Documentary chronicles summer camp for next generation’s female rock stars

Brian Charlton

Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of Girls Rock! RVA



The Student Commons Theater held the premiere of a Richmond-made documentary on last summer’s Girls Rock! camp this past Monday.

GR! RVA, a newly formed volunteer-based, free-admission summer camp, took place – and was filmed for a documentary – July 25 through July 29 last summer. Twenty-two girls ranging from ages 8 to 13 from the Richmond metropolitan area attended.

The idea behind GR! originated 11 years ago in Portland, Ore. and has since gained momentum, not just in the U.S. but also as far away as Sweden and Germany. This past July, the idea was picked up as a collaboration between the VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and the VCU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Strapped with donated guitars, drums, basses and speaker systems, the program’s young staff came together in St. Andrew’s school in Oregon Hill with the sole intent to bring out confidence and empower young potential rock stars, one note at a time.

“I want to create that safe, positive space for girls to be empowered, for girls to see it’s okay to express yourself in other ways including music,” said staff member Susan Segura, a senior urban studies and geography double major at VCU.  “Even if you don’t know how to play an instrument, we will teach you.”

During the week-long venture, campers received basic instruction on how to play the instruments they were randomly assigned – drums, bass, guitar, keyboard or vocals. They then formed bands with each other, decided on their own name and wrote their own songs to be performed at an end-of-camp showcase.

In addition to music lessons, workshops were set up to raise campers’ awareness of topics such as women’s images in popular media. This was one of the more important aspects of the camp for volunteer and  VCU social work major Melissa Giorgi.

“It’s important because women do not see themselves represented in magazines, media, music and really anything mainstream,” Giorgi said. “I think having a camp where the volunteers get along with each other and working with each other and us kind of modeling that behavior.”

The camp can “show girls it is okay to act yourself,” Segura said, and to “not be … influenced by others, but take their positives and break their own person out of what they see out of each person.”

During a Q-and-A with the audience after the documentary screening Monday night, the young Girls Rock! alumnas seemed giddy with joy to come together on the floor and have a chance to answer some questions from the audience. After much loud banter and expressed admiration for the volunteers, the girls chanted in unison, “This camp is the coolest ever!”

The Q-and-A ended with a chant that was quite prominent throughout the documentary where the volunteers and campers shout “Girls Rock!” and the audience responds, “RVA!”

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