Organization Spotlight : Girls That Rock! DC’s Michelle Rush

Michelle Rush has been playing music for 20 years, since she began playing clarinet in the school band. Creating original music with people has been her passion (and stress reliever), since she began playing in bands at 15. She also began DJing in 2005 and holds a regular monthly party, with two friends, at a venue in DC. She is a firm believer in the power of music as a tool to build self-confidence, a positive way to release negative energy, and create change. Michelle also has a passion for education. She holds a M.Ed in English as a Second Language and, by day, she works as the English Language Learner Coordinator for E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. After teaching for five years, she found herself in this position, where she could build community, educate staff and parents, and make programmatic change for all English Learners, ages 3-15.

Girls Rock! DC is the perfect combination of her passions and, in 2007, she had to organize one in DC. Michelle also sits on the board for the international Girls Rock Camp Alliance and of the Measurable Outcomes Committee.She can’t wait for the day where all girls know they play whatever instrument they want and be all of themselves all of the time.

VOICE: What problem are you solving?

Michelle: The lack of representation of girls and women playing instruments and DJing in the media. Also we’re creating a space where campers can collaborate, rather than compete, to create an orginal musical expression–together!

VOICE: What is the most valuable resource to you in the work you’re doing?

Michelle: Community–our community has been amazing in donating and lending instruments, money, time, and organizing benefit shows and events for us. Through this, we have build long lasting relationships and have shown the campers they are a part of this and can always create their own communities.

VOICE: What is one piece of advice you would like to offer someone doing similar work?

Michelle: You don’t need to have a lot of major donors to start a program like this. All you need is passion, a small group of dedicated people, resourcefulness, and a little bit of legal advice…

VOICE: Who has been the most influential person in your life as you are working to make a difference?

Michelle: The campers. Seeing the transformation in them from the first day of camp, where they come in shy and not ready to be amplified, to the end of camp where they’re screaming, dancing, pouring their hearts out, and owning the 9:30 Club stage, is the most inspiring thing I have ever witnessed.

VOICE: What is an experience you’ve had that has made you stay motivated in the work you’re doing?

Michelle:  When I was in 5th grade and wanted to play drums in the school band, the director said, “Drummers need to have a mathematical mind. Boys have mathematical minds.”  From there, I was relegated to the clarinet (which I didn’t hate, but it’s not the same). I never want anyone to be told they cannot do something, because of their gender.

How can people join you in what you’re doing?

VOICE: You can go to or email and let us know what you would be interested in. You do not need to be a musician to volunteer–we have many different positions that need many different talents. You may be a CPA (in that case, you should REALLY hit up the email), a chef, a community organizer, or just a music fan. Either way, we can find a spot for you. You can volunteer during our summer camp, or even year round!

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