I was at Beer Club and spotted this vintage Hamm’s Beer sign.
Is it just me, or is that dude holding that beer provocatively? I can just hear him… “Wanna check out my Hamm?”
I was at Beer Club and spotted this vintage Hamm’s Beer sign.
Is it just me, or is that dude holding that beer provocatively? I can just hear him… “Wanna check out my Hamm?”
Saturday morning began with the Volunteers meeting in downtown L.A., and breaking down the Rock Camp stuff we’d used all week. The school is a special place to us, so we treat it with respect. We try to leave it as we found it. It’s a lot of work, I won’t lie. Load-out is an all-hands-on-deck activity and it’s exhausting. But it has to be done. So we do it.
After the trucks, vans and cars were loaded, we caravanned to The El Rey Theatre and loaded-in for the showcase. Merch had to be set up. “Vibe Tribe” Volunteers worked to get the space decorated with a lot of what the girls had seen all week at camp. All the gear had to be set up, tuned and readied.
This is a good time for me to tell you about the fantastic El Rey crew. The folks on stage, working sound & lights, security, outside – they were all super-helpful and cheerful. I actually saw the stage crew smiling and, I believe, genuinely enjoying the show. Those little moments matter.
Anyhoo, the campers arrived at the appointed time. The audience arrived shortly after. The joint was jumping. There were nerves. There was excitement. There was make-up and glitter. There were bubbles. And then the lights dimmed…
This year’s showcase was hosted by Rock Camp Volunteers Mona Tavakoli and Sara Bareilles. They were mighty entertaining, folks. And they’re Rock Camp junkies (like all Rock Camp Volunteers). They believe in this organization and their support is tangible. As emcees, they did an awesome job. But it wasn’t really about them.
It was about the girls. The 15 bands formed just that week. The 15 original songs written just that week. The 70 campers who came together, met each other, trusted each other and brought their true selves to the table.
That’s what Rock Camp is all about – being oneself. Each and every person who walks into the magical space created for camp is a beautiful soul. 3 years running now, that has held true. Does every soul know she’s awesome? Not always. Especially not on Day 1. But by the end, I pray each soul has at least had a glimpse of how fantastic she is. I pray each soul can acknowledge her own potential. And I pray each soul – every last one of us – can somehow manage to hold on to the beautiful, positive reality that is Rock Camp, as we go out into the world, into our lives.
These are some of my personal highlights:
I learned the secret to successful high-fiving from Chaska P. She was a Vocal Instructor (along with Alex K., Sara B. and yours truly) and once she shared this secret, I felt like I’d been given the keys to the High-Five Kingdom. If our paths cross, ask me about it. I promise to be share-ful.
The campers. To watch a vocal student move from covering her mouth when speaking – for fear of actually being heard – to singing out with volume and commitment is, well, let’s just say I shed more than a few tears of joy this past week.
You know how when someone else makes a sandwich for you, it tastes so much better than if you’d made the same danged sandwich yourself? Same for toasted bagels. Exene C. made a toasted bagel for me one morning and it was divine. (It was also a treat to listen to her jam out.)
I hate to name-check a camper (especially when they’re all so magnificent), but I’m going to. Hallelujah to “Tuesday.” That girl stood at the front of the rehearsal stage on Friday, cheering and supporting her fellow campers as each band took the stage. Then, at Saturday’s showcase, she did the same thing. I was completely in awe of her. She totally gets what Rock Camp is all about. And I adore that kid. She’s just amazing.
Crazy Hat Day. ‘Nuff said.
Chef Olivia made a slow-roasted pork shoulder for lunch one day, and that pig was beyond rocking. Chef Olivia is a highlight unto herself.
Morning Greetings in the school parking lot. I swear, I am not a morning person at all. But one week per year, I become one. There’s just something about welcoming all those campers (and their caregivers) that revs me up each morning of camp. And you know what? I flippin’ love it.
