SongwritingWith:Soldiers transforms lives by using collaborative songwriting to expand creativity, connections and strengths.

What started with a chance meeting after a challenging performance in a military hospital cafeteria in Landstuhl, Germany, evolved into some of the most moving, profound experiences I’ve known as a songwriter. Working with soldiers is to work with men and women who have served our country in situations that embody the highest — and the lowest — manifestations of the human condition. To give voice, never mind a complete song, to somebody who might not otherwise be able to describe those experiences is some of the most gratifying work I’ve ever done.

Darden at the conclusion of a retreat in Texas, 2015.
Photo by Andy Dunaway

SongwritingWith:Soldiers holds three-day retreats structured around songwriting, creativity workshops and relaxation to foster ongoing positive connections. They are held in tranquil settings which provide a welcome gift for participants. The intimate size ensures a safe, caring environment and extended one-on-one time with songwriters.

To play off that songwriting spark, we offer workshops including photography, journaling and guided stress relief (yoga, meditation), as well as unstructured downtime—all designed to help veterans connect back to themselves, each other and the civilian world.

At every retreat, we employ a team of highly skilled photographers, videographers and recording engineers to capture all the songs, performances and activities and transform them into CDs, DVDs and photo lyric books that are sent to all participants.

SongwritingWith:Soldiers is an ongoing project. We schedule retreats throughout the year, as well as offering guidance to other writers who are looking to use their craft in service of others. Some of the best songwriters in the US have brought their craft to this project — Gary Burr, Radney Foster, Georgia Middleman, Jay Clementi, Gary Nicholson, Mary Gauthier, Darrell Scott, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Ashley Cleveland, Maia Sharp, Michael Bradford, James House and Will Kimbrough, to name a few.