The Rapidian

Reflecting on rocking times: my experience as a GR!GR counselor

“Women will rise as lightning will shine / Thunder will rumble as our voices unite / We thrive in power as the sparks ignite” Lyrics from the song Giants Falling by Girls Shred.
The author (bottom photo, far right) and her middle school campers during drum instruction

The author (bottom photo, far right) and her middle school campers during drum instruction /Mariah Cowsert

To get involved and support Girls Rock Grand Rapids:

You do not have to be a practicing musician to get involved, anyone can volunteer in some capacity but if you aren’t able to dedicate your time, you can always donate money or gear! Any contribution of time or resources, large or small, makes an impact! If you are interested, please email us at [email protected] and listen to their songs at!

The author leading an improv workshop

The author leading an improv workshop /Jaimie Skriba Photography

One of many congo lines formed during camp

One of many congo lines formed during camp /Mariah Cowsert

As I hang my Polaroid pictures from drum instruction above my desk, find traces of glitter still embedded in my clothes, and count down the days til next year's camp week (it’s 356 in case you were wondering), I wanted to take time to reflect on what the week meant to me and how powerful it was to spend time with a supportive network of creative women, non-binary folk, and young girls.

Girls Rock Grand Rapids, GR!GR, is a week long summer camp that takes place in August, and exists to empower girls and women through music. As a program of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities (GAAH), camp takes place each year at the Cook Arts Center, which is located at 644 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids. GR!GR is organized by a stellar group of women volunteers that are dedicated to providing a safe and fun experience for all attendees.

I spent most of my time as a counselor in the drum room in the morning and afternoon which was incredible to hear and see the tangible growth in the girls’ skills. They were constructive and patient with each other, knew when they needed a break to be silly or deflate, started a conga line dance party during my improv workshop, taught me basic beats and the camp song on drums, and wrote/learned to play a song in only a week with a band they had just formed! How awesome is that?

As camp week went on, you could see friendships forming with the girls and the volunteers learning more about each other to best utilize our strengths throughout the week. Girls Rock made me feel welcomed, able to be silly and create without judgment, and most importantly was a catalyst for women supporting women instead of competing which was an environment to learn instead of cut one another down.

As the showcase quickly approached and the energy of pizza day fueled the campers, you could see them brainstorming and creating costumes and perfecting their “are you ready to rock?!?” song intros. Their energy and spirit powered me through the week and walking into Saint Cecilia’s for the afternoon showcase and seeing them all dressed up with their bands, I was ecstatic to see them show Grand Rapids what they learned and just how hard girls can rock.

From the talks with other volunteers about life, creating, and band names I’d use if I was a kid at camp (Guinea Pig Dreams was mine if you were curious) to the lunch time ghost stories led by the middle school campers as we all sang Zombie by The Cranberries, Girls Rock Grand Rapids was a life changing experience and I encourage everyone I know to volunteer in some capacity even if you don’t have a musical or performing background. The lessons I learned from the campers and friendships I made with the other volunteers is priceless, get involved and keep rocking.

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