Misty McElroy, the director and founder of Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, was 18 when she set out as a roadie. "I did everything for everybody. I was a roadie, a techie, I ran sound, was an assistant tour manager," she explained. "I toured for six years with everyone--big, Grammy-winning bands, small indie bands. I didn't have much direction then, but I loved touring. Those two hours of music even the two hours of sound check before the show started were a big rush for me. I just loved the whole process."

By the time she was 26, Misty was exhausted--in part, because she wanted health insurance and a stable home. But an even more compelling reason was that she was sick of being defensive all the time.

"When you're a woman in rock, you have so much more to prove," she explains. "In every context I was in, it was assumed that I didn't know what I was doing, whether it was engineering, a tech situation, loading, whatever. I was always talked down to."

Plus, there was the whole issue of sex. "I was continually upset by the fact that I was always put in hotel rooms with other guys, and I was always expected to put out. It got to the point where some nights, I slept on the tour bus by myself in order to not have to be in the hotel rooms. The guys would be like, 'Well, you wanted to be treated like everyone else, didn't you?'"

"That's the reason I have self-defense as part of my workshops," Misty explains. "The primary idea behind the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls is self-reliance." The camp is in its second year, though she never expected it to go past the first. "After watching it transform the lives of the participants and the instructors, we had to go on," she said.

Last year, Misty brought 100 girls between the ages of eight and 18 to camp together, and they not only learned to play rock music for a week, but also took workshops on setting up, self-defense, reading contracts, and choosing equipment.

"When these girls go into a club, I want them to know how to set up their own gear, how to talk to the sound person, everything," Misty explained. "The media's gonna put them down enough; I want them to be completely self-sufficient." After initially arriving at camp completely unfamiliar with music or instruments, the campers played a full night of shows.

"All the volunteers and staff last year, were witnesses to a new creation of community for girls and empowerment," Misty explains. "I mean, rock and roll was just a vessel."

"Most of the girls were painfully shy on the first day--you can tell they've been socialized to be 'good girls.' But by the end of the week, these very same girls had gotten over their stage fright and were on stage performing original songs that they wrote. There was one girl who was so shy she couldn't even speak on the first day, and by the end of the week, she was singing on stage to a sold-out crowd."

Though Misty is currently scrapping to put together sponsorship and a salary for at least one full-time staff person, she feels the support from the community has been amazing.

"When they're young, guys are socialized to be loud and assertive. That's what you need in rock and roll, you need to be rebellious and loud and raunchy. Guys have permission for that, and girls definitely don't."

For more information about the rock and roll camp for girls, see www.girlsrockcamp.org.