The Volunteers. I cannot say enough about these women. They not only inspire the campers, they also inspire me. In all honesty, I feel like a better human after Rock Camp. And the Volunteers deserve credit for that. I admire them. I respect them. Truly, I adore them. I can’t believe I get to call them my friends. What a blessed gal I am.
I’m sure there about a jillion other highlights, and I’ll probably remember them all immediately after posting this writing. But believe me, it’s all positive. It’s all fun. And it’s all beautiful.
So here’s the deal – I will continue to show up and work Rock Camp for as long as they’ll have me. In any capacity. They’re my tribe. My community. And I love those ladies. Together, we are – hopefully – doing our small part to help in raising good human beings. Can’t get enough of those in the world. At Rock Camp, we have more than our fair share of good human beings. And we’ll keep doing whatever it takes to usher more of them into being. It’s an honor and a privilege.
With that, I’ll close now, for tears of gratitude are once again flowing. If I’m lucky, I’ll occasionally cry these tears for a long time to come.
Only one more year until the next Rock Camp. I can hardly wait…
So it’s Saturday night, late, and I want to fill you in on the big Rock Camp Showcase. And I will.
But not right now. Instead, I need to collapse and decompress. It’s for the best. It’s for my best.
Tomorrow. I promise…
Long day, so let me get right to it…
The morning began with final Instrument Instruction, one hour only. In Voice, the campers had a last chance to get class input on their songs. Each girl stepped up to the mic and shared. Then the other girls offered positive shout-outs, followed by constructive criticism. I cannot tell you how wonderful this is. The girls are so danged supportive of one another (“That was off the chain!”), and their ideas for improvement are spot-on (“Pronounce your words more – I really wanted to hear them!”). To back each other up like that is powerful. And inspiring.
Then there was lunch. And today we got to hear not one, but two bands during the hour. First up was a rock-blues power-duo that just blew me away. Deap Vally, yo!
After that fiery set, we were all treated to a performance by a band comprised of fan-tabulous Rock Camp Volunteers – The Cold and Lovely, yo!
One final band practice followed. This was the campers’ last chance to work out any problems. After that, there was a stage rehearsal. This part served to not only work out the kinks of getting on-stage, performing, then getting off-stage, but also to work out the kinks of butterflies. For a lot of these girls, this will be their first time performing anywhere, let alone in front of a gi-normous audience at the El Rey in Los Angeles.
After the stage rehearsal, the last afternoon assembly wrapped it all up. And then, just like that, Friday was finished.
The campers are excited for their Saturday showcase. A lot of them are nervous, too. But as one vocalist said during class, being nervous and being excited feel pretty much the same. Ain’t that a kick?
For the record, I did cry today. I cried in class when one of the younger vocalists sang her song. I cried during stage rehearsal when the vocalists stepped up and totally brought it. And finally, I cried at the end of the day when all the Volunteers got together and shared favorite parts of Rock Camp.
It’s an emotional experience, participating in this camp. As a Volunteer, I’m blessed to witness the girls as they grow into themselves. They just blow my mind. I’m also blessed to work alongside so many strong, creative, beautiful women. I’m honored. I’m privileged. I don’t know any other way to put it. Except maybe this…
When it was my turn to share my Rock Camp highlights with the other Volunteers, I said something along these lines: This is the one week each year when I feel truly in touch with my tribe. I don’t know why it’s only once a year, but it is. And I’ll take it.
I can’t believe the showcase is tomorrow. Wow.
I’m getting ready for the day and feeling pretty good. In fact, I’m feeling a lot of love for this camp. For the Campers. For the Volunteers. I hope this love will carry me through the long day to come…
Much, Much Later…
I’m home now, and about ready for bed. The day was awesome and I’m wiped out.
Vocals classes went by fast, and the campers shared their songs while working the microphone and practicing stage presence. They did really well! Their progress was visible and audible. I’m super proud of them.
Our lunchtime entertainment was one of our awesome Volunteers. Sara Bareilles, yo!
