3 Summer Youth Rock Camp Workers Tell Us What They Love About Camp | Reverb Gives

Reverb Gives provides students, teachers, and leaders of music programs with the instruments that they need, directly from the Reverb marketplace. Since its launch, Reverb Gives has had the opportunity to help support a variety of remarkable organizations committed to making the world a more musical place.

To celebrate the start of summer, we’re highlighting several rock camps who have received grants through Reverb Gives. We spoke with a few rock camp workers about what makes their organization special, the benefit of a musical summer, some of their favorite camp-related memories, and how you can be involved.

So, what's a rock camp, and why are they important? A rock camp is either a day or sleepaway camp dedicated to teaching kids about music, and building up their self-esteem with a positive artistic expression. Through group exercises and fun activities, kids can learn to be proud of themselves and their musical abilities.

There are rock camps all over the country, many of which are inclusive spaces where children can foster their abilities and gain self-confidence and friends. With the help of great teachers and parental support, rock camps can create lasting, positive memories for kids. So put on some sunscreen, pick up Strat, and read below to learn more about a few of these organizations.

Natalie Walker, Rain City Rock Camp Seattle
Executive Director

How would you describe Rain City Rock Camp in one sentence?

RCRC empowers girls, women, and gender non-conforming individuals to engage their creative potential through music, champion equity, and thrive in a community of allies and activists.

What inspired you to launch RCRC?

I was inspired to launch Rain City Rock Camp because of my experience as a young person navigating the challenges and joys of being a musician. I saw the power of music in my life, and I knew that it had the potential to create powerful personal and social change as well.

Bias and stereotypes can sometimes limit what we think we can achieve, and having access to mentors and role models who look like us, or come from similar backgrounds as us, really helps to widen our lens of what is possible. For me, that's what rock camp is all about—expanding your horizons and believing you are capable.

What’s your favorite camp-related memory?

We have an official camp song that we sing every night, and each time we sing it together is my favorite camp moment! It really embodies our values and is super catchy, too. I love that all our campers want to learn how to play the camp songs. On the first day of camp, many of the participants are timid and just learning how to exercise their power and their voices. By the end of the camp, they are jumping, dancing, and screaming out the words to the song. It feels like the ultimate culmination of solidarity.

Rain City Rock Camp Is...

If you had to pitch the idea of joining your summer rock camp to a potential teacher in two sentences, what would you say?

Be the person you needed when you were young—help the next generation to rock! There are young people out there who need you to partner with them to make a difference!

How will you use your Reverb Credits?

We are very excited to improve our instrument offerings with short-scale basses and small, portable amps that better suit our campers. We are also launching keys instruction for the first time ever this year, which requires quite a bit more gear than we would have been able to acquire on our own.

Emily Backus, Girls Rock Atlanta
Board Member

How would you describe Girls Rock ATL in one sentence, and what inspired you to join the organization?

Girls Rock Camp ATL is a nonprofit music education organization devoted to empowering girls, trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive youth through creative expression. I am an elementary school music teacher during the year, and GRC ATL gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my love for music education and for feminist rock and roll.

If you had to pitch the idea of joining your summer rock camp to a parent/student in two sentences, what would you say?

Your child will leave GRC with improved self-esteem and the tools to express herself to the world. The campers blow me away every year with their songwriting—I've learned not to lean so much on conventional rules and to be open to collaboration and the metamorphosing of an idea. (Plus, it's indescribably cool to see them on stage at one of Atlanta's most notable music venues.)

How did you use your Reverb Credits?

We used a large portion of our Reverb Credits to purchase drum cases and hardware bags, which have made camp set-up and break-down infinitely easier. The rest went to purchasing a variety of Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator drum/synth machines for our keyboard students to start experimenting with electronic music.

Jen Baron, Girls Rock Santa Barbara
Executive Director

What inspired you to launch Girls Rock Santa Barbara, and how has Reverb Gives contributed?

When I was growing up, music and art was always where I turned to feel joy. It was a place where I felt safe and inspired, where I found community, and ultimately, where I took a deep dive into who I am. I wanted to create a safe and inspiring place like that for other girls. We've used our Reverb Credits to add to our music production set up and to replace some older broken instruments.

What’s your favorite camp-related memory?

She was set to play the keys, and she was extremely shy. Her aunt would come up to me at pick up and say, "Have you heard her sing yet? She's so shy, but has the most incredible voice," and I hadn't, at that time. I was band coaching Tess's band that week, and our vocalist ended up getting sick and had to drop out of camp for the last two days.

I asked the other girls, "Who can fill in?" Of course, no one volunteered. So I did an exercise with them. I had them pick out a song, and we put the track on, and all the girls came up to sing karaoke-style. Singing in the group, Tess was just belting it, and the girls slowly stopped singing until it was just her up there. She was closing her eyes on stage, and when the song ended, she opened them and looked at me in the audience and said, "What was that?"

She'd never heard her voice amplified before, and she started crying. All the other girls were rallying around her. She ended up playing keys and singing, and after that moment every day, she asked to do karaoke again. That moment, for me, felt life-changing—watching her be her most brave and authentic self.

We are teaching girls to be brave, not perfect.

To learn more about Reverb Gives, including how the program works, what organizations the initiative has supported, or how to apply for a grant, visit the Reverb Gives website. Want to learn more about how we've helped individual groups? Check out our Reverb Gives interview series here.

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