Girls Will Rock the Fox Cities with help from Chaminade Women’s Chorus.
This June, a few more stars are about to be born in the Fox Cities. Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley boasts an impressive resume of local musical talent spanning from high school music and theater programs, to the halls of Lawrence University, and all the way up to the Fox Valley Symphony. The annual summer music festival, Mile of Music, has drawn hundreds of local, statewide, and national acts. But just under the surface of our community’s celebrated music scene, go often-underrated, hidden gems.
Chaminade Women’s Chorus is one of the oldest running.
Chaminade was founded 77 years ago, on the principle that all women should have the opportunity and autonomy to participate in music within their community. Chaminade’s mission has since been to engage and empower women through music.
“One of the reasons I joined Chaminade, and ultimately decided to join the executive board, was because of the unique feeling of support and cameradierie I felt within the group,” Rose Wasielewski, Board President for Chaminade Women’s Chorus, says of her experience with the choir. “I’ve been a singing member for four years, and president of the board for the past two, helping to both run the general workings of the organization as well as guide us into the future. Having a rich history in the Fox Cities, I kept thinking that first year in the choir ‘There’s something untapped here.’ There is this sense of empowerment in the group to be who you are, both as a singer and as a person.”
For decades, Chaminade has provided such empowerment as a service to and an outlet for local women singers, while enriching the community through access to musical performances and programs. Their commitment to inclusivity and the joy of sharing music has kept the women’s chorus going for years. This spring, the organization seeks to further that commitment with a new educational community outreach program: Girls Rock Fox Cities, a member of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance.
Chaminade now focuses on a new generation of girl and girl-identifying musicians, who may not enjoy the same access, opportunities, nor support in rock music as their male peers. The women’s chorus is taking their near-century of experience in keeping women involved in music and applying that to the women musicians of tomorrow.
Chaminade Women’s Chorus recognizes (through its own history and charter) that while opportunities for musical talent may abound in the Fox Cities, those opportunities may not reach every young musician. Many young women and women-identifying musicians have found barriers to participate in music programs, even when those programs reside within their own communities. Those barriers are what Girls Rock Fox Cities aims to break down.
Renée Millard, professional musician and performer, music instructor, and Music and Managing Director of Chaminade Woman’s Chorus has experienced first-hand the obstacles women in music often face. “In my personal experience as a musician I have many times been mistaken for a girlfriend or wife of a bandmate, the ‘merch girl’ and in general struggle to be respected for my breadth of education and experience in music. Girls Rock aims to amplify the voices of those not always heard,” she states of the new program. “We aim to provide an opportunity for young musicians to not only find a space where they are welcomed but a space where they are celebrated.”
The Girls Rock Fox Cities program will provide an opportunity for girls and girl-identifying youth ages 12 to 18 to discover what it means to be represented in rock music, learn from women in the industry, and to showcase their own talents at the end of the program through a live performance at The Refuge, in Appleton.
Jenna Lee Howell is a member of the Wisconsin-based duo, Sister Winchester, and will be volunteering as a coach for Girls Rock Fox Cities.“My experience as a female musician has actually been quite humbling. I can’t honestly say that I’ve had a hard go within my music education, or within my lifetime, as I have always surrounded myself with strong, female personalities. My family has a very loving network of musicians within it, two of them being closest to my heart – my sister, and my aunt. Shaun is younger than me by three years, and we have always been encouraged to make music together, sing together, and use music to touch one-another’s, and others’ lives. I am so fulfilled and blessed in my ability to be in harmony – literally and figuratively – with my sister! For those girls and women that don’t have this support system, or this opportunity, camps such as this one, and music classes in schools are such a shining moment in their lives. For through their peers and their bandmates, they create a sisterhood that will never be forgotten or replaced!”
Through Girls Rock Fox Cities – its staff, volunteers, and sponsors – girl and girl-identifying musicians in our community will create not only music, but also their shining moments as the talented musicians, strong leaders, and amazing young women they already are.
Looking for more information on Girls Rock the Fox Cities?
Girls Rock Fox Cities opened for registration last month and is seeking applicants. The Camp consists of students being placed into bands to learn, write, and perform music. Each day will move through units of group learning sessions, individual lessons, and group coaching sessions.
Applications are due May 1st, and applicants will hear back via email by late May about placement in the program. The camp will run June 17th – 21st, 2019 from 1:00pm – 5:00pm each day. The location of the camp and live concert on the 21st will be at The Refuge, 1000 N Ballard Road in Appleton.
Throughout the entire structure of the program, Chaminade follows the same inclusion practices as Girls Rock Camp Alliance, one of which is to provide opportunity for women/trans women, girls/girl-identifying, and gender-nonconforming individuals to participate.
Volunteers welcome! For more information on how to volunteer: Girls Rock the Fox Cities – Volunteer Form
Girls Rock Camp Alliance – The Girls Rock Camp Alliance is an international membership network of youth-centered arts and social justice organizations. We provide resources and space for community building to our membership in order to build a strong movement for collective liberation.
Text: Megan Paske