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Girls Rock

Gibson Guitar hosts summer camp for young ladies, but this isn't charm school.



Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" includes only two women: Joni Mitchell and Joan Jett. But if an area rock-and-roll camp has its way, more females will be considered guitar gods. Er, goddesses.

Murfreesboro has hosted the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp for the past four years. This year, founder Kelly Anderson brings the day camp to Memphis' Gibson Guitar Factory from June 18th to 23rd. The campers range from 10- to 17-year-old girls.

"Because of the musical background in Memphis, we really wanted to encourage more girls to learn an instrument or how to write songs," says Anderson, who plays guitar in an "old-time traditional country band."

When campers register, they choose which instrument — guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, or vocals — they'd like to learn. Instruments are donated by manufacturing companies, and girls spend two hours each day learning how to play the instrument.

On the first day of camp, the musicians form bands, each with an assigned volunteer instructor to act as the band's manager.

"When the girls sign up, we try to have a certain ratio of guitars to bass to drums, so that every band will have a bass player and a drummer," says Anderson. "But it doesn't always work that way. Some bands end up with two drummers. Some will have a guitar and two keyboards. They can get really creative."

At the end of the week, each band will perform in a public showcase on the rooftop of the Gibson.

"In the first camp that we put on in [Murfreesboro], the girls were mostly performing as cover bands. In recent years, we've seen that ratio completely flop," says Anderson. "Last year, it was almost all original bands."

At the camp, girls will also learn about photography, music journalism, recording, DIY crafts, and songwriting.

"We really stress to the girls that you don't always have to be the guitarist onstage," says Anderson. "There are many different ways to be equally involved in a music community."

Anderson was originally inspired by the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, where she volunteered for two years.

"Coming back [to Murfreesboro], I noticed there weren't that many female performers," says Anderson.

So she started her own rock camp with support from Middle Tennessee State University, where she studies recording. It was held on campus for two years, but Anderson moved it off-site when it grew larger than the school could accommodate. This year, the camp will be held in Murfreesboro a month after the Memphis camp.

"It's not so important that they all end up being professional musicians," says Anderson. "I just want them to come away with a stronger sense of self-esteem and a positive support network."

Registration for the Memphis camp ends May 31st. To register, visit

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