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Girls Rock Camp — the global movement that empowers girls through music — is coming to Winnipeg next summer.

The first Girls Rock Camp took place in August 2001 in Portland, Ore. Now, there are are camps all over the world.

While each camp is independent, the setup is roughly the same in every location: campers learn an instrument, form a band, write an original song and perform it live — all within the space of week — while learning the value of teamwork and building confidence. (And while it’s called "Girls Rock Camp," it is also open to trans and gender-nonconforming youth, too.)

Thanks to demand, many Girls Rock Camps have expanded to include year-long after-school programs, sleep-away camps and camps for grown-ups. And programming can go beyond making music — of any genre, not just rock.

Maggie Wong / Vancouver Sun</p></p>

Maggie Wong / Vancouver Sun

Many camps offer DJ workshops, recording and engineering classes and instruction in everything from music video production to lighting and stage design.

The movement has also attracted some star-power support: the advisory board for the Girls Rock Camp Foundation — the non-profit organization that generates funds for camps that belong to the Girls Rock Camp Alliance— is composed of pioneering musicians Tegan and Sara, Kathleen Hanna and Beth Ditto.

Brandi Olenick, 38, is a local guitarist and founder of Girls Rock Winnipeg. She first heard about the Girls Rock movement from her friend Lenore Maier, who plays in a Saskatoon band called The Garrys and is an instructor for Girls Rock Saskatoon.

"She was telling me all about it, and said it was the best thing she’s been doing in her life," Olenick says.

"I’d been looking to get back into music, and I was like, ‘OK, well, I’m going to get involved with Winnipeg’s one, maybe just volunteer and get involved that way.’"

A Google search quickly revealed that, while there are 10 Canadian Girls Rock Camps, there was no Girls Rock Winnipeg.

And so, Olenick decided to start one.

In May, she flew to Saskatoon at Maier’s behest to volunteer at Girls Rock Saskatoon’s grown-up camp (for women 19 and older), and to do a little reconnaissance. She says it was one of the most amazing experiences she’s ever had.

"I was like, ‘If it’s this amazing for women, I can’t imagine what it would be like for kids,’" Olenick says.

"And everyone I talked to was like, ‘Why wasn’t this around when we were growing up?’ It would have been life-changing.

"I’ve never been in a room with that many women who all were so supportive. It was like a feminist boot camp, but it was more than that. No one was tearing each other down. There was no competition."

ERIC ROBERTS</p><p>Mulligrub are one of the bands being featured at the first fundraising show for Girls Rock Winnipeg.</p></p>

ERIC ROBERTS

Mulligrub are one of the bands being featured at the first fundraising show for Girls Rock Winnipeg.

On Friday night (Nov. 3), Girls Rock Winnipeg will be hosting its first all-ages fundraising show at the Park Theatre, featuring Mulligrub, Romi Mayes, Ingrid D Johnson and the Funky Crew and Olenick’s band Off Henderson. Tickets are $15 at Ticketfly, Music Trader and at the door. Show starts at 7:45 p.m.

Girls Rock Winnipeg is working in partnership with the West End Cultural Centre, which is where the inaugural camp will be held next summer.

Olenick is currently in fundraising mode, as well as in the process of building a board of directors and recruiting volunteers.

Although the specifics haven’t been locked in, Olenick says the first Girls Rock Winnipeg Camp will likely be a week long, with 25 spots for girls, trans and non-binary folks ages 10 to 14. Fees and enrolment dates will be announced in the coming months.

Olenick has no doubt all the hard work leading up to next summer will be rewarded with a big payoff.

"As Lenore was saying, you see the change in the girls," Olenick says. "They come the very first day, and no one’s talking to each other and being very shy.

"By the end of the week, this confidence comes out in these girls. And when they do their showcase, they’re just shredding it. It’s a transformation that happens in six days."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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