It’s 7:15am and my Green Line train is screeching towards Packard’s Corner in Allston. I ring the bell for my stop and hop off the train into the already warm morning air, coffee in hand. As I walk up to my destination, I can hear the sound of a room full of girls talking, yelling, and making new friends. I see the volunteers running around like crazy, and happy to be doing it. By mid-afternoon, I am in charge of a band full of girls. They’re playing multiple instruments at once and yelling to hear each other through their earplugs. They’re joking around with each other and listening to what they all learned during instrument instruction earlier in the day. Finally, they quiet down to start working on a song together. We sit in a circle and my bassist tips her head in my direction and asks, “Why do you even do this?” I smile, because I know exactly why.
Every time I am at Girls Rock Campaign Boston (GRCB), I learn something new and valuable. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit, feminist organization is volunteer-run and has a summer program for girls aged 8-17. Since 2010, girls have been signing up to learn guitar, drums, bass, keys, or vocals. They form bands, learn their instrument, and at the end of only one week, perform a live show at a local venue for a crowd full of family, friends, and the ever-proud volunteers. During the week, in addition to writing the lyrics and music for an original song, the girls attend workshops such as Self-Defense, Women in Rock History (or, excuse me, HERstory), and Media Literacy.
This year and last, I took a full week away from Collective Next to volunteer at GRCB. I typically volunteer as a band manager, which means I work with a band coach and one of the bands to help guide them through the process. (Volunteers don’t usually get too involved; we don’t write lyrics or music for the girls). While the girls attending the program are learning a lot, the women are also gaining just as much new knowledge from the girls and from each other. I took away some great insights from this most recent session.
We teach kids to share from a young age, but it’s typically about things. Share your dinosaur toys, share your dolls, share your whiffle ball. What is equally important but often neglected – especially in the business world – is sharing what you know. It can be a matter of job security: If I’m the only one who knows this or that, then I am needed here. It can be a matter of competition: If I hoard information, I’ll be able to perform better than my colleagues.
At Girls Rock, we try to have the opposite view. The more knowledge we share, the stronger our community gets. Volunteers teach the girls, and each other. I know almost nothing about guitars, and this past session, a fellow volunteer showed my band (and me) how to use a guitar amp. Later, my drummer’s snare springs were loose and her bass drum pedal was not lining up. I took the opportunity to put my drumming skills to use, showing the whole band and the coach how to tighten springs and where to place the pedal. We teach the girls to share knowledge with each other now, so when they enter high school or college, and eventually the workplace, they will carry that habit with them.
Despite the fact that I write, draw, and occasionally play the drums in my spare time, I’d never considered myself to be the “creative type.” The belief that people are either creatives or non-creatives is learned, and we instill it in kids early on. But everyone has creative capability. Reinforcing creative confidence, according to IDEO’s David Kelley, can lead to more new ideas and better decisions.
Volunteering at Girls Rock (and attending the 21+ sister program, Ladies Rock), I’ve learned this to be true first hand. Women are typically less encouraged in the music industry, and feel like they have to be absolutely perfect before they can perform or call themselves a musician. At Girls Rock, we teach that every note rocks, and every mistake rocks. Every screeching amp, every thrown drum stick, every wrong note absolutely and totally rocks.
Fostering Girl Leaders
Although women have made great strides in the last century, we are still working for equality in the workplace (and elsewhere). Female bosses are more rare than male, and it’s harder for women to move up. At GRCB, we let the girls know that they should build each other up instead of tearing each other down, and the volunteers exemplify this throughout the week by helping each other constantly. Every day there is a lunch-time band performance, where a real, all or mostly female band plays a few songs for the girls and they see first hand that yes, girls CAN. We give the girls the information and confidence they need to go out into the real world and bring that same support to the girls they interact with at school and at home. As a millennial (the forever-discussed generation), I encourage and support the women around me and know that I have the support of the Girls Rock community behind me.
Throughout my Girls Rock experience, I’ve learned many important things and have grown so much as a person. All of these things have been applied to my everyday life, as well as my work life.
- Take the time to teach and share what you know
- Be confident to try new things and come up with new ideas (and express these ideas!)
- Build up the people around you and be a supportive member of your community
- When it comes to working with those who are younger than you or who are just starting out, exemplify in yourself what you wish you had seen in others when you were just starting.