Girls Rock! Des Moines prepares to take the Gen Z stage at 80/35. (Naomi Hofferber/The Daily Iowan)

80/35 gives a musical platform for an organization empowering girls


A special stage at the Des Moines music festival teaches young girls the ins and outs of music.

By Naomi Hofferber

DES MOINES — For young performers, getting a foot on the stage can be a big step, and 80/35 offers a special opportunity to make that happen.

The Gen Z stage at 80/35 is set aside specifically for middle- and high-school-age performers, and some, through the nonprofit organization Girls Rock Des Moines, get the chance to perform on a big stage for the first time.

The Des Moines offshoot of the international organization Girls Rock works with self-identified girls aged 10 to 16 over the course of a two-week summer camp, teaching them about music, forming a band, and self-love.

Monica Bollenbaugh, a music instructor who works with Girls Rock, said the organization works with beginning rockers with little to no experience and gives them opportunities to both perform and record their own CDs.

“We also have some healthy body image going on; we do yoga, self-defense, and we have a morning session called Power Up, where we talk about today’s issues that females face,” she said. “All of this is empowerment through musical education, but it really hard to define empowerment; it’s not something tangible. We try to let them explore what that looks like to them.”

Allegra Hernandez, who has worked with Girls Rock in Des Moines for two years, said the organization specializes with those who have not performed before.

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“I think we do a really great job of building up that empowerment in that the stage is yours to play on, you can really own your stage,” she said.

Freedom Robbins, a Girls Rock camper who played the Gen Z stage with her band the Sugar Canes in the afternoon of July 7, said the camp has taught her how to play in a group.

“I didn’t really think I could work with others beforehand, but being putting together in bands, especially putting bands together based on their taste in music, really helped me learn how to work with others in music,” she said.

Robbins has played guitar on and off for four years before joining the camp, and she said that despite being new to the group, everyone was very supportive.

“I’m nervous [to perform today], but I’m also doing it with my band,” she said. “I’m not sure what we’re going to perform, if we’re going to perform the same songs, but I feel that since I’m with my band, I have more confidence.”

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