London Girls Rock Camp is giving kids the chance to live out their musical dreams

Sponsored feature: TD Bank Group

This weekend in London, Ontario, the 48th annual JUNO Awards celebrate the best in Canadian music, with live performances from the likes of host Sarah McLachlan, Jeremy Dutcher, the Arkells, Corey Hart and more. However, they aren’t the only talented artists who will be at the festivities. Attendees can also see young musicians from London Girls Rock Camp playing at the TD Green Room on March 15, with instruments donated through the MusiCounts TD Community Music Program.

At points in time, school systems can feel strained and music programming can be one of the first things cutback. “Not everybody can participate in music depending on their family situation or where they happen to be,” says Andrea Barrack, TD’s Global Head of Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship. “The program is a really good way to ensure that we have a level playing field for our kids.”

In 2012, TD partnered with MusiCounts to create opportunities for youth in underserved communities across Canada, providing musical instruments and equipment to community centres, after-school programs and other non-profit organizations. To date, the grant has benefitted more than 140 organizations and over 15,000 kids have been able to play music through instruments provided by programs.

Savanah Sewell, who works with the camp, says there’s been over 100 participants so far and campers are returning year after year. Besides learning how to play a song, they’ve also introduced programming around gender, identity and body positivity, while emphasizing a safe and nurturing environment.

Inspired by similar models, a group of musicians and volunteers started the camp for musicians aged eight to 15 who self-identify as female, trans and gender non-conforming. Participants choose an instrument, form bands, learn to write songs, make their own logos and t-shirts, and at the end of the week, perform at a show.

“It helps them feel confident,” says Sewell “You can sing in your room at night and practice guitar. You can do that on your own and be in control of that, and I think that’s a really powerful tool for a kid.”

Perhaps the next Alessia Cara or Shawn Mendes could come from one of these programs. Sewell says that when there’s financial support for resources and venues, the sky’s the limit for potential.

“We’ve had lots of people say, ‘There’s no way a kid can write a song in a week,’” she says. “They can! When you give kids the space to be creative and be exactly who they want to be the most incredible things happen.”

Barrack adds: “One of the strengths of Canada is our diversity and we want to make sure that our arts and music reflect on those diverse voices. As part of The Ready Commitment, our corporate citizenship platform, we aim to create more opportunities for people of different walks of life to feel included, no matter their background. That will only happen if we have younger people get involved earlier to be able to create their own art, their own music.”

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