Girls Rock strives to provide musical empowerment for all

When Kelly Finley founded the Charlotte chapter of Girls Rock, she knew that it was going to be something special. Her own daughter had attended a Girls Rock camp in Chapel Hill, and when she saw what a profound impact it had had on her, she knew that she needed to bring that experience to her hometown.

A camp for girls and gender non-conforming youth to explore new talents and celebrate the power of diversity and equality through music, Girls Rock is part of a nationwide program that works to “amplify the confidence and voice of ALL girls and women.” The organization is inclusive of all gender-diverse individuals and all “girl-identified people,” and as such, they serve a population that often gets ignored and rarely receives the recognition it deserves.

“We still have an emerging music scene,” Finley says of Charlotte, “and it’s really hard to find women and queer and trans musicians who can volunteer and help us out, which is why we’re always looking around and hunting for folks [to participate in and volunteer at the camp].”

Girls Rock Charlotte is an annual, week-long summer camp that brings together young people between the ages of 8 to 12 the week of June 25. Many of the campers arrive never having played an instrument, and so spend their first day exploring options like electric guitar, bass, keys, drums, and vocals. By lunch on the first day, they choose their top 3 instruments and the counselors assign them to their instruments and begin working with them to form a band with their peers. Over the course of the week, they take music lessons, learn to write songs, rehearse with their band, and ultimately perform in a final show for parents and friends.

For youth who “age out” of the program or who want to continue the experience they had as pre-teens, there is a teen camp for youth aged 12 to 16 offered later in the summer (August 6-11). Girls Rock Charlotte is also starting a film camp this year for teens age 14 to 18 that will take place the same week

“One of our core values is economic accessibility,” says Finley. “I know a lot of families that cannot commit to more than one week of taking their kid back and forth to camp, so we try to have our hours accessible and to create a program with a  time frame that’s feasible.”

That accessibility is important to Finley who believes in the mission of Girls Rock and wants to make it available for as many young people as possible. Finley, a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has always challenged the dictates of gender. She’s a parent, too, and many of her university students identify as queer.

“We felt really passionate about having programs that don’t just accept but that celebrate and advocate for queer youth and adults,” Finley says.

PFLAG is proud to have a relationship with Finley and Girls Rock. A number of PFLAG families have participated in Girls Rock since its inception in 2014, and as an organization, we are pleased to associate with an organization that is so dedicated to providing a “positive and affirming environment where campers talk about gender identity, social justice, and gender equality while celebrating safe spaces with adults who care about them.”

If you and your child missed out on registering for Girls Rock this year, no fear! You can show your love for Girls Rock by coming out to Spirit Square on Friday, June 1st, for “Sounds on the Square,” a free event that will include former Girls Rock campers performing original and cover songs. And if that piques your interest, consider contacting Kelly Finley at about camp openings and future volunteer opportunities.

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