Editor’s note: This article was originally published December 9, 2013
Girls Rock Austin, the local branch of a much-lauded national summer camp program devoted to empowering female tweens and teens through music immersion,has been well-publicized and celebrated in Austin media. Many publications,including this one, have championed the organization.
The camp’s big sister program, Ladies Rock Camp, was largely off our radar until we received an enthusiastic email from local freelance writer and occasional Statesman contributor Erin Walter noting that the 2014 camp is now open for registration and could make a cool Christmas gift for music-loving ladies. A three-day music intensive for women age 19 and older, Ladies Rock Camp raises money for Girls Rock Camp while letting full-grown women live out rock ‘n’ roll fantasies. With her tuition, each woman who attends Ladies Rock Camp − scheduled for Feb. 15-17, 2014 − funds a scholarship for a young girl to attend in the summer. Walter, an alumnus who was so moved by her LRC experience she joined the camp’s board, described it as "life changing."
A former musician, Walter played bass in bands around town for four years before moving to Chicago in 2007. In the Windy City she continued to play in bands for another three years. She also volunteered for the local branch of the Girls Rock Camp alliance. Music was a huge part of how she defined herself.
Then life happened. Walter had a child, and then another one. Music fell by the wayside.
Her family returned to Austin in 2011. Her husband was starting a small business and they wanted to be closer to family. A full-time mom, Walter attended a parenting workshop in January of this year. The workshop had a goal-setting component. She hadn’t been thinking about music, but suddenly it came up.
"I stood up in front of a packed auditorium choking back sobs, telling people that I hadn’t really played my bass since my kids were born more than three years ago," Walter said by email. "I was dying to play again."
She went home that day and registered for Ladies Rock Camp. She figured the camp would provide a supportive environment to plug in her amp again, "a safe place to be brave."
Walter describes the camp as a nerve-wracking, dizzying experience that was also incredibly fun and wildly inspiring. The camp opened with a few ice-breakers, then attendees were broken into groups based on their instruments of choice. They went into lessons and workshops and by the end of day one they were in bands working on their first songs. Two intense days full of rehearsals, professional coaching and jovial camaraderie later the fledgling bands performed for friends, family and the public at Cheer-Up Charlie’s. Then they did rock ’n’ roll karaoke, backed by an all-female band.
Since attending the camp Walter has rejoined the Austin music community, playing regularly with a band called Butch Country. Beyond that, Walter says she found "an empowerment and inspiration" that she carries into her personal, professional, social and creative lives.
"I feel fierce again," she says.
Walter plans to attend the camp again this year and would recommend the experience for women of all backgrounds and all levels of musical experience.
"If you’ve never touched an instrument, never sang a note, you will love it. If you’re rusty like I was, you can pick up your old instrument and get comfy with it again. If you’re a pro at guitar but have secretly always wanted to play drums or sing or write songs, you can come with that focus."
"Everyone is welcome," Walter says.
Ladies Rock Camp is scheduled for Feb. 15-17, 2014. Sessions take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Early Bird registration is $250 per person. Registration goes up to $350 on Jan. 1. All proceeds benefit Girls Rock Camp Austin. More information: girlsrockaustin.org/ladies-rock-camp/