Girls Rock Camp riffs on female empowerment

By Kristi Alexandra

Dear Vancouver-based girls screaming into invisible mics to the likes of Karen O and Kathleen Hanna in your bedrooms: you’re closer to showing off your riot grrl chops onstage than you think.

If you’re between the ages of eight and 17, Girls Rock Camp will outfit you with an instrument, music lessons, band tee silk-screening workshops, bandmates, and a spot onstage at the Rio Theatre in July.

The week-long camp, empowering girls through music mentorship since 2009, runs from July 10 to 14 this year. Its final show is on July 15.

“The mandate of Girls Rock Camp is to empower female youth through music creation, so we’re kind of a self-esteem camp first and a music camp second. The structure of it is what you would imagine a school of rock type thing,” says Kyla Rockingham, organizer of Girls Rock Camp.

Officially, GRC is a non-profit society that pairs young girls with positive mentors in music, such as instrument teachers and band managers.

Photo: Sarah Race

This year, there are two different programs: an after school program and a summer camp. Daily activities include morning instrument instruction, band practice, band tee printing workshops, stage presence workshops and more.


“I know how much it would have benefited me as a kid to have something like this, so that’s my main drive for doing this, and I really want to give other girls the opportunity to see other females in the roles doing the things that you want to do,” Rockingham tells Loose Lips.  “It’s so helpful to see these women as mentors if you have any interest in playing music. Secondly, with Vancouver being such an expensive place to live, it’s not like just any family has a garage where kids can start playing and start a band. We provide kids who are interested in making music a space to make noise and do it.”

Photo: Sarah Race

Emily Morgan, who hauls and fixes gear, as well as masters all of the songs for the Girls Rock Camp Vancouver bandcamp page, chimes in.

“It’s right in our theme song: ‘Now that I have rock and roll, I can be as loud as I like,'” she chants. “Everyone gets a choice as to what they want to play: guitar, bass, vocals, drums and keys.”

This year’s camp is held at the Urban Native Youth Association (1618 E Hastings St), with 30 to 35 spots available for aspiring rockers.

And a new skill and a band tee aren’t the only things Rockingham and Morgan are seeing come out of the program.

“One really cool thing that I always enjoy is kids who go to school together who are in different social groups and don’t even talk, they’re best friends by the end. We tear down those social barriers,” says Rockingham.

“Music transcends that,” agrees Morgan.

Apply to be a camper or volunteer teacher or band manager with Girls Rock Camp Vancouver by June 10 here.

Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.