By Sophia Dewaard
On July 1, Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., traded in its usual crowd for kids, teens, families, rock ’n’ roll enthusiasts, and a whole lot of girl power.
The Girls Rock Iowa City showcase got down upstairs, with approximately 40 campers, their counselors, and their families.
The show consisted of nine bands going measure for measure with original songs. Many campers donned the camp’s bright red T-shirts, cut up and decorated however they saw fit, and they rocked out on guitars, percussion, and keyboards. The campers sang, played, and cheered one another on.
Girls Rock is a camp that aims to boost self-expression, self-esteem, and empowerment through exposure to music. It arrived in Iowa City in 2014.
Jordan Adams, a camp director, said the group draws trans, non-binary, and female youth.
“The purpose of this camp is to teach music, we’re basically teaching them music as a form of self-expression,” Adams said. “We also teach history of women in rock. We also talk about cultural appropriation.”
Girls Rock Iowa City aims to help these young women develop their voices by giving them the opportunity to develop their musical abilities.
“The music industry, for a very long time and even still now, is very largely dominated by white, cis males,” Adams said. “We’re hoping the more and more trans and non-binary youth can see that music is something they can totally do and is a space they can excel in.”
The camp teaches youth how to play musical instruments as well as to write songs through various types of workshops. Campers begin the camp at varying levels of musical ability and knowledge of instruments.
Public Space One is a local partner.
“People will say things to me like, ‘You’re throwing too complicated of ideas at them,’ and personally, we believe that you can try — and you would be surprised at how fast they pick up on these ideas …” Adams said. “… If you go that long refusing to give them the words to put to the feelings they are having, it builds up, and we want them to know the things that are happening to them are valid and they are not alone in this, and this is the word that it’s called.”
The lessons taught at camp are not only for the kids. Counselors undergo an intensive orientation, including a gender and identity workshop.
“I didn’t have this growing up, but I wish I did,” said Chloe McClaren, a first-time camp counselor “… We talk about respecting pronouns, which was something that was never talked about when I was younger. We [also] talk about respecting people’s personal space and even consent.”
McClaren said the younger campers are, the better to discuss such topics as pronouns and consent.
“I think at this camp, we don’t sugarcoat a lot of stuff,” she said. “We want them to be able to identify all their options. If they want to identify as a girl, cool. If they want to be referred to as ‘they-them,’ that’s cool, too.”
Campers play music together throughout the camp.
“[The camp] gives everyone an opportunity to improve musically, and you meet so many awesome new people, it’s really inspiring,” said Clayton Lindhorst, 13, a camper for three years. “It’s amazing what people can accomplish, and seeing them know what they want to do, and then watching them go for it. I have plenty of dreams for the future, and camps like this are going to help me accomplish them.”