Soldier Songs & Voices exists to serve our veterans with FREE music lessons, instruments when necessary, and a means of creative expression through music & song writing.
We are musicians, grateful to the men and women of our armed services for the freedoms we enjoy as a result of their sacrifice. We proudly offer Veterans and musicians alike an opportunity to share with each other the incredible powers of expression and camaraderie that only music offers. We owe them this at very least, for all they have already given us!
Orientation Notes for Facilitators, Song Writers and Musicians:
It is absolutely imperative in working with these Veterans that all egos get left at the door the minute we step into the room. This is about the Vet and the only “Rock Stars” we’re interested in is in the Veteran themselves. We are simply here to serve in a spirit of gratitude for the good of the Veteran. Bring your hearts and minds and leave the egos at the door and we’ll all be rowing in the same direction. Teaching the veteran simple guitar techniques of songs they wish to learn is the key to success starting out, if you don’t know the songs they want to learn, then learn them together. Being a good teacher is just mentoring the vet one session at a time to learn what they can and practice between sessions repeatedly, until they get it. The song writing sessions are equally as simple to share how you compose a song, there is as many techniques as there are song writers, so show them how you write and help them find their own way. In Texas will have Dustin Welch come to assist you in these workshops for a couple sessions and then we will monitor with your communication to assist with any issues that you need assistance to complete.
Absolute integrity with our Vets is important!
These folks are coming to us as a means to either cope with damages already done or as a preventive/alternative method of dealing with what they don’t want to happen in their lives as active military. Communication among facilitators and musicians is a key to our successful mission. We can only refine and provide a better experience for the Vets (and ourselves) by creating a dynamic environment of learning not only for the Vets but for ourselves as well. By sharing information with each other re: living our music methodology and practice as professionals, we will create a more powerful and effective experience for the Vet. Every veteran group, teacher and facilitator is unique and needs to learn what works and what doesn’t, and within few class of cycles (approx two months), we will interview facilitators to see what methodology works best for their workshops, gather recommendations and share within our musician network. Common sense says that we don’t hand them to much to quickly and provide tools they can use.
Outline of Objectives:
• As facilitators we are not therapists, we are musicians and teachers simply and primarily. The objective is simply to provide musical instruction to their vet/students. The primary burden of the facilitator is consistency in their own teaching style and absolute accountability to the vets, consistency. On time, good communication, and achievable objectives for the individual client.
• From an administrative scope, and as the number of clients increase, there should be in place a volunteer to oversee and assist the musicians help maintain the well-being and progress of the group of clients max (10 vets/ with at least two musicians pairs) for teaching basic guitar lessons and a song writing workshop with up to ten vets and two song writers that meet weekly. It is absolutely crucial that the vets do not become “lost” in the system or negated in any regard, so it is the role of the volunteer coordinator to keep watch. The purpose for volunteer administrative position is obvious to provide an absolute high level of service to the veterans and support the musicians.
• The long-term objective is that the vets/clients themselves become the facilitators. After all, the initial experience that brought them here is theirs and for the most part, quite outside an absolute comprehension by anyone who has never been in their shoes. They know the language better than anyone. When we start to see the men and women who have actually served in the field of battle become the teachers then I believe we will see a whole different level of accomplishment, understanding, and effectiveness in the protocol and application of teaching methods.
• The data regarding the effectiveness of the program is absolutely crucial. It is also, at first glance, a bit ambiguous. We are trying to prevent Post Traumatic Stress situations and occurrences, so our ideal result is in not only what happens in a positive framework for the vets, but also in what does not happen. We expect to see significant drops in episodic behavior and occurrences from the minute we start. We expect to see calmer, more rational responses to civilian-life situations that for the returning vet are all too infrequent. Particularly after dealing with what they have been exposed to in theatre as soldiers and deadly-force protectors of those in harm’s way.
• It is imperative that we collect and one day make our data available to the military and medical community to further and ideally enhance treatment of PTSD and combat related traumas such as Traumatic Brain Injury, (.TBI). Ideally and most certainly music will have a place in preventive and post injury therapy in the future. Almost any veteran in our program can attest to the power of music in helping them cope with and in healing the emotional scares that these maladies of war have afflicted upon them.
KEY FACTORS FOR SETTING UP THE PROGRAM
Setting up the workshop in a local live music venue with professional songwriter artists as the workshop leaders is our formula for our success, this is a natural space for the musicians and veterans to play, write and share their interest in music! Soldier Songs & Voices holds this as a key consideration for the workshops, it is a public place where people come together socially to enjoys themselves and it works!
