Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice: Miami Girls Rock Camp Teaches Self-Esteem and Empowerment Through Music

Campers rock out on stage.
Campers rock out on stage.
Courtesy of Miami Girls Rock Camp

The Knight Arts Challenge South Florida 2015 People's Choice Awards nominees are live. The community can vote now through November 17 via text message for one of four selected Knight Arts Challenge finalists to receive $20,000 to fund their projects. It's a text-to-vote campaign: pick your favorite group, and text their code to 22333. Of the 73 finalists, the four People's Choice nominees are small, emerging groups from different parts of South Florida, all working to make the region a better place to live.

Remember when Homer Simpson went to Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp? Everyone could relate, because who wouldn't want to spend summer days jamming to the beat of their own drum? Notably, however, Homer's fellow classmates and instructors were all dudes. That gender gap was disappointing, especially from a show known for pushing social boundaries for more than two decades.

Sadly, as the world is rapidly learning about Hollywood (and almost every other industry), this kind of discrepancy isn't unusual. But in South Florida, that's where Miami Girls Rock Camp comes in. The volunteer-run, female-focused summertime endeavor had its inaugural run this July, and now it's one of 73 finalists for a Miami Knights Arts Challenge award. 

"Girls Rock Camps exist all over the world and have been in existence since the early 2000's," says Steph Taylor, one of the camp's co-founders. "We were perplexed that South Florida hadn't caught on to this movement, and so co-director Emile Milgrim and I started having meetings to make it possible. Girls Rock Camps exist to empower the next generation of girls to feel good about who they are and take chances. Additionally, there are amazing women involved in all facets of the music industry who are largely underrepresented. The movement of Girls Rock was created to bring more visibility and positive images of women for our youth to look up to."

A rock camper plays for the crowd.
A rock camper plays for the crowd.
Courtesy of Miami Girls Rock Camp

The first edition of the local camp ran for a week in July in Miami Beach and concluded with a finale showcase where campers got to perform their own original songs. The week's schedule included DJ/band lunch hours followed by QA sessions; music and lyric-writing sessions; performances and workshops with professional female musicians; and lots more.

Tuition was only $100, and there was financial assistance available for girls who couldn't otherwise afford to attend. A review committee hand-picked applicants in order to create a group of campers that was diverse in terms of age, income, race/ethnicity, and instrument. Overall, the experience was a huge success, says Taylor. 

"The 2015 camp went beyond our wildest expectations," says Taylor. "We were blown away by how our community came together to make everything run as successfully as it did. The campers were so inspired and transformed by the end of the session and we created a great sense of community among the volunteers who participated in this year’s camp. It was one of those life-changing experiences that affected all involved."  

According to Taylor, the camp is a huge win for girls' confidence and self-worth. "They meet new people, learn new skills, learn to work in a team and how to reach their goals. They are exposed to a lot of different music and gain an individual taste for what they appreciate in the arts." 

So what will the camp do with the funds if it wins the award? 

"If we win, we will be able to increase the number of campers, find a space to accommodate more campers, offer scholarships to at-risk youth who don't always get the opportunities to participate in summer camps, increase our staff, and continue to grow the program in the years to come," says Taylor.

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Rock on. 

The Knights Arts Challenge winners will be announced on November 30. You can learn more about the competition at KnightFoundation.org, and about Miami Girls Rock Camp at MiamiGirlsRockCamp.org.


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