Skip to main content

The City Journals

Rock ‘n’ roll camp lets girls take the stage

Aug 30, 2018 01:46PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Sophia plays guitar on stage with her band, Toxic Riot, during the Aug. 4 showcase at the Commonwealth Room. (Courtesy of Dayna Schmidt)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected]

Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls Salt Lake City ended their third summer with a concert at the Commonwealth Room in which campers showed off what they learned to a cheering crowd of friends, family, and camp faculty, all of whom can now be called fans.

Girls ranging from 8 to 17 took the stage with their bandmates and rocked out, playing original songs they wrote together in one week. It’s an opportunity for many to play an instrument for the first time, while for others it’s a chance to break out of their shell. 

One camper, guitarist Sophia, lost her father suddenly in a motorcycle accident earlier this year. “I wanted to get her into something positive and fun,” said her stepmom, Dayna Schmidt. “Her dad, Craig, taught her the ropes on playing guitar and it was something they did a lot together. They bonded so strongly over music, and she is a very gifted musician, just like her dad. They both shared that passion, and I think this helped keep him alive for her.” The Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls gave Sophia the chance to make new friends and get out of her comfort zone, “which was awesome for such a shy girl,” Schmidt said.

One of the Salt Lake camp’s original founders, Co-director and PR Manager Amy Stocks, said one of her favorite activities is, what they call, a scream circle which they do the first and last day of every camp week. Participants hold hands while in a circle and take turns screaming.

The difference in confidence from the first day to the final day as the girls let their voices be heard is noticeable and reminds Stocks of one camper in particular. “She clung to her parent, did not want to leave the parent at all, this was our very first camp three years ago, and she hasn’t missed a session since. Every year that she comes back we are very excited.” Stocks said this experience is common for the girls as they walk in the first day, some not knowing anyone, and, leave the last day with new friends, fun memories and musical experience.

Stocks said this is not a professional music camp. “We really try to demystify music,” she said. Girls come to camp with varying musical experience. In fact, Stocks estimates at least 50 percent of girls have no experience on the particular instrument they are given to play. Some advanced musicians, ages 14-17, are teen mentors helping teach an instrument to another girl. “It’s more about having fun, and it doesn’t have to be super serious.”

Selecting what girls will play what instrument is a first come, first served process. When campers sign-up they pick their top three choices from vocalist, guitarist, bassist, drums, or keys.

“Sixty campers make 12 bands,” Stocks explained. “The first 12 that sign up for vocals get vocals, the 13th it’s their second choice, and so on.” As for being able to afford the camp, Stocks said, “We won’t deny anyone. We end up sponsoring 25 percent.” Depending on their need, campers will receive partial or full scholarships. Girls Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp is able to do this in part with fundraising efforts from the women’s camp they offer in the winter. The women’s camp helps in the recruitment of girls’ camp volunteers, helps get the word out about the camp, and encourages local women to play an instrument or sing.

“I mean that’s the goal,” Stocks said.

The women’s camp will take place over President’s Day weekend in Feb. 2019 for three days Saturday-Monday, with the hope that most women will have Monday off work to get their music on. For more info visit the website,

Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls is offered in many places around the country, including in Los Angeles, where co-director and another original founder for SLC, Hillary McDaniel, came to from Boston. Stocks first attended there as well.  Being part of the bigger picture that is Girls Rock Camp Alliance, GRCA, the different camps share ideas like Punk Rock Aerobics, based on a book by a founder in Boston, that the girls did every morning and Tiny Lunch Concerts, where local and touring women-fronted bands can perform a set for the campers. “Some of them, you know, they are eight and maybe they’ve never seen a live concert,” Stocks said.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls is more than a week-long summer camp. “The hope is that it will transfer to other stages in their life, that they will refer back to what they learned,” Stocks said.