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Ollie performs at the Slowdown for her last time as a camper.
Photo by Isa Luzarraga.

“I feel like if everyone in the world could go through OGR, they should.”

Ollie, OGR camper of nine years

Alums and volunteers remember where it all started: a shadowy classroom tucked in the back corner of one of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s empty halls. The group was smaller in 2011, with only 20 girls, some eight years old, others about to graduate high school. Volunteers doubled as band coaches, instrument instructors and sandwich makers, cutting ham and cheeses before packing them into lunch sacks. After five days of drum beats, guitar noodling and vocal runs, the campers took the Slowdown stage, surprising themselves and the audience with their creativity and ability.

Fast forward 11 years to the summer of 2022 and the scene is remarkably different. Instead of a drafty classroom, 30-plus campers mill about the Holland Performing Arts Center’s recital hall. Volunteers straighten instruments in their instruction studios while others organize materials for the day’s workshops. While the homemade sandwiches were made with care, local non-profit Omaha Girls Rock now enjoys catered lasagna and walking tacos for lunch. But other things haven’t changed.

“There’s this natural component of how camp is run. It allows, celebrates and welcomes campers, volunteers, lunchtime performers, etc.,” OGR executive director Halley Taylor said. “Anyone who comes in contact with our programming, [is] allow[ed] a very unique space to be authentically [themselves.]”

The Reader wanted to see this firsthand. We spent a week with the 13-16-year-old campers this summer, learning what music means to them. We watched them learn an instrument, form a band and write an original song to perform to a live audience in just five days.

We documented it in this new podcast for Reader Radio, “Omaha Girls Rock: Musicians With Ambition.”

Listen to Reader Radio Wherever You Find Podcasts

Or listen to the episodes on our website:


See Photos from Our Week with Omaha Girls Rock


Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Isa Luzarraga

Isa Luzarraga (she/her) is a current honors student at Emerson College in Boston, MA majoring in journalism and minoring in media studies and Latinx studies. She graduated from Millard North High School...

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