Retreat Workshop Descriptions


The workshops are roughly listed in the order of the schedule. Many will occur multiple times throughout the retreat.

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

The Rhythm of Lyrics: Exploring Phrasing & Line Length | Zak Borden | All Levels

Ever since falling in love with the syncopations of Brazil, Ireland and American bluegrass in my college days, I’ve looked at lyric writing through a rhythmic lens. In this workshop we’ll explore the power of using more dynamic rhythmic phrasing. This can even mean using syllables and words like a percussive instrument. We’ll also look at using even and uneven line length to match your emotional content and to create great hooks!

Cultivating Confidence On The Spot | Dawn (Zig Zag) Montefusco | All Levels

Confidence is the memory of success. In this workshop you will be guided through a fun process that will help you reign in confidence by setting you free from stress and anxiety that can accompany getting on stage. This process will show you how to build your confidence in a calm way with the three C’s: courage, consistency and compassion. She teaches a proven method you can use anytime you’re feeling scared or nervous about a creative project or performance. 

Next Level Ukulele  | Lewis Childs | Intermediate

There is something truly magical about the ukulele. Over the course of the pandemic the uke was my constant companion and helped me through feelings of isolation and despair. During that time I made around 40 arrangements of different songs on the uke and started to realize its value in expressing my own musical ideas. In this workshop we will break down different rhythmic strumming patterns that can be used in a variety of songs. We will also explore chord voicings on the instrument and how those shapes can be used to accompany melodic hooks that appear in so many great songs. Think of the opening piano figure in, “Just the Two of Us,” or that little instrumental interlude in, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to name a few. If you want to take your uke playing to the next level, I guarantee that you will get some tricks that you can use in the many adventures you will have with the ukulele. Fun fact: ukulele roughly translates to, “jumping flea” in Portuguese. Take the leap, it’s gonna be fun!

Taming Your Inner Critic | Matt Meighan | All Levels

One obstacle to the flow of any creative work is our personal troll, the inner critic – the quick-to-judge voice in our heads telling us that anything we’ve written is no good.  The inner critic finds fault with everything, and likes to use the word “too” – too corny, too angry, too depressing, too rhyming, too . . . fill in the blank. These pronouncements block creative flow, leaving us feeling stuck, or stop us from writing altogether.

Through writing and discussion we’ll explore ways to reduce the inner critic’s power to inhibit us from expressing our truth in song.

Circles of Song! | Ali Boyce and Robin Jackson | 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.

Intro to Beginning Music Theory  | Stephanie Cooke | All Levels

Knowledge is power in songwriting and music making, and this workshop seeks to give a solid foundation for those looking to begin or refresh their  music theory knowledge. In this class we will review note reading, basic note values and work on clapping and counting rhythm. We will learn about the 12 major key signatures and their relative minors through the use of the Circle of Fifths, and learn how to build major scales. In addition, we will work on building the four types of triads (major, minor, diminished and augmented) and learn how to identify them in lead sheets. Finally, we will segue into using our knowledge of key signatures, chords and scales to play on the most common chord progression in Western music: the I-IV-V-I.

We will work on these concepts in a supportive and low-pressure environment where everyone can ask questions and build community.

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

Do you find yourself using the same chords over and over again?  Do you crave more musical variation in your songwriting? It’s easy to fall into ruts after learning the basic chords on guitar – because they do work – but it’s also just as easy to learn to break out of those basic patterns.  We’ll go over alternate ways of playing common chords, movable chord structures, and experimenting with different chords under the same melody.  We’ll also learn how to play the basic chord shapes in two different alternate tunings – DADGAD and CGBDBD (open G) – a game changer for anyone wanting to diversify the sounds of their guitar accompaniment.

Hearing and Playing the Melody of Rhythm – Part One | 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 and create 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, of which I am a lifelong student, as well as an intro to the drums, with which you may be familiar. 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.

Voicestra and Vocal Improv | Robin Jackson | All Levels

Use the power of your voice 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. 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!

