photo by Alex Matzke
by Jacob Zlomke
To the cadence of bouncing quarter notes, young Orenda Fink sings, “I want you to know that I believe in what you do.”
So goes the refrain on Little Red Rocket’s 1997 track “I Believe in What You Do.”
The song kicks off the Omaha Girls Rock compilation album, assembled by Omaha Girls Rock and Hear Nebraska to raise funds for the annual camp. The compilation features 11 tracks by campers and local women artists, including previously unreleased and live songs by bands such as Tilly and the Wall, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, The Mynabirds and UUVVWWZ.
On Sunday, Slowdown will host a release party for the compilation. The show's cover price also includes a comp download card, and its lineup includes Howard, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns and Urban Scrunchies, a band that formed at camp.
Omaha Girls Rock is the Nebraska-extension of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which hosts camps in 43 cities worldwide. Omaha’s yearly weeklong camp aims to teach girls how to write and play music, and perform in a band, capped by a concert at the Slowdown. But becoming the next Joan Jett is the vehicle, not the destination.
“This all helps the girls build a foundation of positive self-esteem that can help with the challenges aspiring female musicians face, such as derision, dismissal, unwanted advances, etc.,” said Orenda Fink, the camp’s program director, in an e-mail interview. “But the great thing is that these skills can be used no matter the path the girls decide to take in their life.”
Fink, who now plays in Azure Ray with former Little Red Rocket partner Maria Taylor, says campers teach themselves to build self-worth through what they’re able to accomplish in a week.
photo by Alex Matzke
To Val Nelson, it’s an important quality for women to have, not just in the music industry.
“It’s a general approach to life that will help prepare you for any situation,” says Nelson, fundraising and community outreach coordinator for the camp. “I think if you instill confidence and autonomy in somebody, and reflect female leadership to them, that they realize they can do this, and it naturally fights stereotypes.”
That female leadership manifests itself with volunteers like Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, Omaha Girls Rock founder and member of Big Harp and The Good Life; Jamie Pressnall of Tilly and the Wall; Sarah Bohling of Icky Blossoms; Rachel Tomlinson Dick, Mari Matz and Monica Maher of Manic Pixie Dream Girls, and many more active, local musicians.
Nelson says Urban Scrunchies, whose members have attended the camp all three years of its existence, will be the first Omaha Girls Rock band to ever perform outside the camp’s own showcase.
“Other cities have definitely had bands that continued on,” she says. “We’re hoping this is a push in that direction.”
photo by Alex Matzke
Nelson says she’d like to see the camp’s programming grow into more camps and events throughout the year, but as a non-profit, it depends primarily on community involvement and fundraising. Fink says she’d love for Omaha Girls Rock to implement year-round programming, perhaps even operating out of their own office space.
To Nelson, the camp’s purpose is appropriately summed up by Sleater-Kinney’s 1996 track “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” on which Corin Tucker calls herself the “queen of rock and roll” and wants to see “pictures of me on your bedroom door.”
“No one has a poster of Corin Tucker in their room,” Nelson said. “It’s why we need girls rock camps.”
Fink and Taylor were 20 and 19, respectively, when “I Believe in What You Do” was released in 1997, only a couple years older than the age of many girls at the camp. That connection inspired Fink to choose the track for the compilation.
While Little Red Rocket eventually matured into Azure Ray, Urban Scrunchies developed from five young girls at a day camp into a full-fledged band, galvanized by a Love Drunk video.
And, like Fink at 20, Urban Scrunchies sing a positive message on “Bonding Forces”: “Believe in what you’re made of, believe in what you are.”
The sentiment is not uncommon after a week at the camp. Fink said the camp has made its name on “encouraging (girls) to be themselves, learn how to express themselves through art, overcome adversity, and believe in themselves.”
Jacob Zlomke is Hear Nebraska’s editorial intern. He would hang a poster of Corin Tucker on his door. Send him one at firstname.lastname@example.org.