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Girls Rock Camp

Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp
Silvana Campus’ drive to be a musician started early. “I was really fortunate,” she says. “My dad was a drummer, so when I wanted to play there wasn’t a second thought.” That early support laid the foundation for Campus to build a musical career spanning two decades, numerous bands, and countless nights of rock and roll. While she loved being immersed in the live music scene, Campus noted that her presence was often the exception to the rule in jam spaces, live shows, and music stores predominantly occupied by men.

Her experiences as one of the few women musicians playing on local stages motivated Campus to volunteer at the original Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, in 2005. The mission of the camp is to build girls’ self-esteem through music creation and performance, and Campus was inspired: “It was amazing and really mind-blowing. It made me think, ‘Is this something that could run in Lethbridge?’” After another volunteer stint with Girls Rock Camp Vancouver in 2010 and discussions with other local musicians, Campus and a team of dedicated volunteers launched Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp in the summer of 2013.

Open to girls ages 9-17, Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp runs for one week each July, and involves instrument instruction, band formation, song writing, and workshops on a variety of topics like feminist empowerment, healthy body image, and consent. Some campers arrive with experience playing an instrument, while others never have. It’s a busy and challenging week, and Campus loves watching the campers’ transformations. “Often there are not spaces for girls to perform music or learn music. It’s always so interesting to put a microphone, a keyboard, drumsticks in their hands and just see faces light up, because all of a sudden, you have to listen to them. They’re making a lot of noise!”

Camp culminates in the Saturday evening showcase, where each band gets onstage to perform their original song in front of an audience of their families, camp volunteers, and local music fans. Campus views the performance as a symbol of the personal growth that the camp fosters: “They’re working with new people, they’re learning a brand new instrument, they’re writing a song. That’s why I get really excited at the showcase, really teary, because it’s so amazing to think of all of the things that they have done, all of these accomplishments, and they’re on stage.” Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp isn’t only transformative for its young campers. The program is funded by donations and completely volunteer-run, with a team made up of musicians, activists, and organizers and contributions from local organizations and businesses.

Heading into its sixth year, Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp has created lasting impacts for campers and their parents, who Campus says have told her, “you’ve changed our daughters”. Campus believes the legacy of camp is a shift in perceptions about what girls and women can achieve. “Hopefully campers leave with some new thoughts about the way things are. Whether it’s how they interact with other girls, how they interact with adults, how they can rise to a challenge; I hope that we’re either giving them those skills, or at least opening a door to show them, there is more than you’ve seen so far. The music is important, but it’s more the medium through how we get these other ideas happening.”

Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp runs July 9-13, 2018. Visit lethbridgegirlsrockcamp.com for details.
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