Eighty girls between 8 and 18 years old stand in a circle, holding hands and waiting for a signal to begin. When their instructor gives the cue, one little girl screams at the top of her lungs, squeezes the hand of the girl next to her as she runs out of breath, then the next girl screams with all her might, and so on until all 80 girls have let out their own piercing screams.
No, this isn’t some kind of newfangled therapy session. This is what’s known as the Scream Circuit at the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Ore. The First Rule of Girls Rock Camp: Be as Loud as You Want to Be. The Second Rule of Girls Rock Camp: No Boys Allowed. The Third Rule of Girls Rock Camp: See Rule Number One.
“Girls are totally socialized to be quiet,” says Winner Bell, executive director of Girls Rock Camp. “It’s really important for girls growing up to have a space where they can be who they are. They can use their voices, learn from failures, triumph from successes and have positive female role models.
The camp starts on Monday, and during the next five days, the girls will learn a new instrument, form a band, write an original song and perform that song in front of 900 people six days later in the Saturday Showcase. It’s a tall order, especially for some of the younger girls whose little fingers can barely cover the strings on their guitars.
“We do try to make it about the final product,” says Kate Walsh, outreach coordinator for Girls Rock Camp, “but we also want it to be about the week, too. We want them to learn a lot about themselves in the process.”