Ed. Note: Houston musician and now Art Attack blogger Meghan Hendley spent this past week as a counselor at the first-ever Girls Rock Camp Houston. Here's how it went.
Girls Rock Camp Houston started as a conversation after Anna Garza viewed the indie documentary Girls Rock a few years ago. Inspired by her own musical background and the desire to share the love of music with youth, Anna collected a group of joyful female musicians and music lovers to help her cultivate a week-long camp emulating the one in the film.
At the Moore School of Music on the University of Houston campus, Girls Rock Camp came to fruition this past week. When I arrived on the first day of camp, the halls where I formerly studied music were now filled with giggles, screaming guitars and punk drumbeats. Shirts with pink skulls, hippie scarves and sparkly Converse flashed through the halls. A collection of enthusiastic and talented women were already singing and dancing together during the orientation hour.
My role this week was "Band Coach," a creative aid and conductor of young musical dreams. Adriana Perez and Katie Mitchell both aided me in rehearsal, steering creative ideas, madly scribbling surprisingly profound lyrics, and providing claps and voices turning our roles into human metronomes keeping the beat.
"There wasn't a program like this when I was a kid, and I think that it's really great that we can instill the message of girl power and self empowerment." Adriana told me.
On the first day, as we began to cultivate ideas for our song, the girls in our band immediately expressed interest in composing a song that would soar with ideas of hope, joy, and girl power.
We spoke about how songs can convey emotions and colors. During this brainstorming session, Maggie the vocalist and Katelyn, one of two keyboard players in the band, talked about how they were nervous yet excited, scared yet joyful to be at the camp. Inspired by one my former band names, the girls abandoned the idea of having an animal band name for something more sophisticated and inspired by nature.
Harper, our pint-sized drummer, shouted out "Sky!" Isabella, our bass player (whose favorite new riff is from Deep Purple) exclaimed "Moon!" Our keyboardist Tayva then proudly proclaimed "Wishful Moon." The band erupted in cheerful approval. We had our name.
Inspired by a spooky Twilight Zone-style keyboard patch, the girls decided to open the song with a David Bowie/Indian Jewelry-type texture describing the fear of the darkness at night:
Dark clouds at night No stars in sight No planes at flight. Gives me a fright!
As the drum patterns increased, so did optimism telling of the light that lie ahead:
See something in the sky, Stars are shining bright Kiss all my fears goodbye The morning's future in my mind
After a mean drum solo, the girls united their voices and the music shifted into a major key, proclaiming:
Wishful moon, Dreams come true. Wishful moon, Hope comes through
Pretty catchy, right? Also, did I mention that these girls are only eight and nine, and they've never written a song before?
Towards the end of the camp, Adriana summed up a lot of our group's sentiments:
"You don't just have to sing karaoke or American Idol karaoke, you can learn how to play an instrument and learn how to write your own songs. I think it's really great to see these girls come out of their shells and really show some talent over the past week. Reading the lyrics on our board, the lyrics that the girls have written.
It's a really good, profound song and I think that you could hear it on the radio or some emo band could play it and I think it could be a hit. It's just amazing what they have come up with in their band practice. They are really comfortable with their band coaches and with each other, and able to express themselves in such an adult way."
In addition to musical instruction and band rehearsals, girls were also involved with workshops centering on music history, body image, dance, screen-printing and even a little guitar smashing with piñatas.
On day three, I visited with Randy Stein, one camper's father, who was clad in a Van Halen T-shirt and grinning from ear to ear as he watched the girls dash to and from their classes.
Stein said that his daughter Sara had really come out of her shell during the week and became a musical social butterfly. Baffled at first by her first encounter with the bass, she now could emulate the riffs of some classic rock tunes along with holding down a steady beat for her fellow rockers.
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When asked about his overall impression of the camp, another father, David Graeve, noted, "So far it looks pretty cool. It's a bunch of cool women getting together to teach a bunch of girls rock and roll music and also kind of what looks like self-esteem issues, and for people to get out and be themselves and get to play and so that rocks. It's positive role models, good content, and some rockabilly sense."
David's daughter, Iris, chimed in:
"It's been a lot of fun learning an instrument that you don't know much about and creating a song in five days and rehearsing it and starting a band and meeting cool people. I played percussion before but this is my first time on a kit, [and] putting all the parts together to play music has been the most fun."
Wishful Moon and the other Girls Rock Camp bands perform at the GRC benefit and showcase 4 p.m. Sunday, August 15, at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513 or www.facebook.com/GirlsRockCampHouston. $5.