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Rebel girls rock out

New camp increases girls’ confidence say kids, parents

by Hilary Beaumont

A girl records a song at the Rebel Girl Rock Camp. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
A girl records a song at the Rebel Girl Rock Camp. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Girls wrote and recorded their own songs this week at the camp. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Girls wrote and recorded their own songs this week at the camp. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

On Friday afternoon, flanked by two teenage girls playing guitar and bass, Sophia Boutilier hammered on the drums while singing into a mic:

“I’m just a girl, nobody cares, nobody cares about how I feel;

“I’m just a girl, alone in the world, alone in the world and I can’t deal.”

The 14-year-old wrote the rock tune “Bitters” this week at the Rebel Girl Rock Camp.

“It’s a very sad song,” she says, provoking giggles from a band-mate.

Before the camp, Boutilier had never written a song before. “That was never something I thought I could do.”

This week she did more than that—she and her friends also recorded the tune, shot a music video and practiced for their debut show tonight at The Pavilion.

Over the past five days, girls and trans teenagers entering grades six to 11 learned new instruments, formed bands, attended music and empowerment workshops and watched local female musicians jam at lunchtime.

It was challenging at first, but every camper has learned how to do something new, and do it well, camp counsellor and local musician Kat Shubaly says.

Shubaly helped start the camp after watching the local all-ages scene shrink for years.

Growing up in Halifax, shows at One World Café and other all-ages venues inspired her interest in music. But over the last five years many of those venues have closed, leaving young people with less opportunity to attend shows and play music.

“When I was growing up there also weren’t that many girls in the scene, so I thought, why not facilitate the building of an all-ages community but also incorporate both genders and try to offer some equal opportunities.”

Equipment rentals meant starting the camp was an expensive endeavor, though.

So Shubaly and seven other local musicians and camp counsellors (Allison Higgins, Danika Vandersteen, Hannah Guinan, Stephanie Johns, Morgan Dowler, Carolyn Hirtle and Andrew Neville) held a fundraiser show at Gus’ Pub and started an IndieGoGo campaign.

In the first two-and-a-half days they raised their goal of $1,000. Within the next week, that amount doubled. The final amount raised was $2,285.

That money meant they could keep the price of the camp low ($250 for the week with lunch and snacks included). The organizers—all volunteers—also offered full and partial financial aid so no camper would be turned away for lack of funds.

Now, thanks to fundraising efforts, the camp has sparked an interest in music for a handful of girls.

This week guitar player Zoë Leonard and her band, Mmeltz, wrote and recorded the song “Rebel Girl.”

They shot a video for the song Friday. Leonard head-banged while playing bass.

“I’ve never played bass before, and I got to play bass and have fun with it.”

“I asked for a bass for Christmas actually.”

Playing music this week has helped her feel more confident, she says.

“I never sing in front of people ‘cause I don’t like my voice. But somehow I got convinced to sing and I feel better about myself.”

Margaret Hazelwood signed up her daughter, Laura, in the hopes she would improve her drum skills and become more confident.

Before the camp her daughter was bored. Not any more, Hazelwood says.

“She plays more on the drums at home, she’s more confident, she’s happy.”

Laura has already asked to be signed up next year. Hazelwood says she “definitely” would sign her daughter up again.

Shubaly says the group wants to do more rock camps, including a camp for adult women, but nothing is confirmed yet.

Boutilier and her band mate want to continue playing now that the camp’s over. But the drummer says it’s hard to find space to practice.

“I have a garage,” her band-mate says. “We could do that.”

“We could do that,” Boutilier agrees.

Rebel Girl Rock Camp bands take the stage tonight at The Pavilion. The show starts at 7 p.m. and costs $5.

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