For many people, "camp" brings to mind tents, canoeing and s'mores, but for Girls Rock Camp Madison attendees, the word means so much more. Since 2009, this organization -- the local chapter of the national Girls Rock Camp Alliance -- has been building bands and empowering young women through music education and performance.
The organization's second annual "Battle of the Board" fundraiser takes place at the Brink Lounge on May 3. Each GRC Madison board member will head up a band, and every band will play a different style of music.
"We're looking to expand our programming," says camp director Halle Pollay, "so the board really kicked it into high gear to do some fundraising."
Last year's benefit brought in nearly $4,000, and Pollay is confident that this year's event will be even more successful. Guests are encouraged to dress up in a way that represents the musical style they enjoy most. Pollay's group has adopted a "rock opera" theme to amp up the fun.
GRC Madison hosts two separate but related camps: Girls Rock Camp and Ladies Rock Camp. The former is a summer day camp for girls 8 to 18. Campers learn the basics of playing instruments and performing in a band over the course of a week. Participants get lots of practice on their instruments, attend workshops on topics like songwriting and hip-hop dance, take part in a studio recording session and perform original songs at a showcase. The camp's first two sessions are aimed at musical beginners, while the final session is for experienced instrumentalists. Ladies Rock Camp brings a similar concept to women 19 and older. Unlike Girls Rock Camp, it takes place during a single weekend.
Pollay stresses that the organization's mission stretches beyond music. Helping girls develop confidence is a major goal.
"We [are] doing that through the music," she says. "You can, just in a week, improve self-esteem and [help girls] see that they have value."
This year, GRC Madison intends to expand its curriculum to help girls explore professions that tend to draw men. Beth Kille, a local folk-rock musician who serves as GRC Madison's music director, and Maggie Maggerson of ska act Supervillain Fire Drill have developed a pilot program for girls interested in becoming roadies and sound techs. It will launch during the third session of Girls Rock Camp this summer.
"I'll be helping campers learn the ins and outs of setting up a PA, troubleshooting issues with band equipment and stage managing a live show with multiple acts," Maggerson says.
Supervillain Fire Drill will also perform at the upcoming benefit show, along with funk and bluegrass outfit Don't Bite the Sun, the rockin' Shawndell Marks Band and jazz musician Susan Hofer.
In addition to entertaining the crowd, Supervillain Fire Drill want to thank GRC Madison for making their band possible.
"Several of the band members met while working for GRC," says singer and trumpeter Becky Lipsitz. "If it weren't for GRC, we wouldn't exist."
They also want to show the audience that all-girl bands aren't just novelty acts, and that women can thrive in male-dominated musical genres.
"There aren't many all- or mostly-female ska bands," Lipsitz says.
Performing at the benefit is a way for the musicians to practice what they preach. Drummer Nicky Sund, who has taught for GRC Madison since the beginning, says that "seeing girls...realize they can do anything they put their minds to" is the ultimate source of inspiration.