Most everyone has heard of the School of Rock, started in 2000 in Philadelphia by Paul Green, and the subject of the 2005 documentary film, “Rock
School.” Today, Green has franchises all over the country, including one in Seattle.
But not too many people are yet aware of the Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, which has nothing whatsoever to do with Green’s School of Rock.
Rain City Rock Camp for Girls Summer Camp is a day camp for girls ages 8 to 16. They get a weeklong crash course in playing an instrument, songwriting and empowerment workshops.
At the end of the week, campers perform their original song with their band at a local live-music venue. Campers do not need to have any prior music experience, and instruments will be provided.
The two sessions this summer run from July 30 through Aug. 4 and Aug. 6 through 11, with the final date of each session devoted to a showcase of their songs at the Crocodile Café.
“Music for us is a tool for providing self-esteem — not about getting your guitar licks 100-percent accurate and becoming a virtuoso,” explained co-founder Natalie Walker “It is altogether a diff erent ethic. We see music as a tool to promote self-
esteem. It is a language all of us are familiar with, even if we don’t play. Being able to interact musically can be a powerful thing.”
Now in its third year, the germ for the Rain City Rock Camp was Walker’s own experience at Portland’s Ladies Rock Camp. “It changed my perception of myself, giving me an extra boost of confidence in my own skills as a musician,” Walker said.
She said that when she realized it was a fund-raiser for a larger program, Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, she joined that program as volunteer instructor, where she met Holly Houser, who agreed with Walker that a similar program was needed in Seattle. In 2008, the two started the organization here.
“It was important to us that we not recreate the Portland program but create something that addressed our specific community,” Walker said.
One of the diff erences between the Seattle and Portland program is that Portland has a year-round program, while Seattle’s uses its off -months to bring programs into communities and schools.
“Instead of having the girls always come to us, we are also bringing it to them,” Walker explained. “At this point, we have been working only with alternative schools that are able to do their own curriculum planning, rather than the schools with more rigid policies.”
Walker said that schools are short on musical education, especially when it comes to popular music, and she sees her program as being able to help those schools with such a curriculum.
“There is a need to bring music back into the schools, and maybe a way that can be done is through the nonprofit sector,” she said.
The summer camps are still where the main action is. According to Walker, expectations of the participating girls vary.
“The younger girls are just looking for a good time, while the older girls are eager to collaborate — I think we deliver on both of these expectations. One thing they might not expect is that they learn how to compromise,” she said.
During the week, they decide on a band name and a design for their bandT-shirt, and then they write a song together.
“They have to learn to listen to each other and also make sure their own voices are heard. And this is a huge life skill to be learning,” she continued.
One of the things that makes strong band is when you have some girls with experience and some who have never touched a rock instrument before. The experienced musicians get a chance to demonstrate what they know to the novices, which gives them the confidence of knowing what they are doing and can show others a little something, Walker said.
Being in the role of teacher gives a boost to one’s self-confidence. “Some of the participants have been to the camp every year, and there is an intern program for the ones who want to stay,” Walker said. “It’s a cool thing to see them grow up into the leadership level.”
As for those who come one year and don’t return, Walker said, “We don’t see it as a failure if a girl never picks up the guitar again. She can go out and be a leader and rock at whatever it is she chooses to do.”
For those girls who do heed the call to take up their guitars and sing, there are plenty of opportunities in Seattle for their music to be heard — from the all-ages shows presented by The Vera Project to “Ebb & Flow,” Rebekah Ann Curtis’ program on NWCZ Radio that is exclusively devoted to music made by women, which airs each Sunday from 8 to 9 p. m.
Curtis was 8 years old when she wrote her first opera. She sang all the parts for the characters represented by her stuff ed animals. Ten years later, she tried writing worship songs, but she said she didn’t feel she was any good at it.
In her mid-20s, inspired by Sarah McLachlan, John Denver and Nirvana, she started writing songs for the public, but she said she could not find an audience for them. It wasn’t until 2004 that she discovered Seattle’s open-mic event, and just last November, she became interested in radio.
Curtis’ advice to the young graduates of a girls’ rock camp who would like to get their music on the radio: Create a diverse body of top-quality work, and become active in the community.
“If you are going to make music, you have to be part of the community, “ she emphasized.
Achieving this, send your MP3s to EbbandFlow@nwczradio.com,and you are on your way. If those first songs don’t open the doors for you, keep writing, keep recording and keep hitting those open mics.
BILL WHITE was a regular contributor to the arts section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until its demise in 2009. He most recently was the film critic for Seattle PostGlobe. E-mail him at