The Moppet Show 

Salt Lake City's first Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls sets its amps to empower.

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Inside the shell of what was once Ichabob's, Ego's and, most recently, Bar Deluxe, are three underage girls. Strangely, Lyndi Wadsworth, Stella Schorer and Josie West are unable to produce valid IDs, much less offer fake ones. Yet, they're here—and two weeks from now, they'll perform on its stage.

So how does it feel, having access to a bar 4-10 years before reaching legal age? The girls almost laugh at their interviewer's ignorance. "It's not a bar anymore," they and some of the moms and Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls counselors say, almost in unison. Once the renovations are complete, the portentously addressed 666 S. State, which has been a bar of some type since—a cursory survey of the moms and counselors says—1906, will reopen as the all-ages Beehive Social Club. It's here where the girls will show what they've learned over the first five days of August, when they and dozens of others—from beginners to seasoned vets—perform new original songs at the camp's grand finale.

Incidentally, just like at regular summer camp, they learn more than how to kill and field-dress a javelina with a spoon (what did you learn at camp?) or, more appropriate to the R&RCFG—how to rock. They learn about themselves: who they are as people, and as young women, and how to work together.

But right now, they're focused on their first interview, which, from reading the girls' expressions, is both daunting and exciting.

Guitar player Wadsworth, confident and tomboyish under her long dirty-blonde hair, is 17. She's been playing for a year and likes "rock" music. What varietal? "Any subgenre of it." Schorer, equally confident and shy, smiles from beneath her closely cropped hair. She, as Electric Mayhem four-stringer Floyd Pepper says in The Muppet Movie, blows bass, and also plays acoustic guitar. She digs "all music. ... I like jazz, I like folk, I like bluegrass, rock," and loves singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, revealing herself to be mature beyond her 12 years. West, 11, is the least experienced and most bashful of the bunch. She speaks softly, answering "keys" and "all music" but especially "reggae" when asked about her tastes.

Wadsworth and Schorer are off to a good start, having participated in other camps—MusicGarage and School of Rock, respectively. They formed their first bands there, and Wadsworth still gigs with hers, called Inside Job. Schorer gravitated toward solo performance, and plays a weekly open-mic night at the Millcreek coffeehouse, Greenhouse Effect. That takes guts for an adult, let alone a teenager. Respect.

Confidence, says musical director Secily Saunders, is part of the R&RCFG curriculum, which she designed. This is the first camp of its kind in Salt Lake City, but it's Saunders' fourth; she previously worked with camps in Portland and Los Angeles. In her experience, shy girls like West are "more the norm, less the anomaly." That's why the camp teaches social skills alongside musical ones, Saunders says, "to help girls, in a short, very intense amount of time, learn about their gender, and how that is expressed through music, and how they can become better and stronger people."

To that end, Saunders plans to use examples like country legend Wanda Jackson (who couldn't book gigs because female acts were perceived as a poor draw), blues icon Big Mama Thornton (who made "Hound Dog" a hit before Elvis Presley), Riot grrrl pioneer and Bikini Kill/Le Tigre/Julie Ruin singer Kathleen Hanna, and even Katy Perry, who Saunders says is notable for using her sexuality while also writing songs that are "deep and meaningful." Additionally, the program includes a workshop by Mormon feminist Kate Kelly, and daily "Tiny Lunch Concerts" by local artists like Keys, Stephanie Mabey, Cathy Foy, Cat Ghost, Lost by Reason and The Aces, as well as Seattle punks Tacocat.

Saunders acknowledges that Salt Lake City has had plenty of youth-oriented music schools, including the aforementioned as well as the (now defunct) Rock 'n' Roll Academy and SpyHop. The R&RCFG, however, is the first to focus on girls. Saunders says it's nice, in a liberal town still heavily influenced by a conservative patriarchy, to teach 40 girls general feminist ideas. But it's not an adversarial men-versus-women deal. Saunders wants to combat problems women have with each other, like being "catty or gossipy," which can cause creative endeavors like bands to falter. And the camp welcomes male volunteers in non-administrative roles. Ultimately, the camp aims to introduce ideas about equality, empowerment, growth, positivity, cooperation and community. "If we can start getting young girls to think like this, the sooner, the better—and the better for our planet," Saunders says.

Nationally, the rock-camp-for-girls movement is already in full swing. Once R&RCFG wraps, they'll be eligible for membership in a network of well over 100 likeminded rock camps, each abiding by the same general concept: fostering self-confidence, creativity and teamwork, while encouraging girls to recognize, understand and respond to discrimination. "We can empower young girls to not be scared to raise their hand in class," says Saunders, "and to be the girl that walks around with a guitar at lunch, doing something that is just seen as normal [for boys, but not necessarily girls] ... and recognize that it's OK to make mistakes and be loud."

You hear that, West? Go get 'em!

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