Girls learn to shred on guitar and drums, slap the bass, groove the keys and rock the mic at a brand new summer camp that aspires to teach self-empowerment through music. Five bands— one bluegrass, two folk, one punk and one rockabilly, play the first benefit show.
Carter Sampson is the executive director of Rock & Roll Camp for Girls, a new non-profit in Oklahoma City. Sampson has enlivened the Oklahoma folk scene with original music since the mid-90s. She is a friendly young singer-songwriter known for musical collaboration and community-building, and the hit songs "Queen of Oklahoma" and "Be My Wildwood Flower."
In 2006, Sampson volunteered with the original Girls Rock Camp in Portland, Oregon. She had seen Girls Rock, a documentary about the camp, and recognized one of the film’s stars, Laura, hosting at a restaurant here in Oklahoma City. Laura clued her in on how to work with rock camp and Sampson spent the following summer doing just that.
“I remember thinking at the time how amazing it would be for me to have experienced that as a young girl, and thinking that it would never happen in Oklahoma City,” Sampson says. “But now is the time. Our city is changing a lot and I think people are ready to support girls playing music.”
After two recent summers working with the Los Angeles Rock Camp for Girls, Sampson formed a 6-member executive team to make rock camp a reality in Oklahoma. So far, she has received community support from various sources, including the umbrella organization and camp venue SixTwelve in the Paseo Arts District. Many Oklahoma musicians are volunteer instructors at the upcoming week-long summer camp, including Samantha Crain and Kierston White, plus all the musicians performing at this Saturday’s benefit concert— except for sisters Grace and Sophia Babb, front women of the deeply creative and successful folk-grass quartet Annie Oakley.
“You have to be 18 to volunteer,” Sampson explains. But the Babbs, high school seniors who don’t quite meet the age requirement, will perform as lunch-hour entertainment for campers.
“We’re really about building community with the girls and teaching them how to be good to each other, and in exchange, we get to meet all these women and team up and work together,” says Sampson, with a wide smile and contagious excitement.
The camp seeks more instructors, workshop leaders and roadies to set-up and move equipment throughout the day. All volunteers must pass a background check. Plus-size model Tess Holliday is slated to lead a body image positivity talk for teens, and there will be a self-defense course.
Girls group into ages 8-12 and 13-17 for a variety of skill-building and personal development workshops. The other half of the day, they learn a rock instrument of their choice— drums, bass, guitar or keys, and practice with their own band. Each band has an instructor and a counselor. By the end of the week, they will have screen printed their own band t-shirts and written a song together. The new rock bands perform an end-of-camp concert at a local music venue on Saturday, July 18.
The first fundraising event happens Saturday night, March 28 at Granddad’s Bar on northwest 23rd Street, not far from the Paseo. The $5 door cover goes directly to a scholarship fund for campers who would not otherwise be able to participate, as do $5 entries for the ladies’ arm wrestling competition. Various brackets compete toward a final match. Sign up is between 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Round one begins at 9:15 p.m. and finals are from 10:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Annie Oakley kicks off the evening at 7:30 p.m., followed by Willow Way, a harmonious folk-rock sister duo with fingerpicking skills on banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitar. Ali Harter and Carter Sampson play a bluesy folk set together at 9:45ish. They may very well be joined on stage by some of their usual collaborators and friends. Speeding up the pace, Norman garage punk rockers John Wayne’s Bitches and rockabilly outfit the Oh Johnny! Girls close out the evening.
The benefit is also an opportunity to drop off musical gear and equipment to be loaned, or gifted, to the camp. All loaned equipment will be returned in late July.
“We need electric guitars and basses, both left and right-handed, and drum kits,” Sampson said. “We need keyboards, keyboard stands, mic stands, microphones, and a handful of small p.a. systems for when the girls are practicing throughout the day. And just the usual, you know, a hundred-thousand picks and strings and drum sticks and ear plugs.”
There are 40 spots available for the first inaugural summer camp, open to all self-identified girls in the Oklahoma City area. Applications are available online.
Sampson plans to attend the Mary Chapin Carpenter concert at Oklahoma City Community College on Monday, March 30. She’s a fan of both Carpenter and Aoife O’Donovan, the opening act. Donovan is a gifted Americana songwriter and musician best known for her work with bluegrass band Crooked Still. After the Oklahoma City show, she joins Sarah Jarosz and Sarah Watkins for an I’m With Her tour of Europe.
Mary Chapin Carpenter is also a fan of the Boston-born, conservatory-trained musician. She said she’s thrilled to tour with her, and considers Donovan one of the most nimble and capable singer-songwriters working today.
Carpenter’s name invokes nostalgia for her first few albums, with 90s pop country hits “I Feel Lucky” and “Down at the Twist and Shout.” But she has produced 9 more albums since those days. Her most recent production is a game-changing soundtrack of slow ballads selected from her repertoire, reworked and accompanied by a 60-piece orchestra. For the Oklahoma City show, she’s not bringing that large of a crew. Instead, she plays hits from her near-30 year career, accompanied by longtime band member Jon Carroll (piano) and John Doyle (guitar and bass).
“With the acoustic trio, I love being able to take songs that in their original recordings would have been with a full band of voices and instruments, strip them down and almost deconstruct them, and then put them back together. You find different colors, and emotions, even, that might not have been apparent in the original recording,” Carpenter says.
The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. Monday at the new VPAC (Visual and Performing Arts) Theater at OCCC. As of publication, there are 18 seats remaining in the upper orchestra section at $38 each, and 42 seats in the balcony at $28 each.
Check our calendar of community events for more arts and entertainment options, and volunteer opportunities within our listening area, including Guthrie, Shawnee, Chickasha, Ada and Woodward, Oklahoma. You may also submit your own events for possible listing and announcement.
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