Girls Rock: empowering girls through music education, by Heather Lei

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.46.02 AMIt’s March, which means it’s Women’s History Month! A perfect time on the calendar to bring focus to a powerful movement that is, right now, in the process of making history and shaping the lives of girls. 

The Girls Rock Camp Alliance is an international coalition of organizations, empowering girls and imparting skills that can help guide them throughout their lives. What tools are they using? Music lessons, workshops, group activities and performances! While every Girls Rock program is different, some have year-round classes offered—in addition to summer camps. Girls Rock Santa Barbara, for instance, offers an after-school rock band, private music lessons, toddler rock, an amplify pop choir, music journalism, and even photography and filmmaking classes.

When I learned about Girls Rock, their mission personally resonated with me. Growing up, I took voice lessons and performed in plays, musicals, and voice competitions. Those experiences helped me to see myself as a strong, talented, and capable individual. The arts can have a huge impact in a person’s life, especially in the life of a young girl. My voice teacher, Sandra Rubalcava, was much more than a voice teacher to me. She was a friend, a confidante—and more than that, she was a mentor.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.48.25 AMThe Girls Rock program utilizes that powerful relationship to make a difference in the lives of these young women—teaching them confidence, positive modes of thinking AND how to rock! Jenn Baron, executive director of Girls Rock Santa Barbara, says, “When hiring teachers, we look at their ability to teach and play music, number one. But then, the other component is that they aren’t just music teachers, but they’re actual mentors. We put them through rigorous mentor training and we hold multiple retreats a year where we talk about what it means to hold that kind of space for a young woman.” The teachers not only teach music, they discuss what’s going on in their students’ lives—they communicate with them on a personal level.

Often, young girls struggle with self-esteem issues, which is why Girls Rock aims to help girls feel comfortable with who they are. Jenn says what she often sees is a physical transformation in how the girls carry themselves after being in the program, “They stand taller, their posture improves.” By challenging gender stereotypes, encouraging collaboration and tolerance among peers, Girls Rock provides a comfortable space for girls of all backgrounds to express themselves. “When they come for a week during summer camp,” Jenn says, “we are trying to create a utopian environment. We want to provide girls with a place where they can experience what fairness and equality looks like—a place where they can imagine any possibility for themselves.”

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Not only does the program teach music, and build self-esteem, but it’s also super cool. During every Amplify Sleepaway Camp at Girls Rock SB, they bring out professional musicians to perform for the girls. Although they don’t publicize it, they sometimes, have very special guests—PINK and Sara Bareilles were just a couple of past surprise performers. Ummm…sign me up!

To find a Girls Rock program near you, check out the Girls Rock Camp Alliance map.

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