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The Mission

Building socially just community with girls, transgender youth, and gender non-conforming youth by developing leadership, fostering self-esteem, and encouraging creative expression through music.

Through our music education programs for girls and transgender & gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth ages 8 to 16, we are committed to educating girls and TGNC youth about the musical, technical, and creative aspects involved in musicianship because we believe that they are rarely encouraged to explore self-expressive creative outlets and are less likely to be given access to musical and technical instruction or equipment. We believe that music can be a crucial tool in allowing young women and TGNC youth to respond to preconceived notions of what they can do and what they can become.

Our Core Values

We value diversity and inclusion; we seek to represent the demographics of Chicago and reflect the community we serve in all aspects of our organization.

We value the power of music as a vessel for culture and beliefs, and we use it to create personal and social change.

We value curiosity; we practice reflection and recognize the importance of pushing our learning and thinking in an ever-changing world.

We value equity in all forms; we stand strong in our unwavering commitment to social justice and anti-oppression work.

We value building leadership; we seek to play an active role in developing and empowering the next generation of youth who are doing important work in their communities.

We value efforts that actively expand opportunities for girls, women, gender non-conforming people, and transgender people of all ages.

We value empathy and compassion; we are dedicated to sustaining a supportive community and seek to understand the experiences of all our constituents.

Girls 
Rock! Chicago History

The first Girls Rock! Chicago Camp

Girls Rock! Chicago was founded in the Fall of 2005 when two groups of like-minded women, both seeking to start a Chicago camp, found each other and combined resources. GR!C formed a 9-member board, organized fundraisers, collected gear donations, secured a space at Roosevelt University, and held our first annual camp in August 2006. Our first camp featured a small group of dedicated volunteers and 16 enthusiastic campers between the ages of 8-16.

The Board

  • Melissa Oglesby

    Co-Chair & Treasurer

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    Melissa began playing music at age 8 with the clarinet, had brief run-ins with guitar and piano and eventually settled into drums. She became interested in DIY culture in her formative years and began publishing zines at the age of 14. When writing about independent music was no longer enough, in true DIY fashion, she started making her own, regardless of musical ability. When she’s not advocating for women and girls, she can often be found in the company of cats, bikes and baked goods.

  • Sarah Frier

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    Sarah Frier is a Chicagoland native. She currently works as a Real Estate Broker at LivingRoom Realty were she enjoys helping people make their dreams of homeownership a reality. She holds a BFA from both The School of The Art Institute and Harrington College of Design. Sarah has also been a fixture at Reckless Records for well over a decade and regularly DJs at clubs all over town. Recently, she has been sneaking down to Austin,Texas for part of the winter…but as everyone knows, summer in Chicago is the coolest, and her two weeks a year with the DJ girls at camp is always one of the highlights!

  • Michelle Feingold-Fisher

  • Laura Swanlund

    Co-Chair & Secretary

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    Laura hails from lil’ Freeport, Illinois, where she picked up the work ethic and rebellious spirit that only a small-town upbringing can provide. She started playing piano at the age of 8 and began her training in classical harp two years later. More recently, she’s taken on the pedal steel guitar. Laura earned her Ph.D in School Psychology from Loyola University and her M.A. in Educational Leadership from Concordia. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and works as a school district administer for academic and social-emotional prevention and intervention supports. Laura is an adjunct university instructor and teaches graduate courses ranging from evidence-based practices for children with special needs to applied research and statistics. Other interests include vintage clothes, playing guitar in the forest, backcountry camping, road trips, and the little things in life.

  • Lauren Gardier

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    Lauren began singing as soon as she could hold a pitch, and picked up piano not too long after. She studied piano and voice through college, and upon graduation launched her nonprofit career with a symphony orchestra. Presently, you can find her at a show most weekends, and during the summer she lives at music festivals. She believes in the power of live music, the “mixtape” (even if it now lives on a streaming service), and the overarching positive influence music has on our well-being. Girls Rock! was the perfect place for Lauren to channel her passions to help the next generation embrace their power, and find their voices in the music community and beyond.

