It's tough to transition into the real world after a week of rockin’ sisterhood bonding at Miami Girls Rock Camp (MGRC). You’re left with only memories as you say goodbye to bandmates and inspirational volunteers who have guided you at every step.
The camp lasts only one week every summer, but its influence sticks for life. A spark of creativity and self-empowerment is born and remains with campers from the moment they pick up their instruments — some for the very first time.
For 18-year-old Sam Hafferty, that spark has been of great importance. It’s been two years since the teen's time as a camper, which Hafferty calls a turning point in creative pursuits. “I think that was really the most important summer or just the most important time for me as an artist,” Hafferty says. “Before then, I hadn’t really considered myself as any kind of artist or musician.”
Hafferty attended the camp as a bass player for the teen group Micro-No and became an assistant to the directors the following year. The Miami native has since gone on to establish a solo project as Pitstain and an all-teen noise band called Bottom Text, which performed at the International Noise Conference thanks to the invitation of camp cofounder Emile Milgrim. Hafferty also created a zine collective with the group Woke Inc.
Hafferty is now wrapping up the first year as a student at New York University in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. The teen has settled on a major with a mashup of interests, which Hafferty calls "improvisations and documentary film, performance, and experimental electronic music."
Were it not for MGRC and its influence in helping overcome shyness, Hafferty thinks music and the arts in general would not have such a significant part in life. Hafferty was especially inspired by the DIY nature of the camp. “I think watching my fellow campers even at that point grow so quickly in such a small amount of time with not a great abundance of resources was so inspiring and empowering,” Hafferty says.
Knowing the camp’s environment helps students such as Hafferty motivates cofounders Milgrim, Steph Taylor, and Heather Burdick. “It feels as if collectively we are changing the world without a doubt,” Burdick says.
Adds Taylor: “There are so many amazing transformations that happen at camp, and to be witness to them and to take part in them is really inspiring and rewarding.”
The trio cofounded the camp in 2015. It's part of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which was established after the first Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls in 2001 in Portland, Oregon.
Every summer since, young rockers have gathered at the Miami Beach Community Church for a week of musical demonstrations, instrument lessons, band practice, and workshops. The week has helped create an environment that inspires and builds confidence, both for the campers and the volunteers.
“MGRC began as a conversation and turned into a local movement,” Milgrim says. “The bonds and friendships made via MGRC have facilitated new local bands, artistic collaboration, social justice activism, and an overall sense of empowerment for everyone involved.”
MGRC is preparing for summer-camp season with its fundraiser, Carnival of Sounds, featuring Afrobeta, Emily Sheila, and DJ Heather Holiday. There will also be carnival games, a sound petting zoo, a workshop, and tons of great raffle prizes.
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“Our goal is to create a really fun and engaging atmosphere that gives a little peek into camp life while helping us to raise money for the 2018 camp season,” Taylor says.
MGRC is accepting volunteer applications at miamigirlsrockcamp.org/volunteer.
Miami Girls Rock Camp Presents Carnival of Sounds Fundraiser. With Afrobeta, Emily Sheila, and Heather Holiday. Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at the Wynwood Yard, 56 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-351-0366. Admission is free. All ages.