Girls Rock! Iowa City campers take the stage this Saturday

Girls Rock! Iowa City 2017 Camp Showcase

Blue Moose Tap House — Saturday, July 1 at 2:30 p.m.

Photo by Gretchen Cleve

Thirty-nine campers. One stage.

For one week Girls Rock! Iowa City campers — aged 8 to 16 — have been learning about instruments and marginalized identities in rock and roll. On Saturday, July 1 the campers and their recently formed bands will share their musical creations on the upstairs stage at Blue Moose Tap House. Doors open at 2 p.m.; music kicks off at 2:30 p.m. There is a $10 suggested donation, and kids get in free.

“At the showcase, you’ll see a song performed by each of our nine bands — a lot of these bands only learned to play an instrument starting on Monday,” says Jordan Adams, a director and volunteer coordinator and trainer for Girls Rock! Iowa City. “You’ll see us perform the camp song, and sometimes even a song we’ve written as a whole camp.”

At camp this year, kids and teenagers have been learning basic chord structures, drum beats, piano keys and song composition. Campers take numerous workshops throughout the week: lessons in rock icons, such as Big Momma Thornton and Wanda Jackson; cultural appropriation and its impact, such as Soft Cell’s cover of Gloria Jones’s “Tainted Love”; student rights regarding dress code, unwanted touching and conversations with teachers and school administrators; and zine-making with Public Space One’s Kalmia Strong. Campers are also given resources for trans, non-binary and female empowerment.

The first Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls began in Portland, Oregon in 2007. The camp-style program caught on. An alliance of cities unfurled internationally, each with their own boards and workshops. The Iowa City chapter was organized in 2014 by Merit Bickner and Alyse Burnside. Since that first year, Girls Rock! Iowa City has grown to have seven board members and is seeking to expand the camp to offer year-round programming, Adams says. The Iowa City chapter stresses gender inclusivity and advocacy — hence, emphasizing the term campers in lieu of girls.

There are 37 volunteers at this year’s camp with overlapping duties, which span 12 musical instructors, 27 counselors and two junior counselors. Due to the volunteer assistance and fundraising, Adams says, the nonprofit can offer approximately 75 percent of its campers free or reduced tuition for Girls Rock! Iowa City. A key source of income comes from these annual showcases, which not only provide a stage for campers to perform (many for the first time) but also engage the musical community at large.

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