Staff

  • Ryan Cameron

    Operations Manager

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    Ryan grew up in Jupiter, Florida, surrounded by their mother’s extensive record collection, which sparked their love of music. They graduated from Simmons College in Boston with a degree in History and Political Science in 2009, and later continued on in the Gender & Cultural Studies program. During their undergraduate years Ryan translated their passion into a radio show, and they’ve been cultivating their music collection ever since. They’ve spent the last decade working in Higher Education and Nonprofit Management, most recently for the preservation organization Save Our Cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana. They have a particular affinity for organizations which aim to empower women, transgender and gender nonconforming youth. Ryan spends their free time at the Montrose Dog Beach with their pups Willow and Sookie, exploring the local cemeteries, and riding their scooter.

  • Madeline Leahy

    Gear Coordinator

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    Madeline grew up in a small, dull suburb southwest of Chicago. Her deep love of music was clear by age 5 when she would sing the National Anthem and “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and insisted on starting from the beginning when her older sister interrupted her, pleading with her to stop.

    Inspired by Lisa Simpson, Madeline briefly played saxophone in grade school until her father deemed it too loud to play in the house. Eventually, she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in the Contemporary, Urban, and Popular music program at Columbia College Chicago where she honed her songwriting and vocal performance skills.

    Madeline came to camp first as an instrument instructor in guitar and keyboard and as a band coach. She soon found herself wanting to help at camp by looking after GR!C’s gear.

    In her position as a Gear Coordinator at Girls Rock! Chicago, Madeline seeks to foster the creativity and self esteem of girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth by amplifying their voices and instruments in a world in which they’re often dampened.

  • Britlynn Hansen-Girod

    Gear Coordinator

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    Britlynn was born on the North Shore of Chicago on February 20th, 1988 at 9:32 PM which is most likely the exact time Rihanna was born. As Pisces, they have most things in common, including a love for music. Britlynn was gifted an electric guitar for her 10th birthday and loved it so much she immediately took it apart to see how it worked, ruining it in the process. She has been playing guitar and reading obsessively about guitars and gear ever since, eventually reusing the parts of that destroyed first instrument to build a new guitar. Britlynn got involved with Girls Rock! Camps when she started volunteering at Girls Rock! Indianapolis, where she learned how to play bass. Britlynn is currently teaching herself to play the drums. She is excited to be Girls Rock! Chicago’s Gear Coordinator.

  • Katie Teston

    Marketing/Outreach Intern

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    Katie grew up in Chicago and currently studies sociology, American Sign Language and music at DePaul University. She has been singing in operas, choirs, bands and as a solo artist since she was 10 years old. Katie loves to sing mostly jazz, blues, soul and pop. She started at Girls Rock! Chicago as an intern and immediately fell in love with the mission. It is incredibly important to her that girls, gender non-conforming and trans youth have a space to utilize music to express their ideas and feelings, while also learning the power of their voices in this world. It is important to her that all Chicago kids have the opportunity to experience music they want, and need it.

  • Fallon McDermott

    Gear Coordinator

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    Fallon was born in St. Peters, Missouri but quickly moved to Chicago when she was 10. She got her love music from her dad when she was 6. She started off playing keys when her dad played bass to his music collection of jazz and rock. She then learned classical clarinet in grade school and eventually tenor saxophone in high school. She eventually pursued a bachelors degree in jazz studies from Columbia College Chicago. She is now in her own band called Oby and plays around Chicago with different bands and musicians. She eventually wants to play in orchestra pits on broadway. Fallon joined Girls Rock! Chicago as a counselor and keys teacher but is excited to be one of the Gear Coordinators. She loves this camp, the people, and mission that this organization provides to the kids.

