Swimming in the River of Your Song: Q&A with Sloan Wainwright

Sloan Wainwright, one of SummerSongs’ favorite long-time teachers and mentors, will be back July 30-August 6, 2016 to teach two classes: “Swimming in the River of Your Song” — a creativity workshop with lots of games and prompts to get your creative juices flowing; and “Singing with Heart, Body and Soul” — a vocal workshop featuring a combination of vocal warm-ups and work-outs, with plenty of individual attention and support.

Here’s what she had to say about singing, the creative process and the power of songwriting camp:

Q: What are people most challenged by in terms of getting into their creative process?

A: I say people are mostly challenged by time. That’s why I love taking that time to be in the space of creativity. That’s what camp is all about. People also tend to need to identify their process and figure out what it’s like for them when they’re creative and being compassionate about that. We practice that as well in our space of creativity.

Q: Can you discuss how you work from songwriting prompts in “Swimming in the River of Your Song”? 

A: It’s really free-writing work with timed exercises, providing a jumping-off place with spoken or written prompts. Usually it’s something open-ended and evocative. What’s interesting is that people react to them differently. Some people take prompts literally. Others listen to the cadence of the sounds and take off from there. A lot of people need to give themselves permission to get into the creative process, it’s a kind of uncoiling and unraveling and bumping into your voice. What I like about it, too, is the energy that gets built up in the group, because we also share what we wrote. I like to be playful and childlike with it — we don’t have to be too serious.

Q: What do students tend to want — or need — to learn in “Singing with Heart, Body and Soul”?

A: It’s important to put together a simple personal vocal practice. You do have to practice with singing, It doesn’t have to be heavy and hard, it can be fun and easy and light. A lot of it is about our belief system when it comes to singing. But it’s all about warming up, being in our bodies, connecting to our breath, using the voice, relaxing and learning to practice. I’m there for people all week long to help them learn about what they have and how to use it.  To help them seek that balance between relaxation and control.

Q: What do love about a songwriting retreat like SummerSongs? What do you think keeps people coming back? 

A: it’s very powerful to be immersed in a community of like-minded folks. I think that founder Penny Nichols has such a beautiful vision. And with the help of her team, they invite fantastic facilitators and mentors, people who really shed light on the power of putting together a practice, of identifying our process as artists. Learning new things is great, but being together is also great. It’s about being in a loving community but also a learning community. It’s good for all of us as we grow and expand when we’re together. The intention itself is very powerful. That’s been put out there and all of us are in alignment with that. That’s powerful any way you slice it.

SummerSongs , founded by singer-songwriter Penny Nichols in 1999, offers seasonal songwriting camps (summer and winter) for adults on both the East and West coasts of the United States. The songwriting camps take place in the Hudson Valley of New York and on the beautiful California Central Coast, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Both locations are perfect havens for songwriting and creative inspiration. 

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