Overflowing with Songs and Gratitude!!

IMG_4572Five camps, over sixty young songwriters and over a hundred songs and I’m sitting here in a coffeeshop in Oregon City feeling so much gratitude towards every kid, parent, assistant and host who have participated in this project over the last three years. Writing songs with kids has reminded me of the joy that comes from the process of creating with spontaneity and curiosity. The list of benefits that I witness these programs providing continues to grow and instead of learning from what didn’t work, I spend most of my time examining what exactly is making these programs so successful!

The strong connections and empathy that build between campers as they allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of each other is a testament to the true nature of human beings to be compassionate towards one another. Many of our songwriters this summer experience anxiety and a variety of challenges when it comes to reading, writing and focusing for long periods of time. We observed these anxieties alleviated to a high degree as they were given the freedom to use words in whatever way they chose, whether it was nonsensically, as poetry, as improvisation and then set in an artistic framework of melody and rhythm. Campers are also provided a variety of choices as to how they’d like to spend their time whether it be sound engineering, writing lyrics, drawing in their journal, working with a group, playing an instrument, mentoring younger participants and so much more. Songwriting can be a tedious process so we make a point of getting out of our heads with spontaneous dance parties, nature walks, theater games and even meditation.  Parents who swore their child was too shy to perform in front of an audience were delighted to watch them describe the process of songwriting and then perform an original piece in front of a crowd of peers and strangers. Most importantly, we had so much FUN! From swimming in freezing cold rivers, to spying on shoppers in the local supermarket, to long walks in the woods, to using paint and recycled materials to make instruments, to our end of the day listening sessions.. every day ended with smiles and excitement for what the next day would bring.

Thank you again to each and every one of you who has participated in making these camps such a transformative and enjoyable experience for myself and for the young songwriters I’ve been so blessed to work with. I’ll be spending part of the fall in Europe and then back in October to offer home school programs, private and small group sessions and planning next summer. Enjoy these pictures and please reach out to me with testimonials, comments, suggestions and requests for a Young Songwriter program near you! My email is havilahrand@gmail.com or fill out the form..

YOUNG SONGWRITER SUMMER CAMP AUSTIN 2016

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METHOW VALLEY YOUNG SONGWRITER SUMMER CAMP 2016

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YOUNG SONGWRITER SUMMER CAMP SEATTLE 2016

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VASHON ISLAND YOUNG SONGWRITER SUMMER CAMP 2016

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BELLINGHAM YOUNG SONGWRITER SUMMER CAMP 2016

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Gratitude and Looking Forward…

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Greetings and Happy New Year from Havilah, the founder and creator of Young Songwriter Programs. First, I want to thank the many friends and supporters who gave to our Indiegogo fundraising campaign in November and December. Together we were able to raise $2500 which will go towards paying for recording equipment, instruments and providing scholarships for five young songwriters this summer. (by the way you can STILL donate so check out the link HERE) So far I’ve been a one woman machine but now I feel like I truly have a team of supporters and believers behind me. Now, more than ever, it’s so important to give young people the opportunity to tap into their own innate creative talents and express themselves without fear or judgement. After years teaching in both public and alternative learning classrooms, I know the stark difference between a child whose true potential is being stifled or awakened, whose self confidence is being torn down or lifted up and whose desire to create is being supported or squelched.

My dream is that the philosophy and guiding principles of the Young Songwriter Programs will be embodied in a curriculum that can be integrated into public and private school learning communities. For now, the summer camps and workshops are flourishing. The after school workshops at both Integrity Academy and Austin Village Academy culminated with over twelve songs about everything from fossils to minecraft to the fear a tightrope walker must feel when hovering over a city. I also led several private workshops at birthday parties, Christmas parties and a New Year’s Day gathering. These were beautiful moments when I was able to facilitate groups of both young people and adults co-writing a song that was of course recorded and given to each participant.

If you know me, then you know I have itchy feet and have to move around frequently. I’ll be in Austin, TX till May with a quick jaunt to the Colorado area in April. I’m available for private coaching, small group workshops and homeschool programs so contact me if you are interested! Then in June I will offer a Cirque De Soleil summer camp at Integrity Academy from May 30 – June 3. This will be a blast as we write our own music, practice dance and acro-yoga to create an incredible performance. I’ll then take off for the Pacific Northwest and lead summer camps in Twisp, Seattle, Vashon Island and Bellingham all in Washington State. Check out the Summer Camp 2016 page for more details.  In August, it’s off to Alaska. Then a tentative plan to head to the east coast and Europe in the fall. I’ll keep you posted and please reach out if you are interested in helping put together a workshop, house concert, or combination in any of these parts of the globe.

Much Gratitude to all and may 2016 bring you many opportunities to be creative, to sing songs and to manifest your dreams..

Love, Havilah

Creativity Inspires Leadership

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The beautiful thing about my songwriting  workshops is that they take on a life of their own. I barely have to plan because only the slightest nudge is needed for young people to open their hearts and express what is inside. Young Songwriter Rio who is 8 years old has not only written several songs over the past few weeks but has also become a mentor and coach to others who are more introverted. She helps adjust microphones, set up percussion, design posters and offer support and encouragement to those who are recording vocal tracks which requires great vulnerability and courage. Kids like Rio make my job less of a leader and more of an assistant.

Here is what Rio’s mother has to say about her daughter’s experience in the Young Songwriting Workshops. I’m blessed and grateful to receive these words..

“We are so pleased with the work that Havilah has done with our daughter during their songwriting workshops.  Havilah has a great gift and real talent for helping kids express their creativity through songwriting, singing & music.  I have seen my daughter gain confidence and a new love of music while working with Havilah. When they are making music together the flow is incredible to see.  I highly recommend Havilah’s class!”

Letting go and coming alive

IMG_20140218_120440“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Four weeks ago I packed everything I could fit into a 1996 Kia Sportage and left my life in Austin, TX for a valley in the North Cascade mountain range in Washington State. It was a tough decision but in the end there really wasn’t a question. There aren’t many things in this life that I feel sure about. What I am sure of is that singing and writing songs is as much a part of me as breathing. I am sure that being around kids strengthens my soul enough to weather most confrontations I have with adult egos including my own. I am sure that it will always be extremely difficult for me to be anything other than myself. I am sure that if I don’t spend the majority of my time doing something that I enjoy and that I find exciting and purposeful, that I will slowly die.

I made the choice that served every desire (besides money) my heart was longing for. More time singing, more time being creative with kids, more fresh air, less time in traffic, less time recuperating from a job that would deplete my creative energy rather than strengthen it, I got in the car and drove forty hours through the desert and the sunset colored hills of California and through the wet forests of southern Oregon back to my heart so I could BE alive instead of TRYING to be alive. Life has a way of making us think that there is always something more or different that we could be if only we tried harder. I find more and more that by accepting who I am in this moment and embracing it wholly brings me the closest to realizing my full potential.

As many others, I have often made the mistake of comparing my life to other’s, scrutinizing my choices and wondering why “normal” things like family, a steady job and home have never happened. I’m eternally grateful to whatever higher consciousness has helped me to see that our most precious belonging, our greatest treasure is our story. With its beauty and intrigue, heartbreak and strange twists and turns….this what we have to share with each other. When we find a way to share our selves and our most authentic story with the world, whether its through writing, singing, teaching, building a house or bombing down a snowy mountain..this is when we truly come alive and are serving the greater good of humanity.

I have a lot to say these days so stay tuned. I hope to take advantage of these chilly nights and early mornings by writing my story and sharing it with you.