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SPOTLIGHT:

A CELEBRATED SUMMER: PART III – WE ROCK L.A., THE CAMPER SHOWCASE

On Monday, you learned about what went into putting together the first Annual Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles in Part I of this III Part series (click here to read Part I).  On Tuesday, you learned more about the actual camp week and activities that occurred during each camp day in Part II of this III Part series (click here to read Part II). Today, in this final Part (III of III), you will learn about the first Annual Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Showcase and a little about what comes next for this organization.

As the clock marked the not so rock ‘n’ roll noon-time hour, an eclectic group of women– outfitted in easily identifiable bright teal official 2010 Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles t-shirts, began to trickle into the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd.  A music venue that has housed many musical performances from a who’s who of legendary rock outfits as well as singer/songwriters that include most of today’s hottest indie bands to rock ‘n’ roll royalty such as Elton John, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen to name a few.  These women were all camp and showcase volunteers who in just a few hours would be witnesses and participants in the history  that once again was about to be made in this venue, in the form of the first ever Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles Camper Showcase.

About an hour later, excited campers would be arriving. Each of them ready to rock, and to show the local community what it was that they’d been learning and working on all week.  Decked out in their screen printed t-shirts, with their band names emblazoned on the fronts and customized to fit each of their personalities, they were a mixture of nervousness and excitement.   Upon arrival, each band of campers was met by their volunteer band coaches and counselors, who were at the ready to help calm their nerves, psych them up, and prepare them for their performances.

For many of the volunteers and campers alike this was what they’d all been waiting for.  The much anticipated moment where the campers would take the stage and show what they’d learned in just a week.

A veteran four-time (by way of the Portland Camp) Camp Volunteer, April Buker, intimated, “My favorite part of camp is the showcase. It is the culmination of the week’s activities. You get to see everyone showing off what they’ve learned, and everyone supporting the camp as a whole.

As the volunteers continued to set-up for the showcase and prep the venue.  They excitedly tried to predict how the showcase would go

Reflecting on the first days of the camp, Silverlake-based Pediatric Surgery Fellowship Coordinator and Volunteer Band Coach, Natasha Tavakoli shared, “The campers were initially nervous and shy, but as the week progressed they bloomed into energetic, unafraid, supportive, and empowered young girls. It was inspirational for the volunteers to see this transformation and we were positively affected by the camp as much as the campers.

As show time approached, the volunteers continued to think about how they themselves had been affected by the camp and by the campers.

Volunteer Keyboard Instructor and Band Coach for the camper band Trouble in Training, singer/songwriter Melineh Kurian commented on both her transformation during the week, her fellow volunteers, and regarding the campers she instructed as they worked towards getting ready for the showcase, “I knew that it would be a transformative experience for me as a female musician, and that I would be profoundly touched. However, the connections I made as a mentor and volunteer were far beyond what I could have imagined. I also wondered at first how easy or difficult it would be to teach keyboards to a group of girls with varying skill levels. My fellow teachers made it so easy to both have fun with our students, and to show them the skills they needed to be a powerful addition to their rock band.

The time had come to see if the campers would be able to bring together everything they’d learned throughout the week to their performances on the Troubadour stage that afternoon.  This was the opportunity for the parents and relatives of the campers as well as the  local community to show up to see what the camp was all about firsthand—and show up they did, packing the Troubadour on that Saturday afternoon for a chance to witness history in the making.

Quite atypical of the usual jaded “too-cool-for-school” L.A. concert-goer crowd, the parents as well as relatives of the campers along with the general audience members vied for the optimum show watching positions in the front rows as the local news station cameras set up on stage.

Anticipating the camper’s musical debuts, Jodie Schell (singer for L.A. based band The Shakers), recalled her first experience performing in front of a crowd, “I vividly remember what it was like to step in front of an audience for the first time.  I was 9, and I sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (dedicating it to my uncle who at that time was in the Persian Gulf war).  Singing was something I LOVED to do, but I was so scared that I stared at the weaving of the microphone the whole time,” laughing Schell continued, “I think I sang the verses out of order.  Those first steps as a musician are so scary and awkward, but they’re so important.  We’ve all been there.  It takes so much courage just to step under those lights and try, and that alone deserves a standing ovation.

The volunteers and the courageous campers stood near the stage ready to support their “camp week comrade’s” performances, waiting for their own turns to shine.

