Skip to content

Girls Rock Camp Guelph is tuning up for another season

In this Arts and Culture feature we crank the amps to 11 and get ready to jam with the teachers and students at Girls Rock Camp Guelph as they prepare for their fourth season
2018 02 02 GT – Girls Rock Camp – TB 01
Girls Rock Camp coordinators Alanna Gurr, Sarafina Bortolon-Vettor, Emmalia Bortolon-Vettor, Steph Yates and Emma Howarth-Withers. Troy Bridgeman/

Girls have been underrepresented in rock n’ roll since the genre roared on to the scene in the 1950s but a group of musicians from Guelph are working to change that both on the stage and behind the scenes. 

“We believe that introducing a Girls Rock Camp to Guelph will impact the next generation of Guelph’s creative community in a way that addresses the gender disparity in our thriving, but predominantly male, rock music scene,” they wrote on the opening page of their new website.

The camp is open to local female, trans and gender nonconforming youth aged 8 to 14 promising “a safe, supportive and fun space to learn from experienced musicians” where they can “work towards a shared goal with a group of their peers, experiment musically, develop confidence and play in a rock band for the first time.” 

Girls Rock Camp runs during March break from March 16 to March 20 at John McCrae Public School .  

The budding rockers receive vocal, guitar, bass guitar and drum lessons and are given the opportunity to form and play in a band made up of fellow students. They are encouraged to write their own songs that will be performed during a concert in the school auditorium March 21 at the end of the camp. 

“It’s a 30-minute performance but it is really cool to hear these different songs,” said coordinator and guitar teacher Emmalia Bortolon-Vettor. “They have always amazed me and I think it is incredible to teach a skill that creates something from nothing.”

Bortolon-Vettor has been an active member of the Guelph music community for many years and performs in the band Bonnie Trash with her sister Sarafina Bortolon-Vettor, who is also a coordinator and teaches drums for the camp. 

The concept was inspired by the Girls Rock Camp Alliance that started in Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2001 and has grown into an international arts and culture movement.

Girls Rock Camp Guelph was founded in 2016 by Guelph musicians Alanna Gurr and Steph Yates and all of the teachers are established musicians in the community.

“We have Katrin Sawatsky from Royal Castles teaching drums along with Sara,” said Bortolon-Vettor. “We have Jenny Mitchell teaching bass and we have Hannah Roth who was a camper for a while and became a junior counsellor and we asked her to hop on board as a guitar teacher.”

The curriculum includes lessons and workshops often led by guest musicians and instructors. 

“We are moving from strictly vocal lessons to vocal workshops so that each day everybody in the camp is doing a different workshop led by a different vocalist,” said Bortolon Vettor. “There are rock vocalists. There will be someone showing you how to preserve your voice, what to listen to, how to present a melody but from different people every day.”

They will also be teaching the young musicians the value of improvisation. 

“We usually like to get the Making Box in because that helps with performance and the element of improvisation,” she said. “That really gets the brain going in terms of problem solving and coming up with different riffs and stuff like that.” 

The students learn from the teachers but also through jamming and interacting with other students in the camp.

“We had 21 campers last year and we are hoping for 20 to 25 this year,” she said. “We try to keep it small so it is manageable.” 

The opportunity to write then perform their original songs with a band in front of a live audience helps build lasting friendships as well as confidence and appreciation for the social and artistic value of music.

The final show March 21 at John McCrae Public School, often draws many friends and family as well as music enthusiasts. It is open to the public and admission is free but they are accepting donations.

“It is always a lot of fun and really cool to see so many people come out and cheer these bands,” said Bortolon-Vettor.

To enroll or learn more about Girls Rock Camp Guelph visit: