Retreat Workshop Descriptions

**********Summer workshop list coming in the spring!**********

WORKSHOPS FOR WINTER 2023 MENUCHA (Please note workshops are subject to minor changes still)

Many of the workshops will occur multiple times throughout the retreat. Please see the schedule.

To learn more about each teacher, check out our TEACHER BIOS.

Circles of Song! | Ali Boyce | All Levels

Whether you love to sing, or you’re a recovering non-singer, you’re invited to sing simply for the joy of it! Come to this singing circle to connect with new friends, exercise your voice, gather skills in listening and singing, and soak up the many wonderful health benefits of singing! Ali will lead the group in all different types of songs, from simple melodies, to rounds, layered songs, and several part harmony pieces, all in the aural (by-ear) tradition. Expect to move your body, explore your breath and voice, and connect with yourself and others through song, all in a trauma-informed environment. Singing with others will leave you feeling bliss and belonging in a way you may have never felt it before.

Get Yer Sing On | Ali Boyce | All Levels

Tired of singing on a hope and a prayer? In this two-hour workshop, Ali will coach you through simple exercises to uplevel your singing skills! Explore the different colors and sounds of your own unique voice and learn how to sing with more ease, power and resonance. Please bring a

song you are currently working on to dig into, and be prepared to be silly, and have fun with your voice. Learning to sing well is a lifelong journey – let’s take a few more steps down the path together!

One-on-One Voice Coaching | Ali Boyce | All Levels

Ali will offer a few one-on-one voice coaching sessions throughout the retreat. Come with a song you want to work on, and Ali will tailor your session based on your unique needs and goals.

Ukulele for Beginners | Avery Hill | All Levels

Looking for an instrument to accompany your singing? Does playing guitar feel too big or intimidating? Come join the nicest people on earth and learn to play the ukulele! Avery Hill has been teaching ukulele for 10 years and never tires of introducing folks to this delightful and versatile instrument. We’ll go over basic techniques of holding, strumming, and chording on the ukulele, and learn a few songs to play right away. No experience needed, but do bring your instrument. (A few loaners may be available.). 

Songwriting for Beginners | Avery Hill | All Levels

For those with little to no experience songwriting, but a lot of interest and curiosity, this workshop will introduce you to the basics of songwriting. We’ll look at the pieces of the puzzle, one at a time: lyrics, melody, and chords. We’ll use both existing songs and some short writing exercises to explore different ways of putting these pieces together to tell a story, express a feeling or mood, and more. No experience necessary!

Exploring the structures of music is a great way to inspire, enliven and diversify one’s approach to songwriting. This workshop will cover some of the basics of music theory that can help us understand what the “rules” of songwriting are, which ones we want to follow, and which we want to break! We’ll combine studies of songs already written with some ideas for your own writing process.

Songwriter Circle | Hannah Sophia | All Levels

Songwriter Circle: In this workshop we will work together to write and perform a song in 90 minutes. The Songwriters Circle begins with each individual writing and anonymously sharing the joys and challenges they are facing. Hannah leads a group discussion as we read through responses and hone in on our vision. With Hannah’s help we bring our voices together to create a song and a moment that cannot be duplicated! You won’t want to miss this unforgettable experience of emotional expression, freedom of voice and connection.

What’s Going to Happen Next  | Lewis Childs | All Levels – (pls note this workshop replaced “next level guitar” which will now be a free time offering).

For me, songwriting is the alchemy of words and music coming together in an attempt to make sense of my experience as a human being. In that process I aspire to create arresting moments, where I can feel a connection with the audience, and hear them silently asking, “What’s gonna happen next?” In this series of workshops we will look at different ways a songwriter can use harmony, rhythm, dynamics and the editorial process. We will cover techniques for establishing a connection with your audience and explore different methods for effectively communicating your ideas through music. Throughout this series there will be opportunities for you to share your own ideas about the songwriting process and what helps you communicate your ideas in song.  (Open to all levels of experience)

Recording Basics: Essential Skills & Tools for Songwriters  | Lewis Childs | Beginner/ Intermediate 

This course offered by James Villa and Lewis Childs will cover the basics of the recording process. We will explore how you can use your DAW as a songwriting tool, talk about the value of reference recordings and take a look at different ways to craft an engaging arrangement for your song. We will also demonstrate how we use eq, reverb, delay, panning and dynamics, in our productions, and connect you with resources that have helped us in our production process. Ultimately we want to empower you to reach a larger audience, and have the skills, resources and community to create something that you are proud to share! (Open to all levels)

Next Level Recording: Tools, Tips & Techniques for Making Professional Recordings | Lewis Childs | Intermediate 

In this course James Villa and Lewis Childs will delve deeper into the topics that were covered in the recording basics class and take an in depth look at tools and techniques we use in the studio to create professional recordings. We will cover how to approach the pre production process, use of sampled instruments, vocal production, the value of reference recordings, creative uses of effects, arrangement techniques and a whole lot more. Ultimately we want to empower you to reach a larger audience, and have the skills, resources and community to create something that you are proud to share! (Open to all levels)

