Ever Wanted to Start a Band? This Camp Is Here to Help

If you're interested in starting a band, or even simply learning how to play an instrument and write songs, you need to attend Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles.

Held in downtown Los Angeles over the course of a week, this camp will teach you just about everything you've wanted to know about making music, all while encouraging you to be the best version of yourself possible.

We chatted with the camp's co-founder, Mona Tavakoli, about the origin story of Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, all the exciting things the camp has to offer and more. Keep scrolling to see what she had to share.

Sweety High: How did Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles come to be?

Mona Tavakoli: We are one of many camps in the world. The movement started in Portland, Oregon. Becky [Gebhardt], the other co-founder, and I, we had heard about this really cool camp in the Pacific Northwest called Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls. We drove up from L.A. to Portland and we volunteered our time. I taught drums and Becky taught bass. We were so inspired by the magic there. It was all-women mentors and all-girl participants. I've never experienced a musical environment like that, where girls were being mentored by just women and girls were creating music together. It was so powerful. We thought, "This would be so cool to bring to our own community in L.A." We were touring full-time at that time with our band Raining Jane. We were like, "You know what, as soon as we get a break in our touring schedule, we should really try to bring this to L.A." When that happened, we all put our heads together and put a call out in L.A. like "Hey, come support this new idea." We got a lot of cool women to be involved. That was 2010, and that was our first camp. We just had our 8th summer camp.

Now, there are camps all over the world. You can find one near you through the Girls Rock Camp Alliance. It's the umbrella organization that supports each camp with resources they need to carry out the mission of empowering girls. In Southern California alone, we have four or five camps all run by individual people. But we're all supporting each other. The idea is we have to create more places where girls feel safe and brave and can create together. There's no competition. It's all about creating another space where girls feel good.


SH: How has the camp changed from when it first started?

MT: I guess what keeps happening every year is we just keep refining and adapting. Every year the kind of girls we're getting are changing, because the world is changing. We're getting a lot of returners. We've had to develop an internship program called Volunteers in Training, which is for the girls who've been at camp many years, but are too young to volunteer.

Three years ago we started a music video program. One of our volunteers is a camera woman and she mentioned wishing there was a camp for young female filmmakers, so she started this program. It runs simultaneously with our second week of camp. She gets all these incredible female filmmakers in L.A. to come teach girls how to make a music video in one week.


SH: When was the moment you knew this was something you wanted to continue doing?

MT: After the first Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls showcase I experienced, I knew that this work was something I wanted to do in my life. You see empowerment in action. During the week, you're like, "Okay, we have to teach these girls how to play an instrument. We have to teach these girls how to write a song. We have to teach them to work with a group of girls they've never met before." The whole week you're constantly putting out fires. Then by Saturday, when the girls perform their songs and are walking off stage, the amount of joy and accomplishment that everybody in the room is feeling is palpable.


SH: What do you hope everyone who participates in the camp takes away from their involvement?

MT: Sisterhood is powerful and that anything is possible. Those two things are inevitable. You will experience those during your one week at Rock Camp.


SH: Do you have any inspiring stories about girls who've attended the camp?

MT: Every year, we have these awesome lunch time acts. We show a diverse kind of musician. One year we had lady bagpipers come and play for them. One year we had Trio Ellas come, which is a women's mariachi group. We want to show the girls there are so many different ways to play music. We even had Katy Perry come by one year.

Linda Perry came to camp at lunch one day. She then brought up two campers to write a song on the spot. One of them had not been singing in vocal class. Linda Perry was like, "What do you want to write about?" And on the spot, she got this girl to sing her heart out and it had everybody in tears. It was so beautiful. Linda had created an environment in that one moment to make this girl feel safe enough to perform in front of the whole camp. That's what this camp is about. It's not about becoming the world's best musician in a week. It's about helping girls access that part of them that they want to express that maybe they've never had an opportunity to express.


SH: What's one of the biggest misconceptions about the camp?

MT: One is that we're a rock star camp. It's not about becoming the most technical musician. This is about the inside work. It's about how to become rad at life, instead of how to become the world's greatest rock star. Another is that we're anti-boy. We're not. We're just pro-collaboration for girls.


SH: Have any of the girls continued to be in bands after their time at the camp?

MT: Yes! There's a band called Pinky Pinky. Anastasia [Sanchez], who's in the band, has been to camp probably like four times. She's so rad. Her band is doing really well. She's just one example, but there are many other girls who are playing all the time.


Also happen to be interested in fashion design? You need to know about THIS camp.