photo by Alex Matzke
[Editor’s Note: Omaha Girls Rock camper applications open today, Feb. 28. Register here.]
Omaha Girls Rock is hitting a growth spurt in its third year.
The organizers of the camp — an annual, weeklong day-camp that encourages positivity, self-reliance and self-respect in young women ages 8 to eighteen through music education — are expanding it to two sessions in 2014. The first will be held from July 14 through 19 and the second from July 27 through Aug. 2. Additionally, Omaha Girls Rock hopes to soon expand into after-school programs. And to accommodate the growth, Omaha Girls rock will undergo administrative changes.
Former executive director Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, who founded Omaha Girls Rock from her home in Los Angeles in 2011, stepped down from the position this year to hand the reins to Melissa Wurth, former programming director for the camp.
Before serving as programming director, Wurth worked as a counselor and workshop leader, then volunteer coordinator for the camp.
In her various roles, Wurth said she’s had her hands in most aspects of the camp, from coordinating with venues, contacting parents and approving applications and scholarships. Many of those responsibilities will remain, but she’ll also work to secure funding and coordinate the rest of the camp’s staff, which includes a volunteer coordinator, gear manager, treasurer and web developer.
Wurth said her philosophy focuses on positivity, creativity and diversity.
“Rather than point out people’s differences, we need to let them shine naturally,” she said. “Within that positive environment, they feel good and empowered and create their own self-esteem, rather than us telling them to.”
Wurth, who has an education background, said she would like to see people from all corners of Omaha’s music and education scene involved in the program and she looks forward to creative input from all backgrounds.
In one effort to raise diversity, Wurth said she wants to reach young women in Omaha who may not hear about the camp on their own. She said other organizations, such as Girls Inc., which empowers young women through after-school programs like yoga and public speaking classes, constitute a helpful relationship in that regard.
Drootin-Senseney, for her part, said Wurth was her first choice to take on the executive director role after she decided to step down. She said she and Wurth share the same mission and beliefs for the camp.
“As it’s growing, I really can’t be there for everything the director needs to do,” said Drootin-Senseney, who still resides in Los Angeles. “So I’m staying involved, but letting someone who is amazingly qualified and in town take the position.”
Drootin-Senseney said, as founder of Omaha’s extension of Girls Rock Camp Alliance, she assumed the executive director role almost by default. She founded the Omaha camp in 2011 after hearing about Portland’s girls rock camp.
“I wanted to bring it to Omaha because my music career was pretty much based out of Omaha for the majority of it, so I wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” said Drootin-Senseney, who currently plays in the band Big Harp with her husband Chris Senseney. She also has recording credits with Omaha acts such as The Good Life, McCarthy Trenching and Bright Eyes.
With the help of GRCA, Drootin-Senseney said she was able to budget for the first Omaha Girls Rock and learn every aspect of running a girls rock camp. The Alliance coordinates an international network of rock camps with an annual conference, as well as connecting camps to each other for resources. It served Drootin-Senseney well, and it’s a tradition Wurth has already continued.
As she saw an increasing interest in Omaha Girls Rock, Wurth contacted camps in larger cities for solutions to effectively grow while maintaining a high quality program. She’s reached out to camps in Chicago and Philadelphia in the last year for potential solutions. Some cities host three to four camps a year.
“By having two camps, we can have a smaller camp each week rather than one big one,” she said, “which really depended on availability of instruments and volunteers.”
Wurth said she’s also seen other cities with a year-round program, something she hopes to implement by the start of the 2014-15 school year as an after-school program.
“It’s a powerful program and one that every girl, given the opportunity, should experience, especially at that age range. They’re susceptible to a lot of mixed messages, but our message is always positive and empowering.”