Morgan Paris Lanza, executive director for Bellingham Girls Rock camp, uses music as an avenue to bring young girls together and teach them a fundamental lesson: the practice of self love. Lanza has operated Bellingham Girls Rock camp for the last three years, and was first introduced to the idea while attending Fairhaven College. Camp founder Casi Brown was seeking volunteers for a new project that would provide a space for young girls to create music. Lanza had never heard of anything like a girls rock camp prior to this invitation, and joined the organization.
The purpose of the grassroots movement is to educate young girls in music and social justice, while boosting selfesteem and creating a music scene that is inclusive and welcoming to women.
Lanza spent her first week as an instructor creating music with a group of eight- and nine-year-olds at the Make.Shift Art Space. She recalled a transformative time for not only the girls attending the camp, but for herself as well. “You know if these girls can do it, if they can learn to play an instrument in a week after not knowing anything about music except for maybe what they’ve heard, and write a song, why can’t I?”
Lanza cited her mother as her first musical influence, singing to Lanza as a child and exposing her to various genres of music. Music would later influence Lanza in creative and defining ways. “[My mother] used to play Joni Mitchell to her belly when I was still just an Idea,” Lanza said.
Despite her love for it, she said she was hesitant about pursuing music because she didn’t fit the representation of women in the mainstream music scene. At the age of six, Lanza recorded herself singing on a small hand-held recorder. “Then I listened back to it, and I did not like what I heard,” Lanza said. “I sort of internalized this idea that I couldn’t sing, therefore I couldn’t be a musician.”
Lanza was always musically inclined, and even took up rapping. But it was her experience working with this young group of girls that helped to transform misconceptions Lanza held about the music industry, and what that looked like for women .These changed ideas are what propelled Lanza further into music, and eventually into pursuing a band of her own, Judy Just Judy.
Judy Just Judy formed when Lanza was introduced to bassist Dylan Hodge through her voice instructor. Along with Chance Eichner and Sergio Urrutia-Oyer, the two have been performing together since 2015. The band is known for its eclectic tunes that incorporate characteristics of jazz, funk, pop, and rock.
“When I think back on it, it makes total sense to me where I ended up,” Lanza said. “I’ve always loved music but you kind of have to go through the steps sometimes to get there. Lanza is no longer the same girl with a hand-held recorder comparing the ways in which she does and doesn’t resemble prominent female musicians. She no longer focuses on the differences, but instead teaches young girls how to embrace theirs, a trend she hopes to continue for years to come.