For Sydney teen Mia Betteridge, music has always been very important to her.
“It makes me happy. When I am upset I use it almost as a way to calm myself down,” she said.
Mia, 13, will be a part of this year’s Girls Rock! camp cohort as it makes its rock and roll debut in Sydney this January.
“My mum found out about it on Facebook and I wanted to join because of my love of music and I want to build on that passion,” Miss Betteridge said.
Established in Portland, Oregon in the US in 2001, the week-long day camp aims to inspire and empower 10- to 17-year-old girls, transgender and non-binary youth by providing a space for marginalised youths who are wishing to explore the world of music and themselves.
“On a psychological level, music is important for everyone, specifically for female, trans and non-binary youth as so much of the world is built to make identity really hard for teenagers of any gender,” said Girls Rock! Sydney’s director and music teacher Mara O’Toole.
The music program has successfully expanded internationally, first taking place in in Canberra in 2016. It has since rocked its way through the hearts of Brisbane, Melbourne and Wollongong.
“After going to the first Canberra camp I realised that music education was my passion and I had just finished my masters of teaching so I am now a music teacher and it’s come from me being involved in the Rock camp,” said Ms O’Toole.
At Girls Rock! Sydney, run at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville, the young musicians will be taught how to play an instrument, and to develop their singing and songwriting skills. They will also form bands with their fellow campers throughout the duration of the program.
Aria Award winner and singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko, and up-and-comers Okin Osan’s Rose Chan and Madeleine Er from the band The S-Bends are among the mentors at the camp.
For Chan and Er, the program is a step in the right direction in tackling the many forms of discrimination that exist in the music industry.
“My lived experience as a female musician hasn’t been smooth sailing. I would really love to see a change in the music industry, see it less male-dominated and see more women coming to the front,” Er said.
Chan conferred the camp’s importance in encouraging music for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“Music is a way to self-identify and if there is no representation of your identity in music it is really hard to self-identify with it.”
The final day of the camp on Saturday will include a showcase, featuring a collection of the participant’s songs and tracks.
“The showcase will be all of the camper bands performing all of their original pieces that they have written throughout the week and everyone is invited,” said Ms O’Toole.
“I hope that this camp helps to build my skills and to maybe find people that I can be in a band with,” Betteridge said.