Girls Rock! Indianapolis Summer Camp

Photography by Maria Kinnun and Syd Innovaria

The music industry, especially the rock music industry, is a field dominated by men. From the beginning, girls are encouraged to be nice and polite and not make too much of a ruckus. Girls Rock camps challenge this concept– encouraging girls to express themselves through music without hesitation or fear of judgement. We talked with Girls Rock Indianapolis director Michelle Marti about her experience in music, and how going to a music camp like Girls Rock can be beneficial to girls.

How did you get involved in music?
I’m originally from Australia. I started playing music in my early teens, around the age of 12 or 13 I picked up the guitar. I was really into rock music at the time, it really moved me. I had such an emotional connection with music. I taught myself to play and the first live performance I did was in high school, I was in an AC/DC cover band. We played two songs onstage, and it was scary and mind blowing. I was sold from then on. I moved to London in my early 20’s and joined a band there– it was more punk. I taught myself to play guitar and bass. When I moved to the U.S a bunch of years later and started having kids, I started teaching music. I teach music and movement classes to very small children, ages 1-8. I have my own business called ShooBeeLoo music and movement.

How did you first get involved with Girls Rock Indianapolis?
My eldest daughter is now 15 and I signed her up for Girls Rock camp when she was 9. It seemed like a really professional organization, and I had no idea that they were always in need of volunteers. When I dropped her off, I heard that they are always looking for people to help out. So the following year I signed up to help at camp as a bass instructor, and I just found my people. It’s such an empowering and positive environment. I was heavily involved in it from then on.

What appealed to you about Girls Rock’s mission?
I just love that they are empowering women to get involved with music. I never had that as a child. I did some music, but it was always very secondary, especially in the mind of my family. I remember when I was a teenager I saved up to buy myself an electric guitar– it was gold and it was beautiful, and then I really wanted to buy myself an amplifier and I was told that I couldn’t because it was too loud. We often tell girls not to be loud, and to wait to be asked to do things. This seemed like a great opportunity for my daughter, to show her she can do music, being a girl.

Why is it important for a music camp that’s only for girls to exist?
Often times girls’ voices are not heard in certain areas. There are certain areas that women’s voices are very prominent in, but music and rock music are not one of those. And I think to find the bravery to express yourself in the rock music arena as a female is hard. It’s hard to come up with that confidence to do it. I think putting girls in an environment where it’s all girls or non-binary people, basically marginalized genders, makes it easier to have that confidence. We have a very diverse group of girls, but there is no male presence to dominate the conversation.

What sort of activities do the girls do at camp?
Songwriting is a huge part of it, and I think that’s what sets us apart from a lot of other organizations who have music camps. We are empowering girls to express themselves, and songwriting is one of the best ways to do that, whether you’re writing lyrics or writing a tune. They write their songs with groups, they practice their songs, they have instrument lessons in their chosen instrument four mornings a week, and they have social justice workshops throughout the camp. Bands and musicians also come play for them at lunchtime almost each day, and they all have a female presence. We have a pretty full schedule.

Girls Rock summer camp application are open until March 18. You can find out more information here.

Also check out our interview with Girls Rock! Indianapolis founder Sharon Rickson in PATTERN Vol. 6.

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