Songs that make you feel alive

 

Last updated 4/26/2022 at Noon

Brad Tisdel

Scott Crabtree (right) performed his original song during the final evening of the Song A Week workshop series, while CJ Neary (left) joined in with some lead guitar improvisation.

With shaky knees and my guitar in hand, I entered the Sisters Art Works building on West Adams Avenue.

“A Song A Week with Jenner Fox” was my first social event in Sisters since moving here in December, and I had no idea what to expect from the locals I would be interacting with. A dozen of us settled into a quaint room filled to the

brim with artwork and instruments.

“What was the first song that made you feel alive?” This was the first question Jenner asked the group. I looked up toward the ceiling, racking the filing cabinets of my memory for the answer. A scene caught my attention, one in which 4-year-old me was screaming the words to “Small Town,” by John Mellencamp with my father in our family’s Toyota. A fitting title for my current location. As we shared our songs — Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Leonard Cohen in the mix — I wondered what about these songs awoke a piece of our soul that led us to this very gathering.

We moved on to our next portion of the session, which soon became my favorite: bad poem writing. This was a chance for us to let our creative consciousness flow without any expectation of delivering something worth keeping. Leaving my inhibitions behind, I wrote a short piece about a noodle soup recipe I had been trying to perfect. Despite being tasked with writing something “bad,” I found myself enjoying both the process and the end product as well. I listened as my fellow songwriters delivered their own mini-masterpieces and shocked themselves with their own words.

Without stating it directly, Jenner’s activity taught us an important lesson about leaving high expectations at the door when songwriting.

This activity led us directly into the songwriting itself, the heart of the workshop. Jenner asked us to choose any song, rewrite its lyrics, and revise its melody in the span of 20 minutes. After that time, we regrouped and shared what we had created. As someone who does not consider themselves a natural performer, I was terrified, but my fear subsided when I witnessed the kindness and humility flowing through the group. We ended on a high note, everyone having shared their songs, buzzing to create more.

Subsequent sessions followed a similar pattern: discussion, bad poems, and songwriting. I found the time I spent in sessions transforming the time I spent outside of sessions. I started spending more time in the community. I took to the guitar and piano more often. I woke up in the middle of the night with lyrics inside my brain screaming to be let out. I let my words flow out, instead of caging them inside with unrealistic expectations and fears.

After four sessions, our hard work culminated in a sharing circle for our final gathering, where each songwriter had the chance to share two songs. The songs shared displayed our diversity as a group, from my song about a lost mouse, to another song about an estranged family member, to another about finding grace with those different from you. The one quality they all shared, however, was that they were finished and they were completely ours. Every person there rose to the occasion and showcased a little piece of themselves that night. I wholeheartedly attribute this success to the songwriters, Jenner Fox, and the town of Sisters itself.

“A Song A Week with Jenner Fox” was a beautiful display of the diversity, creativity, and strength possessed by the Sisters community.

 

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