Emergent Songwriting | Matt Meighan | All Levels

Songs arise naturally from our own depths and from the world around us. Along with craft, songwriting involves learning to hear and trust the songs that come to us, and trust our own voices to give them a shape in the world. This workshop will offer tools to discover and give voice to songs that are true to your own unique perspective and experiences – the songs that only you can write. We’ll do writing exercises (sharing optional) and explore approaches to starting and finishing songs, getting unstuck, using your authentic musical voice, and cultivating inspiration through deep listening and songwriting in community. For anyone interested in writing songs, whatever your writing or musical experience.

Moveable “Jazz” Chords for Guitar | Matt Meighan | Intermediate

Though a large number of chord shapes and voicings are used by jazz guitarists, there are a few essential shapes that are not difficult to play and are highly useful. We’ll learn a half-dozen moveable chords, and look at ways to use them to add color to your new or existing songs or to play jazz standards. These chords can be played anywhere on the neck, so the same shapes can be used in a variety of progressions in any key. We’ll also discuss the circle of fifths as a tool for understanding and creating chord progressions. For guitar players who can play standard open chords (C, G, etc.) and barre chords and would like to add some new chords to the mix.

Poetics of Songwriting | Matt Meighan | All Levels

This workshop explores how techniques of poetry can be used to strengthen lyric writing. We’ll do writing exercises and listen to some great poems and songs for inspiration and example. We’ll focus on the use of rhyme (including alliteration, consonance, etc.) and on the interactions of speech rhythm with meter (aka prosody), as well as what poems can teach us about image, metaphor, and saying a lot with a few words. Our goal will be an increased appreciation of the power of prosody and rhyme in song lyrics, and of poems as sources of inspiration and technique. All levels of experience are welcome.

Rock your Stage Presence with Confidence | Robin Jackson | All Levels

Perhaps you’ve been here: You love performing and you want to share you songs with people, or maybe you haven’t performed much…either way, the experience can sometimes feel nerve wracking. What do I say to people? How do I come off as confident if I feel like throwing up from fear? Am I connecting with my audience? Do people like my song? How do I engage people? 

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you’re not alone! Creating confidence on stage is an art, just like writing songs. And part of being a songwriter can be not just writing the song, but how you share it to others so they can connect with it, and you, more effectively. 

In this workshop you will learn how to build greater confidence in yourself when you perform. You’ll learn how to make your song as musically and energetically inviting as possible so they can enter into that sacred space with you. You’ll learn some ways to banter, and how to connect with your audience in your own, unique way. We’ll flip the script so you feel less the need for approval, and come more from a place inspired by the words of JFK:  “think not what your audience can do for you, but what you can do for your audience.”

Let’s explore together and build some confidence! 

Voicestra and Vocal Improv | Robin Jackson | All Levels

Use the power of your voice and body to create a silly cypher of voicestra magic! Learn vocal warm ups and fun ways to expand your voice with confidence and ease. Learn  to beatbox, create sounds and unleash your inner vocal freak and then jam with others as we co-create songs on the spot! All in a supportive and deeply encouraging container. This workshop is ALL about loosening up and letting your wild, wacky and weird flag fly high! All levels! Guaranteed to expand your confidence and your consciousness!

Expand your Guitar Chord Palette in Songwriting  | Samara Jade | Intermediate

It can be easy to fall into ruts using the same chords in standard tuning on guitar, and stepping into the world of alternate tunings is like opening up an infinite portal of possibility!   In this workshop, we’ll focus on two of my favorite and most commonly used tunings – DADGAD and CGBDBD (open G).  We’ll learn how to play the basic chord shapes in these tunings, and how to find the chords for songs you’ve already written and cover songs.  This is a game changer for anyone wanting to diversify the sounds of their guitar accompaniment.  For intermediate guitarists. 

Medicinal “Pocket Songs”  | Samara Jade | All Levels

There are as many reasons to write songs as there are songs.  But one of my favorite things about songwriting is that it can be an amazing tool for personal growth, reflection, and emotional comfort.  What better way to internalize an intention or reminder deep into your soul than by singing it?  Songs that help you do this can come in all shapes and sizes, but in this workshop we’ll focus on writing short, mantra-style songs that are the distillation of your truth medicine into a memorable nugget you can carry in your pocket for moments when they’re needed. 

Hearing and Playing the Melody of Rhythm | Sara Tone | All Levels

Drums provided (limited) ~ Please bring FULL SIZE drums if you have them (D’jembe, Cajón, Conga, Ashiko, etc) 

How we hear rhythm in music can greatly affect how we perceive, create, and music.

