Prosaic Paradise

Campaign for the Mundane

Long Live Girls Rock DC

Filed under Music by at 9:41 pm on Aug 21 2008

Crikey – almost 2 weeks ago now I had just had a good 12 hour day at the first annual Girls Rock DC summer camp. My brain was a tiny pile of mush, and I was just an incidental volunteer. I have got to hand it to the women who put the whole program together – what a monumental undertaking. I feel like the work I put in last week doesn’t quite hold a candle, and I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way, I mean that I worked pretty hard but everyone around me was keeping it together in a truly stunning manner and they had been for months and months before I even showed up. Heck, I didn’t even have kid interaction for the majority of my days, which to me is the most exhausting part.

Many people – my coworkers, other friends – sort of seem to default to smile and nod when I begin to wax rhapsodic about the experience of rock camp. I feel like when I attended the Ladies’ version myself, in Portland, more people could connect with what I was saying – you go, you rock. In this case, you wake up early on your vacation, you run around like a chicken … well you run around a lot, and in the end you are a roadie for someone else. The fact is, that all becomes worth it the first time you see the girl who hadn’t touched a guitar before this week reach up without prompting and bust out the chords to the song that she helped write.

It’s harder and harder for me to remember what it was like to be an awkward, totally unconfident and desperate-to-be-cool kid (although a few photos posted to Facebook from high school cohorts who’re enjoying an online reunion helps kick start the ol’ memory) unable to find a direction for creative energy. I don’t have that problem nowadays. But that’s the feeling you have to connect with to get the mission of camp. You also have to remember a number of other things – like being told that wanting to skateboard was inappropriate or being urged to pick up the acoustic and not the electric guitar by virtue of your gender. We’d all love to think that those things don’t still happen, but they do. I always tell people to just do me a favor and flip through the rock music magazines at your local borders, particularly the ones aimed at instrumentalists. If you’re a young girl, you’re probably still so unlikely to find someone of your gender as a role model that it’s almost a joke.

So role models – wow. I met 60+ women at rock camp who I consider to be role models for me, let alone for the kids. We had equipment experts. We had instrument teachers. We had camp counselors and band coaches. We had nurses and food wranglers. We had roadies. (Oh! The luxury of roadies! I kept thinking we should make the kids set up once so they don’t take that for granted.) We had an excellent set of rules – I think DCist posted a picture of those – and I was amazed to find, even in such a big organization, utter and universal respect for each other.

The bonus for me right now is that it doesn’t end here. I’m meeting up with some of the other volunteers to feel out a new band situation. Many co-orgs and volunteers are already doing shows in the area. I made new friends – I truly did not think that would happen when I signed up for this. When I first went to Portland’s Ladies Rock Camp I knew it had changed my life – but that just keeps happening.

At some point in the week, the news story broke about the girl who sang the Chinese national anthem at the Olympics. I had the privilege of sitting at the reception desk and listening to our campers reactions to this news story as they saw that it had been taped to the wall. I heard one camper say that it was unfair to both these girls, and that she hoped they wouldn’t find the wrong things important. It was kind of a reinforcement for all of us for why we were there – not that we needed one. I mean, among all the serious business, you can’t doubt the plain fun.

I learned a mess of things about pop culture I didn’t know (“music is my boyfriend“? yikes!), I had lots of disturbing dreams about instruments and baby skunks ( we were holding rock camp outdoors in my subconcious apparently) and I got to play on the 9:30 stage, where so many of my heroes have performed. I’m not a great quoter; the kids said so many things that were hilarious and then immediately tear-jerking, I wish I could remember all of them. And the band I coached (Poison Control!) wrote and performed their song, conquered any fears they had, and showed they can, well, rock. I think this article sums it up well so I’ll leave you with that.

One Response to “Long Live Girls Rock DC”

  1. 1 Prosaic Paradise » Girls Rock! DC - Volunteer!on 16 Mar 2009 at 10:01 pm

    […] is just a heads up to anyone out there who was inspired by my story about Girls Rock Camp last August. The volunteer application for this year is up, and there is a great need for […]

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