Fourteen-year-old Tori Jackson, who will be a high school freshman later this year, heard the Girls Rock Jacksonville message loud and clear.
“The moment I felt empowered was when one of the counselors told me, ‘This is your place.’ She said that we do not have to be nervous at camp, we can express ourselves, and girls rock!”
Girls Rock Jacksonville has been providing a safe space for girls to boost their confidence, express their musical creativity and rock their way through those awkward teenage years since 2012.
The camp — founded by Ace Canessa, Sarah Humphreys and local musician Summer Wood — offers girls the chance to learn to play an instrument, write their own lyrics and create a band to perform in a camp showcase. Two years later, the camp continues to grow and help give a voice to groups of girls every summer.
Aside from teaching girls how to play instruments, the goal of Girls Rock Jacksonville is to equip girls with self-confidence.
Though the camp’s name implies that rock is the main genre, Jackson says that’s not exactly the case. “Our genre was kind of all over the place. We had some rapping in our song, we had some indie rock sort of things and we also had some riot girl moments,” she laughs.
Sisters Yani and Lulu Ritchie also recall their camp experience fondly. Lulu, the drummer for Moonlit Shadows, remembers how easy it was to make friends and connect with her bandmates. She said, “during our practice band time we would just chill and then after 45 minutes we would actually talk about the songs and get to know each other more.” Yani of Yani and the Rosettes learned to play bass at the camp. Though she says she’d never really worked in groups before, she was able to improve her teamwork skills.
Canessa is looking to expand the Girls Rock Jacksonville camp into an after-school program. “In the past we’ve had a pilot once-a-month mentorship program,” she says. “But it never really quite got off the ground because we had trouble with space.”
The camp doesn’t have a permanent home.
“The first two years we had camp were at Douglas Anderson but this year it’s going to be at Waverly Academy for Girls, which is a public charter school, and they stand for all the same things we do so they have asked us to start planning an after school mentor-type program,” Canessa says.
But space isn’t the only speed-bump the program hits. The camp is in need of more instruments for the girls. Canessa says that luckily, they are able to supply the girls with instruments through the help of donors.
The Ladies Arm Wrestling competition on June 20 gives Girls Rock Jacksonville a chance to raise awareness and seek donations of both money and instruments.
Girls Rock Jacksonville will begin its third session July 28, and Canessa is looking forward to making an even bigger impact this year. “It’s kind of like a leveling plain at rock camp. Everyone, no matter what your background or how you identify or what your familial situation is, everyone’s there to work together and better themselves and really just be comfortable in their own skin,” she said.