Why do we spell SongwritingWith:Soldiers the way we do?
This is a question we are frequently asked, especially by folks who need to write our name for documents or press pieces. The three words — songwriting with soldiers — are simple and straightforward, but put them together, like we do in real life, and something unique and magical happens. (Just check out the songs!)

Each word matters — We don’t write for soldiers. We don’t write about soldiers. We write with soldiers to truly help them tell their stories through songs as best as we can. And, like the spelling of our name, we keep that purpose closely tied to all we do.

How many retreats do you hold?
We currently hold 4-6 retreats and 8-10 workshops per year. Our goal is to increase those numbers each year.

Where are the retreats located?
We host our retreats in tranquil settings in the vicinity of US Military bases, VA Centers and/or VA hospitals.

What happens during a retreat?

The primary focus of our retreats is the creation of songs written collaboratively by participants with professional songwriters. When not in songwriting sessions, participants take part in additional creativity workshops (photography, videography, cooking, and more) and relaxation sessions (yoga, reiki, massage). We also value the power of conversation and recreation to keep the creativity fueled and to build lasting connections with fellow participants, staff, and volunteers. Each evening, newly written songs are played for the first time for the entire group. “I thought I was the only one who felt that way” is a frequent comment. On the final afternoon, all songs are performed. They are recorded on-site during the retreat.

What happens after a retreat?
We keep our connections going with participants. We hold group calls and provide an online forum to get feedback, share updates, tips for song sharing, networking and more. Retreat alums volunteer to help out at upcoming events. They connect with each other. They each receive CDs, DVDs, and photo/lyric books to savor. These items preserve positive memories, instill pride, and help participants share their stories with others. The ripple effect goes on and on after a retreat.

How do you attend a retreat?
Our retreats are purposely very small and intimate in order to maximize the “face time / creative time” for each participant. When a location is confirmed, we work with area service providers, past participants, VA centers and facilities to host participants. If you are interested in attending a retreat, send us an email at info@songwritingwithsoldiers.org  We will let you know if there is a retreat in your area.

How do you select the songwriters?
Founder and Creative Director Darden Smith curates our network of professional songwriters. He emphasizes a mastery of skills in co-writing songs, an ability to listen deeply, an ease collaborating with others, and a genuine desire to write great songs with veterans. Period.

How do I share my songs/poems/stories with your program?
We are happy that so many people are doing creative work in this area. Our program is purely focused on songwriting WITH soldiers, so all of our material is from the soldiers that we work with during the retreats. We encourage all of you who have material to keep sharing it in as many ways as you can — it all adds up to make a difference in many lives. Post them on your Facebook page, contact groups who are in need of material. Share! We will keep putting our material out there as much as we can, too.

How can I help with the program?
There are many ways to help with the program. First and foremost is to help spread the word about the program and the need to bring it to more veterans. With more exposure, our partnerships and funding will increase. Simple as that. The more funding we have, the more retreats we can hold.

As we grow, opportunities to volunteer will increase. We currently rely on area volunteers near retreat areas and many of our past participants have joined our volunteer team. We are thrilled to provide opportunities for our veterans to stay connected and serve as ambassadors for the program.