Since 2007, the Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA) has helped young girls tap into their inner rock star with mentor-driven workshops that teach budding musicians everything from how to play their instrument of choice to how to properly staple a zine together.
The organization has big dreams for their little clients: to propel social change through the building of self-esteem and the expansion of opportunity. It’s not an easy goal, but thus far they’ve fostered that kind of change in tens of thousands of girls and they’ve done it through the raw power rock and roll.
“The cool thing about rock camp is it’s a social justice organization as much as it’s a musical organization. There are workshops and in general a culture of open conversation for both volunteers and campers alike about gender identity. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable for people at first. I think that discomfort is good though,” says musician and Girls Rock Chicago mentor Carrie Shemanski.
Since its inception as Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon in 2001, GRCA has gone international with dozens of camps across the United States, several more in Sweden, two in Austria, and one-offs in Brazil, Iceland, London, Paris, and Berlin. They’ve also garnered endorsements from a few big name mentors like Kathleen Hanna, who (prepare to be jealous) volunteers her time as a mentor and Beth Ditto who is on the board of directors.
As a nonprofit organization, GRCA depends greatly on donated time and finances, but they do their best to make the camp as accessible and inclusive as possible with sliding scales, financial aid, and zero tolerance policies on discrimination of any kind.
“Every year I have a moment where I consider the time commitment and the time off work, and wonder if it’s worth it to keep volunteering. Then I think about how awful it would be to not be there and wise up,” says Shemanski.
Most GRCA campers spend their summer (or time after school) learning an instrument, the ins and outs of being in a band, and songwriting 101 before concluding with a huge performance in a real venue. Know a girl ready to rock or want to get involved? Find your closest camp here, or check out our list of a few upcoming sessions.
Girls Rock Austin books up fast, but that should barely come as a surprise in a city bustling with musical talent. The campers have even showcased at South by Southwest alongside Alabama Shakes. Not a bad first gig, huh?
Upcoming session: June 13 – 17 with a showcase June 18.
Enroll by: May 13
The OG Girls Rock Camp is backed up by some hefty names. Corin Tucker Band, The Gossip, and Sub Pop are just a few of the camp’s major supporters.
Upcoming session: June 27 – July 1 with a showcase July 2.
Enroll by: May 31
Named for the iconic Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, this New York branch of GRCA offers sessions for little ladies and late bloomers, alike. Best of all, tuition moves on a sliding scale for all age groups. It’s never too late to learn something new: the next Ladies Rock Camp kicks off June 24, with a May 10 deadline.
Upcoming session (for girls): July 25 – 30 with a TBD showcase date.
Enroll by: April 19
GRC Chicago’s popularity took off so quickly, that it quadrupled in size almost immediately by their second year. Chicago is another “19 and over” friendly city with the added bonus of a recording session and playing a gig in one of the best venues in town – past years have held showcases at Schuba’s Tavern, Thalia Hall, and the world famous Metro, which has been graced by everyone from the Smashing Pumpkins to the Foo Fighters.
Upcoming session: July 18 – 24 with a showcase July 24.
Applications open mid-April.
The first round of applications are already underway at GRCA LA, but it wouldn’t be Hollywood without an additional film program! Campers can learn to shoot and edit music videos alongside pro film crews with an appearance by an established act. Along with workshops from industry professionals, girls will get a chance to learn about possible careers in the industry and walk away with their first reel.
Upcoming music video program session: July 11 – 15 with a showcase July 16.
Applications open until all spots are filled.