Photo Caption: Zoe Chase, left, and Jenni Huber play back-to-back during a practice at the Athens Rock Camp for Girls Saturday.
Athens High School sophomore Ameena Huq took a break from practicing the drums Saturday afternoon to listen to her friends jam out to their latest tune. Bearing a bright, techno-colored tutu and a white top hat featuring large flowers, Huq continued to express her admiration for the second annual Athens Rock Camp for Girls.
"The camp is a way to learn about feminism and empowerment and is good for learning how to build self esteem," she said while the girls on stage finished up their first run-through of a song that sounded like something you'd hear on Nirvana's classic grunge album, "Nevermind."
"This camp helps girls realize that they are talented and how to see themselves differently, and that you can actually play an instrument if you try," Huq said.
According to Tessa Evanosky, founder of the weeklong, all-girl music camp, that goal is exactly what she's going for.
"I wanted to give these young ladies an opportunity to learn about music from other women," Evanosky said after taking a break from performing a sound check.
"The Rock Camp for Girls got started in the early '90s on the West Coast," she said. "A couple women were tired of how the media have put down the message of girl power so much, and how it has now become what we see with performers like Britney Spears and girl pop stars in general. They wanted to change that, and to start teaching young girls how to really play an instrument, use amplifiers and do wicked guitar solos. Since then, it's spread all around the world, and is now here in Athens."
Last year was the first Athens Rock Camp for Girls. A program that took a year of planning quickly attracted 31 girls, and with help from gracious volunteers and local businesses such as Blue Eagle Music and the Fur Peace Ranch, Evanosky managed to pull it off.
This year it took her crew about six months to put it all together. Taking fewer girls this year for a total of 22 attendees, Evanosky said made the camp a bit more manageable.
With the camp running Monday through Saturday of this past week, the campers spent an hour or so each day learning about music and receiving lessons from the various volunteers. They eventually split up into bands, and worked all week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. writing songs, perfecting their vocals and instrumentals and making new friends.
While the campers were running around ARTS/West in Athens, preparing for their big debut during the camp's last hoorah (a performance by each band for friends and family at 7 p.m. Saturday), Evanosky elaborated on what these young ladies get out of their experience with Rock Camp for Girls.
"Along with lessons and practice, we do a workshop series that goes along with the message of our camp," she said. "The first day they take a 'Women and Rock' workshop; the next day we teach media literacy by having them dissect song lyrics so they can find positive lyrics that help them form their own songs. The third day they get educated on stage presence and are offered a self-defense class.
"We also teach them screen-printing and how to design their own apparel, fliers and how to make their own buttons," Evanosky said. "We want to give them all the tools needed so if they wanted to go off and start their own band, they have the knowhow."
While most attendees begin the camp without any musical background, she said, they end the camp with a newfound talent and confidence that they take with them when they leave.
"They learn so fast. I feel like what happens a lot when we get older is it takes us longer to learn things. But, when they're this young, they don't have those inhibitions. They're not as afraid of learning new things," she said.
The camp accepts girls between the ages of 12 and 18. The cost of the camp is $50; however, scholarships are offered to anybody who needs one, no questions asked.
"Eventually, I'd like to have the camp be free," Evanosky said.
According to Evanosky, the experience of organizing the camp has been priceless.
"It's amazing to see how the girls react to it and how supportive their parents are," she said. "And also to see the songs that they write. They have such advanced lyrics. It's just incredible."
According to the camp's mission statement the Athens Ohio Rock Camp for Girls focuses on building self-esteem through music creation. The camp builds confidence in girls through music education and personal expression, creates a safe space for girls to take creative risks, fosters a community where girls support one another and work together, provides girls with positive role models and support for their creative endeavors, gives girls access to creative tools they might not otherwise receive, and empowers girls to recognize, understand and respond to discrimination.
Camila Benencia, 14, at student at Athens High School, said that the camp has helped a lot of girls "come out of their shells."
"You really see some girls gain confidence and open up by the end of the week," she said.
Her fellow band-mate and Athens High classmate, Zenzi Mda, nodded her head in agreement. Mda plays the bass, knows guitar and piano, and wants to learn to play the drums. Although she attended the camp with a musical background, she said she's taken away other lessons.
"I learned a lot about compromise. In a band, you have to be willing to work with other people, and you have to learn how to find a common ground," she said.
As the girls continued to practice hours before their final show, Evanosky explained her expectations for the performance.
"Last year we had so many people attend the show that we were at maximum capacity and people had to stand during the show," she said. "The support Athens has given us has just been amazing. I'm very thankful."
For more information go to www.athensrockcamp.com or check out the camp's facebook page online.