In this workshop we will be using simple embodiment and listening exercises to help attune our ears in a way that can both support songwriting as well as techniques that can help us be better percussive support for other singer-songwriters. Which in turn can help us hear and communicate our needs if asking for percussive support. We don’t want to drown out or be drowned out musically, especially by a well intended percussionist/friend while sharing songs.

The 2nd half of this class, we will dive hands first into learning and playing a polyrhythmic song from the Malinke tradition of Guinea, West Africa. I’ll give an introduction to the Malinke lineage, that I too am a lifelong student of. Also an intro to the drums, that may be familiar to you. We will attempt to switch up drum parts at least one time to give everyone multiple rhythmic perspectives.

The goal by the end of this workshop is to have embodied the hearing of melodic rhythm as complex braids and weaves of patterns that exist in time, as woven tapestries exist in space. Deep one…
Looking forward to sharing this with you, shall you feel called.

Sticky Melodies | Sara Tone | All Levels

What is it that makes a melody stick? We all have songs that have been stuck, for better or worse, sometimes songs we can’t even name. In this class we’re going to have a broad look at melody through multiple lenses to open our creative palette and inspire our melody writing. We will listen and name examples, touch in on interval theory, scope a little neuro-science, and have an opportunity to analyze a song we’ve been working on in small groups with fresh ears, giving and receiving feedback on a melody of a song you want to soar. Come with a journal, open ears, your voice, primary song instrument  ie. guitar, uke, banjo, and an example of a popular song that has been stuck on you like glue.

Saying Something~Finding Your Voice for Change | Shireen Amini | All Levels

Songwriters have a powerful position and beautiful opportunity to get people to care, to act, utilizing the mysterious capacity music and lyrics have to reach people in ways other mediums cannot. In this workshop, we will explore what comes up when we consider taking a stand for something in our songs. We will also explore what really matters to us and find our authentic voice in it. Looking more closely at what makes social change songs effective versus sounding preachy or trite, I will provide some clear, supportive guidelines, resources, and steps to help you birth the seed of your social change song. It is my belief that the more people who use their voice to create songs for change, the better chance we have at a generative, just, and equitable future. Let’s find the courage and gather the tools to do so together. This workshop will include group time and individual or collaborative songwriting time.

Cajón for Beginners – Ethics, Technique, and Creativity for Songwriters | Shireen Amini | All Levels

In this workshop, I will introduce the Afro-Peruvian cajón to you in a way that I hope inspires respect for it and excitement for the possibilities it presents. The cajón is an excellent and highly-utilized instrument to support singer-songwriters. It has a “drum-kit-in-a-box” sound, is easily portable, easy to learn, and melds well with the sounds of voice and guitar. As an African diasporic drum, the cajón also has a deep, rich, and painful history as well as its own traditional rhythms associated with it. We will begin by orienting toward this drum’s culture and story before moving into basic technique, timing concepts, and exercises to grow your skills in playing it! I will introduce several simple, useful rhythms for accompanying most contemporary American styles on cajón to get you started. Depending on the desires of the group, we will either dive more deeply into rhythm arranging (coming up with parts for your songs), accompanying others, or drumming and singing at the same time. It is my hope that you will come away feeling empowered to drum and ignited with rhythmic creativity! 

Everything Can Be a Hook: Focusing Each Moment  | Zak Borden | Intermediate 

Let’s dive into what it would take to make every musical moment shine! This workshop will cover how to make a bigger impression with each word, line or motif – to convince your listener that you really mean business! We will get into some simple tools that can greatly increase the impact and intention of each musical idea using more engaging phrasing, rhythms, dynamics, intervals, builds, repetition, space and more. We’ll do some fun guided listening as well! 

The Power of the Rest: Maximizing Space and Simplicity  | Zak Borden | All Levels

My favorite musicians and songwriters can be most captivating when the very least is happening. In this workshop we will work on this powerful skill. How to do less and get more! We’ll cover taking every unnecessary thing out and building the confidence with rests and silence to create intrigue, suspense, foreshadowing and vulnerability in your songs. How might we utilize rest and calm to make the bigger, more dramatic moments really pop? I’ll also cover how simpler, more spacious grooves and lyrics can assist in calming your own nervous system and help with stage fright.

One-on-one Coaching Sessions | Zak Borden | All Levels
Spend time with Zak one-on-one for guidance, support, and inspiration with your songwriting!

Needing to bounce your creative ideas off somebody? Zak’s coaching is about actively listening, then responding – not with stock advice – but with open-ended questions and collaboration to get you closer to your goals. Think of him as a thinking partner – as both an encourager and disruptor. Somebody who will gently help you get unstuck using the best resource in the room: your own desires to play good music.  

“The Songwriter Soiree is music church for me.
I’m inspired every time by the vulnerability musicians embody.

Thank you Robin for creating a cocoon that feels untouched by the outside world. Songwriter Soiree is the medicine we all need right now!

– Uma T