Where the girls run the show

Posted: July 7th, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, Music | No Comments

House of Blues sets stage for another Rock ‘n’ Roll camp for girls

By Joyell Nevins 

S-A-N Diego, wuh oh!
Where the rock meets the roll
S-A-N Diego, wuh oh!
Where the girls run the show

Damn right. As a girl, I might be slightly biased. As an aunt, though, and a female member of society, I am justifiably ecstatic by the presence of a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls” in San Diego, of which the above is part of their theme song.

A band from last year’s camp, Strange November (l to r) Audri Castelli, electric bass guitar; Sydney Palmer, drums; Parys Townsend, vocals; Charlotte Coppo, electric guitar (Courtesy Melissa Grove)

Melissa Grove and her dedicated team of volunteers have taken a concept started by Girls Rock Camp Alliance and made it thrive in San Diego.

Forty girls from the ages of 8 to 17 come to the camp for one week. With the help of band coaches, mentors and “roadies” (the camp support team), they get an instrument, form a band, get a name, a logo and a song. Then at the end of camp, they get to perform that song live on stage at the House of Blues, located Downtown, just one block north of the Gaslamp Quarter.

Seeing the power of music and how it moves and changes the girls is one of the reasons band coach Laura Payne signed up.

“I started learning music at age 7 and found it to really fill my heart and soul like nothing else,” Payne said. “I was a shy kid, so music was my preferred way to express myself. To this day, I simply could not live without it in my life.”

Payne — who plays bass with four local bands, including The Resizters, Ingenue, Rhythm and the Method, and Big Band Ambassadors — is grateful that her employer, Live Nation, also sees the value of the camp, and gives her the time off to mentor the girls.

This band’s name is Sunset; (l to r) Jessica Bell, band coach; Chanel Davis, electric guitar (behind); Kaitlyn Castelli, drums; Galilea Gomez, vocals; Jadyn Spiwak, electric bass guitar; Dawnielle Davis, keyboard; Dawn Mitschele, band coach (Photos courtesy Melissa Grove)

“Knowing how powerful this type of inspiration can be, I’d like to pay that forward to the next generation of female musicians as best I can,” Payne said.

But it’s more than simply teaching chords and stage presence.

“I am a dream pusher,” Grove explained.

Because while music is the vehicle — and what a rockin’ vehicle it is — the point Grove and the volunteers are driving home is one of strength and confidence. The camp also includes workshops about self-defense, image and identity, and even a female music course called, “Herstory.”

“This is an empowerment camp using music as a structure,” Grove said. “I want to show the girls that anything is possible.”

Check out the song titles from last year’s camp — bands such as Funky Munkies, The Flaming Pop Rocks Sunset and Xtreme 5 wrote songs called, “Stay Strong,” “Capable,” “Super heroes,” and “Take a Chance.”

Another photo of Strange November (l to r) Sydney Palmer, drums; Charlotte Coppo, electric guitar; Audri Castelli, electric bass guitar; Parys Townsend, vocals

In “Stay Strong,” the lead sang, “They push you down, I get back up. They do it again, I fight for the love. I will stay strong. Even when it’s tough, I get back up. I know who I am, without a doubt. Baby, make the sun come out.”

“Take a Chance” has now been adopted as one of the band members’ fight songs, with lyrics like “I want to be who I am, don’t want to be afraid” and “I am unbreakable, nothing can get on my mind.” The camper’s mother, Melissa Mitchell, blogged about her daughter’s transformation over the week:

For her to go all day all those days without being sick, anxious or having to call mom was a true miracle Friday night, after the last day, I took her to dinner. She told me she got to write her own fight song. She told me shes brave now. Shes strong now. She wont be scared of school now, and if she is, she knows she can get through it.

That metamorphosis is what first gave Grove the drive to found San Diego’s Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls. She took part in a “Ladies Camp” version up in Los Angeles through her friends in the band Raining Jane.

“I walked in there, never having played more than three notes in my life,” Grove said. “I was all uncomfortable and insecure, but by [the end] I’m on stage rocking those three notes in an original song in front of 200 people. It was transformational.”

She came back to San Diego and for several years kept bringing up the idea of a camp here to her friends who work in nonprofit — Grove herself works in the marketing and nonprofit field.

Elli Rachimi, who plays electric guitar with The Funky Munkies, gets some mentorship

Being the aunt of seven girls who are now women, and the great-aunty of 12 still growing girls, Grove could see the value in such a camp.

“I see what challenges they have and what they’re going through,” Grove said. “I wanted to shift that.”

Finally, those same friends turned it back on Grove.

“They said, ‘who’s going to start a San Diego version? Why, you are!’” Grove recalled.

Melissa Grove, founder of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, on guitar

Once Grove made the decision to go for it, people came out of the woodwork to help. Parents, both mothers and fathers, friends, family — she said the support she’s received has been “overwhelming.”

Grove recruited San Diego musicians Megan Combs, Veronica May, Jessica Bell and Angela Trone to come up with the aforementioned theme song. The women spent two days in a room to create something remarkable — and they did it without catfights or egos.

“That [session] set the tone for the camp,” Grove said. “There’s really no room for drama in this camp. We learn to be advocates for ourselves and advocates for each other.”

Although the camp is pushing capacity, Grove is still looking for female-identified volunteers to help with set-up, food, check-ins and other camp activities.

Plus, the public is welcome to the Rock n’ Roll Camp Showcase at noon on Saturday, July 29 at the House of Blues.

For tickets or more information, visit or email Go to the “Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls San Diego” YouTube channel to see performances from last year’s camp.

Joyell Nevins is a freelance writer who can be reached at Find her blog Small World, Big God at

Leave a Comment