On Special Assignment: Missoula’ Girl’s Rock Camp

Posted at 11:30 AM, Mar 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 13:30:43-04

MISSOULA – If your favorite movie is School of Rock and you secretly wish you were in an 80’s hair band, have we got a story for you!

We found a group of girls who spent the winter making music who got their chance to be on stage and in the spotlight — and in the end, they got much more than that.

In the basement of the Zootown Arts Community Center in Missoula, a journey was about to begin.

Four girls met for the first time on a February day to create something amazing — Girl’s Rock Camp.

“It’s kind of like a regular band, just with girls,” said one camp participant.

They spent six weeks forming a band, learning to control an instrument, writing a song — and then performing in public.

There’s 9-year-old Morgan, 8-year-old Mackenna, Sophia who is in the third grade and Pearl — who at nine was the oldest of the group.

Girls Rock Camp
Four girls met for the first time on a February day in Missoula to create something amazing — Girl’s Rock Camp. (MTN News photo)

Music director Lukas Phelan explained that the camp empowered the young girls.

“Girls and women — and non-binary people — are underrepresented in music. So we want to encourage non-male people to express themselves and be heard.”

“You can’t just have a life that’s all about work,” said Pearl. “So like, you have to fill your life with music, you know, and it will be fun

“It actually helps with stage fright if you have stage fright because it helps you get over it,” Morgan added.

Erin Szalda Petree, 18, helped out in class. She’s in a band herself and guided the girls through the chords.

But the thing is, the girls don’t need to know how to play anything yet — but it’s not about that.

“I think it does give them some confidence in being loud and you know, out there whatever because I think a lot of times young girls are pushed back to be quiet or like, you know, less weird and creative in that sense,” Szalda Petree told MTN News.

The first step was to pick an instrument which is generally a process more fun than functional as Lukas and Erin guided them with unending patience.

By the third week, the players were in position. Morgan was on the slide guitar, Makenna sang, Sophia was on base and Pearl was the drummer.

The next step was to name the band, which took longer than you’d think. But in the end, the girls settled on the Flash Flood and the song picked was about bullying.

Girls Rock Camp
Morgan was on the slide guitar, Makenna sang, Sophia was on base and Pearl was the drummer. (MTN News photo)

The weeks went by as the girls learned their role in this foursome. The song started to come together with the girls still learning and still laughing — knowing there are no wrong answers when it comes to creativity.

There was practice to work on timing and then came the day of the show.

“I’m really excited for them to get a chance to perform in other people because that’s such a rush for these kids to be at the Top Hat,” Phelan said.

After a little glamour session, they took the stage in front of their fans, friends and family. The culmination of six weeks of work had them on stage at Missoula’s Top Hat bar.

It didn’t need to be perfect, it never did, it just had to be authentic. They sang be yourself — that’s what they did. And in the end, that’s what really rocked about this camp.

Zootown Arts also has a co-ed and boy’s rock class and each performance is recorded and available on iTunes.