I am so excited that Victoire is partnering with Girls+ Rock Ottawa for our Black Friday Sale! It is so great to be able to partner with an organization that has touched the hearts of nearly half the staff, from Ainslie's time as a drum teacher to Katie and Regine's involvement with Ladyfest Ottawa, an organization that Rock Camp eventually grew out of. As for me, Alanna, I have my own connection to the camp: I was a camper when I was in Grades 11 and 12! Honestly, I can say the experience was one of the best things to happen to me when I was a teenager. Despite not coming from a musical family, I had always had a penchant for music (case in point: I asked my Nana for a Ricky Martin CD for my third birthday. Begrudgingly, she bought it for me. I remember many a toddler night of grooving in my parent's living room to “Livin La Vida Loca”).

Seeing my love of music, my mom offered to buy me an instrument for Christmas when I was 10. I asked for a drum set. She said no, too loud. I got a guitar instead. I wish I could say I was a total natural and spent the next few years shredding, but I took lessons for only five months before giving up. Chords are extremely difficult when you have tiny ten-year-old girl hands! Still, I picked it up again when I was in middle school when I discovered the coolest thing of all time: punk rock. I taught myself songs by The Ramones, The Clash and Green Day. I ached to be in a band and wrote songs all throughout high school, but nothing ever really clicked when I tried to jam with other people.

Girls+ Rock Ottawa gave me the opportunity I was trying to find but couldn't: jamming with other girls my age who shared my taste in music. I saw the camp advertised on a flyer and registered right away. The first time I did camp was a total blur of fun, music and excitement. I remember performing “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones at the showcase at Raw Sugar Cafe, getting off the stage and feeling totally powerful! I had a similar experience the year after, performing “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill at Pressed Cafe (I even remember my stage outfit: a black and gold glitter dress and knee-high faux-snakeskin boots from Value Village).

Even after I was too old to be a camper, I was invited back to the camp showcases twice to give speeches about the importance of Girls+ Rock Ottawa and empowering girls and non-binary youth through music. And of what high importance it is! One of the reasons I initially quit guitar lessons was because I felt like I wasn't good at it right away and therefore I should just give up. Similarly, I didn't see myself represented in music: even at an early age, I felt alienated by an interest and industry dominated by men and their opinions.

Carving out a space for girls and non-binary youth in music is absolutely vital. I can honestly say that being given the opportunity at that age through Girls+ Rock Ottawa to pick up an instrument, start a band in a weekend and then perform in front of a big crowd was truly foundational. It really gave me the confidence to continue playing guitar, singing and writing songs as an adult through my old band BB Cream and my new band So Sensitive and for that, I'll forever be grateful!