By Taylor McQuaig

Photo by Keltie Duncan

After nearly 10 years, Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls (ORC4G) aims to teach self-identified girls about music and to build new skills, and confidence over the span oF one weekend each fall. ORC4R’s ninth annual rock camp will be happening the first weekend oF November.

The camp is a grassroots organization, entirely run by self-identified women, and operates by donation. Even the camp itself is pay what you can. The organizers recommend a sliding scale depending on income, but is not implemented as mandatory.

“One of our core principles has been the accessibility of music, because we believe music can give so many important life skills,” says Tiffanie Tri, board VP of ORC4G.

The girls attending learn either guitar, bass, drums, or keyboard and form bands depending on what song they would like to perform at their showcase at the end of the weekend. Campers are able to choose between a mix of contemporary and classic songs at a listening party on the second day of camp.

“There’s a lot of Joan Jett,” says Tri.

The campers also participate in workshops throughout the weekend outside of learning an instrument and vocals. Many of these workshops attempt to teach campers about the music industry past and present, including some of the dangers, and biases and discrimination and how to help create safe spaces.

“We use music as a vehicle to get across broader messages of empowerment,” says Tri.

This year Project Soundcheck, a group which addresses sexual violence at music festivals, and Ottawa Hollaback, a group aiming to end street harassment, have teamed up to deliver a workshop. This workshop focuses on helping the girls with bystander intervention, and keeping themselves out of danger while standing up for other women and girls.

ORC4G gives their campers skills and confidence in the skill they’re building, said Tri.

“[The camp] becomes a core part of them, because they know they can do cool shit,” she says.

The camp also aims to debunk gender roles, and increase diversity in the music scene.

“We hear a lot of the time that girls think that certain skills are gendered, like playing the drums, or the guitar . . . and they debunk stereotypes, and they live it out,” Tri says.

Within this year, ORC4G has also created some new initiatives. Alumni Jam Sessions being one, where alumni campers and teachers are able to sign up and have a jam slot. Tri says that although it’s not the aim of the camp to keep the girls playing music, the Jam Sessions make it easier to do so.

“One of the key life lessons of music is putting the willingness to work hard to practice, and to be dedicated,” says Tri.

This is the one of the main reasons they implemented Jam Sessions. Campers often do form their own bands afterwards, and ORC4G will often ask them to come back and play at events.

One of the teachers at the camp also noticed multiple campers were asking questions about how to book gigs and started a Gigs 101 workshop which put on a show at Pressed on October 15 with bands, GOATS, Radiogenic, and Sleepy & The Noise.

Not only has the camp provided a means for the campers to learn new instruments and meet girls with similar interests, it also functions as a space for the teachers to network as well. Tri, for example, joined a band last year because of the people she met at the camp. The camp works as community building on multiple different levels.

The camp seems to truly allow the girls to become confident and comfortable in their new ORC4G community.

“You watch [the campers] evolve throughout the weekend, everyone is quieter on the Friday,” says Tri. “And then on the Sunday they’re rocking out, and it’s pretty amazing.”