How Girls Rock Camp Changed My Life

[Editor's Note: Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. Her column, Exene Says..., is her space to basically just write what's on her mind, everything from crazy life stories to political theories and observations about what's going on in this fucked up world of ours. To contact her, send all messages to]

The first Girls Rock Camp was the genius idea of Misty McElroy. It was her thesis project in her senior year at Portland State University. She was a roadie and frustrated by the blatant sexism she experienced in the music world. The premise was simple: to take a shot at empowering girls through music. Now, 17 years later, there are 35 camps in the U.S., Europe and South America.

It's a beautiful gift that female musicians, writers, tech support, singers and mentors give to the girls at these camps!

That's why I volunteered for Girls Rock Camp LA last summer. There was a day of orientation, followed by five days of camp. And on the seventh day was the showcase, at which all the bands formed at the camp played their songs, written that week. There were about 70 volunteers and 40 girls, and camp was held at a downtown-LA Catholic school campus.

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It was one of the most challenging, demanding, rewarding, divine, magical, emotionally moving, transformational events of my life. The other volunteers were extraordinary in their commitment to the Girls Rock Camp organization. It was a smooth, brilliantly structured, seriously instructive place. The girls were so naturally dedicated and had so much fun. There was lots of hard work, laughter and joy in seeing the girls' accomplishments. And they showed a lot of gratitude to the volunteers. 

The campers met one another, formed bands, learned an instrument, agreed on the name of the band, wrote songs, silk-screened T-shirts, practiced, studied, worked, became friends and maybe best of all, raised their self-esteem.


One of the friends I made at Girls Rock Camp was musician and volunteer Candace Hansen. She decided it was time OC join in, and on Aug. 6, Girls Rock Camp OC will have its first day, with 43 campers. It was a life-altering event for the girls and the volunteers!

I bet a lot of you ladies are wishing there was Girls Rock Camp when you were a kid. Well, good news! There is a Ladies Rock Camp, too. It will be Nov. 9 and 10 at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, with a showcase for the bands on Nov. 11.

Learn an instrument, write a song, be in a band, or volunteer to make it happen for everyone. Express yourself, amaze yourself, pack up your soul, and let's go camping, ladies! And, of course, Girls Rock Camp OC will be back next summer.

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