Brian: With me on the show today is Frankie from Girls Rock! DC. Say hi, Frankie.
Frankie V: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.
Brian: Yeah, thanks for being here. Now, for those ... If they don't know, what ... I tell you what. You know, I got this little intro. How about we just do this the right way? So, I'm going to introduce you, and then I'm going to have you tell us all about you. So, on DCMusicRocks.com, we are shining a spotlight on the great songs, artists, and incredible people behind the DC region's local music scene. With a base in music education, Girls Rock! DC aims to create a supportive, inclusive, and creative space for girls, non-binary, and trans youth of varying racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic status to develop their self-confidence, build community, stand up, and rock out. If you caught all that, that was a lot. But they are very inclusive of all the backgrounds, abilities, identities, and experiences. So, it's a very welcoming environment that they've created.
Following in the footsteps of Girls Rock! camps across the U.S., Girls Rock! DC was founded in October of 2007 by an all-volunteer collective of DC metro area musicians, teachers, artists, and community organizers. So, they create a week-long day camp for Washington DC area girls age 8 to 18, as well as they have an after school program. So, the 2018 summer camp will take place July 9th to 13th and will culminate with a big showcase Saturday, July 14th, at the 9:30 Club.
So basically, that gives you a little piece of it, but now, Frankie, now you can tell us all about it. Thanks for being here. This is cool. How did you get involved in Girls Rock! DC?
Frankie V: Well, I moved to DC about, I don't know, four years ago. I'm a Brooklyn-based musician by heart. So, when I moved to DC, it was winter, as winters can be pretty rough here, and I was just looking for some like-minded people that I could talk to, that we were on the same kind of wavelength, we believed in the same kind of things, and my bass player back home in Brooklyn said, "You know what? My friend started this organization a couple years back called Girls Rock! DC. Maybe check it out."
I went on the website. I reached out. I shot an email, and I got an email back, and they said, "Hey, we are usually a summer camp, but right now, we're doing an after school program for the first time." I came down, I checked it out, and I've been hooked ever since.
Brian: Nice. What did you do? So, you checked it out, and what did you discover when you checked it out?
Frankie V: Oh my God. It was amazing. The thing that really, really caught me and kind of latched me in was the sense of community that they had. The amount of resources and just institutional knowledge that everybody was sharing from ... I needed a place to live. Somebody knew of an organization that could help me find a place to live. I needed a band. I was looking for a band when I came here. You know, traveling to New York was very far. They helped me with that. The community aspect was really, really huge. Then to be able to work with youth, that was just something I never thought I would ever do, but seeing those kids' faces and seeing the change in them really, really hooked me.
Brian: Wow. So now, expand on the two ... So, there seems to be two things here. There's a summer camp, and there's an after school program. So, talk about those.
Frankie V: Yeah. So, Girls Rock! started as a summer camp. One singular person decided to do a thing in their bedroom, and it blew up to this ... Now we have about 60 campers per summer. It's a five-day camp. Kids come in. First day of camp, they don't know each other. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Often they don't even know how to play an instrument. They've never seen a drum set or a guitar. We teach them the basics of the instrument. We teach them how to create their own songs. At the end of the week, they play a showcase at the 9:30 Club.
In between that learning music and getting to know each other, we also teach them some social justice stuff, some racial equality things, how to just be a good friend and a good human all around. So, it's a killer camp.
Brian: Yeah. And more on that ... Say a little more on that too. So, when you're teaching them, does that mean there's classroom time where you've got a slideshow or something, or you're reading, or what is that like?
Frankie V: Yeah. So, first and foremost, we always lead by example. Our band instructors, and coaches, and volunteers really represent the community that we're serving. We have folks from all walks of life, all socioeconomic backgrounds, and it really mirrors the kids that we're serving. In between, they'll have ... Let's say, they'll do their instrument instruction during the day. So, they go to guitar instruction, and then have lunch, and then at the end of the day, they'll go to a workshop catered to their age group on different topics from healthy relationships all the way to how to be a great showman.
Brian: Wow. How did it start? Because it seems like it didn't start as a five-day camp and a 9:30 Club show. It had to have ... So, how did it start, and how did it evolve?
Frankie V: It started with an idea of just, how to bring this kind of thing that some of us have never had in our youth, how do we bring this to kids? They worked out eventually how to do a summer camp. It started out as just a five-day camp with about 20 kids. They did, I think the first showcase, you know, through DC networks, and the organization was founded with DC musicians, and just networking. 9:30 Club has always actually given us the space. So, it's been 11 years now.
