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This One's for the Girls
Girls Rock Milwaukee co-founder talks camp, women in music and upcoming benefit show

This summer, Girls Rock – a national music camp for girls between the ages of eight and 16 – will be rocking in a new city. In August, the inaugural session of Girls Rock Milwaukee camp will take place. The weeklong camp allows girls to play music, but also stresses empowerment and acceptance through lessons and workshops.

But camps don’t organize or pay for themselves. Shortly after the camp opened its application process and days before Friday’s Girls Rock benefit concert, Music Notes sat down with Girls Rock Milwaukee co-founder Ashley Smith to discuss the camp, the role of women in modern music and the upcoming benefit.

How did the idea for Girls Rock Milwaukee start?
It started because Val [Lucks, co-founder] was kind of looking to do something community-based. She approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing this with her. I said absolutely. She had read about other camps and checked them out.

Could you explain the background of Girls Rock, the mentality itself?
It started in Portland, and the whole idea is to create a safe space for young girls who maybe don’t have another outlet and to promote creativity and self-esteem. Generally, just to make more creative and confident women for the future.

When you were between the ages of 8 and 16, did you have any sort of outlet like this? Would you have benefited from something like it?
Oh man, if this was around when I was young, I would’ve been all over it. I just had general school stuff like choir and theater and church, but nothing like this. I would’ve eaten this up. I would’ve been all about it. I grew up in a really small town, and where I grew up, if there was an underground music scene, I didn’t know about it. I think this is another way to open younger girls’ eyes to what else is out there other than what’s on the radio.

What about the benefit show? Why did you choose the bands and the site you did?
Well, [Riverwest] Public House, because it’s a co-op, is probably the best place you could possibly want to do a benefit. They’re super active in the community and they let you take every single cent the show makes from the entrance [fee]. They’re very accommodating and it sounds great in there.

I just wanted to do a show where at least one member of every band was female. There’s two all-female bands that are playing and three of the four bands are almost brand new. It’s exciting.

What’s the money that you make going towards, an overriding investment or one specific thing?
It’s just going towards the camp in general. We have to pay to rent out the space and to get the meals. Some of the meals will be donated, but the girls get their meals paid for. Then we have to rent out the venue for the showcase that’s at the end of the camp, and just general costs of putting together a big camp like this.

The Girls Rock Milwaukee benefit show will take place Friday, April 12 at Riverwest Public House at 9 p.m. and feature Fahri, The Olives, Outside and Rat Lips. The $5 cover will help fund the inaugural Girls Rock Milwaukee session, Aug. 5-10 at UW-Milwaukee. The show will also raffle off prizes donated by Honeypie, Comet Café, Sparrow Collective, Sky High, Beans & Barley, Classic Slice, Lulu Café, Odd Duck, Maxie’s, Blackbird Bar, VooDoo Massage, Orchard Street Press, Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, Saffron Yoga Center, Outpost, Nourish, Bikram Yoga Milwaukee and Freya Salon.

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