Merging with the Muse: A Creativity Playshop | Jonathan Brinkley | All Levels

How does a song become a song? What is inspiration? What is writer’s block? How do we make friends with our inner critic, choosing how and when to use that powerful tool? These are a few of the questions we explore in this fun and transformative Playshop. Join veteran singer-songwriter Jonathan Brinkley as he uses innovative games and practices to get to the bottom of the creative process. 

What to expect: 

  • All are welcome from newbies to pros! You don’t have to be a songwriter at all to get a lot out of this experience. 
  • Learn the power of free-writing.
  • Discover what limiting ideas might be blocking your path.
  • Use games to conjure exciting new creative pathways.
  • Better understand song outlines and formats.
  • Play with improvised melodies and lyrics.
  • Acquire many more tools of the trade…

Songwriting as Truth-Telling | Matt Meighan | All Levels

Songs arise naturally in all of us and sing in the world around us.  Giving voice to those songs is a journey of discovery.  Along with craft, writing songs means 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.  We’ll do writing exercises with optional sharing, exploring approaches to starting and finishing songs, getting unstuck, and cultivating inspiration through deep listening and songwriting in community.

For anyone interested in writing songs, whatever your writing or musical experience.

Closer to the Bone: Transform Your Struggle into Art | Dawn (Zig Zag) Montefusco | All Levels

Learn how to turn your wounds and/or struggle/s into art with poetry and song. Everyone goes through dark times and struggles, especially now. These struggles all have universal truths. When shared they can not only transform you, the writer and creator, but also others. Learn how to connect to your audience, by allowing them into your private world. Dawn teaches how to get closer to the real you and develop your authentic voice to engage any audience.  In this workshop, you will peel away any fluff to get into the brave places of your soul and create beauty from shadows. These emotions have energy and vitality. As we learn to get specific about what’s right in front of us,  we hit upon truths that allow the audience to be fully engaged.  (Spoken word, Poetry, Song)

Songwriting: “What’s Gonna Happen Next” | Lewis Childs | All Levels

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. 

The Embodied Voice | Ali Boyce | All Levels

In this 2-hour workshop, we will explore our voices using meditation/mindfulness, breath awareness, visualization, restorative yoga, movement, technical exercises, sounding, and singing. The aim of the workshop is to empower and inspire you to use your voice freely and with full expression, gaining more awareness of the connection between your voice and body.

This workshop is designed for singers and “non-singers”, anyone who has wanted to sing but doesn’t/hasn’t for any reason (fear, overwhelm, not feeling good enough, etc.), and anyone who is curious about using their voice in a more free, uninhibited manner.

Medicinal Poetry & Lyric Writing – Parts One & Two | Niema Lightseed | All Levels

Poetry is the voice of the soul channeled through words. A blend of intuitive listening and refined crafting that taps into the pulse at the heart of creation and deeply affects our consciousness. One of the ways that we connect with, make sense of, and heal our relationships to both our inner world and the Life around us is through creating art. Through guided meditation and practices to connect with your Muse, writing exercises, and editing tips, attendees will learn a process for more deeply tuning into your life experiences, recording them, and then translating those experiences into art that can help broaden your own understanding and nourish others. Whether you are crafting poems to be read and spoken or lyrics to be set to music, this workshop can help you write words that are meaningful to you, learn to alchemize your experience into medicine, and refine the process through which your lyrical music-making can become a healing art.

Please note that this workshop is being offered three times during the weekend. It is generally  the same all three days, but with enough variety that a student can come to both Fri & Sat/Sun if you want to. Friday’s class will focus more on generating material and Saturday and Sunday more on digging deeper and the editing process.

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.  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 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. 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.

One-on-one Coaching Sessions | Zak Borden | All Levels

Spend time with Zak one-on-one for guidance, support, and inspiration with your songwriting! (5 slots available)

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.  

Song Theft: Making Songs from Songs | Matt Meighan and Robin Jackson | All Levels

The expression “great artists steal” refers not to plagiarism but to taking elements of existing songs as inspirations and springboards to make something new.  Through exercises, discussion and examples, we’ll look at ways to tap into the inexhaustible reservoir of ideas and inspiration available in existing songs and use them to make something new and uniquely your own.

