Name: Leslie Yeargers
Location: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Domestic Engineer (“It sounds better than “homemaker” or “house wife,” she jokes,) Astrologer, and Volunteer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, Emerson School, and Jackson Middle School
Leslie Yeargers brings the noise. A volunteer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, Leslie has reveled in helping build girls’ self-esteem through music, both as a volunteer and a parent of two little campers.
Growing up in Nevada, Minnesota and Washington gave Leslie a multifaceted view of the country, and allowed her to daydream in all directions. As a child she wanted to be an actor, the first woman on the moon, and an astrologer. In college she attempted to pursue Organic Chemistry, and then studied German and Technical Writing, a background that helped lay the foundation for a job with a German software company. Eventually she was hired as a technical writer with Microsoft, a job that lasted a decade.
During her formative years, Leslie faced a lot of social challenges. As a tall girl, she was always treated as though she were older than her years. She developed anxiety when she was left alone in the halls, or sat by herself in the lunchroom. Then, at fourteen, she was in a car accident that left her face scarred and her front teeth missing. Competitive swimming became her saving grace, giving her the confidence and a social circle that helped her to rise above the difficulties the car accident had put in her path. This intimate knowledge of how fragile self-esteem can be for girls helps Leslie to make a difference in her volunteer work.
Growing up, Leslie took music lessons. Though she learned to play piano, guitar, and violin in school, she didn’t look at it as a competitive or high-pressure pursuit. “As a kid, I found that music, especially piano, was a great way for me to unwind, relax and express myself. When I became an adult, I gave up on playing music. My job and life just took over. While I continued to attend concerts and listened to music daily, I stopped playing myself.” Then, at the age of forty-one, her husband gave her the gift of a bass guitar, and she’s been playing it ever since.
These days, Leslie draws her strength not only from music, but from her family. Living with her two daughters and loving husband, she has also created an extended family circle with her friends and co-volunteers. “Through the experience of parenting I’ve learned a great deal from my kids. My two girls constantly push me to grow and be a better person. My husband and friends are there as a source of support and advice when I need it most. Through volunteering at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, I’ve met some outstanding women and girls that consistently inspire me with their creativity, courage, and dedication.” When she’s not reading Astrological charts or lending a hand, she’s playing with her husband. The two of them are trying to start a band, and she cites music as being one of the biggest influences in her life.
“I attended the very first Ladies Rock Camp fundraiser about eight months after I started playing the bass,” Leslie remembers. “I can honestly say it was the best gift I could ever have given myself. I had a blast, and from there on out, I was hooked. The following year I signed up to help plan and coordinate Ladies Rock Camp, and I’ve been doing it for the past six years.” As her daughters started growing, she enrolled them in the summer camp and signed up to volunteer. It has been a driving force in her life and the life of her family. She’s had the opportunity to help others while witnessing her daughters learn, grow and perform.
Although it’s only for one week during the summer, Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls transforms lives. In a nutshell, the camp is a self-esteem and empowerment program for girls, ages eight to eighteen, that uses music as a medium of self-expression. During that week, girls go to the camp and learn the basics of songwriting and music creation: from fundamental guitar, bass, keyboard and drum lessons, to vocal coaching. They form bands where they create their own original songs, and then perform them at the end of the week at a musical showcase that’s attended by 500 to 700 people, including many beaming parents. The beauty of Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp is that it doesn’t simply rely on teaching music, it also offers workshops in song writing, self-defense, zine writing, and silk screening where the girls can even make their very own band tee-shirts. In an image and identity workshop they are encouraged to talk about their experiences with other girls and societal pressure. Even at a young age, this opportunity to share frankly and openly about what they have already come up against can be revelatory and freeing.
“The environment at camp is extremely supportive, upbeat and positive,” Leslie says. The staff of the camp work as band managers and band coaches to help guide the girls through writing and performing songs. They also help to foster an environment that builds communication and close relationships, teaching team building and collaboration. “The main role of the instructors, coaches, managers, staff, and volunteers at camp is to create a positive and supportive environment in which every girl feels safe and encouraged to take risks expressing herself to her fullest potential,” Leslie explains. “Essentially, the girls learn that it’s okay to own and use their creativity and voices. They also learn the proper way to treat other girls. As a mother of two girls who faced a lot of social pressure, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the camp exists and what a special place it is for so many girls who struggle with their own uniqueness and self-esteem.”
Fortunately, the summer program isn’t the only offering. A year-round after-school program is available, too. Running two and a half hours, one day a week, there are three sessions that span ten weeks apiece. After the girls become young women, there’s a Ladies Rock Camp for women ages 19 and older, only the format is compressed into a long weekend. “The women who attend Ladies Rock Camp often longed for a girls rock camp when they were kids, and come away from it having similar experiences regarding self-esteem building and feelings of accomplishment that the girls do,” Leslie says.”In terms of Ladies Rock Camp, I can’t express adequately how rewarding it is to bear witness to the personal break throughs and accomplishments of grown women who held the mistaken belief that they were too old to learn an instrument. It is incredible to see women, who believed they would never be able to write a song and perform it, get on stage at a rock venue in front of an audience, thereby breaking the barriers of their own limiting beliefs.”
Of course, working in a collaborative environment with a large number of young girls can create some unexpected and profound experiences. “Last year, I had a girl with Downs Syndrome in the band I was coaching. I had never worked with a child who had special needs before, so she presented me and the rest of her band mates with an interesting challenge. But in the spirit of camp and the positive environment that exists there, we looked at this as an opportunity to learn something,” Leslie says. “The band members had to stretch themselves to fully accept her and not let their frustrations impact their treatment of her when she refused to practice and said she didn’t want to perform. When the entire band – including her – got up on stage at the showcase together and performed, I was so proud of them and the work they had done to get to that point. The main lesson that took place had nothing to do with music. It was more about girls learning to accept one another and work together to accomplish a task, even when major differences might impede their ability do so.”
As a homemaker, Leslie’s time is often a hot commodity, but she’s been able to create a flexible and nurturing environment for herself, allowing her to be a productive, active mom, while also being a practicing musician and business woman. Her weeks are a mix of mothering, volunteering, and Astrology. Each day could include everything from paperwork for Rock Camp, going on a field trip, assisting a teacher, working on a client’s Astrological chart, grocery shopping, or housework. But hopefully every day includes practicing bass.
When she listens to music, Leslie sometimes struggles to find songs and bands that are a mix of being interesting and inspiring. She stretches her ears to hear music created “for the sheer joy and artistic need of it.” She’s not impressed by a lot of the current popular music of today, with its ambition for money and commercial fame. “What inspires me most is someone experimenting with a different technique or sound in their home recording studio with a minimum of bells and whistles. It’s raw, honest and real. I’m not a fan of the radio like I used to be. If I do listen to commercialized music, it’s mainly on the alternative or indie stations,” she confesses.
Although Leslie helps girls reach for the stars, her future aspirations aren’t too far from the heavens either. “I hope to have a thriving Astrology practice, which I’m just starting to get going,” she says. “And I hope to be playing music out more with the band my husband and I form. We don’t want to be famous, we just want to have fun and do what we do with integrity. I hope to have a good, healthy relationship with my kids and hope I raise them to be confident people who are happy with their lives.”
She plays conductor and helps girls march to the beat of their own drum, and for that we say Leslie Yeargers is one Cool Girl!
Leslie is available for Astrology chart readings in her own business, Astrology With Heart. She can be reached for readings at [email protected]. She can do charts long-distance through an emailed written report, followed-up by a phone consultation to provide clarification and answer questions. Chart readings are $50.00 each.