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Girls Rock Detroit empowers young girls with rock 'n' roll

The NextIdea

There are plenty of ways to empower young girls, but Melissa Coppola has a new approach: rock ‘n' roll.

Coppola, a graduating masters-level piano student at the University of Michigan, launched Girls Rock Detroit. The summer camp is a crash course in creating rock music for girls ages eight to 16.

The girls are taught how to play instruments and write songs, and by the end of the week-long camp, they perform the songs for their family and friends in a showcase concert.

You can watch the first-ever Girls Rock Detroit Showcase below:


"... in rock music, a lot of girls aren't encouraged to pick up a rock instrument. It's really more of a boy thing a lot of the times."

“By empowering girls with music education they can learn to express themselves in alternative ways,” said Coppola. “Most girls don’t have access to an instrument. In fact, in rock music, a lot of girls aren’t encouraged to pick up a rock instrument. It’s really more of a boy thing a lot of the times. So we like to put instruments in their hands and we say ‘you can do it.’”

According to Coppola, since the camp is only five days, the material can come at the campers fast and furious, but in a good way.

"With that shock factor the first day, those girls come in the second day and they're ready to work," said Coppola. "They're like, alright, let's write this song, let's learn how to play our instruments. It's really awesome."

Coppola says she sees noticeable differences in the girls in the short time during that week they are in the camp.

"I can say probably for every girl that comes in on the first day to the last day, there's an incredible transformation," said Coppola. 

The girls, who come from throughout Southeast Michigan, aren’t required to come in with the knowledge of how to play an instrument. The camp teaches them the basics of how to compose and play a song. Coppola says you just need “an instrument and your voice.”

Meera Ramaswami, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Clague Middle School in Ann Arbor says she enjoyed the social aspect of the camp in addition to learning to play the bass guitar.  

“It was really fun because you got to meet all these new campers that are from different areas and that are much different from you,” said Ramaswami. “I met a lot of friends there and we did a lot of empowerment things.”

Listen to the full interview below to hear more about how the program got started and what they have planned for the future of Girls Rock Detroit.


Josh Hakala, a lifelong Michigander (East Lansing & Edwardsburg), comes to Michigan Radio after nearly two decades of working in a variety of fields within broadcasting and digital media.
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