Accompanied by a steady drum beat and pulsing bass, 15-year-old Marie Attelier did something she would have never dreamed of doing three months ago: She sang a solo in front of her peers. And they had written the lyrics of the song, “Don’t look back,” themselves.
“This song basically is about don’t look back and like, just move on with your life, basically,” Attelier explained, sitting at a Casio keyboard inside the Marion Strobel Community Center on a recent Monday afternoon, while her band took a break from practicing. “And being together and following each other to make a change.”
Attelier, a freshman at North Charleston High School, is the lead singer and keyboardist of “Risky Stars,” one of three student-led bands in Girls Rock Charleston’s after-school program.
At the end of this month, the young performers will debut a semester’s worth of hard rock, er, work and original music at the final showcase at the Vinyl Countdown record store.
The girls also will lead a community discussion on school-based arrests and policing practices, which are issues that have impacted many of their lives.
Girls Rock Charleston is an activism-oriented nonprofit that seeks to empower local girls and trans youth through music and social justice education at summer camps and after school.
At Strobel Community Center, where about a dozen girls and a rotating crew of volunteers meet three times a week, conversations about guitar chords are about as commonplace as lectures on the prison industrial complex.
“We believe in youth lifting their voices and experiences through art and music to bring community members together, to start a community conversation and take action and improve the world for all of us,” said Micah Blaise, program director of Girls Rock Charleston. “We’re really excited because I think we’re seeing the beginning of a youth-led movement for racial, economic and gender justice right here in Charleston.”
Attelier joined Girls Rock in February at the urging of her English teacher, Emily Connor, who helped bring the first Girls Rock summer camp to Charleston in 2011. Since then, Attelier has not only learned the basics of piano playing; now she said she’s also emboldened to step on stage and sing.
“It’s crazy because as a kid, you’re afraid to get on the stage and everything. It’s risky!” Attelier said. “We have got to get on a stage. We have got to make songs — something that kids of our age don’t really want to do at this time.”
The Girls Rock final showcase is 6 to 8 p.m. April 29 at the Vinyl Countdown on 724 King Street.
Admission prices will be based on a sliding scale of zero to $15, or a snack donation will be accepted. Kids under 12 can attend for free.
For more information, got to girlsrockcharleston.org.
Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.