Rock n' Roll Camp ROCKS!

Erika Meyer

Hi, I'm Erika. I just read this in this week's Willamette Week:
"We're about to find out what happens when about two dozen of Portland's most prolific bloggers unite: Blue Oregon.com..."

Interesting. So how did I end up here? I mean, I had a blog once, right around the turn of the century, but I'm not sure you could have ever called it prolific. I guess now is my chance. Watch out! Move over rover, here I come!

I'm in my 30s, and a single mother of one eight-year old daughter.

Right now I'm getting ready for the Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls Showcase tonight at the Aladdin. My daughter, Brook, is lead singer for "The Rockin' Monkeys" (not to be confused with The Monkees, who never quite rocked). Besides my vocalist daughter, The Rockin' Monkeys feature two guitar players, a drummer, and a DJ. All are eight and nine years old. I believe the oldest in the group is "almost ten."

The Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls is one of the most amazing organizations I've ever been involved with.

I just finished a week of volunteering as a guitar instructor for the first session of their summer camp, where Brook has been learning about vocals. Brook participated in workshops covering things like self-defense, zine-making, songwriting, sound gear, etc. And yesterday her band, The Rockin' Monkeys, talked to a reporter and photographer from The Village Voice, among others.

I am so glad I got to be part of the Rock Camp. Like many of the adult volunteers there, I struggled when I was a girl, wanting to play guitar in a rock band, but never having any other girls around to jam with. The boys would go in their rooms, shut the doors, and jam, while I sat outside, wishing they'd ask me to join. I figured they didn't want me because I wasn't skilled or cool enough.

But this week, there I was, jamming on "Wild Thing" with a bunch of nine-year old girls. There I was, watching a third-grader create her own amazing sounds with distortion and delay pedals. There I was, showing a teen girl how to construct a guitar solo, something I barely even realized I knew how to do. But not only can I do it, I discovered I can teach it too. There I was, showing those girls all the simple little things no one ever showed me. "Here are your power chords, here is your distortion pedal... now go forth and ROCK!"

I am so blessed to have a day job that offers enough vacation time that I can take a week off and volunteer for the camp. Many of the other volunteers worked at the camp all day, then service industry jobs at night.

And now I must go help my daughter find her special outfit for tonight's about-to-be-sold-out performance. Rock and Roll !!!!

Comments

  • Erika (unverified)
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    And.. sorry about any typos (I just saw at least one)... I really am hurrying to post so we can get to band rehearsal...

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    Great to hear about the rock camp. Hope the performance goes really well!

    Don't forget us poor folks down the road on I-5!!!

    :)

  • pdxkona (unverified)
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    How do you feel about the management and organization behind the project? All the information I have seen or heard about the Roll and Roll Camp for Girls (RRCG) has been positive, yet extremely unprofessional. I think it's a fantastic, necessary idea yet I feel it is in no way sustainable because the RRCG does not seem to care about fiscal viability. Sadly in a few years this organization will probably be no longer. I wish that they could acquire a different mentality of DIY- a more professional vision, a business vision. And if they don't have it themselves, engage in a consultant to do it for them.

    My suggestions would be to pair with a stable non-profit in the area, show themselves to be more professional to the industry (but not a slave to it) which in turn might draw some big local names; the Wilson sisters for example. Big names such as theirs unfortunately will not work with shoddy organizations no matter how worthy the cause, only well put together projects. The RRCG needs to grow and to clean up, to be at all sustainable; the tiny plant is cute but won't last through the winter in it's current pot. And they won't be able to get a bigger draw without at least one big name per year.
    
    When I was 10, the local female musician was a folk singer my mother knew and who I thought didn't seem to do things very well and made me quite disinterested in music. But when I saw my first concert, Cyndi Lauper, I changed my mind; she rocked my socks and I thought, "Now there is a performer who's talented, soulful, and knows how to work it." I got my first taste of something done really well.
    
  • pdxkona (unverified)
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    On a second note, I hope your daughter and crew KICKED OUT THE JAMS tonight!!!

  • Erika (unverified)
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    A response to pdxkona

    This is my first experience with RRCG. However, I was fully involved every day, all day, for a full week. I expect to continue helping either as an instructor or in other areas of expertise. I can't speak for the management of the camp, but I can speak from what I saw and experienced as a volunteer.

