FOUNDER / CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Darden Smith is a master at making collaborative songwriting a safe place for personal expression and making creativity accessible and desirable. He is honored to put these skills to work with SW:S.
A singer-songwriter, arts entrepreneur and founder of The Be An Artist Program, his 30-year career as a musician includes fourteen critically acclaimed albums, TV appearances on Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show, and countless concerts and shows. Along with touring in the US and Europe, Smith works with Fortune 500 companies on creativity. His 2013 TEDxAUSTIN presentation, “Fearing Your Gift,” can be viewed here. An in-demand speaker on creativity, he was the 2011-2013 Artist-in-Residence at Oklahoma State University’s Institute for Creativity and Innovation.
CO-FOUNDER / PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Mary is a master at creating collaborative programs that inspire connections and highlight individual and community strengths. When witnessing Darden Smith write a song with a veteran, she was compelled to put her skills to work in creating the SongwritingWith:Soldiers program.
With vast experience in Positive Psychology, educational programming and organizational communications, Mary helps SW:S create the most effective and meaningful experiences for everyone involved. Her creative reach is reflected in her client list which includes New York State Department of Economic Development (I LOVE NY); MentorCoach training programs; VIA Institute on Character; Indian Ladder Farms: The Mayerson Academy, The HAPPY Movie; Discovery Retreats, and more. She has studied Positive Psychology with leading researchers from around the world, is an international workshop presenter on the subject and was a discussion facilitator at a United Nations meeting on Happiness and Well-Being. She serves on the editorial board for the India Journal of Positive Psychology and PsyInsight magazine. Mary co-founded The Barn School, an award-winning sustainable agriculture camp that raises funds for family farms and Heifer International®. She earned coaching certifications from Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, MentorCoach and others. She has a B.S. in Organizational Communications from the University of Texas at Austin and teaching certifications in Speech, English and Spanish.
Kristin’s passion for music, service and the power of the arts led her to SongwritingWith:Soldiers in the fall of 2017. She brings twenty years of non-profit development and leadership experience through her work at KCRW Los Angeles, the GRAMMY charities, and Nashville Opera.
“The work of SongwritingWith:Soliders aligns with and deepens all the reasons I came into non-profit work. I’m grateful to join at this important milestone and honored to continue the work with Darden, Mary and the entire SW:S community.”
Sean McKenna is a thinker, designer, writer, director, marketer, data geek, musician and all-around useful character.
He has a 25-year track record in the creation of thoughtful, strategic marketing and design for local, national and international brands. Sean brings the unique mix of marketing professional with an award-winning design aesthetic, and a creative professional with a curiosity for data and passion for results. He is honored to bring these skills and passions to bear for SongwritingWith:Soldiers.
PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT ADVISER
Judy G. Smith served for nearly ten years as Director of the Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army. With a keen eye for details and a warmth that fosters connections, Judy managed and directed the CASA program and provided support to the Secretary for public outreach. Smith planned, developed, coordinated, advised and directed special activities and program areas, which involved high-level interaction with officials. She served as the Secretary’s principal personal point of contact with the White House and Congress on a variety of primary assignments. Prior to this role, Smith was executive assistant to the chairman of Enron Power, who became vice chairman of Enron Energy Services in 1998. She also worked as executive assistant to the chairman of Enron Corp., responsible for special projects and providing full support for the 1991 Economic Summit, the 1992 Republican National Convention, Community Partner’s Father of the Year Awards, the Barbara Bush Literacy Awards and the Governor’s Business Council. Judy is thrilled to guide partnership development for SongwritingWith:Soldiers.
PROGRAM ASSISTANT – MEDIA AND DATA MANAGEMENT
Rob brings a wealth of skills to SW:S as well as insight into many facets of the armed forces. After completing Basic Training in 2000, Rob was deployed to Balad, Iraq in 2004 with Delta Co 2/108th Infantry attached to the 1st ID. As part of a Heavy Anti-Armor Infantry Platoon, they evaluated terrain searching for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on route clearance missions and performed high-risk traffic control points. Back home, Rob served as a Training NCO with the New York National Guard 42nd Infantry Division. He now serves as a Joint Operations Center Controller for the New York National Guard at Joint Force Headquarters. He is working toward his Bachelor of Science in Multidisciplinary Studies at Grantham University. Rob has also been certified as a 200hr registered Yoga teacher (RYT), and uses those skills to bring solace to fellow veterans.
PROGRAM ASSISTANT – RETREATS
Krista supports Program Director, Mary Judd, with retreat set up and logistics. She holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Management and is a 200hr registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with years of teaching Hatha Yoga. After volunteering during Hurricane Katrina, she found deep fulfillment in helping others relax during tough times — and went on to earn multiple certifications in yoga & wellness therapy training. She is a highly sought-after instructor and shares her expertise, warmth and smile with SW:S retreat participants at retreats in NY. Being the spouse of Rob, a combat veteran who participated in a retreat, she knows firsthand the benefits of the program and the community the retreats create.