COLUMBIA– When 18-year-old Nicole Crespi was younger, she was too shy to sing near her father. But Saturday night, she had to get over that fear when she sang in front of him and an entire Mojo's audience.
She's the lead singer for The Tie Breakers, a band of four girls created through CoMo Girls Rock Camp.
"(Monday), I wouldn't even sing in front of my band," Crespi said earlier in the week. "But today it was so much better, and it's only the second day."
It was the first time Girls Rock was offered in Columbia. There are more than 40 Girls Rock chapters worldwide. It's exclusively for girls ages 11 to 18 and includes music lessons, workshops and best of all, the opportunity to be in a band. Attendees met each day last week at the Columbia Area Career Center.
For its first year, CoMo Girls Rock cost $129 for the week, including lunch, with tuition help available. Twenty-two girls, divided into five bands, participated. Each band spent the week writing and rehearsing a song they went on to perform at the camper showcase at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mojo's.
"CoMo Girls Rock is an empowering experience for both the campers and the volunteers," said Amanda Rainey, one of the coordinators for the camp. "We're creating a community of awesome talented women and having a lot of fun doing it."
Rainey, who is a percussionist, says the camp promotes feminism and positive relationships with other girls.
"In music, women are generally underrepresented," Rainey said. "Instead of girls being competitive with each other, it makes more sense to stick together. It's the only way to make change in society."
Rainey says there's a lack of encouragement for girls to be loud, silly and expressive.
"We want an environment where those things can happen," Rainey said. "We want the camp to be about creating positive relationships with other girls, not about impressing boys, looks or being competitive."
About 25 volunteers helped out with the camp, including Rainey's twin sisters, Delia and Hannah Rainey. The sisters also play in their own folk band, Dubb Nubb. Most of the volunteers had backgrounds in music while others were there just to make sure everything ran smoothly. Volunteers also helped with the workshops, like the one Wednesday, taught by a screen printing artist who helped the girls design and create band T-shirts.
Nalani Proctor is a vocal instructor and one of the band helpers for the camp. Proctor is from Ottumwa, Iowa, where she's in a band, The War I Survived.
"I really love trying to impart some knowledge of singing to (the girls)," Proctor said.
Proctor taught vocal health and breathing techniques. She also worked out what style they're interested in, whether it's rap, yodeling, beat boxing, spoken word or opera.
"It's amazing just knowing they're learning something from all of us," Proctor said. "We're giving them power to really go after what they want to do."
Among the participants were sisters Naomi, Abigail and Bree Davis, who have been singing almost their whole lives. Their mother, Elisa Torres, often sings with them at home.
Naomi, 13, is the drummer for her CoMo Girls band, Gren. Monday was the first day she played drums, and she has decided she really liked it. She was skeptical about participating but is glad she did.
"I'd like to do something with music in the future, hopefully with singing or maybe drums, if my mom gets me a drum set," Naomi said.
Abigail, 14, and Bree, 17, are in the The Tie Breakers with Nicole Crespi. Although both sisters like to sing, they signed up for things they hadn't done before: Abigail the guitar, Bree the drums.
"I was kind of nervous about signing up for guitar," Abigail said, but now she sees herself sticking with it.
Both Abigail and Bree dream of careers in music, especially singing. The three Davis sisters were amazed at how much they've learned in only a couple of days.
"It helps we have really good instructors," Bree said.
For mom Carla Ciolli, the summer camp was great news because last year she rented an apartment in Chicago for a week so her daughter, Tylee, could attend the camp there. Last year, Tylee played guitar, but this year she sang with the band Five % Glass for whom she's comfortable belting out a song.
"We have to keep her from singing at the dinner table," Carla said, and that Tylee would give anything to be a professional musician.
Carla is trying to direct Tylee toward focusing on music itself, instead of fame and fortune. She's pretty sure, for example, that her daughter could be just as happy being a music teacher.
For the performance at Mojo's, Crespi said she felt jittery an hour before getting up on stage Saturday night. But by the time she walked up to the microphone, she was no longer nervous and felt comfortable.
"It felt really good, and once I was playing it felt like I could do it forever," Crespi said.
After each band played, the audience responded with cheers and applause. More than 250 people showed up to support the campers.
"All the bands were great," said Eduardo Crespi, Nicole's father. "I support it 100 percent. Next year I will help in any way I can. It gives power to young women."
Also present was Nicole's mother, Barbara, who said Eduardo was Nicole's major mentor in music.
Nicole plans to continue playing with her fellow campers from The Tie Breakers.
"I've always wanted to be a rockstar," Nicole said.
Leola Davis, another coordinator for the camp, said she was proud of how well the girls performed at the showcase.
"It just goes to show how capable young girls are," Davis said. "People don't give them enough credit."
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