Music in our Community: Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls

As I begin writing this at 3:27 AM after an incredible opening Friday night at Arboretum Arts Festival, I must struggle with exactly what it is I should be writing about at this ungodly hour. Instead of all the reviews I probably should be producing at this moment, I’m charting a different course. Earlier this year, the founder and brains behind Arboretum, Rolf Klausener, kindly invited me into his humble abode to chat about a great deal of topics. This was one of my most cherished interviews, not only because of his purely genuine and welcoming approach to the whole thing, but also because of how much I learned from listening to this man speak.

It’s something that Rolf said to me after the interview that really resonated with respect to Arboretum. He told me that he wanted it to be a ‘snapshot’ of Ottawa throughout any given year. It occurred to me that behind all the visual art, music, craft beer, and wonderful food incorporated into the festival, there’s a also community aspect that plays a foundational role. Something that was included in this year’s programming was a band of girls called Pins & Needles, presented in partnership with Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls (ORC4G) and Toronto Rock Camp for Girls. ORC4G is a volunteer-run organization that helps foster confidence and self-esteem in young women through music. As someone who knows many female musicians who kick ass on stage, I was immediately drawn to the grassroots focus of this camp. Vern Mallet, of Ottawa’s Silvergun & Spleen, describes her experience as a former volunteer:

Ottawa Rock Camp For Girls isn’t just about learning how to play an instrument, or how to sing. It’s also about building confidence, teamwork, and making new friends. When I found out about the camp, I thought to myself, “I wish I had this when I was a kid”. Not everyone can afford music lessons, and sometimes you just don’t think you could learn. I didn’t even think it was possible for me to learn an instrument, let alone the guitar! I thought it was too cool for me. That’s what this camp is all about – to show girls that they can rock, jump, and yell.  It was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences, just to see the smiles on their faces after they’d learned to play a full song, after they had played their first show in front of a real crowd. 

Ottawa Rock camp for girls, ORC4G
Silvergun & Spleen teaching some skills to future rockstars at ORC4G 2012
pins and needles, rock camp for girls, arboretum festival
Pins and Needles playing at Arboretum Festival (SAW Courtyard) on Saturday, August 17, 2013.

To gain some more insight on the ORC4G, I spoke with one of the organizers, Tara Landry:

1.       What is ORC4G, and how is it run? 

Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls (ORC4G) is a non-profit 3-day musical camp for girls ages 13-17 that has been held annually in Ottawa since 2006. The idea for Rock Camp for Girls was started in 2001 in Portland Oregon by a Portland State University student, since then the concept has been replicated in cities all over the world.

Different rock camps are run differently, but the Ottawa Rock Camp is 100% volunteer based and funded through donations and fund raising. ORC4G is made up of a main committee that deals with the planning and running of the actual 3 day camp and a much smaller fundraising committee that meets plans, and holds events all year round to raise funds for the next year’s camp.

During the year the main committee meets infrequently with regular meetings starting about 3 months before the camp. Volunteers can be categorized as organizers (event planning, logistics, etc.) and Instructors (teaching during the actual camp dates). Volunteers choose how involved they want to be, and tasks are divided for the most part by volunteer interest and/or experience.

The campers are chosen on a first come first serve basis and are either charged a small fee (last year it was $3 or a canned food donation) or nothing depending on the year.  The girls do not have to have any musical experience to participate and there are no qualifications aside from gender and age.

Our sponsors and supporters are the lifeblood of ORC4G everything from rehearsal space, to instruments, to food, are either donations in kind or purchased through donation money. We are a not for profit organization but no a registered charity.

 2.       Can you talk about the driving principles behind ORC4G, and why they are important for girls in the community?

Our driving principles are to provide girls with a fun and positive experience in a safe and friendly environment, to encourage them to support each other, value diversity, and learn to express themselves, to build confidence, raise self-esteem, and to foster a love and appreciation of music. We want girls to know that they can play any kind of music they want, as loud as they want and can be the centre of attention in a positive, empowering way.  We also think it’s important for girls in this age group to have positive role models who are diverse and creative. Music is a central part of life for all of the ORC4G volunteers, and sharing that with the next generation of females is important to us. While it’s getting better, females are still rare in the rock music world and we want to see that change.

 3.       What exactly do girls do/learn at the camp? 

There are two ways to answer that question. The basic answer is that when the girls register, they let us know the instrument they are interested in (bass, guitar, or drums) and their level of experience. On the first day they are divided into groups based on these two things and are given lessons by the female instructors. Beginner classes are taught the basics first and for some of the girls this includes things like how to hold a guitar or drum sticks, and then progresses into chords, strumming, drumming patterns etc. The girls who have more experience are in more advanced classes that better hold their interest. At the end of the first day the girls divide into bands and the lessons become more focused on the songs they will be playing at the showcase.

There are also different workshops during the day on topics like how to do a sound check, vocal warm ups, women in rock history, etc.

The other answer to this question deals with the less tangible lessons, such as how to work together as a group under a deadline, how to support each other how instead of tear each other down, and how to move outside their comfort zone, At the beginning of the camp we also let all of the girls know that racism, homophobia, or any type of bullying or non-supportive behaviour will not be tolerated and we try to give them the tools to recognize  and respond to discrimination.

 4.       Can you describe what the collaboration with Arboretum Arts Festival is all about this year? 

This year we are very pleased to be a community partner with the Arboretum Arts Festival. What this means is that we co promote each other. We’ve been given a table at the festival where we will be selling our hot sauce and buttons and we’ll be given some time on stage on Saturday during the Children’s programming to talk about ORC4G. In return we promote them through our social media channels and include them on the sponsorship page on our website. Our audiences are similar and we’re both music oriented so it’s a good fit.

5. Tell us about the Indiegogo fundraising campaign, and how it works?

Indigogo is a crowdfunding platform  that was started in 2007 by people who believed that everybody should have the opportunity to raise money for projects they are passionate about. The hi-tech version which some people may be more familiar with is called Kickstarter.

Basically, people who want to raise money for a project or event can create fundraising campaigns to tell their story and get the word out. It’s free to join and if you make your fundraising goal you pay 4% of the money to Indiegogo, if you don’t reach your goal the cost is 9%. To create a campaign you build a campaign page with different perks assigned to different fundraising levels. For example our perks include things like virtual hugs for $10 a piece, t-shirts for $40, a vinyl collection for $125 etc. Supporters can choose the perk that matches the amount of the donation they want to make.

Almost all of our perks were donated to us and we have some pretty cool things, for example Meow That’s Hot, a local hot sauce company has created a special hot sauce just for us,  we have a piece of art from a local artist, even a harmonica lesson from a well-known local harmonica player.

One of the great things about Indigogo is that it’s very easy to share using social media, email, etc. so we get the word out to more people and everyone can watch us try to reach our goal so it has a little bit of an excitement level . Right now our campaign (which is to raise $2000) is just a few days old and we’re at just over $300. I bet I check it about 10 times a day!

Once our campaign is over (ours is for 34 days) we pay Indiegogo (either 4% or 9% depending on if we met our goal), and we start sending out the perks to the people who chose them. It’s a pretty cool idea and I know we’ll be using it again next year!

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To contribute to the ORC4G indiegogo campaign, click here.

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