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At Rockstar Camp, everyone sings. And shines.

Can confidence be taught? That was the question underlying Megan Jo Wilson’s grand experiment: Rockstar Camp.

At 42, Wilson has been rocking out in Portland area stages for half her life. Meanwhile, over her 15 years as a certified life coach, she saw time and time again that people who are willing to be seen and heard confidently and without apology are more successful in their businesses.

Megan Jo Wilson, a certified life coach, takes a bow with some of her Rockstar Camp students. From left, Serena Washington, Evy Fellas, Valerie Spain, Wilson, Katie Baptist, MJ Impastato, Julie Panneton and Clare David. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

“I’ve always recognized this link between leadership and performance,” says Wilson, who is the lead female vocalist for the local 19-piece band The Fogcutters. “If you think about the archetype of a rock star—she’s willing to take up space, she’s confident and she’s willing to ask for what she wants. Imagine if those qualities were normal and authentic and you had access them to on an average day. You’d show up to meetings differently and show up to dates differently. So, I set out to provide a visceral, embodied experience of what it’s like to lead from the front—from the spotlight.”

Over the past year, Wilson has guided a couple dozen women through two months of life coaching via remote conferencing leading up three days of Rockstar Camp in Cape Elizabeth, which includes a live performance where women get take the stage in a way they likely never have before.

Each Rockstar Camp includes a day of coaching, a day of rehearsing and the live performance in front of an audience at Portland House of Music and Events. Camp closes with a day of reflection on how to put the Rockstar experience to use in everyday life—and no longer “play small” in business, in relationships and everywhere else.

Evy Fellas, an executive coach who lives in London, performing at the end of a recent Rockstar Camp. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

“The concert isn’t so much for the audience as it is for the women to see what happens when they don’t hide and they’re celebrated for it,” Wilson says. “We think if we stop hiding that we’re going to offend people—or die. But these women do it, and not only do they not die, they enjoy it, they learn and they inspire other people.”

Participants have included lawyers, teachers, CEOs and other coaches, from as far afield as England and Australia. They’re not professional singers, and, in fact, most of the women have never sung in front of anyone. But they can hold the attention of an audience—whether they’re on stage, in front of a classroom or presenting an argument in court.

“You know that feeling that you’re about to do something that’s so scary, and then you do it and it’s the most exhilarating thing ever?” Wilson asks. “We get dressed up and we do our hair and makeup and sing with a band. But what they get out of it is transformation, because the skills I teach leading up to the concert are also life skills and leadership skills. That is what Rockstar Camp is about: unlearning the cultural conditioning that women ought to put others first; to question our own perspectives, beliefs and ideas; to stay small and agreeable; and to quiet our voices so that people in power can explain things.”

Rockstar Camp is a “visceral, embodied experience of what it’s like to lead from the front—from the spotlight,” says Megan Jo Wilson, pictured here with some of her 2018 students. Participants have included lawyers, teachers, CEOs and other coaches, from as far afield as England and Australia. They’re not professional singers, and, in fact, most of the women have never sung in front of anyone. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

Susan Beischel, a 56-year-old lingerie brand owner from New York, hadn’t sung in 40 years.

“But there was a deep desire to just let myself go, throw myself in, sing like no one was watching,” she says. “I needed something to shake and stir what was stagnant, what was forgotten, to create space for newness to come into my life. And it just felt so freeing! Stress disappears in self-acceptance.”

Megan Jo Wilson. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

The Rockstar Camp experience helped Beischel overcome fear of humiliation. In everyday life, that means speaking up and standing up for herself in business situations as well as feeling empowered to tackle goals, including her hope to write a book.

Almost 40, Serena Washington, the CEO of a defense contracting firm in Maryland, had always wanted to perform—but didn’t think her voice was good enough.

“I have raised my confidence and can finally hear my own voice and know that is sweet, majestic and has a healing nature,” says Washington, who has started work on a worship album and landed a producer and a talent agent.

“I have a very specific Rockstar methodology for how to stand up and own your brilliance when you’re not feeling brilliant,” Wilson says. “When a woman thinks she can’t sing, I show her that she can. A fabulous performance doesn’t rely on technical precision. If that were true, no one would listen to Bob Dylan or Madonna. It’s a matter of passion, confidence, trusting yourself and have a good goddamn time.”

Catch the next Rockstar Camp performance at Portland House of Music and Events on May 7, 8–11 p.m.

For more information, check out Wilson’s self-published book Who the F*ck Am I To Be a Rockstar?! How to Stop Hiding and Start Rocking Your Coaching Business Like a Boss, listen to her R&B EP Tin on Spotify or go to meganjowilson.com.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough who rocks out in her car.

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