They didn’t have to wait long as emcee (and Camp co-founder) Mona Tavakoli took the stage ready to get the show underway.

The showcase opened up with the camp volunteer led Punk Rock Aerobics, not unlike how the campers would start off each camp morning, which was promptly followed by the camp theme song “We Rock L.A.” performed by the campers.

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(click on images to enlarge) Punk Rock Aerobics (pictured left) and Camp Theme Song Performance (pictured right)


photos provided by Beth Schore and Becky Gebhardt

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Here is footage taken by a showcase audience member of the campers’ initial “We Rock L.A.” camp theme song:

Without missing a beat and with the professionalism and confidence that comes with having played at the very least a dozen shows and several months spent rehearsing together, the campers took the stage.  One band after the other, with only one full showcase rehearsal under their belts, catching the audience off guard with their performances after being announced onto the stage by the highly-energetic Tavakoli (pictured right – photo provided by Bella Monge) with formidable introductions such as “This band goes way back, they’ve been together since Monday!” or crowd favorites like “This band has been touring all week– from the drum room to the guitar room to the bass guitar room!

Undaunted by the flashes of the cameras going off and the video cameras in their faces during what was for some of them their first performance in front of an audience ever,  they showed that they had at least, “8, 9, 10, 11 ways to rock L.A!”

Each band performed one song.  Just long enough to send a message to their volunteer instructors, their parents, families, and the local community that the time to have their say had come.  They were fed up–they were “Punk Rock Sisters” who “liked koalas”, “liked skinny jeans”, wanted a “world that was clean” and “green”, and they were “not gonna listen to you,” because they’d had enough of this “crazy beach.”

(photo provided by April Bukerclick on image to enlarge)

Here is footage of the performance by camper band The Electric Vampires captured by a showcase attendee:

The parents and families stood watching in awe.  Their daughters had learned how to do this in a week? How was that possible?

Showcase volunteer and audience member Andrea Metz described her reaction to seeing the camper’s performances, “These kids did way better than I thought they would.  I’ve tried to learn guitar, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.  All the girls did fantastic.  There was a few that, when I was watching them, I knew I would be seeing them up there on stage again touring.  It was amazing what was accomplished so quickly.

Audience member Amy Fleiss, who brought her 4 year old daughter to the showcase, also commented on the skill level that was achieved by the campers during the one week duration of camp, declaring it to be “Amazing. I though their energy and skills were ‘top-notch.’ I am so impressed that they learned to play their instruments that well in one week. I really thought that the camp was for much longer!

Metz went on to describe the songs and music that made up the show, “There was a variety of music.  It was kind of nice that everything didn’t sound the same.  There were cute songs, hard songs, and environmental songs.  It was great hearing the lyrics and seeing what goes on in kid’s heads today.  It kind of brought me back to when I was kid and still believed in ‘anything is possible.’  This camp showed them that everything is possible for them as long as they try.

Other volunteers also couldn’t help but be impressed by how far the campers had come in such a short time.

Kurian, stated, “I saw shy girls come out of their shell and embrace human interaction more. I saw girls from difficult family situations embrace this new community and feel comfortable to express their emotional life in that safe space. I saw girls half my size go from not knowing one single note on the piano to playing a full-on solo with their band!

The bands were all encouraged by the endless cheers and applause of the audience.

This was not lost on Wong, “The community support and camper performances at the showcase far exceeded my expectations,” she shared, stating that her favorite part of the camp week was, “Seeing the self- confidence and exuberance on the faces of the campers and parents at the showcase.”

Volunteer Guitar Instructor and Band Coach, Marisa DeMeglio was impressed on how “everything went so smoothly, especially considering it was the first year, and everyone’s attitudes were so positive.

Kurian added, “I still cannot believe the growth that occurred within that band of five girls over the course of one week. They met on Monday, and performed at the Troubadour on Saturday!

As the first ever Annual Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles Showcase came to a close with one final performance of the camp theme song, the campers were met with thunderous applause and encouraging cheers.  Upon descending the stage, they reunited with their families who proudly hugged and commended them on a job well done.

Meanwhile the camp organizers and volunteers were repeatedly approached by audience members who wanted to express their thanks for assisting in making such an outlet for young girls possible.

