Girls learn to rock

BY YUN LIN | JULY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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Twenty girls between the ages of 8 and 16 got together to do something most young people only dream of: They joined a band.

Girls Rock is a one-week summer camp held by the University of Iowa Women’s Resource and Action Center. It’s 1 year old and going strong.

“The camp helps girls build self-esteem and find their voices through unique programming,” said Laurie Haag, the WRAC program developer.

After a week’s worth of work, the camp ended in a showcase at Public Space One on July 11, in which they played their original rock ’n’ roll songs.

On Sunday, the group got time in United Action for Youth’s recording studio to record original songs for a CD.

The camp also partners with local bands, such as ConeTrauma, to help teach the girls how to rock.

“Every day at the end of the day, they get to see a set of music performed by a local band featuring women,” Haag said. “They also work together in bands collaboratively to write songs together and take part in workshops every day on a wide variety of non-musical topics and experiences.”

WRAC will host a second camp which will begin today and run the rest of the week.

“It is a really good chance to meet new people, play music, and have fun at Girls Rock,” said Robyn Hermiston, a bassist in the camp.

At Girls Rock, girls don’t only learn how to play instruments, they also get involved in a variety of other activities.

Haag said this past week, the girls did yoga, talked about gender roles, explored how advertising works, made zines, and attended a number of other workshops.

“It’s about empowerment and teaching girls they can play music, they can be strong, and they can do creative ways to express themselves,” said Lilly Richard, a Girls Rock counselor.

Haag said Girls Rock combines music education and performance, empowerment, and social-justice workshops, positive role models, and collaboration and leadership skills building.

“At the end of the camp they may not be totally skilled musicians,” she said. “But they believe in themselves and know that it is possible.”

Girls Rock is a nonprofit corporation, and many of the instruments have been donated or loaned by community members. All of the camp staff and counselors are volunteers.

“I had really good time hanging out with kids and counselors because there are many cool women working together to make it happen,” Richard said.

Girls Rock also cooperated with Iowa Women’s Music Festival and is affiliated with the Girls Rock Alliance, a national network of Girls Rock camps across the country.

“WRAC is involved because Girls Rock Iowa City is very closely aligned with our own mission and the work that we do on campus and in the community,” Haag said. “We are very excited to be a part of Girls Rock Iowa City again this year and plan to continue our support in the future.”

As the camp wrapped up its busy week with a rock-and-roll performance on July 11, parents and children seemed enthusiastic.

“[Girls Rock] seems to be something special to my daughter Grace, and she likes written songs, so it’s a good opportunity to do that,” said Tami Recker, who daughter was part of the camp. “Empowering girls, I don’t think there is another place where she can get those messages.”

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