During band practice, April and I gave the girls an assignment: finish writing their song in one hour. I took off to help vocalists in other bands and it took the entire hour. When I walked back into the room of the band I’m coaching, I heard one of the girls say, “You guys, come on – we’ve only got 5 minutes to finish the song!” I’m ecstatic to tell you – they finished!
After that session, they silk-screened their band t-shirts. It’s a messy activity, but it’s fantastic. And the campers flippin’ love it!
Then the day was done and we all went home. Only 1 day left. The beginning of the week seemed to move slowly, and now I can see just how fast it’s actually moved. It’s crazy. I guess it’s just life.
By the way, I cried again today. An 8-year-old girl shared a couple of songs she wrote by herself. Her lyrics were as deep as anything I’ve ever written myself. And to witness her creation was, well, awe-inspiring.
That’s why I keep volunteering for Rock Camp.
This morning’s vocal class was challenging. It’s mid-week and the campers are between a rock and a hard place. They’re fighting whatever is keeping them from blasting their voices, and the fact that Saturday’s showcase is right around the corner. Like in 3 days. For reals.
There were some breakthroughs in the end. And there are amazing voices to show for it. Oh, and I cried. Happy tears. Soulful, in fact. And I never mind that.
After vocal classes, it was lunchtime. And today’s band was so flippin’ awesome, I could hardly stand it. In fact, I didn’t stand it. I danced it – the entire time. The campers were looking at me like I was a monkey fool, and I didn’t care. Check out this artist. You can thank me later. Ceci Bastida, yo!
The afternoon’s band practice was pretty cool. The band I’m coaching (along with April, another amazing Volunteer), “ADHD,” made a lot of progress and are this close to finishing their song. Their practice session was aided greatly by 2 Volunteers coming in to offer some ideas and help.
And that brings me to something fan-tabulous about Rock Camp: the Volunteers. This group of women (and a couple of dudes) is the most encouraging, positive I’ve ever encountered. Today, for example, I was feeling challenged and grabbed my head. About 4 different people saw me and said, “I see you need something. What can I help you with right now?” How great is that?
And that’s a big part of why I come here. The Volunteers. Y’all, I am super-tired tonight but it was important to me to stay for the staff jam session. Why? Because this is My Tribe. These are My People. They mean the world to me and if I see even one of them grabbing her head, I’ll be at her side, saying, “I see you need something. What can I help you with right now?”
How great is that? It’s pretty flippin’ awesome.
Tuesday began early. (Every day begins early, yo.) One of my duties since Rock Camp L.A.’s inception has been to greet the campers as they arrive for the day. I get to Camp early, grab a coffee and a snack – breakfast of champions – and head down to the parking lot and welcome the campers and the adults dropping them off.
“Welcome” isn’t a strong enough word. “Greeter” isn’t a strong enough description. How shall I put this? Like this: I am “Greet-or, Viking Goddess” each and every morning of Rock Camp. I sing to the campers. I high-five the campers. I sing to and high-five their dropper-offers. It’s a lot of flippin’ energy and I freakin’ love it! For this one week each year, I am a morning person. And I express it. Loudly.
Anyhoo, the day moved along through instrument instruction for the older girls and then the younger girls. By lunch, I was totally dragging. That’s when a couple of volunteers started making up a song and singing it to the campers as they passed through our Vocal Instruction room on their way to the outside eating area. I and a few other volunteers joined in and we did our best to sing to each and every girl. Our little ditty went something like this: “Get your lunch on! Get your lunch on! Get your lunch on! Get your lunch on, Girl!” It reads lifeless, but trust me. It was vibrant and full of energy. It actually woke me up and kept me going for hours. Sans coffee. Then again, it could have been the lunchtime entertainment that revved the engines. Lost Notes, yo!
The rest of the day went by pretty smoothly. There was band practice, a self-defense workshop and time for the bands to work on their logos and songs.
And just like that, day two was over. There were highs. There were lows. There were in-betweens. This is life, after all. It just happens to be life during one magical, beautiful, amazing, loving week.
I can hardly wait for day three.
