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Girls find their own voices at Seattle rock camp

For many aspiring musicians, a sold out show at Seattle’s
Crocodile Cafe is a career highlight. So imagine the
thrill for a bunch of young ladies who’ll make their debut
Saturday at the iconic club. It’s the culmination of the
annual Rain City Rock Camp for Girls. And
even if they never play again, they’re still rock stars.

“We think that it actually means finding your true self
and finding your true voice. For us, music is such a
powerful tool,” says co-founder Natalie Walker.

The camp brings together dozens of girls ages 8-16 for a
jam packed week. Even though many have never touched an
instrument, they’re thrown together in a band right away,
assigned a role, either guitar, bass, drums or singer, and
start crafting their own song. A dedicated group of
volunteers provides instruction and inspiration, but the
campers have just one real rule: be yourself.

“I would love for a program like us to not have to exist
because I feel like we’re around to make up for the lack
of encouragement for girls to be loud and take up a lot
of space. And if that were happening in the world
organically, then we wouldn’t have to be around,” Walker

The camp is about way more than music. Based on a hugely
popular program founded in Portland, it features a number
of workshops aimed at empowering girls in all parts of
their lives. A big one is body image, and the way the
media portray women.

“The girl images really scared me. I saw a bunch of images
of women who were too overly exaggerated, Photshopped, way
too thin, starving,” 12-year-old Rye tells me during a
break in band practice.

“So a lot of the work we’re doing is helping them to
digest that material, kind of change the tape in their
brain and say, this is not truth, this is just somebody’s
perspective of how they think we should be,” says Walker.
“It’s such an uphill battle with everywhere outside of
camp telling them a different message.”

The camp is clearly resonating. Walker says she’s had to
go with an online reservation system, and the two sessions
fill up just hours after it goes live.

At the end of the week, the campers come together to
perform at a sold out show at a top Seattle club. This
year it’s at the Crocodile.

“It puts you in a zone where you’re really safe to take
risks. It’s really safe to take risks. It’s really safe to
try something new and to feel a little bit uncomfortable,
but you have so many people around you supporting you,”
Walker says.

“It’s amazing, just really girl empowering,” Rye gushes
about the camp. While she says she’s appreciative of all
the life lessons, at the end of the day it’s the chance to
take the stage with a group of girls and rock out that
really gets her jazzed.

“It’s that feeling of empowerment when you have the world
to yourself,” Rye says.

Disclaimer: My daughter Makena is attending the camp
the third time. Here’s a video of her band’s performance
last year. As you can see, what they lack in musical
prowess they more than make up for in enthusiasm. Girl’s
rock indeed.

Josh Kerns/Seattle Sounds co-host

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