Girls Rock: a week of empowerment and reverb

Lindsay Manfredi and Abby Weaver work on tuning a guitar during “quiet” band practice. Photo by Josh Flynn.


Manfredi, a tattooed rock musician in her early thirties, sits on the floor of

room 104 in Park Tudor's Middle School, a guitar in her lap. Three girls,

ranging in age from 11 to 13, huddle around her, singing "And [boys] pick their

nose/ while we try on new clothes." The lyrics come from the song "Fearless,"

an original creation by Twilight Zone, the band the girls formed this week.


day four of Girls Rock! Indianapolis, a weeklong music camp organized by

Manfredi and her bandmates in the local rock band Neon Love Life — Sharon

Rickson, Tasha Blackman and Ashley Plummer. 40 camp participants — many

of them with no prior musical experience — have split up into 10 bands.

Everything the girls do this week is leading up to a showcase at the Earth

House Sunday, when the bands will perform the songs they wrote during the week.


Twilight Zone's coach, is leading "quiet" practice, helping the girls with

songwriting. When "loud" practice begins, Twilight Zone will grab instruments

and start rocking.


are spread throughout the middle school, accompanied by with their adult

mentors. Some huddled in hallways trying to perfect a lyric, others in

classrooms learning to rock.


The Glass Grenades' two teenage bassists receive instruction from Rickson. They

are practicing a metal song they wrote called "The Monster Within." A few rooms

over, The Popcorn Rockers, comprised of four eight and nine-year-olds, get a

lesson on stage presence from their coaches.


"loud" practice begins, the building is awash with fuzzy guitar. It vibrates

through the walls, echoes through the corridors. Park Tudor has been overrun by

an army of 12-year-old Corin Tuckers.


week of rock


the camp began Monday, the girls were intimidated, according to Manfredi. But

by Wednesday they were best friends.


day started with a dance party which also had an educational purpose, as

campers listened to and learned about bands like Sleater-Kinney, the Yeah Yeah

Yeahs, the Go-Go's. Mornings were filled with age-specific instrument and

songwriting instruction as well as supplementary workshops devoted to body

image, self-defense and zine-making.


the zine-making class the campers explored the positives and negatives of being

a girl. "You could see they were stereotyping or demographing themselves into

'this is how a girl should act and be' and 'this is how a boy should act and

be,'" founder Tasha Blackman said. "If you are confident in yourself you can be

and act anyway you want."


lunchtime local female musicians performed and answered questions. Mandy Marie

Luke, accompanied by her Cool Hand Lukes band mate Mo Foster, was blown away by

the experience. "I was really shocked at how on it the girls were," she said.


expected the campers to be concerned about their band names, style, their

appearances. Instead they asked questions about her life and career. "They

asked really cool questions that affected them. It was cool to go back and see

myself at their age."


her time at the camp, Luke got to see the campers in action, including a group

of girls pounding away on several drum sets. As the week progressed the girls

got more confident and comfortable with their instruments.


the last day, campers made T-shirts with the band logos they designed earlier

in the week. And then it was practice, practice, practice before Sunday's

public performance.


into a movement


Girls Rock movement launched in Portland in 2001 with the premise of teaching

self-esteem and empowerment through music education. The organization's day

camps are devoted to introducing young girls to DIY culture, social justice,

and self-empowerment in a non-competitive atmosphere, according to Girls Rock!

Indianapolis founder Sharon Rickson. (The Indianapolis outpost added an

exclamation to the national organization's unpunctuated name.)


learned about Girls Rock while talking to a female musician from Nashville who

performed at Radio Radio. Her interest piqued, Rickson made arrangements to

help with a Seattle-based Girls Rock, then brought her experiences home to



women spent countless hours organizing meetings and searching for locations for

the camp and concert, including a trip this March to a Girls Rock conference in

San Francisco.


they the founders laid the groundwork, the Indianapolis community stepped up

and helped. Volunteers designed web sites, logos and performed on benefit shows

to raise awareness and funding for the camp, which fell on the week of August



is our tool to teach things girls respond to in an all-female environment,"

Rickson said. "It's about camaraderie and young women relating to each other.

It's about young women cheering each other on and being noncompetitive. It's

about teambuilding, body issues — self esteem, self-image. Women and

young girls aren't geared towards music. If they are it's the flute or the

violin. It's not given to them as easily as for boys."


a community


really nervous," Athena Sipe, 14, says as she prepares for the performance at

the Earth House with her band Rashin City. Sipe was one of the few girls who

came to the camp with musical experience. She was pleasantly surprised that she

wasn't the oldest camper, but then disappointed to learn she wouldn't be

playing drums, her chosen instrument. But she quickly embraced her new

challenge. The week's other lessons weren't lost on her either.


learned how to work together," she says. "We also learned how to deal with self

esteem and our images of ourselves. We learned a lot of the images they show on

TV of celebrities aren't that real...You are beautiful just the way you are."


Girls Rock! showcase is a sell-out, with the girls performing before a packed,

sweltering room. Family, friends, and members of the Indianapolis music

community have come out to support the program. People stand along the walls in

rows three deep. Forty campers sit on the floor in front of the stage and watch

their new friends perform.


girls are decked out in makeup and flashy clothing, and look ready to provide

Madonna with fashion tips. They are confident, composed and act like seasoned

veterans on stage. Some girls toss guitar picks into the crowd. Some lead

singers share their mic with their guitarists. The campers hit all the classic

rock motifs and poses. And their songs — written during the camp —

are thought-out, addressing their own concerns and ranging in style from pop to

punk to metal.


Nelson drove from Michigan so her daughter, Lilly, could attend the camp. After

only one week, she was already seeing the impact Girls Rock! had. "She never

wanted to sing in front of me before but now she is belting it out," she says,

looking on. "Her confidence [has been] really built up."


think [Girls Rock!] is very important not just because they sing and dance but

it builds their character—gives them self esteem which is important

especially for young girls in today's society," Jamie Sanders, a father of one

of the campers, says.


from the local music community are inspired by the camp as well. Mandy Marie

Luke jokes that she wishes she could take the classes. The musicians in Red

Light Driver contemplate a Boys Rock! camp.


were talking after the show about how cool it would have been to have something

like this when we were young," Derek Osgood, the band's lead vocalist, says. "I

think boys need more outlets than just sports and video games."

"I was amazed at how the girls just

stood up and did it," Plummer says afterwards. "I've been playing in bands for

four years and I still get nervous before I go onstage. You put a mic in front

of me and I freeze. You put a mic in front of these girls and they are like,

"Hello Indianapolis. What's up?' I was floored by how awesome they did."


a community, we must support one another," Manfredi adds. "That is the only way

we go places. Whether it's a band, a local restaurant, or local

is what makes things happen. I'm so proud to be a part of Indianapolis. This project

brought a community together."


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