Drummer, Angie Scarpa, empowering girls at
Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls.
Can you describe Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls and how you became involved as a drum instructor?
Rock Camp for Girls was founded as a girl's empowerment project, using music as a driving force to nurture self esteem and self expression. The staff (counselors, instructors and volunteers) is comprised solely of women, helping to improve the lives of girls. At the same time, the girls empowering each other.
I was encouraged to play music as a child and that was certainly not the norm for girls growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Having been lucky enough to have that experience, I felt a sense of duty to give back to these girls. When I first joined camp as an instructor, I had just come off several years of volunteering as a crisis and suicide counselor for LGBT youth and that experience, although very rewarding, was very intense. I was looking for a different way to give of my time and girl’s camp seemed the perfect fit.
What is the process?
Each girl comes to camp having chosen a specific instrument or role in a band, (drummer, guitarist, singer, bassist, keys) and after some ice breakers and 'getting to know you' exercises, the girls break out into smaller groups representing their instrument and one by one they mix together until the bands are formed. Prior to camp, the staff ensures we have an equal number girls playing each instrument, that way we don't end up with too many guitarist or drummers etc.
The girls begin on a Monday and perform an original song, with a band, five days later. Some have never played before. Each day begins with morning assembly, which is a very similar to a typical summer camp experience. All the girls are together and are encouraged to participate while the counselors and instructors perform the camp theme song, lead activities like stretching and morning yoga/aerobics. They provide an inclusive and fun atmosphere.
After assembly the girls break out into groups based on their chosen instrument and attend instrument instruction class. On day one they are already playing. As instructors we devise simple exercises and instructions to get the girls playing right out of the box. We also are able to access the skill level of each girl and can provide one on one instruction during class as well as group activities. Having the girls playing and feeling confident through instrument instruction class preps them for band practice later that day.
In band practice the newly formed groups are assisted by a team of coaches who get the girls playing as a group, working together, writing and performing an original song, right from the start. These songs can be very simple or somewhat more involved depending on the band. There are no 'mistakes.' This is art and about expression. It isn’t about perfection. The instrument instructors also float between band practice rooms and provide one on one encouragement to their students, possibly to help them devise a drum/guitar part or to be there for support.
Why is this camp special?
The camp is about so much more than music. It fosters friendships, not only between the campers, but among the counselors and instructors as well. I feel the adults get just as much out of it as do the kids. Beyond music, we have classes in feminism, women in music, fanzine and third design, logos etc. Also, we have just developed a new course in film making where girls write, direct, produce and edit a music video while on campus.
What do the girls take away from this camp?
The girls leave wishing camp could go on and on. The same is true of the counselors, instructors and staff. We all share in a bonding experience that I have never seen anywhere else. The 'women only' space is very empowering for the girls as they get to see the adults on campus in roles that they may not see in their daily lives.
How does a girl qualify to attend this camp?
There are several criteria and each girl is asked to fill out a questionnaire, which asks about their lives, goals etc. The camp is a non profit and there are several girls who attend class for free or reduced tuition based on need.. .