Girls Rock Camp Alaska empowers women, challenges stereotypes

RockCamp_JHK3When popular music focuses on women, they’re often stereotyped or dominated in some way by a man, according to B. Lee Cooper, professor of history and American culture at Reinhardt College.

In response to this, Monica Lettner decided to start a summer music camp that focuses on girls called Girls Rock Camp Alaska. The camp is modeled after similar programs put on by the Girls Rock Camp Alliance around the country.

“Even today sexism is still around,” said Jessica Newbill, a volunteer at Girls Rock Camp Alaska. “It is so hard to find a band with a girl as the lead where she isn’t just treated as the token girl.”

After taking a UAA women’s studies class with Lettner, Newbill was inspired to volunteer. Lettner attended similar camps in Seattle for two summers before starting one in Alaska.

“I didn’t think I would be starting and running a brand new nonprofit summer camp in two years,” Lettner said.

Now, the camp has 20 registered participants. The participants are assigned instruments and get together to compose songs. These songs were performed in an end-of-camp showcase on June 7 at Taproot.

“You will see pride and accomplishment on the faces of 20 awesome young women,” Lettner said. “There may be a few out of tune notes … but you will see them move past it with grace and ease.”

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On a given day, camp participants meet in the morning, go practice their respective instruments, and attend workshops and seminars on everything from songwriting to sex ed and women’s issues. Then they practice with their bands for an hour and have a meeting at the end of the day.
During lunch, local musicians such as Emma Hill and the Tanana Rafters play for the students.

“It teaches you about women’s issues and it’s just really fun,” said camper Hadley Earl, age nine. Hadley plays the piano and the violin. She is attending the camp with her sister, Ava Earl, age 11. Ava sings and plays the piano, ukulele, guitar and harmonica.

“Everything is very fun and you get to meet new people,” Ava said, “and sometimes even old friends.”

Their mother, Shannon Earl, signed them up.

“Their eyes have been opened in a really positive way,” Shannon Earl said. “They’re exploring their hearts and souls through music. … It’s pretty impressive.”

Lettner gets to see the girl’s journeys first-hand.

“These campers are really good at … expressing their opinions,” Lettner said. “(They go from) nervous on Monday, to a little stressed on Wednesday, to proud on Friday, and to powerful on Saturday.”

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