  • Jess LeMaster

    Staff Organizer

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    Jess grew up in the Southwest Missouri surrounded by the musical sounds of the Ozarks. She learned to the play the violin at 8 and finally started liking it 12 years later when she joined a rock band. Since then she’s been in a couple down-home, foot-stompin’ country bands where she learned how to setup and test her own sound. This need to be self-sufficient on stage led her to GR!C where she utilizes her knowledge of sound and gear setup to teach younger girls how to remain independent in a predominantly masculine industry. She also has a degree in printmaking and enjoys spending time screenprinting posters for herself, friends, and other musicians.

  • Mars Grass

    Staff Organizer

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    Mars picked up her first drum sticks in the fifth grade and never let go. Self taught, taking bits and pieces from different musicians she played with, she formed her own personal style and approach to drumming. She had a heavy gospel, blues, and jazz influence. Once she entered high school, she fell into the arms of punk rock. After going to many house shows and basement shows, she found comfort in the DIY atmosphere. She made her way to Chicago to escape the small town vibe and pursue her passion for music in a big city. She started throwing DIY shows out of her own basement–the same time that she first volunteered for GR!C as a drum instructor and band coach. Mars has always been passionate about encouraging and empowering voices that are not heard or do not have the confidence to try. She believes empowering our youth and encouraging independent thought and creativity is essential. Mars is currently drumming in Mr. Ma’am and Flesh Panthers. She enjoys playing guitar, singing, making playlists, and photography.

  • Allison Leckrone

    Staff Organizer

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    Allison grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, which eventually became too boring for her. Inspired by Bikini Kill, Allison found an outlet through art and anger. She eagerly moved to Chicago as soon as she could and completed two years of film school at Columbia College Chicago. Once she found Girls Rock! and volunteered as a camp counselor, she became inspired by the Girls Rock! mission, and decided to pursue a different education focused on social justice issues. She now attends the Shimer Great Books program at North Central College, where she studies race, gender, and social sciences. Allison continues to be inspired by and dedicated to the Girls Rock! mission of using music to foster self-esteem and self-expression in girls, trans youth, and gender non-conforming youth, as she believes that their voices should play a crucial role in creating a future founded on liberation and equality. She also loves her dog, Juicy Lips, and watching horrible reality television shows.

Advisory Board

  • Jeff Julian

    Co-Chair

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    Jeff Julian got involved with Girls Rock! Chicago when one of his old bands broke up and they decided to donate the left over band money to GR!C. Now Jeff is a proud member of the Advisory Board and happy to spread the word about the great mission of GR!C whenever he can. When he’s not promoting GR!C, Jeff works as the executive director of communications at Harper College and plays guitar and sings in the band Vaudevileins.

  • Britt Julious

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    Britt Julious is a writer, essayist, and storyteller with work featured in the New York Times, Vogue, Esquire, ELLE, and others. She currently pens a weekly column for the Chicago Tribune and contributes monthly to Chicago magazine. She’s working on a collection of essays about overcoming trauma.

  • Heather Manning

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    After reading an article about GR!C in Time Out in 2007, Heather decided to volunteer at camp in an attempt to meet like-minded people. She immediately fell in love with the mission, and has since served in various roles in the organization. While Heather’s love of music runs deep, her talent is limited to high school band (sax and bassoon), self-taught ukulele and making up alternative lyrics to her children’s favorite songs, much to their dismay.

  • Tamara Meyer

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    Tamara Meyer is Divisional Sr. Vice President, Chief Litigation Counsel at Health Care Service
    Corporation (HCSC) in Chicago Illinois. Prior to joining HCSC in 2009, Ms. Meyer was Vice President of Global Public Affairs & Government relations and a member of the Legal Division at Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan. Before going in-house, Ms. Meyer was a litigation partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (now Dentons) and was a tax litigation associate at Baker & McKenzie, both in Chicago Illinois. Ms. Meyer was a CPA practicing in the tax area prior to attending law school.

