Haines is one of four Alaska towns hosting all-girls rock ’n’ roll music camps this year. Young women will learn how to shred the guitar, bang on the drums and belt out original jams at Girls Rock Camp Alaska. Center stage at the Southeast Alaska State Fair will serve as the finale for the rockers.
You don’t need to be a rock goddess to sign up for the music camp in July, but you do need a little hustle.
Camp director Monica Lettner says more than half the 20 spots in Haines are gone.
“Haines is more full than every other town right now. I’m so proud of you guys.”
The Girls Rock Camp Alliance spans the globe with camps in Canada, Europe and around the U.S., and has for a decade. Girls Rock Camp Alaska is its own nonprofit, but still gets support from the larger organization. The camps in the Last Frontier started in 2014, and until this year had only been held in Anchorage. With the wild success of the big-city workshops, Lettner decided to expand.
This summer, they’re branching out to Fairbanks, Sitka and Haines. The camp in Haines is a week long and starts July 25. The camp is open to young women aged 8 to 18.
“So, there’s no prior music experience required,” Lettner says. “That’s one thing that makes us different than a lot of other music camps in the world.”
Campers get to choose which instrument they want to play after trying a few different ones. Or, if they have experience with, say, the bass, they can choose to play that for the week. The rockers are divided up in groups to form bands. They have plenty of practice time and daily workshops on song writing.
“And so you have a wide spectrum,” Lettner says. “Sometimes we have a band that has somebody who’s been playing for a few years with somebody who’s totally knew. And they get along just fine because they each learn their part on their instrument, and it’s only a three-minute song.”
At the end of the five days, the bands will perform at the Southeast Alaska State Fair. Lettner says with the different backgrounds and musical tastes of the participants, the original songs are quite eclectic, and never disappoint the crowd. Nothing is off limits, she says.
Lettner adds that she’s hoping to expand even more with winter- or spring-break camps. She says she can cart the instruments anywhere in the state, but it all depends on her schedule. In Haines, she’ll have help from a few music instructors from the Lower 48 and elsewhere in Alaska. Always drawn to the power of music, Lettner says she’s been playing and singing since she was kid. She plays several instruments – piano, guitar, saxophone – and has a graduate degree in music education.
“And I accidentally found Girls Rock Camp in Seattle when I was visiting a friend from Talkeetna who lives there. That was in 2012 and so I volunteered for them in 2012 and 2013, and we started ours in 2014.”
The opportunity for young women to learn new musical and social skills empowers them to take center stage, not just in a band, but in life.
“If you have to get up on stage in front of everybody, and perform, you have to learn how to step out of your shell and learn how to push through fear. And that’s really important. And when you learn how to do that, you can do anything. The whole world opens up,” says Haines’ Amanda Randles, who helped draw the camp here.
She’s worked with young adults in the performing arts for years, and said when it comes to music and theater, Haines has a ton of potential.
“I want to see it get bigger, I want to see it grow,” Randles says. “I want to see all sorts of crazy stuff happening in the streets around here.”
Randles says the local event is looking for volunteers – musical or not. They also need to raise a little dough to host the camp, with more details on that to come. Above all, Randles says, she wants young women to experience stardom, if only in their hometown.
“There is no reason for the rock music industry, the popular music industry to be so male dominated because women and girls are just as capable, and just as talented, and just as skilled.”
If you’re interested in helping out, contact Randles at her office at 766-2476. Go to girlsrockcampalaska.org for more information or to register.