City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

PHOTOS: Lessons in life and music from Girls Rock Camp

In its second year, Atlanta’s Rock Camp for girls has more campers with more skills and more space to show it all off.

Amanda Dwight rehearses at Girls Rock Camp ATL. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht.

The one-week camp for rock-inclined gals ages 10 to 16 splits them into bands, ones with names like “Defiance” and “On the Edge of Ridiculou(s)z.” They learn to sing or play instruments, to write songs and stand out on stage. They go from practice to performance on Saturday night, when each band plays a public showcase at The Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. (Expect some bands to play at the East Atlanta Strut on Sept. 19, too.)

Want a closer look? Here’s a gallery of photos from Girls Rock Camp rehearsals and workshops.

It’s not an easy week. Like every rock documentary you’ve ever seen, bandmates squabble. They insist on a guitar/bass/drum solo. One afternoon yields plenty uncertain starts and frustrated moans: “Ready? Set? G—wait, what are we doing again?”

There are campers from Texas, from Macon and from Grant Park, but they all take care of each other. “Ear plugs in!” they remind each other before a loud rehearsal.

There share ideas: “Maybe we should play different parts! Because…it would sound cooler?” Celebration: “We’ve never done that before! We are awesome!” Wise observations, like one on the shout-out board: “Girls Rock Camp, it’s intense, not in tents!”

So what can a girl learn?

History matters.
The most powerful lesson for Emma Wagner, a second year camper, was an education on women in rock. “I think it makes me stronger as an individual,” the 11-year-old said. “I know it’s not all about men being the big stars.”

Screaming can be appropriate.
“AHHHHHHHHH!” Imagine that, but higher-pitched. That’s the noise that comes after a band has played the entire song all the way. They scream, jump, hug, then try it again.

Keep practicing.
Most of the 24 campers who attended last year’s Girls Rock Camp relied on borrowed instruments for their show at Eyedrum. This year, there are 34, and plenty brought their own. It turns out that making music, and maybe everything else in life, gets easier with experience.

Natalie Spruell worked with bandmates on her band's merch. Jamie Gumbrecht/AJC.

There’s more to music than music.
Camp includes a lesson in zine making. (If you don’t see your true self portrayed anywhere in the media, make your own.) Another in self-defense. (No matter what, your body is your own.) And of course, screenprinting. (Think of it like arts and crafts hour for the merch table.)

It’s good to try new things.
Some campers like the Indigo Girls. Some like Nickelback. Some like hip-hop, classic rock and classical. Some claim they’ll never like anything else — until they do. Camper Flower Martin had a Girls Rock Camp epiphany: “You can still be a rock star even if you don’t like that kind of music.”

Be yourself.
That’s why some campers wear heavy black eyeliner, and some would classify it as an art supply. Some have their own guitars and amps, some have their own My Little Pony backpacks. Maybe it’s easier to do in a place where the spray-painted posters on the wall remind each girl how great she is, but the lessons can stick.

You don’t have to do everything on your own.
Girls Rock Camp ATL is applying for non-profit status, but so far, it exists on volunteers’ time, tuition dollars — about a fifth of the girls attend on scholarship — and donations from local musicians, businesses, venues and restaurants. “We try to engage with the girls in a way that helps them understand that you never have to be alone. If you work it out, communicate, you become a family,” organizer Stacey Singer says. “It’s what a band does.”

Want to go? The Girls Rock Camp ATL Showcase is at 7:30 p.m. July 25 at The Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE in Atlanta. Tickets for the all-ages show cost $12 and benefit the camp. For more information, call (404) 964-5976 or go to

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6 comments Add your comment

[...] $350 Ladies Rock Camp tuition is a fund-raiser for Girls Rock Camp-Atlanta, which I wrote about here and here. There are more Rock Camp photos, [...]

[...] wrote about Girls Rock Camp Atlanta this summer, when the not-for-profit day camp held its week-long [...]


July 25th, 2009
2:56 am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Jamie Gumbrecht

July 25th, 2009
1:38 am

Woohoo! Thanks, Mria! It was really great just to spend an afternoon at camp. The show has got to be fantastic.

To do list: July 25 | Inside Access

July 25th, 2009
12:02 am

[...] For families: Girls Rock Camp ATL Showcase, 7:30 p.m., The Variety Playhouse, Atlanta. STORY. [...]


July 24th, 2009
6:06 pm

Cool camp for girls. LOVED it last year and this year is only getting better!