One of those women, Jenny Case, is the creator of She Rock She Rock, a 14-year-old Minnesota nonprofit devoted to “empowering girls, women, trans and nonbinary folks through the art of music.” In the article she reflects on how she found salvation through rock & roll — and how other women can too.
“When I was 15, I got into hard rock and heavy metal,” says Case. “But there were no female guitar teachers to take lessons from; it was all dudes.” Eventually she started an all-female band by placing an ad in City Pages (R.I.P.)—that’s how she met the drummer she played with for the next four years. “My mom drove me to Anna’s house in Eden Prairie. We both had big hair, liked Metallica and Pantera, and wanted to be rock stars.”
When Case was 19, she studied bass guitar at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. Once again, there were no female bass, guitar, or drum teachers. “I was so mad,” she recalls. “Where were all the women?! I knew three in the metal scene who were shredders, yet there were thousands of men. It motivated me to fill the gap.”
After becoming the music director at St. Paul’s School of Rock, Case founded a Girls Rock camp, which grew into She Rock She Rock. “We started about 80 percent music-oriented, with workshops on self-defense and eating disorders. But over the years, it evolved into 60 percent music, 40 percent social justice. We do a lot of work with LGBTQ, and we’ve introduced sliding-scale tuition and a We See You Scholarship, so any youth with marginalized identities can come to camp for free.”
Case is also passionate about adult programming: “So many women who come to She Rock say things like, ‘My brother played electric guitar, but my parents made me play the flute.’ I’m 60 now, and I’ve wanted to do this all my life.’”
At both the women’s and girls’ Rock n Roll Retreats, campers are put into bands. These may be people who’ve never touched an instrument before—but a few days later, they’ve written an original song and they’re on stage playing to 150 people. “We’re showing them they can take risks and don’t need to apologize for making mistakes,” says Case.