Brian: That's amazing. I mean, I definitely ... Now I'm sitting here, and I'm thinking, all right, so what makes this a little special compared to another summer camp that parents could send their kids to? It's obviously, playing the 9:30 Club would be a big one. That's a huge, "Wow, that's cool." So, there's that-
Frankie V: My band would never play there.
Brian: Right? I was going to say, there's a lot of bands that work a long time to play that stage, and you get to do it as a kid. That's awesome.
Frankie V: It's pretty cool.
Brian: So, there's that. But talk about what else is special compared to other summer camps?
Frankie V: I think what's really special is the kids really learn how to be good citizens in their communities. They learn how to ... what's really necessary to build a good foundation within their communities. They build amazing relationships with each other. Maybe a kid from, you know, Northwest would never get to meet a kid from Southeast, but here, they do. It's really the great equalizer. Music is always the best thing that just unites everybody.
Brian: Absolutely. So, they're learning instruments, and social aspects, God, that is so cool.
Frankie V: Yeah.
Brian: Now, the story behind the name, Girls Rock! DC. Where does that come from?
Frankie V: Well, Girls Rock! started actually as a movement that came out of the Riot grrrl movement in the early 2000s. It started in the West Coast.
Brian: What's the Riot grrrl movement? Say more on that.
Frankie V: Ah, so the Riot grrrl ... Yeah. So, Riot grrrl movement kind of ... The short, short story of is a second-wave feminist movement that was really based in music. A lot of folks, you know ... Bikini Kill is one of the more famous of the bands and really was the front runner of the whole movement. Other bands like Huggy Bear, and different bands from DC, and Portland, Seattle, really noticed, I mean, most of the music that's ... I mean, still to this day, most of the music, most of the things you see in your everyday life are very male-dominated, especially white-male-dominated. So, these women said, "Enough is enough. We're creating spaces for women like us," and really pulling women to the front of these male-dominated aspects.
Brian: Got it. So, Riot grrrl was really just about, "Down with the patriarchy," or like, "Let's empower the women in this."
Frankie V: Yeah. Equality and bringing people on the same level. [crosstalk 00:08:23].
Brian: Got it. And so then from that, Girls Rock!, it's always been a camp?
Frankie V: Yeah. So, those folks said, "Hey, we want to give back to our community because that's the most important thing. We need to lay the groundwork for the future, and that is within our youth." So, they created a camp solely for girls that was based in music. That's always been the kind of thing. Then by way of mouth, you know, bands touring with each other and saying, "Hey, you know, my friend started this thing. We call it Girls Rock! wherever. Girls Rock! Seattle, Girls Rock! Oregon." Then folks in DC were like, "Hey, that's a really great idea. I want to do that in my community, in New York." Now, it's a worldwide organization.
Brian: That's amazing. So, all over the world, girls are going to camp, they're learning about instruments, and social justice, and all that stuff, and then they're playing shows.
Frankie V: Absolutely.
Brian: Wow. So, it's the same model, all the cities. So, if somebody listening has friends in another city, they might have a Girls Rock! camp, and it's same idea where they're going to learn how to play an instrument and then play a show-
Frankie V: Absolutely.
Brian: ... and over the course of a week. I love that play the show part too because that's ... You know, learning an instrument is fun, but then actually playing it in front of people is ... For some people, that's the hardest part, and for other people, that's the fun part. So, it's great that you get to do that too.
Frankie V: Yeah, it really shows ... The kids really get, you know, "Here's something I'm deathly afraid of, and I can't do. There's no way I can possibly write a song by myself. I'm only eight. And I definitely can't play in front of a whole bunch of people." Then we just ensure them to trust the process, and it just happens, and it's magical. Then they're like, "Well, I can do anything, and I want to do this for the rest of my life." That's really great.
Brian: Nice. That's amazing. Have you been around long enough to see those girls go on and do it for the rest of their life, or what have you seen?
Frankie V: Oh my gosh. So, I also run the after school program. It's called GR!ASP.
Brian: Yeah, talked about that. I got so excited about the camp, we forgot to talk about the program.
Frankie V: I know, it's so exciting.
Brian: Talk about after school, yes.
