Omaha girls enroll, rock
With help of a UNO alumna, local organization offers girls an opportunity to build self-esteem
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 10:02
Rachel Tomlinson Dick sank into her cobalt blue mid-century modern chair and exhaled.
After hauling, with fellow volunteers, 10 drum kits and an array of guitars, basses, keyboards and microphones last Saturday, she was exhausted.
But the UNO alumna and volunteer co-coordinator of Omaha Girls Rock was energized by the summer camp’s brand new equipment and potential new home, the Holland Performing Arts Center. Dick is entering her third year with the organization.
“We won’t have to borrow instruments or get donations every year, either. We have all of our own gear for the camp,” Dick said. “We have enough stuff for around 10 bands.”
Clad in vertically-striped, baggy overalls and clear-framed glasses, the former director of the Women’s Resource Center and guitarist/vocalist for the two-piece riot girl act, The Wayward Little Satan Daughters, said she was initially drawn to Omaha Girls Rock because it reconciled her first two passions: art and feminism.
“It just seemed like something I needed to be involved with,” Dick said. “I remember thinking: there is a way to combine art, my academic training and my political ethos. Because for so long it seemed like I had to choose. I could choose to be in academia and continue with gender studies, or art.”
The week-long event, which coaches girls from ages 8 to 18 in songwriting and instrument training and culminates with campers performing original songs at the Slowdown, features more than just rock and roll, she said.
“Women are still very underrepresented. Even in popular music, females are most often relegated to token or objectified positions in bands,” Dick said. “But the main crux of the camp is not just the music, it’s using that as a means to empower girls and empower women.”
Throughout a typical camp day, enrollees attend workshops emphasizing self-esteem and team building, she said, and are also taught gendered social issues including, “beauty ideals and harmful representations of women in the media.”
It’s these workshops that inform the “rock” feature of the camp, she said.
Last year, Dick coached The Gummy Bear Gals, a three-piece band who wrote and performed the song “Rebel Girls.” The year before—the camp’s inaugural year—she coached The Pandas of Peace, a collection of 8- and 9-years-olds who wrote and performed “Fight for Justice.”
“All of them had this sense of power in what they were doing,” Dick said. “We encouraged them to write songs that were empowering and uplifting, but in the end, it was all them.”
Other staff members include founder and executive director Stefanie Drootin-Senseney of The Good Life, Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds and Orenda Fink of Azure Ray, who also wrote the camp’s song: “We’re the girls of Omaha / We love to sing and we love to rock / It’s so easy when you believe you can do anything...”
The experience costs around $350 dollars, Dick said, but full and partial scholarships based on need and income are made available to a portion of enrollees.
“Having diversity at the camp is hugely important.”
And while Dick wishes a rock camp for girls had existed in her own youth, she said the camp has positively impacted her self-esteem, which is especially important now that she’s a role-model.
“Because if I believe it’s true for them, that their voice matters, that they don’t have to ask for permission, that they should just do what they do, that the world is better off hearing their voices—if I believe that for them, I have to believe that for myself, too.”