    I did not feel anything about the RRCG summer program was "extremely unprofessional." In fact, I was deeply impressed by the level of concern staff has for the needs of the girls above all else. It really was, and felt like it was, about the girls, and empowering them to shine out as who they are and who they want to be in a safe, supportive, healthy environment.

    The camp is clearly a work in progress, and unlike most non-profits, staffed entirely by volunteers. Of course, this is one thing that needs to change for sustained viability. It seems to be at the very top of their list of priorities, as well.

    From what I saw, the management of the camp sees very clearly where weaknesses lie, and they are indeed working on those areas. And, yes, fundraising is crucial. Right now, RRCG strikes me as being an underground railroad, in which volunteer evangelists (like me) find ways they can help and/or enlist assistance from friend and/or businesses. As a result, even without adequate funding, there is food to eat, coffee to drink, instruments to play, earplugs to wear, teachers to teach, etc, etc.

    To compare, I spent a period of time asssistant leader in my daughter's Brownie troop. You could say the Girl Scouts of America (GSA), while it has a similar mission as RRCG, is on the other end in terms of organization, funding, slickness, etc. And before I even read your comment, pdxkona, I remember thinking to myself how, though I think GSA is a wonderful organization, how glad I am the rock camp is nothing like it. I just got my girl scout leader newsletter, with it's update on the "Spring Tea" in which the girls, leaders, "dignitaries" and families "enjoyed sipping from real china cups, wearing broad-brimmed hats, chatting over cake and 'tea sandwiches' and admiring the fresh-cut flowers that decorated the tables." Okay, for some, sipping tea and admiring flowers may be delightful... but for the girl I was, and especially for the teen I was, you would have had to drag me kicking and screaming to that type of event. I wanted to nothing more than play guitar in a rock band, but I couldn't, because girls didn't play and boys wouldn't include me. As a result I felt had to shut that dream, and my guitars, away in a box in the closet.

    Actually, GSA and RRCG are in some ways very similar. Both have sing-alongs. ;-) Both encourage girls to live up to their potential. And both emphasize the idea of letting the girls take charge, come up with their own ideas, and develop them.

    However, I'm afraid that the very notion of encouraging girls to plug-in and rock out is inherently subversive. And at some level, it should stay that way. So while I laud the camp's efforts to keep things safe and empowering for the girls, I would hate to see their presentation get too slick, or to see them get too cozy with the big money end of the music industry. This could ruin the spirit of the thing. On the other hand, if I were some sort of music industry talent scout, I would absolutely be attending the showcases looking for the next Avril or the next Pink. Not that I think the camp should encourage it.

    Yet, the camp needs more funding. I'm guessing they would be open to anyone reading this who has experience in this field, and willing to offer time and expertise. Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls is a revolutionary idea and a worthy cause.

    Rock on,

    Erika

  • pdxkona (unverified)
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    <h2>Erika said:</h2> <h2>"I remember thinking to myself how, though I think GSA is a wonderful organization, how glad I am the rock camp is nothing like it. I just got my girl scout leader newsletter, with it's update on the "Spring Tea" in which the girls, leaders, "dignitaries" and families "enjoyed sipping from real china cups, wearing broad-brimmed hats, chatting over cake and 'tea sandwiches' and admiring the fresh-cut flowers that decorated the tables."</h2>

    Just a reiteration that I in no way meant the content of said organizations- I just meant the structure. I can agree with you that Brownies are boring (I got kicked out of the Brownies when I was 6.) But I'm not talk about they do, I'm talking about they do it.

    <h2>Erika said:</h2> <h2>You could say the Girl Scouts of America (GSA), while it has a similar mission as RRCG, is on the other end in terms of organization, funding, slickness, etc.</h2>

    And hence, have been around for years...and probably will continue to do so irregardless of the fact that they can never match their content to what their young members are interested in. Organization/Management = Funding = Sustainability

    Again, because I like the idea of the organization so much, I want the best for them and the young girls that are a part of it for years to come; learning business lessons for sustainability from the inside, as it were.

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