By Ukee Washington


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A nonprofit summer camp in Philadelphia is part of an international effort to bring young people together to change the world, and they use music to do it. Rock band Thrashing Saber-toothed Kitten lives up to its name: “The saber-toothed kitten is on the loose! He might bite you with a saber tooth!”

“Our song is about the thrashing saber-toothed kitten, like eating all the people in his way,” said 10-year-old guitarist Pepper Jaffe of Fishtown.

When it comes to songwriting, anything goes, “like footsteps. And like, screaming,” said guitarist Jennah Schenck, a 12-year-old from Cinnaminson.

The cacophony was music to the ears of Melanie Hsu, who calls it “radiant, growing, magnetic chaos!”

Hsu is the community organizing director and volunteer coordinator for summer programs of Girls Rock Philly, a one-week music camp held this summer at Hardy Williams High in West Philadelphia.

“Simply put, we’re a music mentoring organization for girls, for women and also gender-expansive youths and adults in Philly,” said Girls Rock Philly program director and co-director Samantha Rise.

Many of the young people in Girls Rock Philly had never met before. Some already play instruments. Some don’t.

Over the week, they create bands and write original songs. Ione Saunders, 11, who plays the drums and guitar, said it’s great “just to have fun and write songs and music with each other.”

The week culminates in a concert and a studio session.

“We’re collaborating with the University of the Arts, and they’ll all record their original music,” Rise said.

Nine-year-old Itzela Wiley had never sung with a band.

Now Itzela was leading a band named No 2.0, singing a song they wrote together: “We can do anything even if it’s hard. A picture ain’t worth anything to who you are.”

“That’s what I’ve been waiting to do ever since I was three,” Itzela said.

Working together, these young people learn more than music. They are learning how to treat each other.

“They’re very accepting of everybody,” said 12-year-old drummer Erian Henighan. “Like, no one will feel like an outcast here.”

“It’s really special to watch campers who might otherwise look around and not know where they belong,” Rise said.

“I think those are lessons that get carried way beyond the realm of this building,” Hsu said.

After the songs are recorded, the campers’ music is made available on the Girls Rock Philly website.

Ukee Washington