    Ms. Meyer graduated from Northwestern University Law School, magna cum laude. She holds an MS in Taxation, with distinction, from DePaul University and a BSBA in Accounting, summa cum laude, from Loyola University. Ms. Meyer is on the boards of several non-profits in Chicago, including Girl Scouts of Greater Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana, the Women’s Bar Foundation, HFS Chicago Scholars and Girls Rock! Chicago.

    Ms. Meyer is from Oak Lawn, Illinois and currently resides with her husband and daughter in the
    Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Her interests include music of all types, opera, wine, and hockey.

  • Lauren Viera

    Co-Chair

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    Lauren Viera learned about Girls Rock! Chicago in its earliest days and has been involved ever since — first as a band coach and bass instructor, then as a volunteer recruiter, and eventually as founding co-chair of the Board of Directors. Now on the Advisory Board, she’s happy to keep supporting GR!C from the sidelines. She is a writer and journalist, a mother and wife, an erstwhile bassist and forever a cocktail enthusiast.

  • Eileen Fleming

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    Eileen works as a career advisor, helping students and young professionals navigate their careers. She is excited to be part of the advisory board and support the mission of Girls Rock! Chicago. Music has always played an important life in her role. She has worked for music festivals such as SXSW Festival and Firefly Music Festival and loves the community that music creates. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing her guitar, and going on adventures with her dog, Waffles.

  • Michele Peradotti

  • Kit Curl

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    Kit, originally from the southern suburb of Park Forest, found Girls Rock! Chicago in 2013 when he was hired as Operations Manager, a role he happily worked in for nearly five years. He currently works for the American Library Association. Kit graduated from the University of Wisconsin: Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s in Educational Policy and Community Studies in 2010 and a Master’s in Cultural Foundations of Education in 2012. Kit loves to ride and build bikes and bake vegan treats in his spare time. He lives in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago with his cat, Lola.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When will the camp dates be announced?

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    We usually announce the camp dates in mid-March. We have to coordinate with three main venues from which we rent our camp space (Chicago Public Schools, our showcase venue, and our recording studio) and around two major festivals to secure our dates. We choose dates that won’t put our own in showcases in conflict with Pitchfork Music Festival and Lollapalooza, and that means we have to wait for those dates to be announced in the late fall/early winter.

  • Who can attend rock camp?

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    We welcome campers and volunteers who are girls (cis or trans), transgender youth (of any identity), and gender-nonconforming/non-binary youth. If you’re unsure if that umbrella covers you, just ask! We will meet you with kindness and respect. Additionally, we trust you to identify yourself/your child and do NOT require any “proof” of your gender.

  • What’s the point of rock camp?

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    Girls Rock! Chicago is all about breaking down stereotypes, creating a supportive and encouraging environment, taking creative risks, and creating positive social change in our community.

  • Do you need music experience to attend camp or other programs?

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    No! No music experience is required for Girls Rock! Chicago programming. Music is for everyone.

  • Can I attend more than one session of camp?

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    Unfortunately, no. We can only admit campers to one session per year.

  • Can my child bring their acoustic guitar to camp?

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    No, we only use electric instruments at camp. Campers are welcome to bring their own electric bass or guitar, but we also provide instruments for every child.

  • Can my child record their song at x time at the recording studio?

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    We are able to accept a limited number of scheduling requests for our recording day, but we cannot guarantee any specific time slots. We start drafting the recording schedule on roughly the second day of camp since campers record with their entire band (which is formed on the first day of camp). Before we accommodate scheduling requests, we have to first group all of our bands with lefty drummers at the beginning or end of the day and then ensure that siblings are grouped together so that families don’t have to make multiple trips to the recording studio. That doesn’t always leave us with room for adjustments, and we sometimes receive vastly different requests in the same band. We try our best, but it’s incredibly helpful for us if families leave their schedules open on our recording day of camp.

  • Can you make sure my camper is in a band with their friends?

