During the weeklong Amplify Lawrence camp every summer, girls and transgender or nonbinary youth are encouraged to be unapologetically themselves through music. Campers get to form their own bands, write original songs and perform in a final live concert in front of the community.
After being shown the basics of each instrument, campers choose whether they want to play drums, keyboard, bass or vocals. They are then placed into groups with an equal amount of each instrument being represented.
Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the past two years’ camps have been virtual and half-virtual, but volunteers and campers are excited to proceed with a fully in-person camp this year.
“So many of the volunteers say ‘I wish this was around when I was a kid,’” Treasurer Erin Morris said. “I really think that the volunteers get as much out of it as the campers.”
Camp Director Katlyn Conroy said campers enter the first day feeling shy and nervous, but, without fail, by the end of camp, everyone has transformed into confident rockers.
“The camp is very heavy on the idea of campers having autonomy,” Conroy said. “We want them to have the room to open up, so we put our trust in them, and we all kind of operate as equals to just have a relaxing, good time.”
Along with working with their band members to master an original song and performance choreography, campers participate in empowering workshops. They get to take classes on topics, like the history of music and DJing. One workshop allows them to make custom band T-shirts.
Originally known as Girls Rock Lawrence, Amplify Lawrence has been inclusive of campers with varying identities since its founding in 2015. But the organization changed its name in 2020 after campers insisted the name fully match the organization’s values and purpose.
Conroy sees her younger self in many of the Amplify Lawrence youth. Through unconditional acceptance, she hopes campers learn that being authentically themselves is enough.
“It is a music camp, but it’s also about self-discovery. We want them to know it’s OK to be unique, it’s OK to feel different,” Conroy said. “Instead of focusing on physical appearances, like how cool they look, we try to build them up with compliments about the quality of their character and talent so that they feel comfortable within themselves.”
And rock music isn’t the only genre available for campers to explore. Each participant has the opportunity to choose the musical genre, style and sound that they feel fits them best.
Amplify Lawrence Camp 2022 will take place June 27 through July 1 at the Lied Center, with the final showcase concert on July 2 at Liberty Hall. The camp is open to girls and others with marginalized gender identities between the ages of 12 and 18. Camper registration is open until April 25 at this link.
Though the registration fee is $350 per camper, Amplify Lawrence offers funds so that kids who want to participate can. There is a section on the registration form that asks if and how much financial aid is required.
Amplify Lawrence is a member of Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA), a global network that supports youth-centered social justice and arts efforts.
Behind the local magic are a group of passionate volunteers as the camp is completely volunteer-based. Generally, they seek volunteers who have similar identities to the campers.
“Amplify Lawrence music camp prioritizes leadership from female, trans, non-binary and marginalized gender identities and asks our cisgender male volunteers to respect the importance of rebalancing the gender gap in music and leadership. We welcome the support of cisgender male allies in the following areas: food coordination, gear delivery, street team, and errand-running,” according to the Amplify Lawrence website.
Leaders are currently asking those interested in assisting with the 2022 camp to sign up using this link by April 16, though they will continue to accept interest after. Along with campers, volunteers do not need any prior musical experience to join.