New Girls Rock Charleston after-school program seeks to empower girls through music education

Kut the Fluff performs "Rebelize" as camp counselors dance behind them during the Girls Rock Charleston 2013 Showcase in July at the Music Farm. Girls Rock Charleston is offering a new after-school program this spring that will expand and build upon what it offered during its summer camp. Buy this photo

A nonprofit that empowers girls through music education and creative collaboration plans to launch a new after-school program in the spring.

How to apply

The new Girls Rock Charleston after-school program is open to girls and transgender youth ages 13 to 17. The program will be held 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Burke High School from Feb. 4 through May 1. The final showcase will be May 3.

Applications are due Jan. 19 and can be found at girlsrockcharleston.org or by calling 494-2890.

Girls Rock Charleston's newest offering will focus on leadership, mentorship and music as a means for social change. Participants will learn an instrument, form a band, participate in workshops on social justice principles, and perform their original music at a local venue.

"One of the main things we focus on is developing leadership for the next generation of youth, so we definitely see our programming as almost primarily a leadership development vehicle," said Jenna Lyles, one of the four founders of Girls Rock Charleston. "The music piece is really important; it's a platform for social change."

In Charleston, the 3-year-old, all-volunteer nonprofit has served more than 150 girls through a one-week summer camp, and that will remain its flagship program. The new after-school program, to be housed at Burke High School, grew out of that effort because organizers wanted to do a longer program that would provide deeper mentorship for participants. The program begins Feb. 4 and lasts until May 1.

"It will be more time for them to get creative and work together more," Lyles said.

The new program will include social-based justice lessons, such as the history of women in music.

"It's definitely a combination of 'Songwriting 101' and (girls') image and identity," Lyle said. "It's primarily gender focused, but we talk a lot about race and class."

The local group is part of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an international coalition of organizations that promote and support its affiliate camps. The first camp started in Portland, Ore., in 2007, and spinoff camps have cropped up across the world. The goal has been to use music education to foster self-esteem and confidence.

In Charleston, the new after-school program has a sliding-scale fee, from $500 to free, depending on parents' income. Lyles said the racial and socioeconomic demographics of summer campers has been diverse, and they strive to create a safe place where girls can talk about who they are and their experiences.

Some students have attended the camp because they have a keen interest in music, while others are into social justice.

"We encourage both," Lyles said. "Whatever they bring, we amplify it. We want to break down the barriers that prevent girls from being able to live out their full humanity. We consider ourselves to be a feminist organization."

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.

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