By Mike Bell, Calgary Herald
At first blush, it might sound at worst patronizing and at best entirely unnecessary in this day and age.
A Girls Rock Camp. A weeklong introduction to the art of music making specifically targeted at young women.
But, well, although we all like to hope that the world has become more gender-inclusive, the reality is that disparity still exists everywhere you look. Including in rock ’n’ roll.
Local musician and camp organizer Nicola Lefevre has seen it first-hand, not only in her own experiences as an indie artist, a member of local band Sequicons, but also in her work at The New Black Centre, a studio, jam and performance space in Inglewood that serves the city’s all-ages scene.
“Out of all of the all-ages bands that we’ve seen come through here, very rarely were there females. . . . Every so often you’d get one come through who would have a girl — the singer or the bass player, right, isn’t that usually the case?”
She laughs. “I do both.
“So there was definitely that, but most of the impetus was from knowing that these other camps existed and feeling like, ‘Why not do that here?’ There’s no way that the couple of girls that I’ve seen playing in all-ages bands in Calgary are the only girls in Calgary who want to do this. There’s just no way. Things are not that different (than) when I was 15. . . .
“I remember being a 15-year-old bass player and playing music with my friends and I would have jumped at the chance to do something like this.”
Again, that’s why Lefevre has taken it upon herself to use the template that’s been embraced in cities all across North America to start up her own Girls Rock Camp, which will take place at The New Black over the public school system’s spring break March 25-30.
For the full week, girls aged 10-17 — no matter their experience — will be instructed by Lefevre and an all-star core of local female musicians including her bandmate Jennifer Brake, Miesha Louie of Miesha and the Spanks fame and Alexis Nederhoff from band The XOXO’s, in an incredibly non-judgmental environment that, more importantly, will also be entirely gender-friendly.
“They’re learning to deal with so much socially at that time in their lives anyway,” says Lefevre, sitting on a couch in The New Black’s office. “So I think it takes somebody with a pretty strong will to break into that boy’s club as it were, to even have the wherewithal to show that they can do it as well.”
Cost for the camp is $250, which includes use of whatever instrument the attendees choose, lunch, all other materials that are needed and instruction in all aspects of the music industry. The intense eight-hour days will feature everything from music lessons to band promotion to songwriting and recording, and it will culminate in a Saturday evening showcase concert, where they’ll get to show off all of those skills alongside a pair of established local bands — and get a CD recording of their own performance thrown in for good measure.
And if that’s all the registrants — it will be capped at 15 girls — come away from the camp with, Lefevre is fine with that.
“That’s one of the major things that I want the girls who come to this camp to get out of it is to just have that experience to be able to write a song and play it for somebody. Maybe at the end of it, they’ll be like, ‘That was super fun (but) playing music is not for me. But I’m interested in this other aspect of it.’ Or, ‘I had no idea there were so many local bands — I’m going to get out and see more shows,’ and hopefully we’ll see their smiling faces around here.”
Of course, it being a female only affair, Lefevre also hopes that the campers will take something even more important away from the week other than an appreciation for music.
Other elements that the instructors and even special guests such as Joan Sarro, from campus and community radio station CJSW, will touch upon is simply what it means to be a woman in a still male-dominated industry, some of the hurdles they might find themselves facing and some of the traps they can avoid, in music and in life.
“The major focus for the week is on playing instruments and writing songs and being a band — the whole social aspect of being in a band and working together — but there’s a lot of other stuff that goes along with it that maybe they’ll find interesting,” Lefevre says. “We’re going to a presentation about how women are represented in popular culture and I’m hoping that they learn things about . . . positive self-image and age-appropriate image.
“There’s lots to learn beyond just playing guitar or playing drums or whatever it is you’re coming for.”
Lefevre admits that she’s had to learn a lot of those lessons the hard way over her past two decades as an indie musician and she’s looking forward to imparting that wisdom for a new generation of female artists.
Not that she thinks she has all the answers or has even experienced the harsh act of being marginalized in music for her gender. Well, not by anyone other than herself.
“My bandmate and I have talked about this a lot, sometimes growing up or even now you get to a place where you’re going to be playing a show and you’re playing with all of these other bands and a lot of them are guys,” she says. “And you respect what they play and you sort of feel like the fraud, like you really have to (play) well in order to not just be, ‘Oh, well, they were really good — for girls.’ And that’s a hard thing to get over. So it’s not necessarily anything that somebody said to me . . . but there’s obviously a reason we think that sometimes. And it’s a hard thing to get over, that sometimes you want to just be, ‘She’s a great bass player,’ not, ‘She’s good for a girl.’
“Even at 34 years old I still think that sometimes. I wish I didn’t. But I’ll get over it.”
Girls Rock Camp Runs March 25-30 at The New Black Centre (200 919 9th Ave. S.E.). To register or for more information e-mail
Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Calgary+Girls+Rock+Camp+teaches+young+women+sides+music/8084452/story.html#ixzz2NpanxJU8