Frankie V: So, during the after school program, where the summer camp is a five-day, week-long summer camp, immersing kind of situation, the after school program is an 8 to 12 week, one day a week, after school situation at a couple local schools in DC, Southeast, Northwest, all over. This one kid was so amazing. She was about 11 years old at the time, was playing keyboard. Some of her band mates weren't as outgoing as they could have been, let's say. She was also extremely nervous. So, this band was kind of the more introverts. This kid went on to actually lead her school play. They did the Lion King, and her stagefright from the show that we played was right out the window. She went on to play the Ellen Show. They went all over.
Brian: Holy smokes.
Frankie V: Yeah, incredible.
Brian: God, that's so ... And how long ago was it? Was this recently, or was this ... When was that?
Frankie V: That was about two years ago.
Brian: Wow. That is so cool.
Frankie V: It's great.
Brian: I love it. Now, you mentioned you play bass. Talk about music for you.
Frankie V: Oh gosh. So, I grew up playing violin when I was, like, four. That's kind of how I started. Music was always in my family.
Brian: Did you want to play violin, or was it one of those, your parents said, "I want you to play violin"?
Frankie V: My parents made me.
Brian: Okay. Oh, God, mine too. Mine said piano. "Brian, you got to play piano." I'm a freakin' drummer. I don't want to play piano, come on. Yeah, I'm with you.
Frankie V: Yeah, right? So, my parents, you know, they put me into violin. My older sister played piano. Meanwhile, we had a saxophone in the house. We had actually two saxophones, a piano, a whole bunch of instruments. Grew up in the church where music was a really big part of my upbringing, and went on to start playing trumpet and brass instruments once I got into high school. Always just kind of sang. I sang in a ska band, you know, like you do in the '90s. Then I just decided, you know, these bands that are really influential in my life, I want to be just like them, at the ripe old age of 18. I didn't really have people telling me that I could do anything other than play violin and things like that. My dad even said, when I told him that I wanted to be a musician, he was like, "Well, you and 40,000 other people, so you should probably get a real job."
Brian: And 40,000 is an understatement actually. There's so many hundred thousands more, yeah.
Frankie V: Absolutely. And especially for a girl. There's no way I can do that. I should probably, I don't know, do anything else.
Brian: Which is a shame. I'm glad you're not sending that message.
Frankie V: Yeah, I'm kind of rebellious, so ... In case you haven't noticed.
Brian: Dad, we still love you, but-
Frankie V: I still love you, Dad.
Brian: ... no, I'm still doing music.
Frankie V: But no. Yeah. So, I taught myself how to play guitar, and I just really listened to bands like the Breeders, and bands like Bikini Kill, and all these other bands, and I just really try to do that. I really, really wish I had an organization like Girls Rock! when I was a kid to show me that I could actually do what I wanted to do, however I wanted to do it.
Brian: Yeah. It's great that you kind of have taken that ... There wasn't that, and now you found it, and you're helping ... What's your role with Girls Rock!? How would you describe it?
Frankie V: Oof, how many hats? So, Girls Rock! ... So many hats. My head is very big. So, the main thing I do is I'm the GR!ASP Coordinator, so it's the Girls Rock! After School Program Coordinator.
Brian: Got it, GR!ASP. I get it now. Okay.
Frankie V: Yeah. That's my main role. During the summer, I'm now part of the camper committee team. So, right now, camp is coming up July 9th. We actually have our applications out right now, and they close July 1st. So, right now it's just reading all the submissions. The kids get to fill out the application and also submit an art project, their music, song if they want, or a poem, and I get to read through all those wonderful things, and then send out all the acceptance letters.
Brian: That's cool. While we're on the topic then, if people have kids or girls that they know that are age 8 to 18, we said, if they have girls that they know that would like to be a part of that, how do they submit that application, or to do that?
Frankie V: Yeah. So, we accept kids from anywhere in the DMV area. We've actually had a couple campers who are visiting from Jamaica, visiting their family, so they have actually attending our camps as well, which was really cool. So, they can go to GirlsRockDC.org, and it'll send you to a link that has our camper application. We accept any youth that are female-identified, trans-identified, gender nonconforming. Money is no issue. We offer lots of scholarships. Last year, I think we had about 40% of our campers out of 60 were free tuition. We just fundraise like crazy. So, if you also want to donate, go to Girls Rock! ...
Brian: That's amazing. Yeah, right? The donation. And actually, while we're talking about donations, there's another thing you can do because I've talked about the DC Music Rocks festival. A portion of the proceeds are going to Girls Rock! DC.
