Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Beth Warshaw | Founder and Director of Girls Rock Philly

Interview :: Beth Warshaw
by Ruth Weisberg, 1 Jul 2007

Beth Warshaw is the founder and director of Girls Rock Philly, (GRP), a non-profit organization created in 2006 as an initiative to bring to Philadelphia a girls-only summer rock camp. The week-long summer day camp for girls ages 10 to 18 will be held from August 6-11, 2007 on the campus of Girard College in Philadelphia.

The program will culminate in a special showcase on Saturday August 11 at 6pm at Girard College (2101 South College Avenue) which is open for the general public to attend.

For more information about Girls Rock Philly, or to contact Beth Warshaw: www.girlsrockphilly.org. Or call: 215-525-9927.


PCG: Girls Rock Philly sure is a departure from traditional summer mainstays like Girl Scout camp or band camp.

BW: Actually, Girls Rock Philly isn't too far removed from Girl Scout camp. We're similar in that we're both very much about promoting self-esteem, cooperation and friendship--only indoors and at a much higher decibel.

Beth Warshaw, Founder and Director of Girls Rock Philly

PCG: Lemme guess. And no silly campfire songs, either.

BW: Let's just say that Girls Rock Philly will be starting our own camp traditions. Girls Rock Philly started in 2000 in Portland, Oregon and has been cropping up across the country in places like Murfreesboro, TN (Southern Girls Rock N' Roll Camp), New York (Willie Mae Rock Camp), and Chicago (Girls Rock Chicago), as well as in Canada. It's not a franchise, though the Portland and New York ones are "sister camps" and GRP Philadelphia will be joining the Girls Rock Camp Alliance in short order.


PCG: Philadelphia has a storied rock 'n roll history, which must be a huge factor in your decision to launch this ambitious program for our city's up and coming junior rocker girls.

BW: There are many reasons why Philadelphia and Philly girls are ripe for a program like this. We have an amazing music scene with a number of incredible bands receiving unprecedented media attention. However, most of them are comprised mostly of men and play variations on the same kind of music. Many of them have been friends for a long time and it is a wonderfully supportive atmosphere for these guys. Our theory is that if girls who are interested in playing music can meet other girls and start writing together, they're more able to see themselves in bands and able to find other women to collaborate with when they want to start recording and playing shows. It also works the same way for our grown volunteers, who are activists, musicians and artists. They also get to meet and network with each other.

"Spending 6 days solely in the company of other women who looked out for each other, wanted to be exactly where they were, and got to teach what they love created an atmosphere that I frankly haven't experienced anywhere else in my life."

PCG: What else can girls expect from this unusual camp experience?

BW: At its core, GRP provides girls with the desire to rock out. Campers will have opportunities to learn guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, DJing and vocals. No musical experience is necessary, and all equipment and instruments will be provided. The weeklong program is designed to be a supportive, creative space, where girls can form bands, write their own songs, and figure out what and how they want to play. The Girls Rock Philly camp experience will be led by a team of all-female instructors and band coaches. Participants will learn how to play musical instruments, write songs, make their own band merchandise, discover other women in rock, and yes, finesse their onstage jump kicks.


PCG: Why an all-female only music environment?

BW: It sure is a rarity in the music world. The idea is to provide both campers and volunteers with a comfortable atmosphere. We want to emphasize artistic independence and creative ownership, including copyright to their own songs. The camp will also feature guided band practice, special guest performers, and diverse workshops, such as the history of women in music, non-traditional instruments, sound and recording, and even band art, where girls can create original T-shirts and buttons.

Beth Warshaw, Founder and Director of Girls Rock Philly

PCG: You got your start with this program as a volunteer at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in New York. What was particularly inspiring or empowering to you about that experience that fueled you to found the GRP here in Philly?

BW: Having worked as a producer and engineer at WXPN (88.5FM), I introduced the camp girls to sound checks and the language of music productions. Volunteering with Willie Mae Rock Camp in its first year was actually my first serious commitment to a grass-roots cause. My other service has been to large, well-established nonprofits. Spending 6 days solely in the company of other women who looked out for each other, wanted to be exactly where they were, and got to teach what they love created an atmosphere that I frankly haven't experienced anywhere else in my life. It was an intense bonding time for everyone. The girls—and the grown volunteers—had their needs taken care of and could actually begin to feel good about not competing with other girls and women. Just receiving compliments on something other than a consumer choice you made or a physical attribute can do wonders for anyone's self-esteem—something that rarely happens in this world.


PCG: What do you hope these junior rockers will learn about themselves--and the rock biz--by attending this kind of camp? In a similar thread, what kind of personal/professional satisfaction do you get from being part of this experience?

BW: I hope the Girls Rock Philly campers will have fun! So much of the music industry these days is focused on extra-musical aspects, such as styling, fame, networking, technology, and often substance abuse. So much so, that there's little focus on the joy that comes from self-expression and making noise. Campers will hear stories about the music industry from the volunteers and learn about some of the attitudes that women face when onstage and in the production studio. Ideally, campers will also be able to share their struggles over the messages that are out there for girls and women in music and will be able to make their own. Creating takes a lot of courage at first, but it is immensely rewarding and inspiring to me to see other people who make that choice. The Girls Rock Philly unofficial motto should be: "Don't like what's out there? Make something new!"

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