Last Friday I was able to visit the Queer Rock Camp Southern California that took place at the Temple Israel in Long Beach, the first rock camp of its kind in the Los Angeles area…actually, only one other camp specifically for queer youth is known to exist and that is in Olympia, WA. The Queer Rock Camp Southern California was founded and co-organized by Jenny Caronna who recruited a group of community volunteers (musicians and non-musicians) to create a safe space for queer youth (ages 13-19) so that they could learn to play rock ‘n roll, gain confidence and feel empowered via music with other like-minded youth.
In this summer’s camp, 16 queer-identified “campers” participated in the week-long program. The Queer Rock Camp Southern California was funded via an Indiegogo.com fundraising campaign (over 100 donors!), business sponsors and philanthropists.
Along with rock band instruction, the camp offered a diverse curriculum of workshops with topics addressing a wide range of queer music culture topics and survival skills.
There was ample instruction in rock band musicianship (guitar, vocals, bass, keyboard and drums), plus workshops about queers in music history (taught by Josie Wreck and Pansy Division’s Chris Freeman), silk-screening tee-shirts (taught by the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls OC), songwriting, discussions about identity, self-defense techniques and a drag and stage presence workshop (taught by local Long Beach drag queen Mia Farrow). Band instructors, coaches and managers included Vickie Valent of Violent Vickie, Lauren Doran of Ingenue, Annie Parkhurst and Kameltoe.
Daily showcases by queer-identified rock bands were featured: the Storeetellers, EZ Tiger, YAAWN and Bearcoon each performed during the week to inspire the campers.
Three rockin’ bands: Blue Nova, Shadow Serenity and The Broke Gentlemen, were created by week’s end to perform at a public showcase that took place at DiPiazzas on Saturday.
As an outsider looking in, it was obvious that the campers had developed a tight-knit family bond with each other, the volunteers and instructors, most of whom did not know each other at the beginning of the week-long program. With all the program offerings and support for the campers, these organizers really had their act together!! Possible next steps: a Queer Rock Camp for adults, and planning for next summer’s camp for youth….keep queer rockin’ in the free world QRC So. Cal!!!
For more information go to their website.
All images by Judy Ornelas Sisneros. All rights reserved.