Last year, Marlo Salem and Holly Meyer launched the first ever Girls Rock Cinci camp for girls and gender-variant youth in Cincinnati, ages 12 to 18. The volunteer-run organization hosted a variety of workshops for students to not only explore music, but also learn leadership, cultivate a community of peers and mentors, encourage social change and develop life skills.
“We want to give the [students] the tools that will lead them to the places where they could be creative,” says Anissa Pulcheon, digital communications coordinator for Girls Rock Cinci. “It’s not just about being proficient at guitar.”
For its second year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Girls Rock Cinci will be hosted all online through live video conference calls. Campers will choose to work on an Activism Through Music or Activism Through Art project from July 27 through July 31. These projects will then be posted online at the end of the week for friends, family and the community to enjoy.
Music camps geared toward non-male youth are not a new concept. Pulcheon says cities like Portland, Oregon, Boston and New York City say a lot of these types of organizations pop up in the early 2000s, and Girls Rock Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, has been operating for nearly six years.
Salem, Meyer, Pulcheon and the rest of the executive board have grown up surrounded by Cincinnati’s music scene and constantly think about how they wish they had had something like Girls Rock Cinci when they were younger.
“The history of music and its culture is overwhelmingly a ‘boys’ club’ and even Rock and Roll is often seen as a very masculine thing,” Pulcheon says. “The encouragement to pursue music outside of the academic setting has always been there for boys and men, but not so much for girls.”
The core mission of Girls Rock Cinci, Pulcheon adds, is to give girls, nonbinary and transgender youth a space to be creative, learn an instrument and interpret music however they want.
“It’s so important and really freeing for young people to just be given the opportunity to be as creative as they want to be,” she says.