She’s always been a leader, an inspiration, an instigator for good. But where Beth Kille really rocks these roles, is as a Madison-based musician. Kille’s done the hard work here at least twice. First, as part of the popular band “Clear Blue Betty,” which she left when her husband took a job in Texas, then again a few years ago as a primarily solo artist, when they returned to Wisconsin. But this multiple Madison Area Music Association Award winner, honored in 2012 for Country/Bluegrass Song of the Year, isn’t stingy about sharing her talents. While she continues to be busy as a singer-songwriter, she’s also helping cultivate a rock-n-roll fantasy for others through multiple windows of opportunity, with Ladies Rock Camp and Girls Rock Camp being the best examples. Kille says, “The main goal is that each camper walks away feeling empowered, like they did something crazy and succeeded, and they’re now a part of our musical community.”
Maureen Cassidy signed her daughter up for Girls Rock Camp a couple of years ago, then decided to take part in the adult version of the camp. The Madison mother says despite thinking it would be a positive experience for young girls, she felt unsure about the outcome for grown-ups. “I really didn’t believe a group of strangers could come together on a Friday, and by Sunday night– formed and named a band, written an original song, and performed it.”
Ladies Rock Camp participant Maureen CassidyBut Cassidy did it successfully during a recent Ladies Rock Camp weekend. She describes it as life-changing, especially since she’d always had the dream of being a rock star. And Cassidy admits, even after becoming a mother and starting a career, she couldn’t shake the desire. “This is the way to live that out and be successful in rocking out. As an adult camper, you feel supported from the first hour. And with teachers like Kille, you really cannot fail in this endeavor,” says Cassidy who also tells of meeting women of all ages, including one camper in her early 70’s who learned to play drums as a member of one of the camp bands.
But, Kille credits another woman as being the driving force behind the creation of the Madison camps. Halle Pollay’s daughter signed up for the Girls Rock Camp in Chicago, the closest location a half-dozen years ago. She landed on the waiting list, so Pollay decided to start a local version. And with Kille as the camp’s music director, the idea took off. “Our mission is to offer a culture of positive self-esteem and collaboration among the ladies or girls, while building community through music. I hope that through our camps, everyone feels empowered to go out and rock their dream, whatever it may be,” says Pollay.
For Kille, the ability to continue making music, while sharing the art she loves with others, is her own dream come true. “The most challenging part, for me at least, is making sure everyone in each band feels like they’re able to contribute to the creative process while pushing just hard enough for quick decision making so the song can be written and rehearsed, and so the campers feel ready for the show. You also need to make sure you’re instilling realistic expectations into everyone. No one attends a camp showcase and expects to hear The Bangles or The Go-Go’s. But we want the crowd there to celebrate the fun, and the gutsiness of these amazing women and girls. I feel like every showcase we’ve done has been a success. Everyone leaves with a smile on their face,” says Kille. And when the sheer fright about performing on stage turns to sheer delight in receiving the star treatment, Kille has one favorite tale she likes to tell. It follows the applause for a young band’s appearance, and Kille explains, “They started to exit the stage, when I felt a tug on my sleeve. One of the campers wanted me to tell everyone they’d be signing autographs out back. I love knowing they really felt like rockstars!”
Find information on Ladies and Girls Rock Camp at: www.grcmadison.org