I know, it’s only rock n’ roll but I like it, like it, yes I do….and so apparently do the 500-700 girls and women who annually participate in the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn, New York.
Founded in 2004, the camp is named after Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, a blues legend who was one of the first women to write and play the music now known as rock n’ roll. Rock Camp started with 66 girls in its first camp session and now has three times that– as well as a Ladies Rock Camp that brings in full-grown women for three-day weekend sessions to rock out and raise funds to support the Girls Camp.
The whole idea of Rock Camp is to empower girls through music education and activities that foster leadership, creativity, collaboration and a little bit of self-R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The girls don’t have to come in with great musical ability, they just have to want to rock. Jackie Oberman, Willie Mae Program Coordinator and multi-talented & rocking daughter of my friend Judy, puts it succinctly, “Music is just a vehicle for us to teach the girls that they are awesome.”
Girls at Willie Mae Rock Camp pay a participation fee according to their household income and come from all over New York City, and the U.S. More than half the campers receive partial or full financial aid and though they are a very diverse group, Jackie says they share one thing in common. “Many of the girls come here feeling like they don’t ‘belong’ in their daily lives. Rock Camp is a place where they can feel totally accepted and appreciated for who they are.”
Camp starts with the girls being formed into bands, and then the fun begins. Every minute of the day is packed with instrument instruction, band practice, band art (logo design and t-shirt production), songwriting, workshops in everything from self-defense to leadership, daily performances at lunch by all-female bands, dance parties, all culminating in a final performance by all the bands in a rock venue.
The organization also works year-round with girls through the Music Club, an after school program for girls 8-18, and Willie Mae Music Lab, a community music and mentoring center for girls and women that offers affordable music lessons and practice space for wanna-be rockers… and aren’t we all?
As somebody with absolutely no musical abilities, but a lifelong burning desire to be a back-up singer, I am sending my $100 today to Willie Mae Girls Rock Camp – in hopes that some girl, somewhere, will be singing my song.
To donate, click here