Girls rock IUPUI with growing music skills and self-confidence

The image caption followsView print quality image
Young girls participate in Girls Rock summer camp at the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex at IUPUI on July 11, 2017. Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis junior Dana Dobbins sat in the basement lecture hall of the Information and Communications Technology Complex.

She was not early for a summer data studies class. She was watching a rehearsal of Glass Dolls, a band of teenage musicians from Girls Rock Indianapolis. The annual summer camp hosted by the Department of Music and Arts Technology within the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI since 2015 ran July 10-22, bringing almost 100 girls ages 9 to 16 to campus. The two weeklong sessions saw future rockers learn how to play instruments and write music while experiencing camaraderie and self-confidence. They had the use of the entire bottom floor of the Engineering Science and Technology Building to create. 

A volunteer counselor for Girls Rock, Dobbins saw potential in Glass Dolls' music as well as in their bond. After all, Dobbins, a Girls Rock Indianapolis alumna, stayed close to her camp band -- so much so that the teenagers produced an album and even toured.

Girls Rock Indy debuted in 2010 at Park Tudor School, but the day camp quickly outgrew that space. Dobbins, an anthropology major, was a 12-year-old aspiring musician in that first class back in 2010.

"I was able to play music with people my age and with people who were like-minded," recalled Dobbins, who currently plays bass in Lucy Furr and fronts Dana Skully and the Tiger Sharks. "The camp itself is a huge confidence booster. We're not just teaching them music, but also leadership skills." 

Description of the following video:

[Video: Student rock band GLASS DOLLS performing on-stage.]

[Video: IUPUI bug appears]

Ashley McCord speaks: Everything kind of happened, like, in sequence.

[Words appear: Ashley McCord and Dacodis Hughes, Girls Rock! Indianapolis campers, ninth graders]

Ashley speaks: So, we needed our band name.

Dacodis speaks: And then I was like hey, Glass Dolls. I just arrived at lunch and I was just like 'Guys, what about Glass Dolls?' And they were like, 'My gosh, that's kinda cool.'

And then I came up with the deep meaning to it.

Ashley speaks: Yeah

Dacodis speaks: And then we based our song on that.

Ashley: Yeah

Dacodis speaks: Artsy.

[Video: Dacodis rocking the bass guitar]

Ashley speaks: I don't have a whole lot of friends that are like into the same music as me, you don't even have to be in the same music, just playing instruments together and writing a song, making something your own is really cool.

[Video: the band is rocking a song together.]

[Music and words appear: "1234," The Lickers]

[Video: A montage of concert posters, tickets for the showcase, line of fans waiting to get in, empty stage of instruments and GLASS DOLLS being interviewed]

[Video: The girls are nervous backstage, right before they go on-stage.]

The girls speak at once: Enjoy the show. Sparkle, sparkle, you've got it, all right. Yeah!

Emcee speaks: We have Morrigan, Ashley, Dacodis, Maeya and Francesca. Their song is called 'Marionette.'

[Video: The girls are rocking on-stage as the crowd goes wild.]

Ashley speaks: Amazing, awesome, felt like a rock star.

Dacodis speaks: Yeah

Ashley speaks: That's because we are.

Our song definitely came to us in parts. And we didn't get it together until the final day that we had. So, it's stressful. I cried a lot, because I was so stressed out. But in the end, it's so worth it. It's so much fun to be onstage and perform.

[Video: Group shot of GLASS DOLLS with two Girls Rock! counselors]

[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise, iupui.edu]

[Music: GLASS DOLLS play the camp song.]

[End of transcript]

Glass Dolls was one of several bands that were formed in less than a week during the Girls Rock! Indianapolis summer camp, hosted by IUPUI. The girls rocked a stage in Campus Center in front of hundreds of new fans.

For the 2017 camp, the School of Engineering and Technology is offering scholarships between $2,000 and $4,000 to older campers who commit to the Music and Arts Technology program. Jordan Munson, senior lecturer and coordinator of undergraduate recruitment, said the program sees significant potential in the camp's students. The goal of the scholarship is to attract more females to the school, which has about a 10 percent female enrollment. Munson also encourages female technology students to volunteer during the Girls Rock camps.

"Our hope is that seeing these young women who are closer to them in age will empower them to pursue their own music or music technology career," he said.

Music and Arts Technology Girls Rock Indianapolis scholarship awards:

  • $4,000 annual scholarship for out-of-state students.
  • $3,000 annual scholarship for students from states participating in the Midwest Student Exchange Program.
  • $2,000 annual scholarship for Indiana residents. 

Cathy Hurt, co-director of Girls Rock, said music technology would interest her campers as it would teach mastering their gear; running sound at concerts; and navigating various recording programs and apps like GarageBand, Pro Tools and Music Studio.

"This is just a natural fit," Hurt said. "I'd like to get more women into technology. If you start them young, they don't have those preconceived notions like 'Oh, only guys run sound, and women don't.' We want it to be that if you go to a concert and see a woman behind the soundboard, it's not surprising."

Meet the Dolls

On Mondays, counselors divide the students into bands, and each camper chooses an instrument: drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, lead vocals. Often, these girls have different personalities and interests. They go to different schools. A passion for music is sometimes the only thing they have in common.

The Glass Dolls represent the Amplifiers program. They are training to be future counselors and leaders of Girls Rock. The program requires a lot of volunteering, as each session takes 45 students through a whirlwind of a week. Along with songwriting, the campers must come up with a band name, logo and biographies while taking workshops on their instruments and societal issues -- "Social Justice and Making Art," "Body Safety," and "Web Safety."

Glass Dolls consists of singer Morrigan Dunlap-Loomis, keyboardist Maeya Geisert, drummer Francesca Taylor, bassist Dacodis Hughes and guitarist Ashley McCord. Dunlap-Loomis drew inspiration from the band name to pen "Marionette," a dark, driving hard-rock song resonant with teen frustration. 

The image caption followsView print quality image
Dacodis Hughes, foreground, works out a bass line with her bandmates Morrigan Dunlap-Loomis, Ashley McCord and Maeya Geisert, from left to right, during a Girls Rock! Indianapolis rehearsal in the bottom floor of the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex. Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications

While the song tightened up throughout the week, the Dolls got closer. Yes, it sounds good when the verse goes into the chorus perfectly, but also when you can feel friendships form thanks to the love of music.

"Just playing instruments together and writing a song and making something your own is really cool," McCord said. "It's seeing something that is your own grow."

Showtime

Glass Dolls and several younger bands made their public debut July 15 in a fourth-floor space in the Campus Center. The teenagers headlined, and the pressure was on. The room was packed with hundreds of family and friends of the Girls Rock campers.

Backstage (which was really a catering kitchen), the girls stretched and jogged in place. The nervous energy was palpable. Taylor listened through the door, waiting for her band's cue. Then it was a rush to the stage, to the sound of thunderous applause. To these girls, this was their Vogue Theatre, their Bankers Life Fieldhouse, their Klipsch Music Center.

The Dolls rocked out "Marionette" with passion, finesse and volume. Hughes and Taylor held down the rhythm while Geisert plucked away a beautiful melody. McCord coolly strummed the chords, and Dunlap-Loomis wailed with much more confidence than just three days prior. The crowd erupted in cheers right before Glass Dolls closed out the evening with the 2017 camp song, assisted by the other 40 campers onstage singing and dancing along.

While glass dolls are breakable, the bond the Glass Dolls formed should result in more music.

"We're going to stay a band," Hughes said. "We've already planned it."