“Songwriting is a way to tell my story without judgment…
As a survivor I feel it is the best way to tell my story…
Music is healing and takes my mind to another place.”
– SONG Project Participant
& Survivor of Commercial Sexual Exploitation
As I wrap up The SONG Project groups for 2015 and look forward to next year, I am holding deep gratitude for the growth, transition and continued “work” of offering safe spaces to tell untold stories in creative and healing ways.
I’m operating in a new city and living full-time within the communities I work with. I’m building connections and seeing this work welcomed, while inviting and empowering women and girls to live courageously, seeing the light in their journeys alongside the struggles.
“The biggest part of this program that I enjoyed was the unity it encouraged. It also gave a peek into the lives of the other girls. The only complaint is that the time goes by so quick because of the fun you are having.”
– SONG Project Participant from Covenant House PA
A lot of friends, family and strangers ask, what is it that I do? What is The SONG Project, why does it matter, and is it actually making a difference? Unfortunately, I don’t get the pleasure of sitting down with all of you for tea and sharing these stories, yet I believe they’re incredibly powerful, and I believe people care to know! Many stories and songs are shared on my web site, but I also wanted to reach out and share in a more personal way.
The one-liner is, “The SONG Project introduces Songwriting to women and girls who have been marginalized by poverty, homelessness, violence, or trauma, as a tool for empowering them to tell their stories of oppression, resilience and hope in a creative and transformative way.”
I teach Songwriting as a tool for healing, encouraging and inviting women to tell stories that often come with a lot of stigma, silence and hardship. I ask how living with these stories shapes who these women and girls are becoming and want to become, hoping to shine lights on their strength, values and resilience, while allowing for safe space to share the stories of struggles and oppression. At the end of our time together, these stories have been transformed into songs that can be sung and shared in ways that the stories themselves often could not be.
During a session this fall, one girl was pretty timid and stated that she just wanted to listen. Of course, this is always fine with me, as each girl gets to participate as much or as little as she feels safe doing so! She also said she just couldn’t write and wasn’t good at it.
I reminded the room that it’s important to find ways to distract those voices that tell us that what we have to say and write isn’t good enough, quoting one of my favorite college professor’s claim that “[crap] is the perfect fertilizer.” This always makes the women and girls smile or laugh!
The girl who didn’t want to write ended up making a list of phrases, and one of them, “I Try So Hard,” ended up being repeated in the chorus and became the title of our song! Another girl came up with a melody to sing the phrase to while I played guitar, and by the end of the session the girls were jamming out and giving each other high- fives, concluding, “We have a hit!” and, “It’s going to be stuck in our heads all week!”
Here are the lyrics to the chorus from this group session:
I try so hard
But it takes time to heal the wounds of a brave heart Pain was always inside of me
Never wanting to be silenced
I try so hard
But to let go of the memories is so unfair
I don’t want to give up so fast
Drowning in the voices of the past
At the end of our session, when there’s an opportunity for participants to give feedback, the participant who only wanted to listen was all smiles, and wrote,
“I liked the breaking free
of the songwriting…
I enjoyed this whole experience with Ms. Nat (You Rock).”
Personally, I think she and all the girls make the experience what it is, and they are the ones who rock!
Since beginning to operate in 2012, The SONG Project has offered songwriting workshops and guitar lessons to roughly 135 women and girls who might not otherwise have the opportunity to express themselves through music.
Many participants have expressed feeling empowered to create in a way they never thought possible, and have felt less alone in their struggles as they’ve discovered their peers have similar experiences. The SONG Project has also provided a unique opportunity for its participants to build community and strengthen interpersonal connections through the experience of sharing their stories and collaborating to write a song together.
I rarely put an ask out into my community to support The SONG Project, yet I know it’s ultimately very important in being able to sustain this work. If you feel inspired by the stories and songs shared through The SONG Project and would like to be part of this movement to reach and empower more women and girls, here are a few ways to directly support The SONG Project in this season (and/or any time!):
1) If you have the means to make a financial contribution to help sustain the work of The SONG Project, donations are appreciated and accepted with deep gratitude. Donate Here! All donations are tax deductible! (The SONG Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purpose of The SONG Project must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” and are tax- deductible to the extent permitted by law.)
2) You can share this letter &/or a link to The SONG Project’s website with friends and family. The further this letter travels, the wider the community of support becomes, the deeper the impact of The SONG Project!
3) Like The SONG Project’s Facebook page! Click Here!
4) If you have experience in running a project like this, and have knowledge, wisdom or skills to share, please let me know! You can respond to this email, or send a message on the Connect page of my website.
Lastly, my hope is that in sharing these stories, you might also be inspired to share your story with others, to be community, and to do you, while knowing and believing it matters.
With peace and gratitude,