Schell had this to say when asked if she thought camps and organizations such as this made a difference, “IT’S SO IMPORTANT!!! There needs to be an outlet for every kid’s talent – where it’s celebrated by adults and peers.  Not only did those students at Rock Camp for Girls learn about music, but they met friends, they met new role models, and maybe they got closer to meeting and finding their own individual worth.  If you’re a budding musician, the media by itself would throw you too many mixed messages about where you belong in the music industry.  It’d be best if you are away from the tv or computer, and you are actively encouraged to pave your own path.

Metz agreed, “I think these camps are fantastic.  Every kid wants to be a star.  Every kid wants people to look at them and see how special they are. This camp has given these girls confidence that is actually hard to get.  They will now be able to express themselves and each be their self with no shame.  This will help them be better public speakers and to not be afraid of rocking the boat to make things better.  They know that they can make a difference.

Volunteer Flores echoed these sentiments, “For me, the most important and inspiring thing to see the girls learn was that it is not only acceptable, but expected, to take up physical space and be heard by those around you — not only when making music, but in day to day life.

Metz added admitting to being pleasantly surprised by the camp. “I had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t expect for it to be such a huge and professional camp.  My experiences with camps have always been for a few weeks and it took a really long time for everyone to bond. In one week these kids made friendships that will probably be for a lifetime.  The bonding with these friends of theirs, while performing in front of a large crowd was probably a life-altering experience.  These girls probably will have more confidence in themselves after seeing what they can accomplish than I have ever had the chance to as a kid.  I was so happy for them, but a little jealous that I never had that kind of experience.

Volunteer Band counselor Alli Bohl, who’s younger sister was a camper, also “tried not to go into camp with expectations” not wanting to get her “hopes up and then have them not reach my expectations, however because this was a musical camp I couldn’t help but hype it up in my mind and this first year at camp FAR exceeding my expectations. It was hands down the best week of my life.

Volunteer Buker, who had initially been excited about the showcase performances, also commented on the camp itself, “It really exceeded my expectations. I knew what to expect from the program from volunteering in Portland, but the camp was very distinctly L.A. in its diversity and musical sensibilities.

Buker also hoped the campers “came away energized about making music and more confident about themselves. I hope they came away with enough excitement to help them continue with music in their lives on a regular basis.

As the crowd thinned out and the camp volunteers were left to clean up the venue and load up musical equipment and gear, hopes and thoughts for the future were verbalized in the legendary venue.

Camp co-founder Becky Gebhardt (pictured left- photo provided by Bella Monge) stated, “I had very high expectations and they were surpassed! I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out. We had an incredible group of girls and an incredible group of volunteers. I think that everyone involved in this project was transformed in some way, and I am eager to continue to build upon this momentum.

The members of the team she put together along with co-founder and Raining Jane band mate Mona Tavakoli, shared her enthusiasm and desire to continue to grow the camp.

One of those with parallel visions was Natasha Tavakoli, Volunteer Band Coach, “I hope this first year of camp attracts more amazing and inspirational campers and volunteers for next year. I am so thankful that a non-profit organization like this exists, where it truly is about the community and empowering these young girls. We can only hope that the lessons these girls learned at camp (in addition to learning how to start playing a musical instrument) like teamwork, speaking your mind, rocking out/having fun, and self-defense continue to be shared and spread throughout Los Angeles via these girls, their families, friends, and the volunteers/organizers.

Others like Volunteer Guitar Instructors/Band Coaches, Taneashia R. Morrell, Erica Flores, and Marisa DeMeglio had visions of the future,

Morris predicted wistfully, “I envision a year-round Rock and Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, where we have a permanent space for mentoring, music lessons and a performance space. This year’s camp was started with such positive intention and drive, that I can only see it growing exponentially!

Flores hoped the camp would continue to “expand, both in enrollment and in scope. I would love to have after-school programs.

DeMegliio shared her wish list, which included: “More week-long sessions, Ladies Rock Camp, and after school programs

With the first year of camp having come to a close less than a month ago, talks and pre-planning are already underway to attempt incorporating at least a couple of those suggestions to the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles organization.  A spring time Ladies Rock Camp, is currently being considered.

Below is a video re-cap of the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles’ first annual rock camp week.  Additional video footage captured and edited by Britt Ringer and Donovan Vim Crony can be found here.

If you would like to learn more information about the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, please visit their official website, rockcampforgirlsla.org.  Sign up for their mailing list to learn of new developments and future installments of the camp.   If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the camp or in pre-ordering a dvd of the first annual Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Showcase, please send an email to info@rockcampforgirlsla.org, donations benefit future installments of the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles.

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