On January 20, a misogynist Cheeto took the oath of the president of the United States. Just as important, the next day, millions of women took to the streets to protest his plans. Around the world, women marched to show their strength and made their voices heard.
A trio of women in Miami wants the sounds of girls' sick guitar riffs to be heard just as loudly.
The Miami Girls Rock Camp (MGRC) is a weeklong summer camp that will run July 24 through 28 and culminate in the Grand Finale Showcase. The camp uses "music and performance as a platform to promote self-esteem, community, and creative expression for young women and girls in Miami," according to its website. This will be only the third summer session of MGRC, but the camp has already received accolades and tremendous support from creatives around the city. In 2015, the project won a Knight Arts Challenge Grant and a people's choice award in tandem with that grant.
The camp's founders — Heather Burdick, Emile Milgrim, and Steph Taylor — recently spoke with New Times. Taylor has long been involved in the Miami music scene as a member of the local indie-rock duo the State Of.
"The kids get instrument instruction," Taylor explains, "on either keyboards, vocals, guitars, bass, and drums. Each kid gets assigned an instrument, and they play that instrument throughout the week in bands. They write a song together, and at the end of the week, that's where they showcase the song at the grand finale. Some of these kids are absolute beginners, have never picked up an instrument before. Some have taken lessons or play at their school. There's a complete variety in terms of levels of experience."
The age range the camp accepts is from 8 to 17, typically with an equal split in attendance between preadolescents and adolescents, with plenty of one-on-one time with instructors.
Instructors and counselors are all volunteers, mostly locals. In fact, the entire operation is volunteer-run. In addition to helping girls, MGRC also brings together women from across the city.
"It's something that not only empowers and creates a sense of community among the girls," Taylor says, "but also empowers and creates a community among the women who get involved with it. It creates a sisterhood."
But volunteer efforts can go only so far. MGRC also needs cold, hard cash to survive. So this Saturday, the Wynwood Yard will host the annual MGRC fundraiser, Carnival of Sounds, with food trucks, carnival games, a petting zoo, prizes and raffles, and live music. The family-friendly event is meant to be "entertainment for the campers and for their friends." Musical acts include Killmama and Longshore Drift, plus DJ sets by Laura of Miami, Heather Holiday, and OLY. With a suggested donation of $10 to $20, it's a win-win situation for everyone.
Funds raised will help the camp to grow and offer more programs. Camp tuition costs $200, but Taylor emphasizes they "do not turn anyone away because of lack of funds." Through fundraisers such as Carnival of Sounds and the continued support of local businesses, MGRC can remain true to its word. In fact, Milgrim points out that those who can't make it to the event but still wish to contribute should visit local retailers.
"We'll also be collecting small donations throughout March, which is Women's History Month. At Sweat Records, Panther Coffee, and Cream Parlor, people can add on a dollar or whatever they want; that'll go directly to support Rock Camp. We're also always accepting donations of gear. If they have any old gear they're not using, they can make an in-kind donation to Rock Camp, and we'd greatly appreciate that because we go through a lot of gear."
The payoff for all of this effort is evident in the lives of the girls who attend each summer. Already, MGRC has had several repeat campers and at least one former camper returning in 2017 as a volunteer.
"We have one camper," Burdick says, "who starts counting down to Rock Camp the moment it ends... One of our other campers from the year before, who returned as a volunteer last year, she's got a show the evening of our event. Her band is called Jelly Result, and they're out doing math rock, which is interesting. The event is called Women Who Rock [at Zen Mystery in Dania Beach], which helps to benefit women who have been caught in sex trafficking."
It's a real, viable impact on the girls of Miami. Taylor takes a moment to address the larger picture.
"The difference that I've seen it make in other people's lives has been a life-changing experience for me... Especially with everything going on and the climate of American politics, it feels like women should be grouping together and sticking up for each other and that kind of camaraderie. It's nice to create that at the camp and a younger generation feeling the spirit of that."
MGRC: Carnival of Sounds
Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at the Wynwood Yard, 56 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-351-0366. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 to $20.
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