar riffs and techniques, she especially looks forward to "[sharing] a little bit of my experience writing and performing as a black woman in a scene that's been historically white and male, because I think playing in bands can seem intimidating and unwelcome to a lot of non-cis, non-white, non-dudes and I want to encourage the campers to know that there is a space for them too in music, even if we have to fight for it." Her own favorite artists are Lauryn Hill, Regina Spektor, Chance the Rapper, Tera Melos, and Noname.

3. Leticia, a fan of Tragic Mulatto, the Cows, the Pretenders, the Glands, and Metallica, looks forward to learning time management and socialization as a volunteer among the "chaos and magic of our biggest camp in years." She is excited to partake in all of our workshop topics, from stage management to special techniques, from self-defense to self-esteem, from girls' representation in society to healthy relationships and issues related to school: "fortunately, I get to dip my beak into a little of everything!" Her role model is her mom because, to put it simply, "she kicked ass."

4. Emileigh, 30, wants to volunteer at camp because she finds our topics and themes worthwhile and especially looks forward to sharing with the kids how to use and better their voices. Her favorite artists include The Beatles, the Olivia Tremor Control, Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, and Velvet Underground, and her role model is a college professor who taught her to "investigate and think in ways I hadn't before."

5. Daelynn White is 15 and hopes to conquer shyness, "help young girls understand [that] it's okay to be yourself," and learn "how to handle responsibility" as well as contribute to the conversation about self-esteem as a junior volunteer this summer. They have a silly personality and look up to their mom, who encourages them to be confident and "a better person by helping others." Daelynn's favorite artists are Rihanna, Alessia Cara, Chance the Rapper, and Jcole.

6. Hannah, 24, says that volunteering with GRA is "a great way to connect with my community and work towards a mission I believe in." Though she is not a musician herself, music is a big part of her life that she is excited to share with our campers, and she hopes to learn "how to rock [and] how to approach things from new perspectives" while volunteering. Her role model is her grandma, her favorite artists are LCD Sound System, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and she is most excited to talk about how girls and women are viewed in the music industry.

7. Some of Stella Zine's favorite artists include The Need, Fifth Column, Heavens to Betsy, Cypher in the Snow, Tribe 8, and Athens' own Pylon. She is excited to teach guitar and to band coach this year at camp, something she has done before at Girls Rock Atlanta. A musician herself, she is energized by the creative process and finds that "creating safe space[s] and facilitating this collaborative process for young women is powerful to be present for and absolutely inspiring." Her own bands are mostly "feminist punk, gothy lo-fi blues and indie rock" -- such as her band of eight years, Pagan Holiday -- and she had a transformative experience at an Appalachian music camp as a teenager that is part of what inspires her to volunteer at Girls and Ladies Rock Camps today. The healing qualities of feminist music in a supportive environment inspired her to co-found a Riot Grrl Chapter in 1994 in Atlanta, where she felt empowered by the "experience of women and folks beyond the binary supporting each other." She currently studies feminist music therapy at Georgia College and teaches mental health expressive art at Live Forward.

8. Emily Rose is a 17-year-old vegetarian, journalism and political science student, and GRA intern. Her favorite artists include FIDLAR, Nirvana, Mac Demarco, Thayer Sarrano, and the Front Bottoms, and she is looking forward to coming back to camp to volunteer again after participating as a camper for a few years. She finds it "rewarding to share music and messages of confidence and female empowerment to kids in this age group... empowering them and offering music as an outlet can help equip them with the tools to overcome difficult situations and feelings that start to arise at this age." She is excited to learn from the campers, too, as "young kids are often better at building each other up and accepting each other's differences than adults." Aside from bass instruction and assisting with band coaching, she is most excited to contribute to conversations about self-esteem and body image/media literacy. She doesn't have a specific role model but, as an aspiring political journalist and/or human rights lawyer, she looks up to all unapologetic female politicians who fight for true equality.