Sitting in a room of amazing women talking about Girls Rock Camp is a bit like hanging out with your best friends. Everyone is excited and shouting, rushing to get their ideas out.

They tend to build upon each other, while a chorus of “YES!” And “that would be amazing!” comes at you from all sides. There’s talk of upcoming events and fundraisers as well as questions that pin point what makes Girls Rock NL different from other camps across North America.

To give you a sense of what we’re all about we’ve posed a few questions amongst ourselves, a kick-ass board of directors and amazing local women (Left to right above): Mary MacDonald, Andrea Vincent, Alyson Samson, Jenina MacGillivray, Joanna Barker, and Krista Power.

Joanna Barker: Alyson can you tell us a little about what Girls Rock Camp is and their history elsewhere?

Girls Rock Camp is not just a summer band camp experience, it’s a place to foster confidence and empowerment. The first Girls Rock Camp was in Portland, Oregon in 2001 and now there are camps all across North America and the world.

There’s even a Girls Rock Camp Alliance founded in 2007 where a network of GRCs lay the foundation for organizers all over the world. GRCs are primarily led by and for women and girls.

Newfoundland and Labrador has some strong female musician role models who will be teaching our camp. Not only will girls learn how to play an instrument, they will get the opportunity to speak with and listen to local musicians, take part in workshops, and make new friends.

Mary MacDonald: Krista, can you tell our lovely readers why we wanted to start a Girls Rock Camp here in NL, and Andrea maybe give some shout outs to happenings and events in the community that are getting us excited and changing the game for women and girls?

Krista: Besides the obvious positive reasons like empowering girls and nurturing the music and arts community, for me it was a conversation with our friend Mara Pellerin (Wunderstrands/Gramercy Riffs) about her time spent volunteering with Girls Rock Camp Toronto that first sparked my interest.

We talked about how girls approaching their teen years have a huge drop in self-confidence and how camp allows them to explore their creativity. By exposing them to as many female artists and female leaders as possible, having conversations about body image and feminism, and thinking critically, helps plant new seeds of confidence they can carry back to their everyday lives (not just in music).

Last fall there was a Facebook conversation about the embedded inequality in the music industry. We asked why? Lack of confidence? Sexism? What can we do to change this? Someone said “Let’s start a girls rock camp” and we said let’s do this – who’s in?

Mara Pellerin said it best when she said “It is deeply satisfying to watch someone come into camp on the first day, hesitant and self conscious, only to see them strutting around on stage singing out a song of their own creation in the span of 5 days. It is extremely powerful and inspiring.” We hope that our first batch of campers will feel the same way.

Andrea: It feels like a very exciting and energized time right now! Lawnya Vawnya and GRNL recently hosted a panel discussion exploring challenges and opportunities for women in the music industry and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Fest hosted a panel on women leading cultural businesses.

Kate Lahey and Joanna Barker recently started the St. John’s Women In Music (SWIM) blog, and a Facebook page which is already full with info on women friendly jam spaces, women who repair instruments, and more. So cool!

Band Off is also happening for a second time right now. Renee Sharpe with the help of Elling Lien gathered enough people for FIVE new bands who are learning instruments as we speak! Bands are either ALL women, or at least half!

Board members in the foreground, and just a few of the many future instructors (etc) in the background. Photos by Joel Upshall for The Overcast

Board members in the foreground, and just a few of the many future instructors (etc) in the background. Photos by Joel Upshall for The Overcast

Joanna Barker: Mary, what are some of the things GRNL has done so far beyond planning for the camp?

We’ve been busy! One of the things we hope GRNL can do is share success stories through social media and take part in other community events that build a supportive network for our campers as they grow up. We’ve popped up at different events around the city and hope to do more in the future.

For example, the Levee invited us to be a judge for their Battle of the Bands and Joanna wrangled a roomful of children for an RPM Challenge songwriting workshop and Mighty Girls Day! GRNL has also been pretty lucky so far with amazing community support via a silent auction and launch at Eastern Edge, Kickstarter campaign, and private donations. (Thank you!)

One of the things I am excited about beyond our first camp is a trip to Labrador this fall where 2 of us will run some workshops with the Labrador Creative Arts Festival. We are also planning to do some one-day events for girls who did not get the chance to be at our first camp.

Mary MacDonald: How about details about the camp itself, what can our first batch of campers look forward to Joanna?

Well, we want girls to rock out. We want them to feel empowered. We want to introduce them to as many inspiring role models as possible and we want them to have a lot of fun while doing it! So we’ve packed the schedule full of sessions about songwriting, touring, creating merch, building guitars, self defense, yoga, downtime, and starting a zine.

Girls will have band practice every day and lessons for their specific instruments. We’ll take a fieldtrip to Fred’s Records and local musicians will perform in-house each day and have lunch with the girls.

They will meet and hear from Amelia Curran, Meg Warren (of Repartee), Geraldine Hollett (of The Once), Kat McLevey, Maria Peddle, Whitney Rose (of Hear/Say), Meghan Harnum, Megan McLaughlin, Renee Sharpe, Laura Beth Power, Sherry Ryan, Sharleen Simmons and so many more!

We are so grateful that so many members of the community are coming together to pull this off. And then of course, there’s the final performance July 29th at the Lantern where family, friends, and the public are invited to watch the girls perform in their newly formed bands, along with other performances!

Joanna Barker: Jenina, what are some upcoming details about fundraisers?

Our camp is free for all campers, so to pay for the space, gear, healthy food, workshop fees etc., we are still raising funds which means: some fun fundraisers in the month of June! There is an all ages show planned with Dame Nature, Kat McLevey, and others (further deets coming soon) organized by Let’s Talk About Sex(es) of Holy Heart (many thanks Heidi Dunphy, Jenn Mong and Maria Peddle).

Then on June 18th we will be hosting the first possibly annual Girls Rock NL Karaoke Party at the Rockhouse. There may be prizes, there will be special guests, and possibly some Jefferson Airplane. So dust off your favorite karaoke jams, get all dressed up and practice your rock kicks!

Girls Rock NL’s first summer camp will take place at the Lantern from July 25-29th. For more information please visit! Big thanks to our generous supporters already who are directly helping to put guitars and drumsticks and microphones into the hands of girls and lyrics into the notebooks of girls.