The women pick up their guitars and drum sticks — some for the first time. Their instructor, also a woman, teaches them how to hold the guitars and move their hands into basic chords. A few begin strumming chord transitions — very slowly.
Two and a half days later, these women will be rocking out original songs in front of a live audience. Welcome to Rock Camp for Womyn.
“Making music is about being fearless, about being willing to jump off that ledge and say, ‘I don’t care if this sounds bad. I’m going to give it a shot,’ ” camp counselor Kat Kellermeyer said. “And the funny thing is usually it doesn’t sound bad. It usually sounds good.”
Created by Rock and Roll Camp for Girls SLC, the Rock Camp for Womyn last month was a 2 ½-day camp where female-identifying people, some with zero music experience, came in, learned an instrument, formed a band, wrote music and lyrics and created a band logo.
The camp, tucked away in a small room at the Ladies Literary Club Clubhouse in Salt Lake City, culminated in a live show at the end of the weekend. Also packed into the camp were punk-rock aerobics, a stretch-and-share circle, guest performers, and movement and meditation workshops.
While Rock and Roll Camp for Girls SLC will host its third year of summer camps for girls, with enrollment that opened March 1, this is the first year for Rock Camp for Womyn.
Amy Stocks, a co-director, said she’s hoping the women’s event will help expand the Rock Camp community, with the goal of holding it at least once a year while also raising funds for the girls.
“A lot of our [Womyn’s participants] are the moms of our campers. It gives them an opportunity,” Stocks said. “Also, we’re really trying to get more women into the music industry, especially locally.”
The camp functions the same way for the women as it does for the girls. The main differences are the shortened time period — and swearing is allowed.
“We can say ‘[expletive] the patriarchy’ instead of ‘yuck.’ But [the camp is] really no different,” Stocks said. “Adult women-identifying persons are just as afflicted with insecurities and shyness and fear. It’s really no different.”
The choice of spelling the camp name “Womyn” — a spelling adopted by feminists to remove “men” from “women” — was deliberate.
“The trans community and the nonbinary community and the female community all face a lot of struggles in getting into the music industry,” Stocks said. “I think we can kind of come together and really build each other up and create a strong bond. We’re all in it for the same reason of building each other up.”
That bonding is the core tenet of the rock camp. Campers and counselors constantly encourage each other, not letting someone get down on themselves or let anyone feel like they need to be competitive.
“There is not one camper here who is not excited for another camper’s success,” Kellermeyer said. “Everyone’s successes are our successes. Everyone’s failures are an opportunity to pick each other up.”
Camper Kamaile Tripp, whose two daughters attended last year’s Rock Camp for Girls, loved all the support.
“It’s a wonderful theme in a world where you feel like people are constantly trying to tear you down,” Tripp said.
Tripp was the singer in her newly formed band. She has sung her entire life in church choirs but never in a band.
“The feeling of nervousness is spreading throughout a lot of women here because some of them have never picked up an instrument,” she said before the concert finale. “I really loved being a part of the Rock Camp for Girls family because they inspire you to do anything.”
The idea of going from never having picked up an instrument to performing live in a matter of days is daunting. But the camp counselors break it down as simply as possible. Kellermeyer explained to the campers most songs are the same four chords. Once you learn those, you can learn how to write songs.
Camper Aubrey Ixchel, who has played the bass for a year and a few months but never in a band, had no expectations when she came into the camp but wanted to be involved with something so heavily based in female empowerment.
“I love being able to explore who I am and how to use my voice through music,” Ixchel said. “Being able to do that with other women and have a whole weekend to do that and being able to perform is a big motivator.”
Ixchel couldn’t wait to perform live with her band at the end of camp.
“It’s an opportunity to stretch myself and see what I can do. I’m thrilled,” she said. “I’m so excited because all these ladies that I’m performing with … this is a first for a lot of us. I’m not alone.”
Rock and Roll Camp for Girls
Session 1 • June 10-16, showcase on June 16; applications accepted through April 30
Session 2 • July 29-Aug. 4, showcase on Aug. 4; applications accepted May 1-June 19
Both camps run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Any self-identified girl between the ages of 8 and 17 is encouraged to apply.
Tuition is $250 per camper for the week of camp. Limited financial aid is available to those in need and who live in the Salt Lake City area.
Applications can be filled out at www.rockcampforgirlsslc.org/apply
Any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org