Mona Tavakoli discovered the drums at age 11—and hasn’t stopped playing them since. Her career as a drummer, percussionist, singer, and performer has taken her to all seven continents; she was a founding member of the all-female rock band Raining Jane, and wrote and recorded multiple albums with Jason Mraz. She is known for adapting the cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, and bringing it to unexpected genres such as rock and pop, eventually designing a signature cajón of her own, The MT Box.
For Tavakoli, making music has always been about connecting with and uplifting others. As the co-founder and co-director of the nonprofit Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, she is dedicated to helping girls, women, and female-identifying youth find their voice through music. In 2017, she traveled as a cultural diplomat to collaborate with local artists and facilitate workshops in Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi, using the power of music to promote women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment. She is currently working with the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe to create social change through songwriting.
About Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles
Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles strives to nurture self-esteem and self-expression in girls and gender expansive youth, in a world that doesn’t always give them permission, space, or tools to do so. Through mentorship and the transformative power of music, youth are inspired to be their best selves. By challenging the old paradigms of who gets to make music and who gets to make noise, Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles aims to create programs that will help make the world a more equitable place.
Learn more about Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles here.
About the performance
“Drum As You Are”
Drummer Mona Tavakoli will play a Peruvian drum called the cajón alongside DJ beats from SHIVARASA to create rhythms that engage and inspire.
When you look back in five years, what do you hope you and your organization have accomplished?
Five years from now, I see myself writing these words to you from our Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles headquarters. With a permanent physical space, we will offer more than just camps in the summer! Our programming will go beyond learning an instrument, forming a band, and songwriting. My dream is that by 2027, we are offering year-round programming for our community and serving exponentially more girls and gender expansive youth. This new home will be a place where campers can continue learning their instruments after school; a place where camper bands can rehearse and continue their collaboration and songwriting; a place where we can offer workshops on the weekends, employ our summer camp volunteers to teach and mentor, and hold space for confidence-building and risk-taking. The Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles headquarters will be a brave place, available year-round, where girls can feel safe, heard, and included.
How is the changing climate impacting your work?
“The world is sinking
We throw our trash without even blinking
We guzzle gas—what are we thinking?
Mother Nature, world, life, home, spirit is shrinking
And all the while your glasses are clinking
So what we got to do?”
— From “How Can We Help?” by The Poison Gummy Bears
These original song lyrics encapsulate the awareness and wisdom of a band of 9- and 10-year-old girls from our summer camp. Over the years, we have seen environmental issues and eco-anxiety come up in the songs and music our campers co-create. Climate change is on the hearts and minds of our campers and volunteers.
Many of our summer camp activities take place outdoors due to COVID and lack of space. The rising temperatures of the Los Angeles summer, compounded by air pollution near downtown, often make it unsafe to conduct camp outdoors, leaving us without a place to come together to perform and celebrate.