Thursday, September 12, 2013

Toli Nameless and the Paris Girls Rock Adventure

I first saw Toli Nameless at the Brothers Spring Gala in May 2013. As the party after the award ceremony was heating up, Toli took up her trombone and hit the stage as part of the jam session that began just after midnight. Months later, I was delighted to receive her e-mail informing Entrée to Black Paris about a music camp that she runs for young girls each summer as part of a larger initiative called Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA). I was fortunate to be able to attend the graduation concert for Paris Girls Rock Camp 11ème at the end of August and decided that the story of the camp merited further investigation. Here's the scoop!

ETBP: What inspired you to create this music camp?

TN: There were several factors involved. It was mostly a culmination of the evolution of my career in music, education, and women's development, and the opportunity to provide this type of service in my community.

Toli Nameless and 2013 Paris Girls Rock Camp participants
© Discover Paris!

ETBP: How long did it take from conception to the first camp?

TN: We had 6 weeks.

ETBP: How did you find out about Girls Rock Camp Alliance?

TN: My first introduction to the GRCA was through the Willie Mae Rock-n-Roll Camp for Girls in Brooklyn, NY. A female musical force by the name of Tamar Kali asked that I perform on a benefit concert for the camp.

ETBP: How many girls have participated in the Paris camp over the years?

TN: Our participants over the past years include 30 girls and 5 women. We've logged 222 hours of public service.

Scenes from the 2013 Paris Girls Rock concert
© Discover Paris!

ETBP: How much interaction do you have with the parents in enrolling the girls?

TN: We know that parents are busy so we make every effort to answer every question. This can happen at a community event where we have a table, contact by email, or even meeting in a café. This is a combined effort between myself, our volunteers, and presentation partners like Le 6b*. We communicate with parents "by any means necessary."

ETBP: Who are your partners and what do they contribute to the camp?

TN: Our main year-round partners include Le 6b and the GRCA of which we are actual members. We also have project-based partners. This year our lead project partners include Bertie Ernault at the Maison de la Jeunesse in St. Denis and Jean-Christophe Arcos at the Cultural Department in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.

ETBP: Where does the camp take place?

TN:Our mission is to deliver our service throughout the Paris region. So far we have been able to present the camp in the northern Paris suburb of St. Denis and in the 11ème. PARIS GIRLS ROCK CAMP coming to a neighborhood near you!

ETBP: Is it in the same place every year?

TN: We have been able to work in St. Denis consistently, and that has been a huge accomplishment of which we are very proud. This year we expanded to give our first camp in central Paris and we have a long-term plan for expansion. Each time we give a camp in a different place, we hope to add it to our yearly plan. It take so much care and attention to foster the relationship with that particular community that it only makes sense to continue our presence in that location.

ETBP: Who does the teaching?

TN: Our teachers are the "TOP" of Paris and the world. The teaching staff are professional musicians and educators that come from Paris and beyond. Some receive a stipend salary and others give freely of their time. This is a huge part of why we are able to offer the camp at reasonable rates with large results.

Monique and Toli at the concert
© Discover Paris!

ETBP: What is the cost for participating?

TN: The camp costs 10 euros per hour @ 35 hours = 350 euros. Together with our partners, volunteers, and sponsors, we are able to offer reduced rates and bourses d'études (scholarships) to our public. This way ALL girls from ALL backgrounds can attend the camp.

ETBP: Why is the Mairie of the 11th arrondissement involved?

TN: The Cultural Department of the Mairie decided that this program would greatly benefit the residents of the 11éme, and enhance their notoriety for their arondisement as a leading provider of cutting edge public services.

ETBP: You include exposure to Josephine Baker during the camp. You took this year's participants to the Josephine Baker pool and they performed one of her songs during the graduation concert. Why this focus on Josephine.?

TN: Back in 2011, like many of the other camps in the GRCA, we wanted to choose an inspirational person to name our camp after. Josephine Baker is an historical and inspirational figure of epic proportions and we chose her as a means of honoring the first female international superstar and activist of France. Because she lived her life conquering all boundaries and accepting no limitations, she is exemplary of what we hope to instill in our participants. Although we were unable to support the estate of Josephine Baker with the contribution for the licensing of her name, they were very supportive of our efforts nonetheless.

*Le 6b is a new cultural center in Saint-Denis. It houses over 150 artists, musicians, craftsmen, and other creative professionals.


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