A Chat with Natalie Walker, Executive Director of the Rain City Rock Camp for Girls

Community Engagement

Founded all the way back in the early 1900's, International Women's Day is more than just a time to celebrate the many (MANY) accomplishments of females. It's also a time to encourage and empower future generations. The Rain City Rock Camp for Girls has become an instituion of inspiration, a place where girls, womxn, and gender non-conforming people can learn how to play music and have a safe space for expression and experimentation. We spoke with Executive Director Natalie Walker about the ways RCRC continue to promote confidence in every student and what challenges the organization faces. 

And then on Thursday, March 8th, KEXP will feature bands from The Rain City Rock Camp all throughout the day. MJTK kick things off on The Morning Show; Walker tells us "the members of the band, all 10-11 years old, are veteran campers who exemplify the confident and can-do spirit of our program participants." At Noon PT, DJ Cheryl Waters will have a live session with ATV All Star Band, a group "formed out of Rain City Rock Camp for Girl's teen leadership group, Amplified Teen Voices. They have all participated in at least one of RCRC's summer camp music programs, and will perform at the annual benefit show, Shout Out! Seattle, to give back to Rain City Rock Camp youth programming." And finally, New Century Queens will reign on The Afternoon Show, a group that features KEXP's own Tilly Rodina!

Time Band Program/Ages
9:30 AM MJTK Summer Camp: girls and non-gender-conforming youth ages 8-18
12:00 PM ATV All Star Band Amplified Teen Voices: 13-19
3:00 PM New Century Queens Ladies Rock Camp: 21+ womxn (cis/trans/non-binary)

What does International Women's Day mean to you and your organization?

Natalie Walker: Rain City Rock Camp for girls exists to amplify the voices and illuminate the stories of girls, womxn and gender non-conforming folks. I think International Women’s day serves a similar function -- to carve out space in social discourse for the voices that are often underrepresented. I could say, “well, every day is women’s day for us”, but that’s kind of missing the point. I think having specific days (and specific spaces, like at Rock Camp), to call out and bring to the forefront a particular marginalized identity group is something we need. We need to continue to support these spaces, and celebrate these holidays.

Since the creation of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in PDX in 2000, and then the Seattle chapter (now Rain City Rock Camp for Girls) in 2009, what are some of the changes you’ve seen for women in the music scene?

Holly Houser and I started the Seattle Girls Rock Camp with the hope of empowering the youth of our region, along with the goal of bringing together what we saw as a fairly siloed music community. Because of our work over the last 10 years, and also due to our current political climate, activist movements, and the work of many independent artists and collectives, I think things have really changed in that regard. Womxn are collaborating across genres. I find myself playing on and attending shows with bills that are quite gender diverse. I think women and gender non-conforming folks are taking up more space, and claiming more space in the music scene.

I realize one of the reasons I have this perspective is that I’ve specifically built this “Rock Camp bubble” around myself. Ultimately this is my experience, and there are personal experiences that will vary depending on where you are living in the city, what venues you play, and what genre you are playing. It does feel like there is unity in the community -- with the #MeToo movement, along with collective desire to change our political world, and more social acceptance of concepts like Feminism. When we were first starting up in 2009, it was a little taboo to be shouting that F world so freely. Now it’s almost not strong enough of a word.

Here in 2018, what are some of your organization's biggest challenges?

As we look ahead to the next 5 years, we want to offer more programming, provide year-round band programs, provide practice/creative collaboration space, and centralize our offices and storage.

One of the greatest barriers to realizing our growth, both for RCRC as well as many other nonprofit organizations in Seattle, is the lack of and high cost for space. Our current operational model is that we have a functional and affordable (yet small) office space, and we lease private facilities throughout the city for summer camp and ladies rock camp. Ultimately, we invest a lot of time, energy and money moving equipment, adapting our programming to new spaces, and negotiating contracts. Our equipment suffers wear and tear with every move and set-up, along with the wear and tear of our staff and volunteers who do the constant shuffle of moving, setting up, and tearing down of hundreds of pieces of equipment for each and every program. This makes growth -- even adding one additional program in a year -- a huge hurdle. We are currently in the very beginning phase of collaborating with a few other grrl-serving organizations to start up a collective space where we can all exist. It’s still in the “dreaming” phase, and it’s going to take a lot of work and help from our community to get there.

How do you see the future for females in music? Or in general?

I think music has always been a safe place and a refuge for folks who feel marginalized because of their gender or gender expression. I see music as continuing to be the leader in this regard. I think the gender binary will become less and less of a constraint, and what a better place to bust out of those preconceived notions than in music, performance and expression. I think the #MeToo movement has yet to really take hold in the music industry, but I can definitely see that a paradigm shift is in the future. I choose to believe this, and in the meantime, I’ll be working tirelessly to make sure that it does happen. That’s part of the work that I do, and that we do here at RCRC.

Listen worldwide at KEXP.ORG and in Seattle at 90.3 FM as the Rain City Rock Camp for Girls help KEXP celebrate International Women's Day. 

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