That first concert was, of course, magical. Inspired, I upgraded my mom’s classical guitar for an exceptionally inexpensive Epiphone electric. A few years later, I went to see Eric Clapton at Reunion Arena and immediately went out and bought a Takamine acoustic with $600 of my own money and learned “Tears in Heaven,” determined to be, in the very least, one of those singer/songwriter-type girls. But as I entered young adulthood, the musicians I dated seemed to get progressively better, so, in favor of saving my dignity, I retired my Takamine and mediocre playing skills to take a seat by the stage, content to hear the men in my life do justice to the art form that I loved so dearly.
During the next decade I noticed a similar story among many a girl perched on the arm of a musician. Rock and roll, we’d all realized, was a boys club. Rather jaded, I accepted this as reality – until I met Frankie Klee.
At the time she was managing and promoting a local punk rock band and had a reputation for getting things done. So, it wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary that we both ended up at a screening of the documentary “Girls Rock” at La Grange one rainy night in Deep Ellum.
The film focused on a faction of the burgeoning School of Rock concept. This organization, however, focuses entirely on the need for female voices in rock and roll through a summer camp for young girls staffed entirely by females.
The first camp began in Portland, Oreg. in 2001 and has popped up in 30 other U.S. cities, Dallas being the most recent. I thought it was a brilliant idea.
True to form, Frankie dove headfirst into helping make Girls Rock Dallas a reality.
“Maybe if there would have been something like this around when I was their age, I would have been more likely to pick up an instrument,” she told me one day. “When I was these girl’s ages it was the guys that rocked.”
Split up into bands of four or five, the girls picked their own names like Black Belt and Wanted 4 and worked with female band advisors who are courageously embedded in the male-dominated local music scene. Advisors taught basic music and technique, but didn’t help in the writing process as girls wrote an original song as a band. During the course of a week they silk-screened t-shirts with their band logo, learned about promotions and press, songwriting, and stage presence, and talked to the legendary Lisa Umbarger of Toadies fame. Even at 30 years old, I’m exceptionally jealous.
After watching updates on fundraising, gathering of equipment and the inaugural camp on both Frankie and executive director and local musician Rachel Machaud’s Facebook pages, I was super excited to walk through the doors of Club Da Da in Deep Ellum last Saturday and hear what a week’s worth of girl power and rock and roll could do for 30 girls ages 7 to 17.
The result was unabashed confidence onstage that some of the more prestigious rock schools in the Metroplex desperately lack – especially considering that most of these girls had zero experience with any instruments until the first day of camp.
After the showcase, several girls talked about their experience during camp. The common theme was they felt they could do anything or be anybody, and that rock and roll was theirs for the taking.
When I asked Frankie if she worried that perhaps a week full of positive reinforcement culminating in a room full of parents cheering for shaky musicality was, in a way, setting these little ladies up for failure in the harsh world of rock and roll, she said, “Definitely not.” She continued: “Even if they don’t want to pursue music instrumentally, the industry is vast and there is always some way to fit music into your life. And yeah, there are going to be people who don’t like the music you listen to or the way you dress, but that’s okay because, ‘you rock and I rock.’”
I realized Frankie was absolutely right. Rock and roll is an attitude that, when harnessed, can do incredible things, especially if you’re a girl.