Empower Ballads


“by the end of the week, she was jumping out of the car, eager to meet up with her band to keep working on their song.”

Audrey Overstreet

Sadie isn’t naturally loud — especially in front of new people. But over the course of one week this summer, the 10-year-old found the perfect way to make some noise.

“That first day, she was sticking to my leg like velcro,” recalls Audrey Overstreet, Sadie’s mom. “But by the end of the week, she was jumping out of the car, eager to meet up with her band to keep working on their song.”

That song, written and performed in concert by Sadie’s newfound rock band, was an original girls empowerment anthem that included the lyrics "We might be small / But we’ll break this wall."


This was the fifth annual Girls Rock Lab at Spokane’s Spark Central, and Sadie was one of about 40 girls who spent the week truly becoming a rock star. For Spark Central, a creativity-based nonprofit based in the Kendall Yards neighborhood, Girls Rock Lab fits perfectly into their overall mission of empowerment: providing free, arts-based programming that helps participants imagine a better future for themselves. Spark extends their impact through partnerships with the public libraries and several other schools and nonprofits, especially in nearby West Central neighborhood, a place where need is acute and access to creative outlets is often hard to find.

“Our goal is break down barriers to creativity, whether it is cost, confidence, or access,” says Brooke Matson, a local poet who serves as Spark’s Executive Director.

The specific mission of Girls Rock, Matson says, is “to help girls challenge the status quo.”

Sadie’s mom Audrey underscores the opportunity, and the need. “A rock band is a great concept for empowering young girls, who are often taught by society to be quiet and deferential,” she says. “The bands you see on TV are still mostly men. This week allows girls to express themselves in revolutionary ways, with real, loud instruments that are plugged in.”

Throughout the week
, each budding rock star was given support as they prepare for the culminating concert celebration. There were the “Roadies” — adult volunteer mentors who play backstage roles for each of the 8 bands — and role models like resident rock icon Lindsay Johnston (the guitarist and vocalist for Donna Donna) and Liz Rognes (Singer/Songwriter and Girls Rock Lab founder). Other local musicians led a variety of workshops during the camp, from a lyrics-writing class to a crash course in women’s rock history.

During week-long sessions every August, this community of volunteers helps break down anything that would keep young girls (grades 3-8) from expressing themselves as loudly as they want. Some girls enter with a bit of experience. Others have never touched an instrument. Somehow, it all comes together by the Saturday concert, when the bands share their songs on a real stage, complete with a crowd of screaming fans.


“I love the tangible skills the girls take away,” says Matson. “Confidence and self image. Bands overcoming disagreements and collaborating to find a resolution. Learning to speak up with your own viewpoint while also valuing another member’s ideas. But I also love the friendships they build, and how meaningful it is to each girl.”

Matson goes on to tell about one participant who brought a picture frame she designed with her bandmates’ initials. In it, she’ll place a photo of her rock band. She is moving away from Spokane soon, and she wants to remember her band.

Overstreet has volunteered at Girls Rock Lab since the beginning — long before Sadie decided to attend — and has experienced countless stories like this. At the culminating concert, as the voices, kick drums and power chords of Sadie and her new friends ring throughout the venue, it’s clear that this experience will echo for years, a generation of new rockers developing into stronger, more confident adults.

“There’s just something about rock and roll,” Overstreet says. “It has the ability to transform.”

Photos provided by Spark Central