Instruments are provided.

Girls Rock Camp starting in Madison

Future jukebox heroines

This summer, while some kids are toasting marshmallows, learning archery and making lanyards, another group will be rocking out. Girls Rock Camp launches in Madison next month.

The national and international nonprofit program is for young women ages 9-18. Its goals are to teach empowerment and build self-esteem through collaboration and community - and, of course, to have fun.

"It's really something to see the girls change from Monday to Friday," says camp director Halle Pollay. "It's amazing to listen to and watch."

Pollay's has a day job as a grant writer, though she's performed rock and borderline punk herself. She offered the program in Viroqua, Wis., last summer.

The first Girls Rock Camp was held in 2001, at Portland State University in Oregon. Since then, affiliated programs have spread to cities including Brooklyn, Denver, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington, D.C., along with Canada and Sweden. The parent organization is still headquartered in Portland.

Girls Rock Camp Madison will be held June 14-20 at West High School. The final day includes a public performance at the High Noon Saloon.

"By the time the show is over, as exhausted as we are, nobody wants it to be over," says Pollay. "The girls are excited to be on stage, with lights and an audience. It makes them feel like those rock stars that they watch all the time."

There are instructors for vocalists and all rock instruments. This summer one camper already wants to play rock violin, "so we have to go out and find an instructor," Pollay says, laughing.

The teachers are all women, to help create a safe, affirming environment. Instruments are provided, along with picks, strings, amps and microphones.

Participants are also free to bring their own instruments. However, musical ability or experience isn't necessary to take part. Just as in the adult music industry, Girls Rock Camp calls on all sorts of creative arts, including writing, design and dance. Campers can design T-shirts, be band managers and even roadies.

More important than the final external results is what goes on inside Girls Rock Camp participants.

"You never know what it's going to be," says Pollay. "There's always some sort of transformation."

You can register for Girls Rock Camp, which costs $375, at www.grcmadison.org or 608-217-3795. The deadline is May 31.

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