It’s March and that means Women’s Herstory Month! If I were still back in Durham, North Carolina I’d probably be participating in Rock Roulette 2024, the annual adult rock camp experience for women/transgender/gender expansive adults.

Rock Roulette is also the major fundraiser for Girls Rock NC (GRNC), an organization dedicated to building community and empowering young girls, transgender and gender expansive youth through their summer camps.

Girls Rock camps (there are several of these in the U.S.) were inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s. My first experience of being in a band was as a participant in Rock Roulette in 2017. Participating in Rock Roulette played a pivotal role in my musical journey. I wanted to be a guitar player and be in a band and to write songs.

It also raised my awareness that there are few spaces and opportunities for women/transgender, gender expansive folks who may not have much in the way of musical experience and opportunities to come together to learn, create, and play music.

For the three years that I participated in Rock Roulette, I was the oldest (in my 60s), playing/creating music alongside other Rock Rouletters, some who were 40 years younger than me. I loved it!

For eight weeks, 10 bands with guidance from a GRNC volunteer, learned three songs (two originals, one cover) to perform at a local music venue. For each of the three years that I did Rock Roulette (2017-2019), it was so exhilarating to get up on a stage and perform, to celebrate one another on our accomplishments and to have raised a significant amount of money for the summer camps.

Many of the songs that were performed were ones of empowerment – taking on racism, sexism, LGTBQ rights, right to control our own bodies, gun control and climate change. Many of us embraced this forum as a way to speak up and speak out.

Rock Roulette was an annual event and at the end of the eight weeks, many of us, including myself tried hard to create ongoing bands with not much success. It was after my third Rock Roulette, that some of us did create a now defunct band, Clustersparkle. We played a couple of shows (a house party and a local venue in Durham) before the pandemic hit and things came to a halt, followed by my moving to Boulder.

I’ve been looking to find something similar to Girls Rock NC here in the Boulder/Denver area because I think it’s needed, I know I need it. As of this writing, I am just beginning to make some connections so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I highly recommend this inspiring and incredible book edited by Evelyn McDonnell, Women Who Rock: Bessie To Beyoncé. Girl Groups To Riot Grrrl. McDonnell is an associate professor of journalism at Loyola Marymount University, former pop music critic for The Miami Herald, and music editor for The Village Voice.

Also check out the website for Femme Rock, a music school in Austin, Texas for women and non-binary adults founded by Reece Herrera. Their mission is to offer band classes, music lessons (drum, guitar, bass), songwriting workshops, and all experience levels are welcome, “punk- rock attitude encouraged”.

Speaking of encouragement, lets write and perform the songs that directly take on climate change, social justice and humanitarian issues. Let’s rock!

Editor note: Check out some of the artists taking on climate-related topics in their art, some of which Susan has been writing about earlier in her Art & Activism series this and last year!