Dar Williams' Songwriting Retreat
When I first started songwriting, folk singer Dar Williams' Honesty Room album was always on in my house and it had a great impact on my development as a songwriter. The first song I ever played at an open mic was her tune "When I Was A Boy"--I taught myself how to read tabs and play in DADGAD tuning to sing it--and it remains one of my favorite songs to this day. I've seen her perform at various venues over the years, from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in upstate NY to the former Starr Hill Brewery in VA to most recently at House of Blues in New Orleans this past April, and always enjoyed getting to see her captivate the crowd with her soaring melodies and attention to lyric. This Labor Day Weekend, I had the great fortune to get to know her in a new capacity: I attended Dar Williams' "Writing a Song That Matters" 5-day songwriting retreat, held at the beautiful Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY, right on the Hudson River!
Luckily for me, this particular retreat was much smaller than the two held before it--just seventeen 'Dar-lings' instead of the typical thirty, plus the five-person staff made up of songwriters Raquel Vidal, Michele Rubin and Rick Gedney (of Open Book), Ty Greenstein (formerly of Girlyman), and, of course, Dar herself--which made for a very intimate feeling. From Friday afternoon to Tuesday mid-day we spent our time freeing our minds, eating delicious vegetarian food, drawing inspiration from nature and art, practicing our songwriting craft, workshopping our creations, and singing other artists' "songs that matter," which mostly meant having large group sing-a-longs of 60s folk songs every evening. I came away from the weekend with new songs, new friends, and a lot of good ideas on how to keep songwriting a central focus in my daily life.
For those who are interested in finding out more information about next year's retreats in July and August and experiencing it for yourself, visit darwilliamsretreat.com. Although next year's dates and application aren't officially posted yet, you can get an idea of the application process and overview of the retreat at the site (and word from the inside says the dates for next year's retreats will be July 13-17 and August 3-7). Happy songwriting!