Girls Rock Detroit

Community Music School-Detroit expands number of summer camps, empowers girls to rock out.

Summer of 2015 marked the the inaugural year for MSU Community Music School–Detroit’s “Girls Rock Detroit” and other specially themed camps.

The Michigan State University Community Music School-Detroit turned up the volume on summer camps in 2015, growing its base from two weeks of camp to five through the support of the Kresge Foundation, volunteers, and community groups.

“It’s safe to say that kids got into loads of treble this summer,” says Jill Woodward, director of CMS-Detroit. “But that’s not to say they didn’t get into bass and alto clefs, too.”

A community engagement division of the College of Music, CMS-Detroit has brought music education and music therapy to individuals of all ages, abilities, and incomes in Greater Detroit since 2009. The school’s summer camps in June, July, and August have become increasingly popular, attracting kids, families, and community members interested in exploring Detroit’s musical traditions. This year, the inaugural Girls Rock Detroit Camp, S.O.N.G. Project Camp, and Funk Camp joined the Aspiring Musicians Program (AMP) Camp on the school’s camp lineup.

“We literally exploded with summer camps this year,” Woodward says. “That's a wonderful problem to have.”

Twenty-five girls age 8 to 16 attended Girls Rock Detroit in mid-July for introductory instruction in songwriting and playing an instrument. Girls formed bands, developed original material, and got to hear a local female artist or band perform each afternoon, followed by a question and answer session. Workshops on body image, self-esteem, and women’s music history rounded out the curriculum. At the end of the week, campers took the stage for a final concert at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).

“The camp shows girls that you can shake off any and all stereotypes for creative expression,” Woodward says. “Many of the volunteers are female rock musicians who are active in the local music scene, and passionate about encouraging girls to be trailblazers in their own lives.”

Woodward says camp organizers Rosalind Hartigan, Melissa Coppola, and Willa Rae Adamo were inspired to launch the Detroit camp after their experience volunteering for Girls Rock Chicago. In total, 40 women staffed the first-ever Detroit camp, including volunteers who traveled from as far away as Seattle and South Carolina.

“We sponsored the camp, provided infrastructure, and the volunteers ran with it,” Woodward says. “It was a total success, and so affirming for girls to interact with female role models in rock music and then to be able to shape their own creative expression alongside other girls.”

Community Music School–Detroit and DIME teamed up to offer a new Funk Camp for kids.

The new Funk Camp—a collaboration between CMS-Detroit and DIME—received an equally resounding reception. Thirty-six kids age 9 to 21 formed bands based on skill level, listened to examples of past and present Funk music, and learned about songwriting styles. Guest artists, jam sessions, rehearsals, and a final concert at DIME were also part of the mix.

“Community collaborations are a way to further enrich the experience we offer the kids,” Woodward says. “DIME has a unique facility and skill set, and we do too. It was a win-win. You won’t find a Funk camp like this anywhere else.”

Community Music School–Detroit’s new SONG, “Saving Our Next Generation,” summer camp is designed to offer introductory level performance experience to youth.

The new collaborative S.O.N.G. Project Camp—or Saving Our Next Generation—offered kids with little or no musical experience the chance to participate in music, drama, dance, or visual arts; learn through on-site instruction and presentations; and present a performance at the end of the two-week camp.

Woodward says the positive vibes from new camps reinforced the appeal of the school’s existing programs. The weeklong AMP Camp offered elementary, middle, and high school students with a least a year of musical experience the chance to advance their skills by focusing on instrumental technique, ensembles, theory, ear training, songwriting, improvisation, field trips, and performance. To accommodate children with no musical experience, AMP Camp debuted “Groove in a Week” to provide introductory instruction on guitar, percussion, and vocal music.

“Music is a proven tool to jumpstart youth achievement, and it’s an essential part of Detroit’s cultural DNA,” Woodward says. “We’re here to build citizens through music, and to invest in Detroit’s youth.”

The CMS-Detroit opened in Detroit’s Cultural Corridor in September 2009 to serve Metro Detroit residents. The center offers youth and adult classes in jazz, piano, guitar, group music lessons in wind and string instruments, early childhood music education, and summer camps. The school has grown 357 percent in six years of operation, and served 1,200 students in 2014 through on-site and off-site programs. MSU also operates the Community Music School in East Lansing. 

For more coverage on the Girls Rock Detroit Camp, see the article posted in “Model D,” an online publication featuring groundbreaking news in the Detroit area.

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