It’s OK to be loud. You deserve to take up space. Your body is powerful. You’re your own worst critic.

These are the lessons I wish I’d encountered as an overly
self-conscious, painfully shy tween. Instead, I learned them just a few
years ago, as a fully grown woman playing in a punk band.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been attracted to musical instruments. I
slowly amassed a collection that included everything from a keyboard to
a cowbell, but never felt confident enough to perform in front of
others. In high school, the boys wailed away on improvised guitar solos
while I shuddered at the thought of being watched.

Singing was even worse. Secretly, I loved to do it, but I could barely
raise my voice to speak in class, and I was certainly no virtuoso. Why
would anybody want to listen?

It took me until the tender age of 27 to face my fears and get onstage,
playing bass and singing in Toronto punk band The Weirdies. At 30, I’m
still no opera singer — a recent reviewer asked readers to “imagine
Betty Boop fronting The Ramones” — but I’ve realized that I don’t need
to be.

Playing in a band has taught me that putting yourself out there is
worth the risk. It’s shown me that it’s alright to screw up, even when
people are watching. (Guitar falls off mid-song? Pick it up and keep
going. Forget the words? Just make something up.) And it’s proven what
I suspected all along: Being onstage feels awesome.

This is why I’m thrilled to see Girls Rock Camp (
starting in Toronto. Much like groups based in Portland, Ore.,
( and Vancouver (, it’s a
non-profit that builds self-esteem through music creation, with female
musicians coaching the girls.

No musical experience is necessary and campers get the chance to play
an instrument, write songs and rock out in a fully supportive

If Girls Rock Camp had been around when I was younger, it probably
wouldn’t have taken me 27 years to get onstage. But, for the sake of
the next generation of rock ’n’ rollers, I’m glad it’s here now.

Melinda Mattos is the co-founder of feminist teen magazine Shameless.
Her band, The Weirdies, plays The Shop (1566 Queen St. W.) June 18 at 9

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