This spring, I had the pleasure of having a touching conversation with a truly special woman, Shelby Barnes. Shelby shared with me the story of the life of her grandfather, and the way that he encouraged musical exploration and self love to all those who knew him. In honor of her grandfather, Shelby made a generous donation to Rain City Rock Camp for Girls because she saw the harmony of his life played out in the mission of our organization. In honor of Father’s Day, I asked Shelby to share the story of her grandfather with the RCRC community.
By Shelby Barnes
My grandpa and I were really close. When he passed away this past February, the hole it left in my heart was pretty vast. Still is.
To sum him up in a blog post would be impossible and would fall miserably short. To tell you how he influenced my life through his love of music wouldn’t nearly begin to capture how much his love for music rubbed off on me. And everyone else around him for that matter. Even friends of friends posted music-related memories of him on his Facebook page after he passed away.
This past Christmas, we watched “The Last Waltz” together and enjoyed some great blues. And he kept hinting he wanted my DVD. That was so grandpa. Of course I left it with him but sadly, he went into the hospital 2 days later and never came out.
As I see pictures of his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids wielding drumsticks, playing guitars or just jamming out, it makes me smile because I know he’s had a hand in that bliss. For many of us, he lit our path to the escape that music provides to each of us. No matter how poor we were or misfit we felt because we felt fat, had bad skin, or had on the “wrong” clothes, music was the great equalizer.
When he passed away, it wasn’t surprising that the stories of his love of music bubbled to the top. But so did the stories of how much he loved life. Particularly the women in his life. My aunts, cousins, family friends, caretakers — we compared notes. Not surprisingly, we all learned that at one time or another, he told each of us that we were his favorite (privately of course).
We also learned that he told each of us how beautiful we were – inside and out. Just like his ear couldn’t imagine a song it wouldn’t love, I don’t think his eyes were capable of seeing the flaws each of us girls saw in ourselves. “You look beautiful today!” was his regular morning greeting. Sometimes it came by phone and sometimes it came by text. And no amount of, “No I don’t, grandpa — I’m hideous today,” could change his mind. “You’re always beautiful to me. How’d you get to be so beautiful? You must have gotten it from me!” was his standard reply.
His last wishes were that we honor him with 24 hours of music. So on February 25, 2013, we did that. But I wanted to do something more.
I first learned about Rain City Rock Camp from a fellow grad school student who made a video about RCRC called, “Confidence Camp.” I was really touched by Natalie and the commitments of RCRC to help girls and women reconnect and discover that part of ourselves that’s most important: the inside. For most of us, it’s the side that hardly anyone sees, but to which – I think – music helps give a stage and a voice.
I can’t think of a better way to honor my grandpa than to support a cause that so closely links two loves of his life. I just know he would have loved RCRC. I am excited to be part of this year’s camp and listen to the music play!
Thank you to all of the fathers, grandfathers, and male allies in the world who help to show us that the support section of the crowd is much bigger, and much louder, if we all join in together. Please share in our comments section if you have a story of a male-identified ally who has helped to make a difference in your life.
Our friends at The Vera Project are hosting a great new series on the topic of social justice this spring. The classes will take place once a month starting in March, until June. For youth and adults alike, this is a great way to learn about important topics such as racism, privilege, cultural differences, and more. The series starts off Thursday, March 21st with a panel comprised of artists who use their craft as a way to create social change.
At Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, we aim to create a space that addresses the oppressions and micro-aggressions that might lead to a negative self-esteem in girls. We can’t address self-esteem without addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and all the “ims” out there. We also feel that music is an extremely powerful tool for change- personal and social.
Do you think art (music or other mediums) is an effective way to change people’s minds about important social issues? Have you seen examples of this?
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.”
This revelation arrived on a long plane ride home from Nairobi, Kenya, a few months ago. It came in the form of a TED Talk by Brene Brown, whose 12 years of academic research on the subject of guilt, shame and vulnerability led her to this profound conclusion.
It quickly brought to mind the power of Rain City Rock Camp for Girls (RCRC) and the many ways camp helps girls open up to try new things. The warm, trust-building environment makes campers feel secure enough to expose their curiosity, ideas, talent and determination. With that openness comes greater capacity to take risks and kindle creativity.
As a parent of two children who’ve attended camp, I can see firsthand how getting up on stage at a rock music venue with less than a week of practice is a perfect metaphor for leaning into any creative challenge and rising to it. As a ladies’ rock camp alum, I’ve felt the fear, big time, and moved through it to enjoy the elation waiting on the other side.
This cycle builds resilience. It develops core strength. It’s a proving ground for individual identity at any age.
At the conclusion of her presentation, Brene encouraged the audience to “dare greatly,” which is exactly what RCRC encourages each camper to do for herself on her own terms. This is just the kind of boldness the world needs now from girls like yours and mine. It’s a gift RCRC shares generously, one generation to another.
-Ann Bradford, Board of Directors & Camper Parent