No boys allowed: girls rock out at Regent Park camp

Four all-girl rock bands from Toronto are getting ready to make their debut Friday night.

'It's all about self-empowerment and making music,' organizer says

A group of 8-14-year-old girls are taking part in the Dixon Hall Music School Girls Rock March Break camp. 1:50

Four all-girl rock bands from Toronto are getting ready to make their debut Friday night.

Dixon Hall Music School has partnered up with Girls Rock Camp Toronto to bring its annual March Break camp to Regent Park. Girls between the ages of eight and 14 have been practicing with their bands all week ahead of the final performance.

Jin Yu says she's met a lot of new people this week. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"They're making music, they're learning about the history of women in rock, they're silk-screening T-shirts — it's all about self-empowerment and making music," said Lynette Gillis, the music school manager at Dixon Hall.

The Dixon Hall Music School offers subsidized music lessons to more than 300 students throughout the year. But this week, there are no boys allowed.

Reena Wu is working on mastering the keyboard. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"I like playing with girls a little more," said Reenu Wu, a 10-year-old keyboardist. "When I play with girls, they're my friends, so I can really trust them."

"It shows that girls can also play and it doesn't have to be all boys," added her friend, Jin Yu.

For some of the girls, it's their first time playing a new instrument — like the bass guitar, drums or keyboard. Others have never tried their hand at songwriting before.

Alexandra Ibama usually takes piano lessons, but is trying her hands at drums. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"It takes a lot of thinking to do it," Alexandra Ibama said about creating a song from scratch. "You can be stressed over it, but at the end of the day, you'll get ideas."

Ibama normally takes piano lessons at Dixon Hall, but this week, she's taking on percussion. 

Lynette Gillis manages the Dixon Hall Music School. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"It sets a very good environment for young girls to be learning to support one another, learning encourage one another and work with each other," Gillis said. 

"Often there are a lot more boys out there playing music, so we're trying to encourage more girls to learn that from a young age."

Each band is tasked with writing its own original song. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Yu says her highlights from camp so far have been meeting new people and learning new chords on the guitar.

"You need to have hard tips of your fingers," Yu said. "My guitar teacher always reminds me to keep the tips of your fingers on the frets, not your whole hand."

Students have music instruction in the morning, play with their bands in the afternoon, and often listen to guest artists perform over lunch.

"It's a chance for them to be in an intensive environment where they collaborate with other kids," Gillis said. "A lot of it is very empowering for them. It's all about building self-esteem and supporting them."

The final performance is Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Dixon Hall Music School.

About the Author

Julia Whalen

Associate Producer, CBC Toronto

Julia has been working in journalism since 2012 — first as a newspaper reporter in Moncton, before making the move to Toronto to work for CBC. She's particularly interested in social issues, health and the creative community, and is a proud Maritimer and dedicated fundraiser for type 1 diabetes research.

With files from Paul Borkwood