The Phoenix Wolfdogz practice a song during Yukon Girls Rock Camp at The Heart of Riverdale in Whitehorse on Aug. 8. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Girls just wanna have fun — and also rock

Whitehorse Girls Rock Camp hosts Saturday showcase

Lilly Saruga is usually a solo artist. She’s never played with a three-piece before. She’s also never played bass, but she did both last Saturday in front of an audience at Epic Pizza.

That’s the venue for the Girls Rock Camp concert — an afternoon showcase featuring the musical stylings of four new Whitehorse-based bands, each of which formed in a single week.

“We had a week to figure out the song, the lyrics, the chords, the tempo, the name, the logo design, all of this stuff,” said Saruga, 13, on Aug 8. She stood in the black box theatre at Heart of Riverdale, holding a bass guitar. Nearby were her bandmates, drummer Meg Gatien, 17, and keyboardist Kiawna Leas, 12.

The trio (which goes by the name Miss Me With That Patriarchy, though The Missyfits was also a contender) met through the weeklong summer camp, which started Aug 6.

Girls Rock Camp is an international initiative that was founded in 2011. It’s taken place in Dawson City since 2014. This is its first year in Whitehorse, and it drew 15 girls between the ages of nine and 17.

On the surface, the goal of Girls Rock Camp is to teach participants to make music, but they learn more than that.

Communication for one, said Gatien. It’s not easy to come together with a group of new people and make music. You have to learn to be open with complete strangers.

She said they’ve also learned about bullying during a workshop with Zoé Bordeleau-Cass, of BYTE.

Talking about it at camp is different than talking about it at school, said Gatien. At school, the message is just that bullying is bad.

“Here, we touched on empathy and why people bully,” she said.

In addition to instrument lessons and the band practices where each band writes an original song together, campers have participated in songwriting workshops with local musician Kim Beggs. They made patches and customized camp shirts with local tattoo artist Kirsty Wells. Camp coordinator Andy Pelletier guided them through merch-making in advance of the showcase.

“I like to say it takes a village to raise a rockstar,” Pelletier told the News. “It’s a lot of moving parts and we need a variety of voices.”

Right now, those voices include musicians and camp staffers Paris Pick, from Whitehorse, and Sarah Ayton, from Montreal.

Pick teaches ukelele, but it’s her first year teaching at camp. She said she’d definitely do it again. She said it’s amazing to see the confidence grow in the girls, some of whom start out shy and end up screaming into a microphone.

“We’re bringing people from different backgrounds and empowering them to believe in themselves and music,” she said. “And believing that they are capable of doing anything as women. Which, in society, isn’t always the case.”

Ayton works in Montreal as a musician, choir teacher, and community music educator. She has helped with the Dawson camp for three of its four years, and it’s always evolving, she said.

“I feel like each year we can kind of hone in on current topics or things that we see youth going through or things that we also are encountering in our own lives,” she said.

One of these is consent, said Pelletier. Organizers try to weave it into every aspect of camp, whether that’s checking in to see if the girls want to be photographed, encouraging them to ask before using each other’s instruments, or letting them know they can opt out of the “high five tunnel of consent” at the end of every day.

It might seem like a small thing, to remind someone they don’t have to return a high five if they don’t want to, but it gives them familiarity with the word consent and the concept behind it, Pelletier said. Hopefully it also gives them an understanding of the kind of autonomy they should be able to expect in their lives.

Recently, camp has also become concerned with decolonization, said Pelletier. Half of the participants in Dawson City are typically First Nations. The same has been true of Whitehorse.

“One of the things we’re talking about in this organization is actually having a position or two that are only open to Indigenous folks just because there’s a perspective there that we need,” they said. “We are working with these populations and, as largely non-Indigenous folks, it’s something that we maybe can’t address as well.”

Right now, Pelletier is looking for someone to take on running next year’s camp (they will be focused on the Dawson camp). They said there’s interest from a handful of organizations so far, including Something Shows, but it probably won’t come together until the winter.

Contact Amy Kenny at

Girls Rock CampMusic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Band coach Andrea McColeman gives instruction to Harmony Kendi during Yukon Girls Rock Camp in Whitehorse. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announce the first COVID-19 related death in a press conference announcement Friday morning. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
UPDATED: Yukon announces first COVID-19-related death

The person was an older Watson Lake resident with underlying health conditions, officials said

Wyatt's World for Oct. 30.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 30

Health Minister Pauline Frost insists no one who shows up at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter for dinner will go without a meal, despite no drop-in dinner service being offered starting on Nov. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Non-profits concerned as Whitehorse Emergency Shelter ends drop-in dinner service

Minister Pauline Frost insists everyone who needs one ‘will be provided with a meal.’

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Premier Sandy Silver talks to media in Whitehorse on March 19. According to the premier, who is also the finance minister, the Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, instead of the surplus it had originally predicted. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in 2019-2020

Deficit attributed to lower-than-expected revenue, higher expenses on health and social side

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and management roundtable discussion Sept. 26, 2019. During an Oct. 29 meeting, Constable highlighted a number of potential changes to the City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Work on City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw continues

Officials will look at procedures for other municipalities

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms

Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.
Whitehorse city council, briefly

Updates on matters before city council on Oct. 26

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
GoFundMe for Whitehorse boy hit by car on Range Road raises more than $62k in a day

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

Most Read