Chattanooga Girls Rock Camp opens up music world for gifted girls
A few months ago I wrote a feature detailing the Chattanooga Girls Rock camp, explaining what it is, talking about some of the people involved, sharing my views on why I think it’s so important, and imploring members of the community to step up and volunteer. The group and its mission resonated with me so much that I took my own advice and signed up as a “band manager.”
Camp started today.
First off, I want to be clear that as a ‘band manager,” I am only required to be there in the afternoon which is very little time indeed compared to the bulk of the volunteers who are there all day, every day, and have been since before the camp started. What they have achieved in transforming Cinerama into an industrial music workshop for the week is amazing. The girls spend their mornings with a small army of instructors, learning to play instruments and to sing. Their afternoons are spent learning to work together as a band, writing songs, rehearsing them, and ultimately performing.
My partner this week in band management is Amy Richardson, a lady who knows her chops and is a whiz at working with kids. We are assigned to the rehearsal space known as “The Pizza Room,” an area that looks to be about eight by twelve feet with one entire wall covered by a pizza themed tapestry, an element that generated great amusement in our younger band members (pizza was suggested as a band name, a song title, and a thing the people in our song might enjoy very much.)
Pizza Room has a full drum kit, a bass rig, a keyboard with amp, a guitar with amp and a vocal mic with amp along with five little girls ranging in age from nine to eleven or twelve. While capturing and holding the attention of said crew who only just this morning started learning the basics of their instruments might be likened to herding cats, the truth is it wasn’t much different than any other band I’ve ever worked with regardless of age or experience. Our drummer in particular was prone to thirty-second bursts of rapt attention before edging back over to the kit to “jam” again which means she’s practically a real drummer already.
First things are first so we brainstormed a list of band names and wrote them on the big board. Next we voted, each girl was allowed to vote for as many of the names as she cared to, and the overwhelming winner was, Girls n’ Roses, a suggestion from our bass player. The discarded band names still seemed pretty good though, so we selected from those the title of our tune, “Fantastic Five.” Each girl then selected a famous woman she found inspiring (the “Fantastic Five”) and before we knew it, we had a verse and chorus. Now it was time to find the music and our vocalist, without prompting, took the lyric sheet to the mic and dreamed up the perfect melody on the spot. After a moment or two to suss it out on the keyboard, every girl had her part.
In the space of two hours and forty-five minutes, five little girls who hadn’t known each other or touched an instrument before that morning went from pretending to be a band to being an actual, functioning band, playing music they created. Drums, bass, guitar, keys and vocals all worked together and for a moment, the hair literally stood up on my arms. Amy later said that she almost cried to hear it, it was so marvelous. There was some magic made today. Tomorrow we’ll work out the rest of the lyrics and continue rehearsing and on Saturday afternoon, July 23rd, Girls n’ Roses will take the stage at the Revelry room and perform for a real audience.
You can be a part of that; you can witness the magic too. Doors open at the Revelry Room at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon and all proceeds go help fund next year’s camp. I plan on volunteering for that one too, and hope to play a larger part because I can tell you this: the folks behind Chattanooga Girls Rock are doing great work, important work. Some of these girls will go on to pursue music and some may not touch an instrument again, but that’s not the important part.
The important part is the teamwork, the creativity and the confidence that comes from dreaming up a thing in your head and then making it real. Lessons are being learned that will serve these young ladies well for the rest of their lives and I cannot urge you enough to come see for yourselves on Saturday when Girls N’ Roses and all the other bands from this week showcase their art on stage. There is no doubt now, Chattanooga Girls rock!