Girls Rock! A Collaborative Music Mindset Finds the Right Approach

Girls Rock! DC operates at the intersection of art and activism, providing music programs for youth to learn, grow, and use the power of their communities. The program offers a supportive, inclusive, and equitable space centering on girls and non-binary youth. Girls Rock! DC bolsters leadership, self-expression, and a passion for social change through creative collaboration and community power-building.

Originating in 2007, Girls Rock! DC offers numerous programs, including a youth summer camp (with a 2020-2021 online version), We Rock! Camp (for adults) and GR!ASP, a very popular after school program.

GR!ASP (Girls Rock! After School Program) acts as an extension of the original summer camp concept, where young folks get together with people from different schools all around the district and learn how to play an instrument. During the eight-week program, kids ages 8-18, representing over a dozen local schools, collaborate in bands with strangers to write an original song. The finished composition is shared with the world in a showcase at the end of the program. In 2020, the program went online and leveraged the same Soundtrap setup used in their online summer program to record the collaborative effort.

Watch the Performance Below of This Year’s Spring 2021 Showcase That Also Streamed Live on Facebook’s Recorded Livestream: https://www.facebook.com/events/467023834656107

The Online Difference

While many students repeat GR!ASP annually, the all-virtual aspect of this year’s program brought in even more kids throughout the region. There are often those who attend Girls Rock! summer camps that find themselves joining the after school program throughout the year. “We had folks who attended summer camp last year who attended GR!ASP this year and already knew how to use Soundtrap. They were the experts,” shares Noel Schroeder, Co-Executive Director, Girls Rock! DC. For others, it was their first time using Soundtrap, but as Schroeder points out, all instructors and students ramped up quickly on Soundtrap, often through the help of others who had used the program.

This year saw a different aspect to the process as the online atmosphere steered away from the performing and more into the song production. Even though there is an emphasis on the final collaborative performance, participants found themselves concentrating on refining their Soundtrap recording skills. Usually, there is a great deal of emphasis on the performance aspects of the final presentation that takes place in a live venue, but this year, the pressure lessened with the virtual setup. As a result, students chose to dig into tweaking and perfecting their tracks. “We had a number of our older bands who [did] more mixing, looping and advanced stuff with the music that they were creating,” adds Schroeder.

Collaboration Mindset Meets Collaborative Recording Tool

Collaboration is at the heart of all that Girls Rock! DC stands for. Unlike other learning programs that concentrate on the competition, the goal here is inclusiveness. “Our core focus is on collaboration and on coordination between young folks to be able to create something new out of nothing. Having that collaborative aspect of Soundtrap makes this kind of program possible in a virtual space that would not be possible with other kinds of programs,” Schroeder explains.

Instead of a competition, it’s a showcase of teamwork and collaboration for each band formation. The idea is to pair people with diverse levels of experience, interests, and expertise to see how they work together to create an original product. Five different categories of vocals, guitar, bass, drum, and keys are part of the process, and students are asked to decide on their first and second instrument choices for pairing. From there, various age groups are placed together to collaborate.

The creativity carries over into student-led artwork and design concepts. “Bands come up with their name, the style of music that they want, and then each band has a [chosen] coach assigned to them that works every week to help them craft their song,” says Schroeder. “They help them mix it and kind of guide the work of the band.”

An Expanded Online Summer

Because of the success of the online GR!ASP program, Girls Rock! DC is expanding its online summer program to include two sessions this summer. There will be a week-long summer camp in July and again in August, both online and using Soundtrap.

As always, equity is a focus of Girls Rock! DC with all programs open to students ages 8 to 18. There’s a sliding tuition scale to ensure access, and now with virtual in the mix, the program has new ways to create access and opportunity.

Girls Rock! DC logoFor more information on Girls Rock! DC mission, programs and efforts, visit their website for detailed information: https://girlsrockdc.org/