Frankie V: Woo-hoo!
Brian: We're supporting this too. So, you can come to that, and a portion of that will support them, and we'll be taking donations that night for sure. So, there's lots of ways to give to Girls Rock!, and I love that we get to be involved with you guys too and get to help support this cause because this is really cool.
Frankie V: Yeah.
Brian: So, now that's the applications. Now, two questions that I love to ask. One is, talk about you on the personal side, now outside of Girls Rock! DC, like your personal life. What are your hobbies? Are there certain shows you like to ... What's life outside of Girl Rock! for you?
Frankie V: Oh my. Life outside of ... Is there life outside of Girls Rock!?
Brian: Of course, there has to be something.
Frankie V: There's got to be, right?
Brian: You got to share something.
Frankie V: Mostly, I'm a really avid outdoorsy person. I love camping, things like that. I love traveling. That's kind of my big thing. I just came back from Miami a couple days ago. That was pretty fun. I've never been to Miami. So, I really like stuff like that. I love teaching workshops. I never thought it, but I guess I'm just an educator by soul. I mostly do workshops that are gender-inclusivity workshops and things like that. Just going to lots of shows. The DC music scene is so amazing, and there's so much really good underground bands that you would never maybe run into, and then you go to a house show, or you go to a party, and boom, there's a band, and they're fantastic.
Brian: Absolutely. So much of that. I mean, we share at DCMusicRocks.com ... The local music calendar that we have is all local shows.
Frankie V: That's so great.
Brian: But go to these local shows, and you go to places you didn't know had music, and then you'll see bands you didn't know that are awesome, and that's a lot of ... I mean, it's what I've discovered. It's what you've discovered. It's such a cool thing. I love it. Now, my other favorite question. If you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Frankie V: Oh my gosh. One piece of advice. Definitely trust yourself and organize. You know, if you don't like something, or if you think the problems of the world, let's say, are too big, and you can't do anything about it, definitely look to your neighbor. I'm sure they're feeling the same thing, and organize, and get things done.
Brian: Nice. Is that something that you've experienced personally? Say more about where that comes from for you.
Frankie V: Yeah. I try to do that in my everyday life. Back in Brooklyn, I was part of a ... You know, being a woman-fronted or female-dominated band back then, it was really hard for us to get shows. People wouldn't even talk to me, even though I was the singer, and one of the two guitar ... We were two guitars and a drummer. People wouldn't talk to me. They would go right up to my male counterpart, and be like, "Oh my God. You guys are so good. So, you write all the music, right? And she just kind of sings, huh?" And it was really devastating. I was just like, "Come on. I'm doing all this work here," you know? Got together with some friends who were also facing a similar kind of thing, and just said, "We need to create shows that are for us, and if other people want to come, cool. We welcome everybody. But we're not getting on any bills." So, really just kind of getting out there and doing what you have to do to get yourself out there, you know?
Brian: Absolutely. Take it on. I love that. What a cool message. Now, one more time for those folks who want to find out more about Girls Rock! DC and all the things going on with you guys, where do they go?
Frankie V: Yeah. So, to find out more about our after school program, our adult rock camp, or our summer camp, you can-
Brian: There's an adult camp too?
Frankie V: I know.
Brian: So cool.
Frankie V: Forgot to mention that.
Brian: Okay. Is that one also a 9:30 Club show?
Frankie V: No, so that one we do at, like, the Black Cat.
Brian: Okay, I got you.
Frankie V: Yeah, we always partner with other-
Brian: There's still going to be a show at the end.
Frankie V: Totally.
Brian: It's a week-long music education, and then a show. That's so cool.
Frankie V: Yeah, so that one's actually just a weekend.
Brian: Oh, a weekend? That's even better. Dang, okay.
Frankie V: So, 19 to 127, if you want to learn an instrument or DJ-
Brian: Ages, ages 19?
Frankie V: Yes.
Brian: Yeah, okay. Gotcha.
Frankie V: If you want to learn an instrument or learn how to be a DJ, we have an awesome DJ program, it's a weekend long, usually around Labor Day kind of thing. The show is usually on the Monday.
Brian: Got it. There it is.
Frankie V: So, GirlsRockDC.org.
Brian: GirlsRockDC.org. GirlsRockDC.org.
Frankie V: GirlsRockDC ...