KIRO Radio's Josh Kerns talks local music
Seattle Sounds

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 says.

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 for 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

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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