Last summer I blindly agreed to help out with an organization when my friend called and said that they needed more volunteers. Little did I know that just one short week at Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls Orange County could have such an amazing impact on my life.
This is an opportunity for girls, ages 7-17, to pick up an instrument for the first time (guitar, bass, vocals, keyboard, or drums), form a band, write a song, and then perform it together, all in just one week. By the end, it’s hard to say who’s more proud, the kids or the volunteers.
I had the opportunity to speak with Candace Hansen, a California drummer, who organized and ran the camp in Orange County.
Germ Magazine: Thank you so much for taking some time out to speak with GERM. We’re so excited about what you’re doing.
Candace Hansen: Of course! Thank you for doing what YOU do!!!
GM: So, what first got you involved with Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls? Why were you so drawn to it?
CH: The way I first got involved with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls was by doing a paper in my Women’s Studies class at Santa Ana College. I had to write a paper about a problem that affected my community and offer a solution for it, so I decided to try and find a way to link music (my passion) with some of the feminist issues we were looking at in the class that had affected me in my personal life as well as my music and work life.
So I proposed a program where girls could learn to play music in an environment where they were surrounded with awesome female mentors. This fantasy program was sliding scale and would be a broad program with after school programming and summer programming. While doing my research, I came across the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon. I modeled a lot of my paper after it and was really inspired by it. After my presentation I got an A, too! 🙂
My professor (Julie Davis) was like, “YOU HAVE TO GO THERE. THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE!!!” So in the Summer of 2010, I went, and it changed my life. I returned in the Summer of 2011, and through a casual conversation with an amazing woman, I found the encouragement I needed to bring the program to OC. It went like this:
“I wish there was a Rock Camp in Orange County!!!”
“So why don’t you start one?”
“…… I don’t know. Can you do that?”
I was drawn to the program for so many reasons:
Being a young girl in the punk scene, there were very few girls or women; I always felt like the sore thumb. At rock camp I was surrounded by women who shared these experiences but also had something I didn’t: a community of women who all played music. This was groundbreaking to me! All kinds of different girls and women from all kinds of different scenes and backgrounds and cities.
I had never been in an environment where women didn’t cut each other down or compete; rather [they] lifted each other up.
All of this was happening and creating this amazing place for girls to soak all of this up. I would have died to have something like this as a teen!
I wanted to start one in Orange County because I thought we were capable of having a community like this and that women and girls could really benefit from a space where (even if it’s only for 1 week) we lift each other up and encourage each other, and also eat pizza and shred drums.
GM: How far does this program reach, even outside of Orange County?
CH: There are Girls Rock Camps literally all over the world. There’s an organization called the GRCA [Girls Rock Camp Alliance] that is like the UN of Girls Rock Camps; check out their website for a dope world map. There are camps from Dubai to Sweden, to NYC, to Portland, and all kinds of them starting up. Last month I attended the yearly GRCA conference, and there were nearly 200 organizers there!
GM: Why is this so important for girls? What is the benefit of Rock ‘n’ Roll?
CH: A few weekends ago, we had a booth at this cool kids and family fair called the Orange County Youth Expo; it was there that I felt reaffirmed as to why this program is necessary and important for girls.
As thousands of families and kids passed our booth filled with guitars, amps, mics, PA with female-fronted jams bumping out of it, and a full drum kit, the responses were varied:
At the event we would have to reach out to girls: “Hey, wanna come learn to play the drums?” Nearly always we were met with a shy expression then an excitement that they quickly self-policed.
Nearly all of the girls who came to our booth had never played an instrument or had not been told that they could play an instrument. All of the girls who left our booth were capable of playing guitar or bass, and 99% of them walked away being able to play a rock beat on the drums or simple bass lines or guitar chords/power chords. Some of them were true naturals who were shredding without any instruction!
After hearing the awesomeness that came out of these girls, I would make it a point to tell their parents how good they were, regardless if they wanted to come to rock camp or not. (I also did this with boys that came through our booth.)
Dads were thoroughly shocked at their daughters’ musical abilities! Some of the girls had brothers who were musicians, too. When we asked the girls why they didn’t play, they simply said, “Because my brother plays.” One family stuck out to me the most: A little girl came to our booth and was a real natural drummer! Her dad and brother watched on in disbelief; she had never had any music experience but was SHREDDING! I told her dad that he had to get her a drum kit, and he was a little awkward. He told me that the whole experience had been “very eye opening.” Way later in the afternoon, the little girl came back with her mom; a disco beat flowed naturally from her little limbs. A smile on her face, she said, “Look, Mom, looOKK!!!” Her mom nearly started crying; I went up to her and told her how amazing her daughter was. She told me that her whole life she always dreamed of becoming a drummer but was told time and time again that girls can not/should not play drums.
Time and time again I have heard this from women over 30: “I was told women can’t do ____________.” “Women shouldn’t do ____________.”
Whether or not people want to recognize it, these old school thought processes are trickling into the minds of young girls, dictating their ideas of themselves and the world around them.
Things are changing, though, and I think that programs like Rock Camp are helping create visibility of women and girls playing music as well as actually encouraging girls to know that they can do whatever they want to do, regardless of what somebody tells them.
Rock ‘n’ Roll is more of an attitude than a specific genre at camp. We want girls to blaze their own trail and know it’s okay to mess up, have fun, take risks, and be creative without artistic boundaries.
GM: That’s incredible. Now, I know you offer daily workshops for campers. What’s being taught there?
CH: We have a lot of great workshops! Aside from learning an instrument and forming a band, we offer workshops in self defense, zine making, media literacy, body positivity, history of women who ROCK!, Music from around the world, DJ 101, a drum circle, and all kinds of fun games.
GM: Sounds like so much fun! A lot of our readers are high school age. How might you encourage them to be a part of this?
CH: Girls in high school can come to camp as a camper, and after getting some experience under their belts, they can come and volunteer! Our programs are for girls ages 7-17. In Orange County we run 4 programs a year; Girls Rock Camp in the Summer is what we’ve been talking about. This year we ran a beta test of a program we are hoping to run again in Santa Ana called DIY Teens where teen girls can come and learn how to book a music festival. They book the bands, art, and whatever they want, then we put on the fest! It was really fun last time, and next year we’re hoping to get more girls involved. We also run 2 Ladies Rock Camps a year for women 18+ who wish they could have had this program when they were kids. We would love for girls in high school who have come to some Girls Rock Camps and are comfortable to come and volunteer at Ladies Rock Camp!
If they are not in Southern California where we have a really strong Rock Camp community (LA, South East LA, and OC), they can Google a Rock Camp near them and get involved! There are all kinds of ways; if they reach out, I bet we can find a way to get them involved.
GM: Great! So, what’s the best way to get involved with Rock Camp?
CH: Any way that you want to!
Come to a Girls Rock Camp or Ladies Rock Camp showcase, throw a benefit show for a rock camp near you, offer to volunteer, come as a camper, organize a pizza party lunch for a girls rock camp near you during rock camp week, or just find us online and help spread the word about what we do!
We love building our community, so if you are compelled to reach out, please do! Any rock camp worldwide will be happy to get a note affirming the awesome work that they do or a sincere high five!
GM: Thank you again for speaking with us and for doing what you do.
You can find more information about Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls Orange County on their website.