Southern Girls Rock Camp makes noise for 15th anni...

Southern Girls Rock Camp makes noise for 15th anniversary at MTSU [+VIDEO]

The Southern Girls Rock Camp celebrated 15 years of fostering young women’s creativity — and some world-class rock ’n’ roll — at MTSU this month.

Conducted July 24-29 inside the university’s Wright Music Building, the summer day camp, formerly known as Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp, once again offered girls ages 10-17 a safe, nonjudgmental place full of creative opportunities.

Professionals once again gave the campers guidance in songwriting, home recording, band promotion, screen printing, band photography, body confidence, arts and activism, media literacy and music “herstory.”

musician Cary Ann Hearst

Cary Ann Hearst

“The band isn’t about gender but about getting young girls together,” said former camper Cary Ann Hearst, now a solo artist and half of the band Shovels & Rope. “Showing them how to find power in each other makes for women who can play music with anyone.”

Hearst, who was named Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2013 Americana Awards, cites SGRC as important to her musical development.

“As a kid who loved to play music, I was always straggling along with the boys who had the gear,” said Hearst. “I had some guitars and an amp; they had (public address) equipment and more guitars and amps.”

Kyshona Armstrong

Former camp volunteer Kyshona Armstrong said she also had to prove her talent in a male-dominated field.

“When I was a young girl, I was taught to be a quiet and humble young lady,” said Armstrong. “I learned how not to make waves and blend in with my peers. I was secretly competitive with and jealous of my female friends that soared and shone bright with their music.”

Armstrong, who was one of the Nashville Scene’s 2016 Featured Artists, also hails SGRC as a positive place for girls to develop their talent.

“It wasn’t until I started volunteering with the camp that I found a group of women that were donning their crowns with pride and standing tall, as if to say ‘WE ARE THE LIGHT!’” Armstrong added. “It is a place where young women from all cultural and economic backgrounds can come together and ‘be the light’ for someone that they otherwise may have never met outside of camp.”

The camp again culminated with a Saturday night showcase concert July 29 in the Wright Building that let the new bands formed during the camp to rock the house.

The Southern Girls Rock Camp is produced by Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities, or YEAH!, a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 to “foster the creativity of young individuals while building a community of like-minded volunteers and supporters who love the arts and want to share the arts with kids.”

Kelley Anderson

When she was an MTSU student, Kelley Anderson organized the first Murfreesboro girls rock camp in 2003 as a joint project between the feminist student organization Women for Women and what is now known as the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students.

Anderson earned her bachelor’s degree in recording industry production in 2005 and teamed up with fellow rock campers Jessi Zazu and Nikki Kvarnes to form Those Darlins, an internationally acclaimed Nashville-based band.

No musical experience is necessary to participate in the Southern Girls Rock Camp each year. The full tuition cost, including equipment rental, is $320. Scholarships are available, and YEAH! Organizers say 43 percent of attendees at the various 2016 rock camps did so with scholarship assistance.

For more information on future camps, contact YEAH! Executive Director Sarah Bandy at 615-849-8140 or or visit

— Gina K. Logue (

Participants in the 2016 Southern Girls Rock Camp pose for a photo in the Wright Music Building at MTSU. The 2017 camp is slated for July 24-29. (Photo submitted)

Participants in the 2016 Southern Girls Rock Camp pose for a photo in the Wright Music Building at MTSU. (Photo submitted)

Participants in the 2016 Southern Girls Rock Camp show off their screen printing expertise during one of the weeklong event’s special sessions. (Photo courtesy of Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities – YEAH!)

Young musicians at the 2016 Southern Girls Rock Camp crowd onto the stage for the week-ending showcase concert. (Photo courtesy of Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities – YEAH!)