Girls Rock Winnipeg

by Olivia Michalczuk

I started drum lessons at 9 years old. I wanted to be like… well, I’m not sure who I wanted to be like. My parents listened to a healthy blend of local rock, classic hair metal, and 80’s pop. Hence, the women I looked up to in music were Whitney Houston, Heart, and the Spice Girls, none of which had a female drummer.

My dreams of being a drummer faded quickly when my friends (boys and girls) teased that drumming was for boys, to which I had no response other than the 9-year-old equivalent of “kiss my ass,” which has since left my memory. Are girls not strong enough to hit a drum? Are girls not a rhythmically inclined? Is it unattractive for a woman to play drums? I had nobody to ask these questions to nor the childhood emotional stamina to continue.

I opted for ditching the sticks and practicing girl power via singing in to a hairbrush like my idols. “God help the mister that comes between me and my sisters,” and “I’d rather be alone than unhappy,” was more empowering at the time then my hours of right, left, right, right, left, right, left, left.

I still have my sticks and I still beat on things every once in a while but the anxiety behind a kit stops me from hitting the drum. I just freeze. “Drumming isn’t for girls.”

Mannon Smalley, Jodi Dunlop, Claire Boning, Fever Rose, Kelly Campbell, Stefanie Blondal Johnson, Natalie Bohrn, Sam Sarty, Talula Schlegel, Romi Mayes, Lindsey White, and the list goes on! These folks are carrying the dreams of too many women that were told they couldn’t, didn’t have the platform, or didn’t have the role models to play. Watching Dunlop and Boning do what I couldn’t is inspiring and powerful. Girls can hit the drum hard. Girls can hit the drum in time. Girls can hit the drum and make amazing music for everyone to enjoy.

Dunlop, drummer of Mise en Scene, will be volunteering as a drum teacher at the first ever Girls Rock Winnipeg Camp, which provides young girls, trans, and gender non-conforming youth between the ages of 10 and 14 with the opportunity to create music with their peers and with the assistance of local womxn that are furiously grabbing the scene by the horns.

“As someone who grew up constantly doubting their abilities as a female drummer in a sea of men, I want to do my part in making sure that all female, trans, and gender non-conforming individuals feel comfortable and empowered behind a drum kit,” said Dunlop.

“Girls Rock Music camp is an important stepping stone in that direction.”

Brandi Olenick, founder of Girls Rock Camp Winnipeg and Off Henderson Guitarist said the camp is more than meets the eye and goes much deeper than learning to play instruments.

“This is a music camp, however. We really are using music as the vehicle to teach these youth empowerment, along with how to support each other through our differences and our commonalities,” said Olenick.

“We want to teach them that there is space for everyone, that this isn’t a competition. And as well, to speak up, that their voice matters. They do possess power to make changes in the world.”

Mannon Smalley of Silence Kit also finds value in the program by looking back on her own experience. “Imagining myself at a young age, this camp would have been a game changer for me,” said Smalley.

“My high school music teacher really influenced the early beginnings of my musical curiosities through relentless support, and I’ve never forgotten that. To think that Girls Rock Winnipeg will do the same for these kids is real exciting. Not to mention the opportunity for young girls to bond, learn and create with fellow girls.”

Girls Rock Winnipeg is an opportunity to distribute the weight of being a female musician to the shoulders of our sisters by raising a generation that does not leave making music to the boys. Supporting this cause is not just supporting girls in music but supporting confident girls with the platform to share, create, and be loved in an environment where they are not compared to anyone, including their peers. Support this cause and these girls any way you can because they will one day be teaching my daughter to hit the fucking drum.

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