Miami Girls Rock Camp Marks Five Years of Empowering Girls and Nonbinary Youth

Miami Girls Rock Camp's first grand finale showcase, in 2015.EXPAND
Miami Girls Rock Camp's first grand finale showcase, in 2015.
Monica McGivern
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Twenty nineteen marks the fifth consecutive year that Miami girls and nonbinary children will show their musical skills onstage after a week of rock 'n' roll boot camp. Launched in 2014 by cofounders Emile Milgrim, Steph Taylor, and Heather Burdick, Miami Girls Rock Camp (MGRC) offers participants a weeklong musical day camp with instrument instruction, songwriting workshops, band practice, and live performances by visiting artists and DJs.

The organization's mission is simple: Use music and performance as a platform to promote self-esteem, community, and creative expression.

Following a worldwide movement led by the Girls Rock Camp Alliance — a membership network of youth-centered arts and social justice organizations — the three cofounders joined forces to establish a camp in Miami. "We built this thing from the bottom up together," Taylor says.

MGRC provides two hours of musical instruction daily.EXPAND
MGRC provides two hours of musical instruction daily.
Emily Milgrim

Initial discussions about forming the camp began between Milgrim and Taylor, both active musicians in the local scene. Milgrim is the co-owner of Sweat Records and the drummer in the local rock band Las Nubes, and Taylor sings and plays keys for the band the State Of. Burdick joined the project after experiencing a girls' rock camp in Austin, Texas. "Heather brings so much of the social justice aspect [to the] camp and a lot of the important training and understandings in how to navigate so many situations... that these girls need to know about," Taylor explains.

The past four years, the camp was held at the Miami Beach Community Church, but this year, it will take place inside the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ next Monday, July 29, through Friday, August 2.

"A day at camp encompasses a lot of different things," Taylor says. The days start and end with discussion topics, followed by instrument instruction and half an hour of movement activities such as yoga, dancing, or games. Throughout the week, campers are split up into age groups of 8 to 12 and 13 to 17. "We're able to cater workshops to more age-appropriate content if needed."

After lunch, the campers are treated to performances by local bands, followed by a Q&A. "A lot of the time, those bands are volunteers' bands, so [campers] are not only learning from these people and seeing them as role models, but they get to watch them do their art," Taylor says. Bands and musicians that have participated or will participate this year include Holly Hunt, Palomino Blond, Haute Tension, Phaxas, Inez Barlatier, Las Nubes, the State Of, and DJane. "Walls rumbled," Taylor jokes about the local doom band Holly Hunt's past performance for the campers at the Miami Beach Community Church.

The members of Holly Hunt pose with a camper (center) in 2017.
The members of Holly Hunt pose with a camper (center) in 2017.
Lauren Reskin

With guidance from these volunteers and staffers, campers form bands and write songs using their preassigned instruments, which are then performed at a final showcase. Formerly held in the Gleason Room at the Fillmore Miami Beach, the 2019 finale concert will take place at the Ground in downtown Miami for a second consecutive year. This year’s showcase will happen Sunday, August 4.

Looking back five years in, the three cofounders agree the camp has filled a gap in Miami. "We create this place where it's safe to take chances and where people feel really accepted," Burdick says. "The coolest thing about that is that not only do the kids feel it... but it affects volunteers and anyone who does the work. It blends out into the community."

With that in mind, the Miami MGRC is branching out into another venture, MGRC: XLR (xLadies Rock). Piggybacking on the empowering experience of Miami Girls Rock Camp, XLR's three-day rock camp will be geared toward women and nonbinary people over the age of 18 who want to live out their own rock-star dreams.

Miami Girls Rock Camp Showcase. 6 p.m. Sunday, August 4, at the Ground, 24 NE 11 St., Miami. Tickets cost $10 via miamigirlsrockcamp.org. Children under 2 get in free.

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