This is the time I’d planned to wake. Instead, I woke at 4:45 and have been up ever since. My head is crazy-full of Rock Camp thoughts! I’ve just finished some yoga stretches and the coffee is brewing. I think I’ll make it…
Much, much later…
So here’s the deal: it’s never what you think it will be.
Yes, it is amazing to connect with other volunteers – the people you sometimes only see once a year. Yes, it’s awesome to see the returning campers – the girls who’ve attended Rock Camp before. Yes – it’s beautiful to meet new campers – the first-timers. All these things are exactly what you expect. No, they’re more than you expect. In a good way. In the best way actually.
It’s everything else that surprises you. How tired you are by noon. How fulfilled you are in the first hour. How mind-blowing the lunch-time entertainment can be. Sia, yo!
The food! (I failed to photograph this today. I’ll try to be better tomorrow.) The bands!
On that note, allow me to share a bit about the band I’m working with. They’ve named themselves “ADHD” and they’re totally rad. There’s a singer, a drummer, a guitarist and two – I said two – bassists. All I can tell you is, ADHD is pretty flippin’ awesome.
But all the bands are awesome. All the campers are awesome. Honestly, being around so much positivity and light is truly uplifting.
And exhausting. Energy is energy. This lovefest is wearing me out. And it’s only the first day, y’all!
But no matter how tired I may be, it’s okay. Wanna know why? Watch this fantastic video from last year’s camp. It features Linda Perry and a couple of our campers. And just so you know, when this all went down at last year’s camp, just about every volunteer had to excuse herself to go have a major cry. That’s just how powerful the moment was. (I just watched the video a moment ago, and I’m fighting tears now. But I’m also smiling like a happy monkey!)
Back to this year’s camp… I’ve promised myself I’ll try to get some good sleep tonight. I need to make sure I’m there for the kids. They deserve it. And they’re super-worth it. Each and every one of them. Hallelujah!
P.S. This year’s campers’ showcase will be held at the El Rey Theatre!
Doors are at 3 p.m. and show is from 4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. THE EL REY, yo!!!
This event is all-ages and open to the public.
Tickets are $10. INVITE YOUR FRIENDS! IT’S TOTALLY FUN AND A GREAT CAUSE!
We keep the ticket price low so we can PACK THE HOUSE FOR THE GIRLS and everything earned at the door goes back into funding future programming.
Tickets can be purchased directly from Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls staff/volunteers during camp (week of 7/23-7/27) or at the El Rey Box Office on day of event.
I’d looooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeee to see you there!
This is a photo I love. Since it’s a photo of me, that’s really saying something.
I am not a fan of pictures of myself. I’m not even crazy about looking into mirrors, for cry-eye.
Anyhoo, I’m smiling right now, for today is the first day of Rock Camp for Girls! This post is going out before the day will begin, and I’m super excited! I don’t know how it will all go down, but I’m sure it will be awesome! It always is! I’m totally digging exclamation points right now!
I hope to keep you up to date on camp, and I’ll do my best to fill you in. Wish me luck, as those girls need me (and the other volunteers) to be on all ten toes. This week is about them. About their dreams.
See – it’s already awesome! And I’m still smiling!
“I light this candle.
I kneel before the altar.
I pray to St. Lucy,
to help me find my way.”
words and music by Mikki Brisk
The song was born before the painting.
Mister had taken a photo in a Seattle cemetery that was, well, holy. He asked me to paint it and I agreed. Because the subject matter was so moving, I felt the painting should be done with respect and reverence. So I went big. Big. She’s 6 feet tall.
In the end, Mister loved her. Loves her. So do I. And sometimes I find myself looking at her and looking to her for guidance. For her part, she only gazes down, on the verge of a smile.
She’s the patron saint of the blind. Lord knows, I can use all the help I can get “seeing” in this life. So I pray to St. Lucy, to help me find my way…
I'm a singer, a songwriter, a painter and a cook. I endeavor to embrace the artist within on a daily basis - spreading my wings while also honoring my roots. I need all the help I can get...
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