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Songwriters' virtual retreat offers spiritual component

Songwriters' virtual retreat offers spiritual component

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Folks who follow creative pursuits for a living can find new ways to recharge their practices in a retreat conducted on Zoom.

In “Song & Sanctuary: A Virtual Retreat on Songwriting and Spirituality,” scheduled for Feb. 26 to 28, participants can learn how starting the day with such centering practices as meditation or yoga can give creativity a boost, even in the face of pandemic stress and isolation.

Charlottesville songwriter and producer Nan Macmillan is teaming up with Boston-based singer-songwriter and event producer Naomi Westwater to present the retreat. They met at Berklee College of Music, where both completed master’s degrees in performance and production.

Macmillan said she starts her weekday routine with about 15 minutes of yoga before work. “If I take that time to be with myself, it leads me into a day that’s just more relaxed,” Macmillan said.

“Hopefully, everyone will come away with some new tools,” Westwater said. “Often, I’m trying to create musically after I’ve done something stressful, and it’s just not happening.”

Having “quiet time to wake up the brain” is the goal, and many practices can help artists get there, Westwater said. A walk in the woods might be ideal for one person, while another gets a boost from meditation.

Macmillan said the retreat also can help satisfy “the deep need that a lot of people are feeling — and especially creatives — for connection.” Bouncing ideas off each other can offer “a really good way for people to connect,” she said.

The retreat is designed to help people ages 16 and older “connect with their creativity and each other.” The daily schedule begins with meditation, yoga and guided writing time, followed with afternoon sessions and workshops and evening music time.

Participants will learn yoga with Isabel Stearns and MaryAnn McIvor; recording at home with Marcela Rada; songwriting with Ted Coffey, Macmillan and Westwater; poetry with Erica Charis-Molling; and creative flow with Morgan Mitchell. There also will be a business panel with Tim Hall, Roya Hu and Luke Vose.

The virtual setting makes gathering easier, logistically and financially, while folks aren’t traveling much during the pandemic; it also removes such barriers as having to arrange lodging and meals.

“It’s a lot more accessible, and we can all connect,” Westwater said.

Both organizers said that the retreat can offer artists and musicians a welcome moment in the midst of pandemic tension and disrupted schedules to “bring back the joy” and let their guard down.

“We’re encouraging people to be vulnerable,” Westwater said. “Oftentimes, we think of the end product when we’re creating.” The virtual retreat, and the practices it offers, can help musicians “think less about, ‘Am I writing a hit?’, and more about the process of creating.”

Westwater hopes the retreat will help dispel the idea that misery has to be part of the artistic equation.

“You don’t have to be tortured to create,” she said, adding that it can be easier “when we’re feeling spiritually connected, whatever that means for each of us.”

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