Testify – Anna Garza of Girls Rock Camp Houston
If you attended last year’s inaugural Girls Rock Camp Houston Showcase, you’ll know it was a blast. A bunch of girls of various ages hit the stage at Walters to a wild and enthusiastic crowd. The thing that made it so engaging and fun was that, unlike some teens whose stage parents pay serious bucks to have somebody write, produce, and market their daughter, the girls of GRCH actually worked hard to write and perform their own songs and, in the process, they learned work with other girls as a band. In other words, they earned that acclaim and, if you ask me, anyone – be they boy or girl - is going to take away a lot more from the DIY ethic of a program like GRCH than they would out of some nouveau riche stage mom and dad’s attempt to grab fame. We spoke with organizer Anna Maria Garza as she was preparing for her second camp and this Sunday’s showcase at Fitzgerald’s.
FPH – For those readers not familiar with GRCH, why don’t you tell us about the program, how it came about, what its goals are and how people can help?
Garza - Girls Rock Camp Houston is a week-long summer camp for girls ages 8 – 18. It isn’t necessary to have any musical experience or own an instrument to attend our camp. In our program, girls will form a band, write an original song and perform the song to a live audience at the end of the camp showcase. We provide musical instruction for each instrument the camper has chosen (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards & drums), a songwriting workshop, and a stage fright workshop to help the girls once they form their bands. Aside from the musical and performing aspect, we provide programs which promote self empowerment such as a body image workshop and a women’s music history workshop.
I formed GRCH two years ago out of boredom, anger and frustration. I was irritated at the lack of all female bands in our scene and irritated with the lack of women, in general, playing loud rock n roll. I know there are women musicians out there and GRCH was the opportunity to find them and bring them to me. For the purpose of the camp, it made more sense to reach out to younger girls if we want to make a cultural change. The girls attending our camp are the future rock stars!
People can help us out by volunteering and donate/lend us musical gear. Also, if someone would buy us our own building to house the camp, that would be rad too.
FPH – OK, so now you are in your second year. Looking back at that first year what were some of the hard lessons you learned that will make this year better?
Garza – Our first year was awesome. We pulled off a successful camp on a shoestring budget. Planning the camp this year was so much easier. We have wonderful coordinators to assist me with the day to day planning of the camp. We have the support of Guitar Center as a corporate sponsor so most of our musical gear needs are met. Allow me to emphasis most not all. We are very fortunate and are in a good place.
FPH – How will the program differ from last year’s?
Garza – Our programming this year is more culturally diverse than last year. Some of our new workshops include Women in Hip Hop workshop and Gracie Chavez is leading a DJ workshop. We are tackling current issues affecting young girls such as cyber bullying with a workshop called “Relational Aggression.” This year marks the first year we will have Junior Volunteers.
FPH – Last year’s show was a huge success from the audience point of view. When it was all done, what did the girls who took part in last years GRCH take away from the experience?
Garza – I believe the girls developed better self esteem and confidence. It is a pretty intense thing to write an original song with limited musical experience in five days with band members you barely know. The fact that the girls faced a challenge and exceeded the expectations is a rewarding feeling. Nothing can stop them now.
FPH – This is kind of an obvious question but why is there a need for a Girls Rock Camp in the first place?
Garza – Girls should have a safe space in their formative years to express themselves without fear of ridicule or criticism from unsupportive people.
FPH – I’ve noticed that you have had a lot of benefit shows with local bands wanting to help out. What, if anything, does that tell you about the Houston music community?
Garza – The Houston music community has been wonderful to us. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the support we have received. Women of Montrose Action Network recently hosted a benefit on our behalf and those ladies really worked their asses off to make the benefit a smashing success.
FPH – Tell us about some of the specific programs and the people involved in each and what they bring to the table?
Garza – Again, Gracie Chavez is instructing our DJ workshop. Gracie is a well known DJ and with her experience and background she will shed some insight into the real art of DJing. Kompozition is leading the Women in Hip Hop workshop. One of our volunteers, Muna Javaid, is leading the Body Image workshop. Muna is passionate about feminism and empowerment. Lindsay Ramirez is a new volunteer and she is leading Punk Rock Yoga. This is the second year Lindsay Rae will instruct the Create Your Own Band Logo workshop. Once the girls decide on a band name, we help them design a logo for their band. April Brem Patrick is leading the songwriting workshop. Last year in the songwriting workshop, April and the girls composed our camp theme song, Don’t Be Afraid To Be Weird. Kristen Kemp, Rachel Hansbro and Dianna Ray are leading a Gear 101 workshop which will teach girls everything from how to adjust the settings on an amp to using pedals. I’m teaching the Zine Workshop.
FPH – What is in the future for GRCH after this year?
Garza – We finally have a Board of Directors and our 501(c)3 status, so we are in the process of strategic planning, writing grants and working towards our first Ladies Rock Camp and more year round programming.
FPH – What is one particular girl you worked with who really touched your heart?
Garza – I have a soft spot for a young girl named Meredith who was in a band called Electric Pearl. She never played guitar before the camp. She was using one of our Daisy Rock guitars the entire week and fell in love with it. In fact, she asked me for the price of the guitar and attempted to buy the guitar from me. I had to regretfully decline but at the End of Camp Showcase at Walter’s, she came up to me and took out a bundle of cash from her pocket and offered to buy the guitar one last time. If we weren’t so hard up for instruments, I would have given it to her. For all I know, she could be the next Nancy Wilson or Joan Jett.
Sunday August 07, 2011 – Girls Rock Camp August End Of Camp Showcase @ Fitzgerald’s 4PM All Ages $7