April 12-14, 2024

A weekend in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina teaching songwriting with intention.

Retreat Schedule

Please note that the schedule is subject to slight changes and participants will be notified via email prior to the retreat.

Friday, 4/12

• 10:00 am – Meet and Greet, staff and class intros

• 11:00am-12:35 pm – Expanding Our Vision in Song – Reggie Harris

“The eyes have it. Writer James Baldwin once said, “The role of the artist is to show that world what they see…!”  in the effort to respond to the world around us and to reveal useful perspectives in song. Video prompts and photo images help the writer to explore context and practice description in song. It can also move out of the sameness of narratives. Using short videos, photos and story prompts, we will work at creating short songs that capture feeling, emotion and context and share them with each other.

12:15-1:30 pm – LUNCH
Space is available for lunch at the Civic Center, but you provide your own food. You can bring lunch, order and pick up, organize a lunch run, and if you want, hang out with your fellow songwriters and get to know them.

• 1:30-3:30 pm –   The Rewards of Rhyming – Don Henry

Nobody ever called him “Near Rhymin’ Simon”.

We’ll look at some a well rhymed songs and show how hunting down a great rhyme can accidentally open up some brilliance in your song that you didn’t know was there!

• 4:00-5:30 pm– Is It All About Me?  Cathy Fink

A combination workshop and discussion, we’ll talk about perspective in a song. You can, and should, write whatever you want. But does that mean anyone else needs to hear it? If it is an extremely personal story, will others understand the song without an introduction that’s longer than the song? How does the approach differ writing someone else’s story vs writing your own? And when writing someone else’s story, fictional or non-fictional, what are your obligations. This discussion is more about awareness than any answer being right or wrong. But, we have all sat in song swaps where someone sings a song they’ve written for their own therapy that doesn’t resonate with anyone else.

Dinner on your own

7 – 8:30 pm –  Song Swap at Arts Council Building


Saturday, 4/13

• 10-11:30 am – Musical Hooks– Don Henry

So often songwriting classes focus primarily on lyrics. This class will show how musical cadences, phrasing and chord progressions can be as important as a great lyric.

(Bring an original verse or chorus and we’ll have some fun!)


• 12:00 – 1:30 pm  Updating Traditional Songs – Reggie Harris

Songwriters have long used existing songs and melodies to trigger some new inspiration.

Some notable examples would be Bob Dylan’s use of No More Auction Block” for writing Blowin’ In The Wind” and Pete Seeger’s use of the hymn melody “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” to frame his song “Of Time and River’s Flowing.” Folk tunes or public domain offerings can provide a spark that lights a fire for a new tune. We’ll take a look at a few traditional tunes and see where inspiration lead us in examining and updating some present-day situations.

1:30 – 2:45 pm – LUNCH
Space is available for lunch at the Civic Center, but you provide your own food. You can bring lunch, order and pick up, organize a lunch run, and if you want, hang out with your fellow songwriters and get to know them.

• 3:00 – 4:30 pm – Editing Your Song Cathy Fink

Step by step, we’ll talk about the details that help you make your song better. You’ll have a chance to do some of your own editing in class and we’ll take a song or two from participants to demonstrate editing possibilities.

4:40 – 7:30 pm – Hangout with your Fellow Participants, dinner break

• 7:30 pm –  Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Don Henry, Reggie Harris

9:30 pmSong Swap at Arts Council Building

Sunday, 4/14

• 10:00- 11:10am  Turning a Six Word Story into a Sony  Cathy Fink

We’ll be writing in class, starting with six word stories, turning them into 50 word stories and then turning them into songs, or parts of songs. This is a fun repeat workshop that always yields new results and forces us to think efficiently.

• 11:15 am – 12:15 pm – Performing Tips from the Pros  Reggie, Don & Cathy

Don, Reggie & Cathy will talk about preparing songs for performance and discuss ideas for presenting the songs. Does every song need a spoken intro? What do I do if I don’t play lead and planned for an instrumental break in my performance?  

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm Meetings with Instructors and Preparation for Student Showcase

Each participant can schedule one meeting with one instructor for 15 minutes to work on one thing- it can be help with a song, song title, song puzzle, challenging line or other single focus topic. Meantime, many participants enjoy helping each other with harmony or instrumentation for the participant showcase and this time can be used for rehearsal.

• 3:30-5pmParticipant Showcase at Ashe Arts Center