Collaboration, Chords and Harmony: Girls Rock!

Sharon Gonzalez plays the drums while singing farewell to dinosaurs

The four-girl rock band “Boltz” sang about the cataclysmic end of the dinosaurs. “Toodle-oo, T-Rex!” the fifth- and sixth-graders chimed in unison while rehearsing their original song, “Natural Disasters.”

The upbeat, lighthearted telling of a reptile apocalypse showed the band’s girly but edgy charm, which was revealed while penning the song at Girls Rock! Grand Rapids Camp.

Lines like “Sayonara supersaurus, bon voyage brontosaurus, later velociraptor,” were written by Sharon Gonzalez, a sixth-grader at Zoo School, in Grand Rapids; Vivian Lundskow, a fifth-grader at Lakeside Elementary, in East Grand Rapids; Gabriella Stillerman-Flores, a sixth-grader at Center for Economicology, in Grand Rapids; and fifth-grader Audrei Carpentier, a fifth-grader at Highlands Middle School, in Northview Public Schools. The song was perfected after a week during which girls learned as much about collaboration as they did about chords and harmony.

Audrei Carpentier, a fifth-grader at Northview Highlands Middle School, finds the harmony

“It takes time to make a song and it takes a long time to learn to play an instrument,” said Audrei.

“I like the way we are being agreeable. We work together,” said Gabriella.

“We all gave some ideas,” said Vivian.

In preparation for a concert in front of parents and family members, Boltz and seven other girl bands were rocking out throughout the Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities Cook Arts Center, in southwest Grand Rapids.

GR!GR is part of Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an international nonprofit organization founded in 2007 that has grown to include more than 80 member camps in the United States and several other countries. In its fourth year, GR!GR has grown from 20 to 40 girls. Girls came from Kenowa Hills, Wyoming, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids, Kentwood and other Kent County public and private schools.

Fourth-grader Ariel LeBlanc sings “the sizzling song”

A Creative Space for Girls

Fifty female volunteers, all with ties to the local music scene, led camp sessions in drum, guitar and keyboard, song-writing, and creating logos and albums. Most importantly, camp leaders said, was teaching about possibilities for females in the music industry. The goal is to provide safe and empowering spaces for girls and women to learn, explore and create together.

“We are here to create a community of support for women and girls,” said Steffanie Rosalez, program director at Cook Arts Center who also plays synthesizers in a local band.

Women musicians often face a misogynistic environment and are demoralized by words like, “You’re really good — for a girl,” camp leaders explained. GR!GR counters that kind of message by encouraging girls to believe in their abilities and opinions.

“I feel like it’s making a difference in shifting culture in a positive direction for not just women in the music scene, but the music scene in general,” Rosalez said.

Added GR!GR committee member Lena Nieboer: “I think the highest honor in being a musician is to let your music and art shape the world. This program is giving children the ability to write their own narrative through music and to shape their own words, and that is really empowering. For them to know they are worth listening to is really important.”

Third-grader Sylvia Pratt plays for the band Electric Darlings

Role Models Making Role Models

Boltz member Gabriella said it was fun to think of herself as someone younger girls might look up to. “It’s really fun being a musician and a role model for little 3-year-olds or something,” she said. “They can see that they can be a musician, (that) it’s not only for men.”

In one band room, serious drumming came from the quartet of Ariel LeBlanc, a fourth-grader at Parkside Elementary School, in Rockford; Rosbala Martinez-Lopez, a third-grader at San Juan Diego Academy, in Wyoming; Sylvia Pratt, a third-grader at C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy, in Grand Rapids Public Schools; and Amyah Thompson, a third-grader at Southwest Community Campus, also in GRPS.

The girls had become fast friends, learning to play together on the guitar, drums and keyboard. You could say the results were “shocking” for the group who named themselves the Electric Darlings.

“One, two three four!” they sang. “Electricity! Too electric to sit still. Too electric, we’re too cool. We are the Electric Darlings!”

CONNECT

Girls Rock! Grand Rapids

Girls Rock Camp Alliance

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities

Third-grader Rosalba Martinez-Lopez on the keyboard
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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