GRA 2017: Days 1 & 2

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


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.



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!