Girls Rock Philly launched in 2006 and held its first camp in August of 2007 with just 20 campers – including yours truly. The next year, it more than doubled in size, and the organization has been growing ever since. For most of its early years, Girls Rock Philly was entirely run by volunteers; in 2012, Diane Foglizzo became the first paid staff member, and now it has several people on staff in addition to its many volunteers. This has opened up many more opportunities for the organization and year-round programming for youth.
On Saturday, October 3rd the organization holds its second annual Sustaining Our Sounds gala to benefit its programs. The programs and the organization as a whole have dramatically grown since that first camp.
Diane Foglizzo, who is a part of local band Trophy Wife, was hired in February 2012 as director. She had started the first rock camp in Washington, DC when she was living there.
“Girls Rock Philly was hiring its first full-time person or really first ever staff person. At that point, GRP was all volunteer-run and primarily ran the one week of summer camp plus one weekend of Ladies Rock Camp,” said Foglizzo.
In July of this year, Andrea Jácome joined the Girls Rock Philly staff as Creative Director. “I spend a lot of time particularly with communication and public relations. Seeing how Girls Rock Philly can connect with the world at large. Also, trying to find ways we can expand with our corporate sponsors,” said Jácome. One of her major projects has been preparing for the annual Gala, which is the organization’s major fundraiser.
There will be performances from camper bands and DJs. The evening will also have raffles, screen printing opportunities, a photo booth, and opportunities to learn more about what Girls Rock does.
“It’s an opportunity for the volunteers, campers, staff, and caregivers to come and celebrate. But it’s also an opportunity to invite people outside of the girls rock community to come celebrate with us,” said Foglizzo.
“We are really trying create an event that would be in lined with Girls Rock Philly’s mission, but also exciting to anyone who might want to come,” she added.
Part of that mission of Girls Rock Philly is self-empowerment. As it’s mission statement goes, the organization creates “programming dedicated to the mutually reinforcing themes of sound exploration and self-empowerment.”
Many youth who have participated in Girls Rock Philly’s programming have come away with more confidence in both themselves and their musical abilities.
Julie Ho participated in a camp week and learned guitar for the first time.
“The organization had taught me so much regarding confidence and collaboration,” she said. “I never picked up a guitar or created a song from scratch in my entire life, but with encouragement and help from the organization, campers, and band-mates, I’m not nervous as I was anymore.”
“Girls Rock has made me feel like I could be myself without judgment or ridicule,” said Marquita Frisby, who has participated in many of the programs, including the camp and after-school program. “I love Girls Rock because there, everyone is truly family and we form bonds that will last a lifetime.” Frisby also was the summer program assistant for 2015.
Camp week typically begins with a “Getting to Know You” activity where campers introduce themselves to each other. They find out about each other’s favorite music and hobbies. Then, they list who they would like to form a band with and volunteers coordinate the band formations. Campers attend instrument instruction and workshops each day, which range in topics from home recording to self-defense to gender and identity. At the end of the week, the new bands play a showcase at a local venue.
The past summer, GRP did something completely new by holding two separate camp weeks. Week one was for teenagers from ages 13-18. Week two was “youth week” for campers from ages 9-12. The theme was “Youth Rising.”
“They were not only thinking of their own power to change their lives and the world around them but also activists throughout history that we can draw inspiration from,” said Foglizzo of the theme. Foglizzo noted they were able to focus the curriculum more on the age group with the two camps. This theme of “Youth Rising” will also be incorporated into the Gala.
The organization still relies mostly on its volunteers for these camp weeks. Some did volunteer for both weeks, which was really motivating for Foglizzo and Jácome. Five teens from week one also worked as paid intern for the youth camp. They facilitated workshops and served as band coaches for the youth week.
“What kept me going was how many unpaid volunteers we had who committed two weeks. That commitment was really inspirational. And the teen interns who came back for a full week a camp…We’re all in this together,” said Foglizzo.
“It was really affirming to see something that so many people believe in,” said Jácome.
GRP began its fourth year of after-school programming this week. This programming includes instrument lessons, band for youth and teens, and also workshops.
In Mid-October, their drop-in workshops begin on Wednesdays. Foglizzo said, “Classes on music theory, history of speeches in Philadelphia and how to maybe mix that into music” are some of the content of workshops scheduled.
They are also gearing up for Ladies Rock Camp in December for people ages 19 and up. Applications open October 6th.
Foglizzo said they could only accept 100 students out of the 140+ applications they received for summer 2015. They plan to continue the two weeks of camp for summer 2016. “It’s not the time to cut back. We want to find ways to keep having programming for as many youth, which is why I think the Gala is so important.
“The gala last year was so amazing. It felt like a community affair,” said Foglizzo. “All performers invited Girls Rock Philly youth and volunteers to collaborate with them.” Foglizzo is encouraging and hoping for more youth participants to come.
The word “gala” can have the connotation as being an event for only a select group of people, but this gala is meant for everyone to be a part of.
“We really want to make sure when people hear the word “gala” they don’t think it’s an event for people 18 and up. Bring the whole family. There’s people available to do arts & crafts with littler kids. Girls Rock Philly is a youth-centered organization. We want to make sure that all of our events and what we do are centered on youth. But also a party some adults want to go to,” said Foglizzo.
“It’s more than just music, more than just an a concert,” Jácome added.
“Every ticket that gets sold is going directly to supporting Girls Rock Philly’s programs,” said Foglizzo.
2016 looks to be a major year for GRP as they are currently searching for a new location to move to. “Girls Rock has outgrown its location, [but] we’re committed to running programs in the current spot. It’s all in the early stages. That’s definitely coming to be a major step for us in 2016.” They hope to find a space around their current neighborhood of Fishtown.
Girls Rock Philly is always looking for and welcoming new volunteers and supporters. The Gala is just one of the many ways to get involved with the organization. Jácome said to really understand GRP, attending a program is beneficial. “It’s really those full-length experiences that give you a snapshot about what GRP is about. It’s not just about music, but it’s also about learning about how music can be a part of the social justice movement,” said Jácome.
They have also monthly volunteer meetings at their headquarters, which are open to anyone interested in joining the organization. “You can identify with any gender. We have all kinds of outlets to work in meaningful ways,” said Foglizzo.
The “Sustaining Our Sounds: Community Gala to benefit Girls Rock Philly” takes place at Impact Hub this Saturday, October 3rd at 6 p.m. It is all ages. $25 is the asking price for admission and anyone under 18 gets in free. Tickets can be purchased through their website. GRP is also offering an option for a Community Sponsored Ticket. These tickets have been paid for by other attendees and donors and are available for anyone who wants to attend but cannot for financial reasons. Community Sponsored Tickets can also be acquired through their website. GRP wants this to be an inclusive event. “We really want everyone to be a part of this celebration,” said Foglizzo.
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