Posters and flyers announcements and a local Press release will be provided BY Soldier Songs & Voices to post both digitally and by hand to get the word out that the workshops will be starting up. We recommend that the instructor artists have a volunteer coordinator to facilitate the workshops and help get the word out to veterans that hang together and promote the workshop with the Pocket Cards supplied to help you get the word out. The first workshop may have two or three veterans and that is a good start! See our checklist of start-up items to be shipped to you at the end of this document.
Basic Training: Songwriting
By Dustin Welch
To illustrate how I think about songwriting, I usually point out a few things first. A song can do whatever you want it to, but once it begins to be created, the song’s the boss. You have very little control over it once it starts rolling. There’s all sorts of rules and things people talk about on how one can be crafted, and to some degree, it’s good to have a little knowledge of elements like phrasing, rhyme scheme, imagery, form, those sort of things, but really it can be broken down pretty simply. You have to remember that what you are doing is essentially talking to people, so it should be fairly conversational. Meaning, the lyrics aren’t being read off the page, you’re singing them to people, and there’s a big difference in how folks process that sort of thing. You can only get about halfway to the listener, which means they have to want to meet you in the middle, so you have to do your best to keep it simple. Your delivery is a big part of that, too. When you sing what you’ve got to say, sing it how you’d say it. Language has a natural rhythm and melody to it, which you’ll notice when you think about where certain syllables are accented in a phrase. You want to enunciate and try not to internalize so much you mumble through it. Usually if I find myself doing that with a line, it means I need to go back and change something. You don’t wanna over-do it either. Don’t try to shove it down their throat. Instead, think about it like you’re laying it in their lap.
Songs are pretty compact little things, which is another reason why you want to keep it simple. Novelists talk about short story writers as being geniuses at refining a storyline, but when all you’ve got are sometimes sixteen lines, maybe twenty-eight, thirty-two if you’re really writing an epic, then you’ve got to pack a lot of information in that small amount of space. One of the best ways to go about that is by writing something that makes the listener assume further about the character or the situation by what is understood in what you don’t write. Okay, for instance, I just wrote this thing where there’s a line that says, “I scrape the ice off my windshield with a Pixie’s CD case…” Right there, you know this guy is running a little late cause he doesn’t have everything together and can’t find his dad-gummed ice scraper, so he probably had a rough night the night before, so his mind is still on all of that and isn’t able to concentrate on what he’s doing. Plus, you gotta figure, well maybe this is the first frost of the year, so let’s say it’s late November early December, and he probably doesn’t even live somewhere that sort of thing is common enough to really keep track of, so let’s say he’s in Alabama or Kentucky. On top of that you know he digs the Pixie’s so he was kinda into the punk scene back then, but it’s probably not his favorite band because he wouldn’t be using it on his windshield otherwise and probably found it fishing around underneath his seat, but he’ll most likely stick it in the CD player once the car gets on the road and rock out to some ‘Bone Machine’ while he’s blowing into his hands waiting on the heater to get warmed up and trying to negotiate the morning traffic and focus on the day and figure out what to do about whatever happened the night before and start working on a good excuse for his boss or girlfriend or whoever’s waiting on him to show up to wherever he’s headed. See what I mean? All in one line. Now, the listener won’t have time to go through that whole thought process, but they’re gonna subconsciously know all about the guy without having to hear that whole spiel I just went through.
I try to imagine how I’d shoot the story like a director. What angle the camera is at, maybe it’s a shot from way back and maybe it zooms in to a scene of the street or the look on a person’s face. I think about what I keep out of focus in the background and about the ambient noises heard in the distance, the way the light works, if it’s cold and you can see your breath or if a tear falls on a dark blouse then it’s a close-up shot of the of the mark it leaves.
I think about how to explain something to someone who’s not there. How to make comparisons and use metaphors and analogies to get the point across as if they were standing right next to me, feeling the same thing. And I try to make the music feel how I feel when I’m in those places. That’s your call, I can’t tell you how to do that. Just make sure it lines up. It will if you’re being honest. The truth is the truth no matter how it’s presented. Don’t put something in a song you wouldn’t normally say to someone and don’t phrase it in a way that would sound weird if you said it. Finally, if you get stuck on something, ask yourself, “What is the coolest possible thing to say here? If I were a total badass, and I probably am, what would I say so that everyone will realize that I’m the one running the show.” It never fails, ever. Listen to Tom Petty.