Rock n Roll Camp for Girls originated in Portland in 2001 and this week sees the doors open to the first international camp, Girls Rock Camp Brasil, taking place January 14-19. The camps are part of the Rock n Roll for Girls non-profit organization and have the mission of empowering young girls ages 7-17 through learning an instrument and performing in girl bands.
The camps are facilitated by prominent female musicians and volunteers in the area who teach girls first-hand how they too can express themselves whether it means shredding the guitar, thrashing at a drum set, or screaming at the top of their lungs.
Taking place in Sorocaba, Sao Paulo, the inaugural year of Girls Rock Camp Brasil is off to a great start with over 50 girls from all over South America participating in what hopes to become an annual event. Founder of Girls Rock Camp Brasil, Flavia Biggs, of The Biggs, knows first hand how playing an instrument as a youth promotes confidence having played guitar for 20 years and stopped to chat about how music is often the best way to empower women both young and old.
Red Room: Why did you decide to start Girls Rock Camp in Brasil?
Flavia Biggs: This is something that I have been thinking about since I went to the Rock N Roll Camp for Girls in Portland. That was in 2005. I fell in love with the project and I thought it was the most amazing thing Ive seen in my whole life. When I came back to Brasil I knew we needed to something like that here.
In the beginning I thought it was a huge step for me, doing this by myself. So I started out by doing Guitar for Girls Workshops, or Guitarra para Meninas. Ive been doing the workshops for about seven years now. Its a course where I just teach guitars. But then last year in 2012, I was invited to go to a feminist music festival (EMANCIPAR FEST) in Sao Paulo. At this festival there were other drum workshops, bass workshops, and guitar workshops, and I thought, Why not make a Rock N Roll Camp for Girls here?
I made contact with Rock N Roll Camp for Girls in Portland and they helped me a lot in organizing the structure of the camp. I made an open call on Facebook for women to come help out at Girls Rock Camp Brasil and we now we have about 100 women involved with music and social movements volunteering and helping out. Today at camp we have about 52 women volunteering.
RR: How many girls are enrolled in the camp?
FB: 63 girls registered, but we have ten absent today, so 53.
RR: Why did you choose to have Girls Rock Camp Brasil in Sorocaba, about an hour and a half outside of Sao Paulo, rather than in Sao Paulo?
FB: Because I live here in Sorocaba and I have more influence. I teach Sociology in a high school here as my full-time job for ten years. I know everybody here, so the community members and sponsors know me personally and I have a good name in the community, making it easier to organize the camp.
RR: What do you hope the girls will gain from the camp?
FB: Its the first camp like it in Brasil, and only about 50% of the girls are from Sorocaba. The other girls are from Sao Paulo, Florianopolis, and other parts of the country. I really believe in the mission for Rock N Roll Camp for Girls that learning to play music improves self-esteem and empowers young girls, so I really hope thats what we achieve.
RR: What instruments do you play?
FB: I play guitar and have been playing it since I was 13. Im 33, so Ive been playing for 20 years.
RR: So you know first-hand how playing an instrument as a youth can really help confidence and provide an outlet for creativity.
FB: Yeah, for sure! Playing guitar and having a band in my youth was perfect. I wasnt the pretty girl in the high school, so I was the Rock N Roll girl instead. So my peers respected me because I was like, Yeah, Rock N Roll! [Laughs] It was great for my confidence and self-esteem.
RR: How have people in Brasil responded to the camp so far?
FB: Its been really good. Today is the second day of the camp, and everyday we have three or four visitors coming to check out whats going on. The whole community is really excited about it.
This is really DIY. I dont have money from the government, but today some local government officials from the Youth Department came by to see whats happening. The money that we have is from the sponsors, so the government is really curious about whats going on and hopefully we can collaborate for next year.
The parents are really excited, too! I saw some posts on Facebook last night and they were like, Oh, my kids were singing the Girls Rock Camp Brasil camp song at home!
RR: Is there a fee for the girls to attend Girls Rock Camp Brasil?
FB: Yes, it costs 150 Reais or about $70 for girls to attend the five-day camp. The fee is the lowest cost we could manage, just to ensure that we could provide lunch for the volunteers and t-shirts for everyone. Some parents call us and say, So its 150 Reais each day, right? The fee is for the whole week, so its pretty cheap, and we also offer 20 scholarships for girls to attend for free.
RR: What does the future hold for Girls Rock Camp Brasil?
FB: We hope that everything goes well this first year! We hope to have the camp every year, but lets see what happens. [Laughs] Were doing a good job so far, and we definitely want to do it again next year.
RR: I heard that theres interest in starting a Rock Camp Brasil for Women?
FB: Its an idea that we want to develop. In the United States theres a Ladies Rock Camp for women and other after school music projects for girls too. Theres definitely a need for the camps here and we hope to bring it all here. I did a Guitar for Women Workshop here and it was so amazing. I had 20 women and about ten of them were over 50 years old. So it was really interesting having these old ladies playing guitar. It was really empowering for all of us to see what women of all ages can do.