Summer camp gets girls a-rockin'
The Chilkat Center’s walls reverberated with bold beats and rocking rhythms this week as 19 up-and-coming musicians put the finishing touches on original songs set to debut at the Southeast Alaska State Fair Saturday.
On Tuesday, participants in the Girls Rock Camp Alaska program were toting snare drums up and down stairs, plugging in microphones and hauling amplifiers to their practice spaces.
The weeklong camp, which started Monday and culminates at noon Saturday with performances on the fair’s Main Stage, allows girls of all abilities to learn an instrument, form a band, write a song and perform their work live.
“Girls are vastly underrepresented in the media and music industries,” said Girls Rock Camp Alaska founder and executive director Monica Lettner, pointing out that women represent 3 percent of the jobs in those industries. “We’re just trying to pump up the girls in this particular industry.”
At registration, girls ranked instruments they would be most comfortable playing, choosing from guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Lettner creates a giant spreadsheet, assigns the instruments, and then arranges bands loosely, giving some thought to experience level.
Though a good part of the camp days are spent learning instruments and working with their band mates, girls also participate in group discussions, crafts and other activities, like simple self-defense training, she said.
On Tuesday, guitarist Nora Prisciandaro perfected her power stance while band mate Natalie Jobbins practiced timing a new drum beat in the Chilkat Center lobby.
Meanwhile, in the basement below, Klover Cinocco plucked a casual line on her bass while her band mates discussed lyric-writing.
Cinocco, 9, said one of her favorite parts of the camp is “Scream Circle,” where the girls take turns shouting to produce a domino-effect chain of yelps. Cinocco said she likes that the rock camp’s teachers don’t shush her or tell her to pipe down.
“You know how school is? And how all the camps are like, ‘You have to be quiet. You have to be listening’? (The teachers here) aren’t frustrated easily. If you scream, they don’t get mad at you,” she said.
“Scream Circle” gets some of the shyer girls using their voices, but also provides the opportunity for other lessons. For example, one day the girls wanted to beat their best “Scream Circle” time, so Lettner suggested getting closer together and holding hands.
“I said, ‘If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to hold a hand, you don’t have to, and you totally have the right to say that to somebody,’” she said. “We essentially just gave a lesson in consent and permission without having to bring up any of those big, hard words. And it really sets the tone for how to be respectful, how to listen, how to ask, how to recognize if somebody is uncomfortable.”
Cinocco said she also enjoys “Roses and Thorns,” a daily activity where the girls split into small groups called “squads” that don’t overlap with members of their bands or their instrument instruction lessons. Each squad member gets to share their “roses,” or highlights of the day, and their “thorns,” setbacks or other frustrating incidents.
Snack time is a definite “rose,” Cinocco said. A thorn she experienced recently involved a bossy band mate who tried to control the entire song-writing process on Monday. By Tuesday, the group had decided to scrap the song and try a more collaborative process.
“This time, we were like, ‘No, let’s not do that.’ So we all came up with our ideas and it was really good,” she said.
Cinocco said she is “very scared” about her band performing at the fair Saturday, with everyone “staring at you and waiting for you to do something.” She recently performed in the youth theater play “Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!” for a packed house at the Chilkat Center, but that isn’t the same as being on the Main Stage at the fair, Cinocco said.
“There’s lots more people that come from Dawson City and stuff like that,” she said.
Four Girls Rock Alaska bands, including Cinocco’s, will take the stage Saturday.