Rachael Sibilia has always been a music fan, but she probably couldn’t have imagined that a love of Metallica would lead her to help make a difference in the lives of dozens of young girls looking for a creative outlet.
“They have forever been my favorite band,” the 27-year-old, Clearwater-born founder of Girls Rock Camp St. Pete said with a laugh when queried about the ‘80s metal icons. Sibilia was inspired to join a few bands after high school, but it was a South Carolina tour stop conversation with another Girls Rock Camp fan that spurred her to found the St. Pete arm of the organization, which has a simple goal of helping empower a new generation of girls and women through music.
Last year, Sibilia and Girls Rock Camp’s “Posi Posse” — female-identifying musicians, nurses, artists, workshop leaders — helped 20 campers of all backgrounds and musical abilities learn instruments, start their own bands, write songs and then play them at a showcase. A robust crowd at least year’s event helped the nonprofit raise enough funds to double the number of campers in 2017. This year’s camp kicked off on Monday, July 17 with 40 attendees who’ll be at the ‘Burg’s State Theatre on Saturday ready to show off the songs they’ve written. Sibilia said it means everything to the girls when they see a room full of people supporting their creative efforts, and she knows the effects linger long after camp is over.
“Last year we had a camper, Audretta, who was super sweet. She was only seven years old but she had so much to say. Her lyrics were so deep and so heavy with emotion,” Sibilia says. “After camp we got a text from her mom that said sending her to camp strengthened her bond with her daughter and that she could see her becoming more vocal and vivacious by the day.”
Moments like that are what make the Girls Rock Camp’s emphasis on teaching communication and empowering one another in a still-male-dominated music climate worth it, according to Sibilia.
“We don’t have many expectations for the campers outside of showing up ready to learn,” she said. “Some of the girls who show up here might be shy, some might not be, and some maybe just doesn’t fit in at school — the environment we create here is one that says all of that is OK.” And Sibilia is OK with asking volunteers to work tirelessly for the girls because it creates a bond amongst campers and workshop leaders that transcends the one week of camp.
“We’re about getting girls into playing music, but ultimately empowering women, trans women, CIS women, we don’t put a barrier on it,” Sibilia said. “There’s always things we’re going to wish we did better, but at the end of the day the girls are taking something away from this, and the parents are coming back to say thanks — this is why we’re all doing it.”
Girls Rock Camp St. Pete’s showcase happens on July 22 at the State Theatre (687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg). Doors are at 2 p.m. and tickets are $10. Visit local.cltampa.com for directions. Details on raffle items and how to get involved or help are available via girlsrockstpete.org.