Insecurities made 14-year-old Rosie want to hide when she performed on stage for the first time in July. She was among about 30 youngsters enrolled at Girls Rock Fort Worth, a local branch of the national nonprofit designed to empower girls through music education, performance, and workshops.
Instructors show the girls how to play an instrument, form a band, and write a song during a weeklong summer camp each year. The week culminates with a showcase featuring all the bands jamming on their songs in front of family and friends.
“During band practice about midweek, [Rosie] asked for us not to look at her while she was performing for us,” recalled Sarah Reagan, the executive director who founded the local chapter of Girls Rock in 2016.
By week’s end, Rosie had transformed.
“At the showcase, she just totally owned the stage,” Reagan said. “She was a totally different kid. She was all over the stage, her hands in the air, and just into it. That’s the kind of thing that happens at every camp.”
Reagan can relate to nervous self-doubters. It hasn’t been so many years since she was one herself.
“I wish something like this had been around when I was younger, a place where I could come to express myself and learn that I have a voice and that what I have to say is important,” she said. “That’s the story for most of our volunteers. This is our opportunity to be for these campers who we needed when we were younger.”
This year marks the first time that the campers have taken their newly discovered talents and self-assurance and recorded an album. Girls Rock Fort Worth 2018 Camp Songs features the debut of eight original compositions with titles ranging from “Girl Power” to “Far Out” and “The Life of a Blob Fish.”
“They put their hearts and souls into their songs,” Reagan said. “The point of it is to express themselves creatively, open up, and gain confidence, not only in the music world but in life.”
Local musician and producer Clint Niosi cranked up his mobile recording unit and captured the campers’ performances. He wasn’t sure what to expect.
“The biggest challenge was recording eight bands in the span of five hours,” he said. “Imagine. Most of the performers had never done any recording before.”
Sounds terrible. Right?
“That’s the fascinating thing,” Niosi said. “What came out on the album is sort of the innocent fearlessness of someone who is brand new and couldn’t be more excited. It’s a really contagious energy if you listen to the whole thing.”
Pessimism was missing among the fresh-faced rockers.
“Age makes you more cynical,” Niosi said. “There is nothing like that in these recordings. It’s all just pure enjoyment of the music.”
The nonprofit is hosting a free family-friendly album release party 3-6pm Saturday at The Foundry District (2625 Whitmore St, 817-915-3261) with live music, face painting, a selfie booth, games, and a collaborative art project.
“It’s going to be a reunion of sorts and a way for the community to come out and have fun and learn about Girls Rock,” Reagan said.
Money earned from the sale of the CDs and merchandise will help fund a financial assistance program for campers. Reagan said the nonprofit has never turned away a girl because of her inability to pay