New all-girls rock 'n' roll day camp coming this summer to Chattanooga

Liric Johnson, Kai Viland, Aydin Ryan-Davis, Hannelorre Vickers and Ariel Hollingsworth, seated on drums, from left, appear in a publicity photo for the Chattanooga Girls Rock Camp. Viland will be attending the camp, which targets girls ages 9 to 17.
photo Aydin Ryan-Davis, Hannelorre Vickers, Ariel Hollingsworth, Kai Viland and Liric Johnson, from left.

Rock godesses

Since Aretha Franklin became its first female inductee in 1987, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has honored only a handful of women. Here are some of the female performers to join the Queen of Soul at court:* Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (2015)* Linda Rondstadt (2014)* Donna Summer/Heart (2013)* Wanda Jackson (2009)* Madonna (2008)* The Ronettes/Patti Smith (2007)* Blondie (2006)* Billie Holiday/Bonnie Raitt (2000)* Dusty Springfield (1999)* Joni Mitchell (1997)

Be a roadie

Want to help fund the inaugural Chattanooga Girls Rock Camp? Organizers need help with everything from food and instruments to sound equipment and volunteer staff. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online via Contact or call Amelia Rodgers-Jones at 423-304-8407 for more info.

If you go

Rodgers-Jones and co-organizers Rose Cox, 33, and Kristen Ryan, 36, are finalizing preparations for the inaugural What: Chattanooga Girls Rock Camp› When: July 18-23› Where: 1501 Long St., in the building that formerly was home to Enzo’s Market and the Grocery Bar› Information:, or call Amelia Rodgers-Jones at 423-304-8407.

Considering she's starting Chattanooga's first all-girls rock'n'roll day camp, Amelia Rodgers-Jones spends surprisingly little time talking about power chords, drum fills or sick solos.

Instead, the 29-year-old's pitch for the event touches much more frequently on subjects like leadership, empowerment and building self-esteem.

"I want to make sure that the next generation of girls growing up in Chattanooga have self-confidence and lack the fear that they so frequently have to taking risks," she says. "I want to make sure that Chattanooga's next generation of women are risk-takers who aren't afraid to speak their minds, who aren't afraid to be loud, who aren't afraid to be heard and who know how to make themselves heard."

Rodgers-Jones and co-organizers Rose Cox, 33, and Kristen Ryan, 36, are finalizing preparations for the inaugural Chattanooga Girls Rock Camp, which will take place July 18-23 in the building that formerly was home to Enzo's Market and the Grocery Bar in Southside.

Every day during the event, 35 girls ages 9 to 17 will meet with volunteer music coaches and other staff members to receive instruction on their chosen instrument - bass, guitar, keyboards, drums and vocals - attend workshops covering topics such as recording and DJing and listen to performances by and ask questions of local musicians.

At its core, however, the camp is built around the bands that campers will form with each other and the songs these budding groups will write during daily rehearsals. The weekend after the camp's conclusion, the participants will debut their songs during a showcase concert that's open to the public.

"They'll have the whole experience from the stage and the lights to the soundboard," Rodgers-Jones says. "They wait backstage in the green room, and then everyone rocks out to their music. That really is the highlight for most of the kids, getting to actually be a rock star for an afternoon."

Tuition will be based on a sliding scale to accommodate each family's financial means, she says, and scholarships will be available. Prior musical training isn't required, and campers also won't need to bring their own instruments unless they prefer to, Rodgers-Jones says.

The camp is being organized around a shoestring budget of $4,000 and is largely dependent on donated materials and expertise. So far, she adds, drumming up interest within the music community hasn't been difficult.

"I feel like almost every musician we meet says they're interested and that, if they're available, they'll be there to instruct or band coach," she says.

The camp's programming will be similar to that in use at more than 60 other camps listed as members of Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an unregulated federation of independently operated camps in cities throughout the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, Sweden, Iceland and other countries.

Chattanoogan Tara Viland is planning to send her nine-year-old daughter Kai to the camp this summer. The general manager at Main Street event space The Granfalloon and a former music journalist, Viland says she's pleased to see more female musicians and female-led bands in Chattanooga. Even if it doesn't serve as a gateway to careers as performers, she says she's excited at the prospect of a camp that will expose even more girls to music.

"These young women that attend this event may not play music forever," she says. "They may move on to be engineers, librarians, event managers, stagehands, scientists [or] college professors but they will have a love and respect for music instilled into their DNA, and I think that is why this is so important."

There already are several rock camps for girls near Chattanooga, including events in Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville and Murfreesboro, Tenn. The latter city hosts Southern Girls Rock Camp, the second-ever girls rock camp to form following the success of the first, which started in 2001 in Portland, Ore.

Nashville resident Jess McKelley-Havron was a volunteer "band manager" at the Murfreesboro camp for two years in the 2000s. She recalls feeling awed at the impact on the campers' self-confidence from composing and performing an original song in such a short amount of time.

"The younger - pre-teen - girls in particular were at a crucial stage of development in terms of social interaction and self esteem," the 31-year-old says. "I remember myself that those years can be very difficult, so it is extra important that each girl feel supported and encouraged by her peers.

"That final night they were proud of themselves and what they'd accomplished together as a group. Individually, some of the girls had conquered stage fright and insecurity about playing music with older, more-experienced campers."

Rodgers-Jones says having an opportunity to rock out with other girls is an all-too-rare experience for many girls, most of whom grow up with a bare-bones pantheon of musical goddesses to idolize compared to the ranks of male rock legends young boys have to look up to.

In 2015, Joan Jett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the nomination of the Blackhearts' leader is a relative anomaly for the musical institution. Since opening its doors in 1986, only 36 of the 113 groups to be inducted into the hall have had at least one woman in the lineup. Many years, including 2016, the group of inductees doesn't include a single female performer.

The festival circuit is just as male-dominated. Since starting in 1999, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has only featured a single female headliner (Bjork in 2002 and 2007) and one headline band with a female member (Arcade Fire's Regine Chassagne in 2011 and 2014). None of the headliners on the largest stage at Bonnaroo this year are women, although a few female artists and girl-led bands are featured further down the schedule, including Ellie Goulding, Haim, Halsey, Chvrches and Grace Potter.

Rodgers-Jones says the male-dominated landscape of rock 'n' roll can't help but send the wrong message to young girls. She hopes Chattanooga Girls Rock Camp will inspire a new generation of singers like Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, guitarists like Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi and rockers like Jett and Melissa Ethridge to go forth and shred the status quo without resorting to backstabbing for the handful of band openings that historically have been open to women.

"We want to show them what it can be like if they collaborate with each other and encourage each other and start developing the kind of supportive bond that comes a little bit more easily to boys, especially in certain fields like music or the STEM fields," she says. "We're hoping that carries over into their home lives and school lives."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.