Local camp gives girls, LGBTQ youth outlet to rock


Abbey La Tour | @LaTourAbbey

By Abbey La Tour

When Elizabeth Donoghue was 12 years old, she wanted to learn to play guitar, but she wasn’t taken seriously because she is a girl. Now she’s making sure other girls, including her daughter, Amina Wilson, get the opportunity she wasn’t afforded.

Donoghue is a volunteer for Girls Rock Carbondale, which is a “trans-inclusive” summer camp that teaches campers in grades four through 12 to play an instrument, form a band, write an original song and perform a concert at a live music venue.

“We don’t afford the same kind of opportunities to make noise, to play rock ‘n’ roll music, to girls that we do to boys,” Donoghue said. “I just felt like it was really important.”


The Carbondale camp is a member of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, a worldwide organization that aims to help girls build self-esteem and find role models through music education.

The first Girls Rock Camp started Aug. 13, 2001 in Portland, Oregon. Other camps followed, which resulted in the creation of the alliance in 2007.

Jessica Lynn, the co-founder of Girls Rock Carbondale, said the camp started in 2014 under Carbondale Community Arts. When she left the art center, she took the camp with her.

“Being a catalyst for personal development and knowing I am a part of raising, if even just a little bit, each kid’s self-esteem is really fulfilling,” Lynn said.

Each camp under the alliance runs independently so it can come up with its own programs to best serve its communities, Lynn said.

Despite the name, GRC doesn’t limit its campers to rock music.

“It’s about providing multiple entry points for girls to rock,” Lynn said. “For example — Solange rocks, FKA Twigs rocks, Dolly Parton rocks, Joan Jett rocks. They’re all different genres. All these women and artists rock.”


Carbondale’s camp operates under Libre Unschool, a nonprofit Lynn started centered around art-based youth education.

The full price of the camp is $250, but it operates on a sliding pay scale to allow kids who cannot afford the camp to attend.

Funding comes from direct mail, grant writing and fundraisers, Lynn said, and the directors and artists are all volunteers.

The main fundraiser for GRC is the Girls Rock Gala. This year’s gala took place in March at Hangar 9 and featured a karaoke competition.

Amina Wilson, a 14-year-old camper attending Unity Point Middle School, won the karaoke competition at this year’s gala and said she plans on attending camp this year for the third year in a row.

Wilson, whose parents have both fostered her love for music, was in a school band before joining Girls Rock. Her mom said their home is now a “storage place for instruments.”

Wilson is a member of two bands outside of her middle school band and has played shows in the Carbondale area.

Lynn said she is also starting a camp for adults called Rock Roulette with the hope of raising more scholarships for campers.

Rock Roulette will be a nine week music camp for people 18 years and older. Participants, regardless of their previous musical experience, will be placed in bands to spend time writing songs and making music.

Donoghue said she is going to participate in Rock Roulette to prove to herself and other women that even after they are moms, they can still rock.

“I think it is important for the volunteers to get to experience a little bit of what the campers do,”  Donoghue said.

The camps are about more than music, Lynn said; they provide a space for kids to be themselves and grow.

“When girls hit puberty their self-esteem and confidence plummets and nothing makes you feel more confident than rocking, and knowing you can,” Donoghue said. “I think that’s huge.”

Staff writer Abbey La Tour can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @LaTourAbbey

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