Lehigh Valley Girls Rock

Lehigh Valley Girls Rock

When we are encouraged and supported to be ourselves, we can better step into well-rounded roles that serve our communities. It can start at any age, right now, with us.

Lehigh Valley Girls Rock (LVGR) is the local chapter of Girls Rock, an organization that takes that heady sentiment and blends it with punk and DIY ethos, intersectional feminism, and instruments.

Participants can start as early as 10 years old, proving that no effort—and that no one—is too small to make a difference.

With a mission of empowerment and artistic expression, the summer camp provides a safe and supportive atmosphere to create art and music as a medium for social justice and community action.

Campers ages 10-17 are invited to participate in the week-long day camps that culminate in a live concert. Adults also have the opportunity to experience the essence of LVGR during one intensive weekend a year—the “Let’s Rock” camp—for those 18 and older.

Co-founder Kelsi Page explains, “We hope our campers find that music is a form of art, music is an act of self-care, and music can be a form of social justice. Our workshops and activities are planned with intention for the campers to experience the interconnectedness of these ideas.”


The first Girls Rock camp was started in 2001 in Portland, Oregon. A student named Misty McElroy created the camp as a project for her Women’s Studies class, and has since expanded to cities all across the world.

Kelsi volunteered at a Girls Rock Camp in Austin in 2008. She described the week as “magical”—without any hyperbole—and recognized how valuable the experience would have been for her while she was a bassist in high school.

At that time, she and her friends struggled to find their place in a local music scene that didn’t feature, or often even take seriously, female musicians. When she moved back to the Lehigh Valley a few years later, creating a local chapter of Girls Rock became her fervent mission.

“We need to create spaces to give voice to everyone else, and to give others the language, tools and experience to get involved,” Kelsi says.


Each day of camp is a whirlwind of well-planned activities that involve making music, education, or personal empowerment.

In just one day, campers will take part in instrument lessons, workshops, live band performances, their own band practice, dance parties, open mics, and even some “happy tears and full body laughs,” Kelsi says.

In the morning, campers and volunteers gather in the community room and dance to Beyonce or Bikini Kill while sharing positive comments with each other. Then groups split between instrument lessons and workshops.

Campers eat together for lunch and often enjoy a live performance from a female-fronted band before more lessons and workshops in the afternoon.

Workshops expand beyond music and songwriting. LVGR chooses a theme and calls for knowledgeable community members to lead the groups. Some workshops in previous years have included yoga and self-defense, herbalism, the Black Lives Matter movement, gender identity, t-shirt reconstruction, women in American political history, and body positivity. Each year, the youth camps design their own band logos and screen print their own band merchandise.

The theme in 2017 is “Unity in the Community,” which will focus on working in solidarity with other local organizations and Lehigh Valley people to build a strengthened community.

The adult camp will include workshops on identifying healthy relationships with Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley, community and political action with a political staffer, joke writing with feminist stand-up comedian Jillian Chairo, a round table discussion called Building Bridges with local community organizers, writing protest songs, and a relaxing yoga session. LVGR will bring similar workshops to the youth program.

The youth camper to volunteer ratio is two campers for every volunteer, which means running a successful week of camp is due in large part to engaged volunteers.

“We strategically pair up volunteers and campers. We recognize that some of our volunteers work best with older teens, and some love working with the younger campers,” Kelsi says. “I see our volunteers model for our campers how to believe in yourself, how to believe in each other, and it proves to all of us how far confidence and solidarity can take us.”


“Our hope is that as the organization grows, that our network of support grows too,” Kelsi says.

Throughout the year, some campers continue to meet and play music together or go out to support live local bands.

One unexpected aftermath of being in such a supportive environment happens once camp ends and everyone returns to “real life.” Some youth campers have a difficult time going to back to school, where they may face adversity or bullying.

“It’s difficult to value ourselves when others continue to put us down,” Kelsi, a full-time teacher, explains. “I e-mail all of our campers at the beginning of each school year, encouraging them to remember all that they did that summer, and to hold onto the amazing person that they are. There is definitely a need to continue to build this community.”

One of Kelsi’s dreams for the future of LVGR includes after-school programs and workshops throughout the year.

New to the 2017 youth camp is a youth leadership program, where having responsibilities will instill a sense of confidence and self-assuredness in these young people, and encourage them to build a supportive community for future generations.

“Bringing together a handful of youth, teaching them leadership skills, and building up their confidence will, hopefully, create this population of young adults who will get involved in their community and find their way to professions that they are passionate about,” Kelsi says.

The testament to the impact of LVGR is evident in the enthusiasm of Kelsi and all the volunteers who get just as much gratification and encouragement as the campers. That passion is what makes LVGR happen each year and will enable it to grow.

For now, though, Kelsi is focused on running successful camps and creating space for that organic “magical experience” to reach campers, volunteers, and, inevitably, their communities.

Lehigh Valley Girls Rock

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