When I walked into the enormous Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel on Monday, the strumming of acoustic guitars echoed down from one hallway, while the thumping of drums resonated from another. The further I explored through the winding halls, the more instruments I heard, and the more I learned from vocalist Heather Ramsey Clark about this educational day camp, called Girls Create Music.
For the fourth year in a row, Clark has brought a group of young ladies together at her weeklong camp to learn how to play instruments, write lyrics, work with a live band and gain knowledge about music theory.
“The goal is to get all of them interested in music and understanding what it’s like to write songs, whether they put lyrics with it or they like to play violin, and make a melody with that. And it’s not necessarily just singing based, but really more inspiration based,” Clark says.
During the first day of the camp, I toured the home of the Palladium concert hall alongside Clark and watched as many girls picked up an instrument for the first time. In several rooms throughout the performing arts center, the eager campers were grouped by age then taught how to play bass, guitar, piano or drums. Each group rotated from room to room so that the girls had the opportunity to try all of the instruments before picking two of their favorites to focus on for the remainder of the week.
Along with learning how to play instruments at the camp, the girls also experience what it’s like to bring different musical components together and create a real live band. Again, the girls are grouped into bands by age, then required to pick a name and write two songs that they perform on the last day of the camp.
“It’s their song, their show, their band. We’ve had everything from rock songs to jazzy songs, to last year where there was this cool Celtic song sung by a little red-headed girl. Everyone just went ‘Ahh!’ It was awesome,” says Clark.
This year, Girls Create Music is up to 38 members, and when I gather with all of them in one room for the first time, I find their happy-go-lucky mood is contagious. It may be their first day together, but it’s apparent many have already officially become BFFs. They’re excited about music, and they’re surrounded by a group of instructors who encourage them to pursue that interest.
Throughout the course of the camp, the instructors not only educate the girls about the world of music, they also perform in front of them.
“They [the girls] get to see other women doing what they want to do,” says Clark.
The purpose is for the girls to feel confident in going after what they’re passionate about, and it’s apparent for many in this group that passion is music. So what a more perfect place to ignite and further develop the girls’ musical fascination than the Performing Arts Center? The Palladium has joined with Girls Create Music for a second year and provided the entire facility (equipment included) to the girls and staff for the week.
“The Center for the Performing Arts is very happy to be a partner for Girls Create Music camp this week. It’s a great group of musicians—the instructors and the campers. The center’s mission is to welcome, engage, inspire and transform. We are doing that this week with the music camp, and the final performance will showcase their talents as songwriters,” John Hughey, director of external relations at the Palladium, says.
They have a five-star facility, an awesome staff and to top it all off, this year Girls Create Music gets a visit from Indianapolis native Liz Fohl. Clark explains that Fohl even wrote a song especially for the camp, called “Warrior,” and will perform it on stage during the closing ceremony this evening.
The entire experience is just really cool; I notice that only 5 minutes into observing the camp. So cool, in fact, that I decided to stay for the girls’“Songwriting 101 class at the end of the day, because, honestly, it sounded pretty interesting. All of the girls gathered together at 3:30 with their purple binders, purple pens, purple water bottles (the camp color is purple, my favorite, too), and learned how to string lyrics together. Instructor Monika Herzig played Paramore’s recent single, “Ain’t It Fun” and dissected it to show the girls how to pinpoint the verse, chorus and bridge.
Later today, the girls will take the stage at the Palladium concert hall and showcase everything they've learned within the past week. It's bound to be a great concert, and the entire community is invited to purchase tickets and watch their talented youth. The girls have a lot to be proud of. Let's applaud them and their passion for music tonight.