Bellingham Girls Rock Camp

Like Space Camp, but way better

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The subject of women in music is not without its controversies, and life at the nexus of art and feminism can be tricky to navigate from time to time. But all of the complexities and nuanced issues and analysis and debate aside, one point upon which we can all agree is that women are vastly underrepresented in almost every category of the music scene in almost every place with a music scene.

Certainly, that is changing somewhat, and aiming to help that evolution along in our music community is Bellingham Girls Rock Camp, which exists for the purpose of giving girls not just the technical skills, but also the confidence to get onstage and make their music heard. It’s an excellent cause built on a firm foundation of fun, but administering the program comes with costs not entirely covered by the camp’s intentionally low tuition.

What’s a music camp to do? In Bellingham, the usual solution to such a problem is to throw a benefit show. And this is where Bellingham Girls Rock volunteer Tasha Kern comes in. You may know Kern as the always-cheery face behind the bar or in front of the stage at the Shakedown. But she’s also the driving force behind the upcoming trio of shows taking place Fri-Sun., Jan. 24-26 at the State Street music venue, the proceeds of which will benefit the Bellingham Girls Rock Camp.

Bartending at the Shakedown afforded Kern more than just an opportunity to secure a willing venue for her weekend of music, it also allowed her access to a sizeable share of Bellingham’s bands, who, once again, displayed their customary generosity when asked to donate their time and talents. The result is a Friday lineup of the Ultimatum, Hash Adams and Orbe Orbe. Saturday’s roster includes Bright Weapons, Noise Toys, Gypsters, and Gyrating Hips. Sarah in the Wild, Fictions, Porch Cat, and Katie Gray will close things out Sunday.

The fact that Kern has never spearheaded an event such as this before speaks to her dedication to Bellingham Girls Rock Camp as well as the passion she brings to this particular cause. But no one speaks better to that than Kern herself, as I found out when I asked her about the benefit shows and how they came to be.

Cascadia Weekly: First, what is Bellingham Girls Rock Camp?

Tasha Kern: Bellingham Girls Rock Camp is a weeklong summer camp for 8- to 15-year-old girls. The girls come to camp to focus on vocals, drums, guitar or bass and are put into bands divided by age. Throughout the week, we have individual music lessons, lessons grouped by instrument and full band practice, along with workshops that cover things like lyric writing, zine creation, women in the history of music, body image and participation in the music industry as something other than a musician.

CW: How’d you get involved with the program?

TK: I got involved with Girls Rock two years ago, in its debut, just by seeing a poster downtown and emailing the woman who was running it. I was a counselor that year and the year following, and this year I am part of a three-person “board” (that consists of myself, Morgan Lanza, and Liberty Miller) that meets biweekly to take care of the planning and running of the camp.

CW: Whose idea was the fundraiser weekend at the Shakedown and what will the money raised be used for?

TK: We wanted to throw a fundraising show as a collective group, but this specific weekend was my project. All of the money goes directly toward things like paying for the space we use for the camp, materials for the girls (notebooks, screen-printing their band’s custom-made T-shirts, zine materials, etc.) and supplies for creating the CDs we record of each band’s original music.

CW: How did you choose the bands for the shows?

I wanted to do a different style of music each night to represent the diversity of things we teach at camp. So Friday I focused on hip-hop, Saturday is more of a rock show and Sunday is almost entirely past counselors’ bands with the addition of Sarah in the Wild, just because they’re great. I could absolutely not have done Friday without local musician Mo Stafa—he went out of his way to refer musicians and help me in an area I am not super-familiar. Saturday is primarily bands I have discovered through the Thursday-night Showdown at the Shakedown—although the headliner has some of my [Shakedown] coworkers in it, which is a definite perk of my job.

CW: Had you ever organized anything like this before? What was it like for you?

TK: I have never done anything like this before but absolutely would again! It was much harder than I had anticipated, between thinking up three days worth of music that is primarily positive in its focus, having the bands be available, getting them all on the same page as to where and when to be at what time and set times and start times and merch creation and poster making (Brad Lockhart, Zach Wise, and Mike E. Wilson each donated their time to design posters) and millions of emails and phone calls to make sure everything is covered! It was pretty amazing to see how many people were willing to go out of their way to help me make this possible though, and it really has made me appreciate the awesome music community within Bellingham.

CW: What do you get out of your involvement with Bellingham Girls Rock Camp?

TK: I help to make this camp possible for multiple reasons. For one, I think that any space kids can find that is safe and supportive, where they feel like they can express themselves and be rewarded for it, is super important. I also feel passionate about music and love to incorporate that into the positive feelings we encourage through the camp. Also, at heart I am an 8-year-old who just happens to have been alive for 30 years, so a week of doing awesome projects and seeing kids in action is pretty much like a vacation.

CW: How can other interested people get involved?

TK: Anyone interested in being involved can talk to me this weekend, as I’ll be there every day, or they can contact us via Facebook. We will be accepting applications for this summer’s campers starting next month, so stay tuned!

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