Amelia V.B. Shull has a mission: "Community. Creativity. Confidence." Derek Butler has a philosophy: "Students should learn to really understand music and to improvise and create music."
Shull (an Independent contributor) is the coordinator of Girls Rock NC, a rock 'n' roll camp for young girls that's getting ready to start its fourth summer. The campers—there's a week-long session consisting of 24 girls ages 8 to 11, followed by another week with the same number of 12- to 15-year-olds—spend a lot of time with their instrument of choice, but they also attend sessions devoted to making merch and developing what Shull calls "body confidence."
On the first day, the campers form four bands. Each band writes a song over the next week, with gentle guidance from Shull and more than 20 volunteers. "We try to live the mission that we're trying to teach the girls—teamwork and working with each other," offers Shull, a drummer and a veteran of Roxotica and several other bands.
Butler is the founder and head of Cary-based Tone Zone Music, a musical academy of sorts with a unique staffing arrangement and approach. Butler has been a guitar teacher for 23 years, and the instructors at Tone Zone are all former students. They've each developed their own teaching and playing techniques, and Tone Zone students (ranging in age from 7 to 45) rotate among the instructors to learn from those differences.
Butler emphasizes that playing music is a lifelong learning experience, and that it involves playing in front of others. "The students get up and play and learn to fall down and get back up," Butler explains. For that reason, Tone Zoners periodically convene at a Triangle music club to improvise with a house band consisting of teachers and fellow students. "They get up and really create."
On a similar note, both Girls Rock NC sessions end with a public performance where the bands unveil their song. Attendees get to see, in the words of Shull, "little girls shine." And what are those songs like? Shull searches for the right words, filling the pause with an affectionate laugh. "They're pretty great."
Girls Rock NC performances are Friday, July 20, at The ArtsCenter for the ages 8-11 camp and Saturday, July 28, at Cat's Cradle for the ages 12-15 camp. The latter includes a fund-raising raffle. Both events start at 7 p.m. and are free. Donations are welcome. A Tone Zone Student Jam will be held at Hideaway BBQ Sunday, July 22. The music starts at 5 p.m., and tickets are $5. For more about Girls Rock NC, visit www.girlsrocknc.org.