Confidence Takes Center Stage
Omaha Girls Rock
By Maria Harding
Empowerment. That is the overall mission of Omaha Girls Rock. The music is, at times, reflective or rebellious, exalting or exhausting—it’s whatever these young women craft it to be. There is a misconception that Omaha Girls Rock is “just” a music camp. It is so much more! “A lot of what we do has to do with identity and confidence-building, with using your voice,” says Melissa Wurth, the executive director. The staff and volunteers have rigorously crafted multi-year plans in order to organize the cornerstone summer experience. They also execute 15 successful after-school programs.
At the summer camp, the girls are assigned an instrument and a band for the week, and they create and perform a song together. Campers do not need any prior instruction on the instrument they wish to explore. In fact, if a camper already has experience in one area, she may be encouraged to use camp time to explore something different.
Woven into the week are workshops given by women leaders from a variety of cultural and career backgrounds. Many of the presenters come from collaborating organizations such as Nebraska Shakespeare, WhyArts, Nebraska Writers Collective, and The Union for Contemporary Art. They offer lectures on topics such as diversity and self-esteem and welcome discussion with the campers. This cross-cultivation of disciplines allows the campers to draw parallels between the leadership qualities needed in a musical group and those that are vital in any area of life and society. As Melissa points out, “You’re going to have tough times with your band or with learning your instrument. You just have to work through it, and that’s the crux of what we’re doing. Those are the skills that campers can apply elsewhere in their lives.”
If you’re interested in supporting the mission of Omaha Girls Rock, consider becoming a volunteer. “The main time we need volunteers is in the summer, because we have camps all day, every day,” confirms Melissa. Volunteers don’t need musical training! “Not everyone who works with the kids is a musician. We have counselors, teachers, and other people who work well with kids. If you’re interested in working with us, we can certainly find a place for you.”
For people who can’t offer assistance during camp time, Melissa recommends joining one of their volunteer committees, including the Advocacy Board or the Gear Committee. “They meet year-round and work to support the specific programming and the camp volunteers,” Melissa explains. “They also help fundraise and make us stronger all around.”
Omaha Girls Rock is offering three sessions of camp this summer, with the girls divided by age group. This year’s camp will take place June 15–19 for Kickstart (girls aged 4–6 and 7–9), July 13–18 for Teens (girls aged 13–16), and July 27–August 1 for Youth (girls aged 10–12). Omaha Girls Rock is inclusive and does not discriminate on the basis of identity or expression, citizenship status, or physical or developmental ability. As it has been for the past several years, the camp’s home base is the Holland Performing Arts Center in downtown Omaha. Because of the limited number of instruments available, there is also a cap on the number of campers who can attend. There is a waiting list every summer.
Through its Roots to Rock capital campaign, Omaha Girls Rock is working to expand its mission and programming. Within the past three years, they have increased the number of campers by 60 percent, and they have tripled their outreach for after-school programming. The Roots to Rock capital campaign will enable the organization to relocate to their own 5,000-square-foot space at 17th and Cuming Streets in the autumn of 2020. The new headquarters will allow them to expand their current programming, and it will house a performance space, a recording studio, and a commons area to promote connection and discussion among the campers.
“I always say that I wish people could be backstage with me,” says Melissa. “Whether it’s their first time or their seventh time, the girls really are making that performance successful. They’ve created a new friend group; they’ve made these personal connections. It’s a very intense five days, and the campers come away from it with a new exploration of themselves…a new confidence.” Whether or not you are currently hunting for summer camp options, absolutely everyone should check out the photos and videos on the Omaha Girls Rock website (omahagirlsrock.org). The images you’ll find there are joy-filled, inspiring, and colorful, much like the young campers themselves.