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    We take requests such as this into consideration when facilitating band formation, but ultimately leave the decision of who will be in a band up to the campers. If you are concerned that your camper will be grouped into a band with someone they don’t get along with, please reach out to us! We take care to ensure that campers talk with each other and meet new people with respect and openness. Keep in mind that an important part of the camp experience is learning to make new friends and collaborate with people whose perspectives and experiences may be different from their own. We strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment to all campers and strongly encourage everyone at camp (youth and adults alike) to engage with new friends as much as possible. Please note that our band formation process occurs at camp with all campers present, so pre-forming bands is not possible.

  • Do you offer private lessons?

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    We don’t offer private lessons at this time, but we do have a referral list including many of our camp volunteers! Please send us an email at info@girlsrockchicago.org to learn.

  • When will the camp application open? How will I know?

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    The camp application will open approximately two weeks after the camp dates are announced. Returning campers get advance notice via email. We send out a notice to our entire mailing list and also post on our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • Why no cis-boys/men?

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    Girls and trans youth face unique challenges and oppressions in their lives due to their gender identities. We want to create a uniquely safe space that supports, uplifts, and cares for people of all marginalized gender identities while allowing them to take creative risks and form strong bonds with their peers, as well as inspire our participants to create change in their communities.

  • Besides music, what else do you teach?

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    We host workshops at camp and in other programs that focus on topics related to playing and composing music with a band, building self-esteem, and exploring what it means to be a girl or transperson making music. Past workshops have included song-writing, performance and stage presence, DIY effect pedals, DIY recording, media literacy, gender and inclusion, the history of women in rock, art and activism, and t-shirt surgery. Each camp session, we lead a one hour-long workshop that explores the question “What’s with the ‘girl’ in Girls Rock! Chicago?” The objective of this workshop is to provide campers with a basic understanding of gender, and how that relates to and impacts one’s experience in the world, especially in terms of oppression, bullying, and self-esteem. The full curriculum is available at www.girlsrockchicago.org.

  • Do I have to be a musician to volunteer?

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    No! Experience as a musician is appreciated for some roles like instrument instructor, but not required for roles such as band coach, counselor, roadie, and others.

  • Why doesn’t Girls Rock! Chicago have a vocals track?

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    We want every camper to have the opportunity to learn to play a traditional rock instrument. We offer vocal workshops and provide each camper with the opportunity to sing in their band if they so choose.

  • Can my child perform first or last at the showcase?

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    Unfortunately, we are unable to accept any scheduling requests for the showcase. We structure the lineup in a loose age order so that it flows cohesively and also so that our graduating bands can “headline,” so to speak. We typically do not develop the lineup until the Friday afternoon of each camp week following dress rehearsal so that staff can get a good sense of what each band sounds like. It is critical that families leave the showcase day open from 9 AM – 3 PM.

  • When will the CDs be ready?

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    It usually takes about six months after camp for us to create the camp CDs and prepare them for families. It’s a long process! First, our recording engineers mix the tracks, and then another company has to master the tracks. We also have to create the art for the CDs and CD jackets. Once we have the mastered tracks and art, we send them off to a CD duplication company to manufacture our CDs and wait for them to be shipped to us. Then we have to plan a CD release party at our office. Whew!

  • I wish I had this when I was a kid!

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    We’ve got the next best thing: Let’s Rock! Camp for adults! This is just like camp, but held over four days (Feb 16 – 19) at Josephinum Academy in Wicker Park. The application will open November 16th.

  • I’m a cisgender man, how can I help Girls Rock! Chicago?

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    There’s room for everyone to help at Girls Rock! Chicago! Cisgender men (who cannot volunteer during our programs) are welcome to volunteer at our office, during load-in, at special events such as the Annual Autumn Auction, on our Advisory Board, or on our Board of Directors. Cisgender men can also help us out by donating gear, cash, or setting up benefit events!

Annual Reports