GIRLS+ROCK – Ottawa Brings High Voltage Empowerment to the Stage
By Henny Buffinga
EMPOWERMENT. INCLUSIVITY. COMMUNITY. FUN. These are the words used to describe Girls + Rock Ottawa, a volunteer-run community organization that offers music-based programming for girls, women, femmes, trans, non-binary, two-spirit, and gender non-conforming folk (girls+). The organization was created to make a place for people who identify as girls to have a voice and feel included. Whether their idol is Dolly Parton or Debbie Harry, Girls+ Rock Ottawa is the perfect place for girls+ to get started, build the skills, and gain confidence to perform.
The organization provides a community for girls+ to experience music in a positive and inclusive way, to make them feel represented and recognized, as well as safe and welcome. The flagship event is a three day weekend camp, which gives girls+ the opportunity to learn an instrument, join a band, and perform live.
Since its inception in 2007, they have run 13 rock camps in Ottawa, involving over 200 campers and more than 150 volunteers. Many campers return as volunteers when they get older; at their 2018 camp, 20 per cent of teachers were camp alumni. Since 2017, Girls+ Rock Ottawa has partnered with the National Arts Centre (NAC) to host the final showcase at the NAC fourth stage, giving the campers the chance of a lifetime to perform live on a professional stage. The organization prides itself on fostering collaboration over competition, and creating an encouraging, empowering space for participants to improve their skills together. They have also added a camp for women 19+ to hone their musical skills.
In addition to the camps, Girls+ Rock Ottawa hosts monthly jam sessions that are on a pay what you can basis to make sure participants aren’t excluded based on income. These sessions offer access to studio space and instruments to practice with a band or jam with new friends.
They also host workshops, including Vocal 101 and Songwriting 101, as well as entrepreneurial workshops like Gig Planning 101, where participants learn project management, communication, and financial literacy skills as they organize a music show.
In 2018, Girls+ Rock Ottawa was awarded the United Way Ottawa’s GenNext Community Builder of the Year.
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