“Pocketable” Song-writing: Rounds, Layered Songs, and other kinds of Singalong Songs  | Samara Jade | All Levels

Have you ever wondered how to write a round?  Or a short, repeating song that can get a room full of people singing harmonies in minutes? With the popularity of song circles and song-sharing gatherings on the rise, it seems more and more folks like to carry these “pocket songs” around, ready to sing and teach when the right moment arises.  In this workshop, we’ll go over musical techniques to write these kinds of songs – and write some together!  We’ll also take some time for guided personal reflection to come up with a phrase that embodies what we most need to hear right now – and put that into a short simple song too.

Speak Easy: How to Free Your Singing Voice | Jonathan Brinkley | All Levels

Get ready to learn crazy simple exercises that will unlock your true voice, diminish strain, and bring the fun! Jonathan has been helping students accomplish just that for more than a decade. Singing is our birthright. Let’s do this!

Body Mapping and Self Mapping  | Stephanie Cooke | All Levels

Have you ever injured yourself while playing music? Do you have concerns about long term overuse on your body? 80% of musicians will get injured at some point in their career due to mipmapping their body and moving in ways that are injurious!
Body mapping is applying anatomical information about the body to prevent injury and promote facility while playing an instrument or singing! 

By taking this workshop, you’ll learn to become more embodied and educated, and avoid injury by: 

  • Discovering how knowledge of anatomy and movement promote freedom and artistry
  • Exploring techniques for developing confidence as a performer in a supportive setting 
  • Learning how to manage performance anxiety and prevent hearing loss

Discover how you can play for years to come while creating a stronger, healthier and more balanced body!

Songwriters Circle | Hannah Sophia | All Levels

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. 

InTensions | Nick Harris | All Levels

InTensions is an inspirational/motivational workshop I developed to build mindfulness, self-awareness, and confidence through setting goals, setting intentions and mindful movement.  In short, InTensions is a play on words.  What is putting you in tension?  Identifying the barriers in your life that prevent you from fully being the songwriter you were born to be.  Identifying the things that are causing you tension in your life?  (Distraction/stress/anxiety/worry/self-doubt/scarcity mindset/anger/frustration etc).  Then, setting intentions to identify songwriting goals, prioritizing songwriting goals, setting intentions to meet those songwriting goals, and doing so through journaling and yoga.  Using these powerful tools to positively work towards relieving the things that are causing the tension, that could be causing writer’s block, stress, and unhappiness in someone’s life.  

In this workshop you will:

·       Learn the basics of reflective journaling

o   Questions: Do you have a songwriting process?  Do you track your progress? Do you have a lyric/idea journal? Are you celebrating your wins along the way?

o   Intentions are a focus tool to decrease distractions, to stop giving away your power to those distractions.

·       Examine your habits

·       Move mindfully through the practice of yoga

·       Learn how to set strategic songwriting goals

·       Learn how to set attainable and realistic songwriting goals

·       Label distractions

·       Set intentions: 

o   As we align our intentions with our songwriting goals, we strategically remove that which does not serve us, further empowering your journey toward being not only a healthier version of yourself, but the best songwriters we can be.

§  The “I AM” Concept. §  Example:“I AM getting my guitar in my hands every single day.”  vs: “I hope to play guitar as much as I can.”

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

This workshop is a continuation for those who attended Part One. After revisiting the polyrhythmic song from the first class, we will bring our new skills to another song with just a little more complexity and push. The goal for this class is to begin to perceive how polyrhythm is a technology in and of itself that informs how we experience music as we know it today.

Arranging Your Songs for Recordings and Performance | Zak Borden | All Levels

Over many years of touring with ensembles, one of my favorite roles has been to arrange songs and to create fun instrumental fills and hooks. We will work together to get clear about the structure of a song and organize all the moving parts including:  intros, outros, solos, catchy fills and more. Also the crucial role of using space, density of parts, and when to stop adding more freaking parts! Every decision will be to serve the emotional impact and health of the song as a whole.

Private Voice Lessons | Ali Boyce | All Levels

Ali will teach 30 minute sessions and give simple tools that will help you gain more ease, awareness, and access to your voice. (3 slots available)

“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