art camp

pilgrimage

Last night I arrived home from Masterpiece Project 2017, an arts camp for teens where I spend one week each summer facilitating a songwriting studio for 10-15 students. Each year has its own theme which we explore together via a camp-wide collaborative project. This year’s theme was “Pilgrimage.”

Through film and song and words and drama and photography, we talked about Journey. The path. The detours that turn out to be the path. Internal conflict. Interwoven paths. Reflecting back and imagining what might be ahead.

It’s resonant from where I stand in this middle part of life, with the accumulation of days growing behind me and still craving more adventure. I can actually count decades now, and say things like, “Remember 20 years ago when Princess Diana died?”

But even this one day, today, was its own micro-pilgrimage from waking with a neck-ache and no agenda to this very moment where I sit in the dark on my back patio, listening to dogs bark and crickets chirp. I have a small glass of red wine and a bit of dark chocolate I was too tired to eat last night.

The in-between hours of daylight included a 90-minute, unplanned conversation with my daughter in this same spot, where we talked philosophy and faith and relationships. There was a trip to the Y where I was surprised by tears (mine) on our way in, and sat instead on the side steps to the building. My daughters found me and sat with me, too. We traveled across town to a church I’ve wanted to visit and were soothed a while by the gentle tone of the pastor’s voice and the truth on his lips. We ventured into Panera to feed our bodies and Target to acquire tools for the upcoming school year. And now here I sit, reflecting.

Today and for the past week I’ve fought hard to stay present and emotionally-armed as I am reminded at every turn of a painful detour in my life. My friend said a week ago: “The detour is the path.” It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since.

And making me angry, too. I mean, some detours could be avoided, right? Some detours become necessary only because people are selfish and put up roadblocks that affect everybody on the road. Right?

Yes.

So what? Here we are. What are we going to do about it? Here I am taking this unexpected route, a route I didn’t see on the map, and have no knowledge of or interest in. Taking this route is going require re-arranging and will make me miss some beautiful things I’ve looked forward to. I’m tired and my pack is heavy and the view ain’t that great.

This detour hurts. A lot.

Caspar David Friedrich - The Wanderer

Caspar David Friedrich - The Wanderer

Sara Groves sang in "Painting Pictures of Egypt": The future looks too hard and I wanna go back.

It's so true it hurts my heart to even listen to it. You get it.

But you know what?

We're doing it. We’re moving along. We woke up this morning, and we put some clothes on our bodies, and we said, “Okay, now what?”

Life is story, and in all great stories, the protagonist only grows when the writer allows them to walk through a fire of some kind. We develop, BECOME, more real, more fully human, when our surroundings become suddenly unfamiliar, and we feel out of sorts even in our own skin.

I adore my little back patio, but sitting here doesn’t make me stronger. You don’t read about patience and magically become patient. You live stuff that makes patience necessary, so you get better at it.

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I don’t have anything new or revolutionary to say, just still teasing it all out, this idea of being a pilgrim in progress towards something Marvelously Other than what we’ve seen.

I’m a whiny pilgrim. I'd like to watch “Gilmore Girls” and sleep on my special, chiropractic pillow and have all my favorite people live closely in a town of tiny houses near the beach. Because that’s my small mind’s best attempt at conjuring a picture of heaven. (I'm pretty sure it’s close.)

I foolishly sang, “I haven’t been asked yet to walk the hard road,” knowing it was a matter of time. I don’t want this stupid hard road. Neither do you. But I know this: A road is a means of travel and connection.

The hard road is not a grave.

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There are no roads to nowhere when you’re listening for the voice of the Maker like a whisper on the wind. When the route gets washed out in the mudslide, we (God + us + our loving people) will innovate another way. We will. We’ll feel sorry for ourselves for a minute. And then we’ll get up, clear some debris and innovate another way.

It'll sometimes feel like hiking barefooted off-trail on rocks, but it won’t feel like we’re doing it alone. Not if we pay attention.

And we’ll make up some decent songs along the way.

Keep going, little pilgrim...there’s beauty around the bend.

All photos by wonderful Lana Kozol, Masterpiece Camp Photographer

All photos by wonderful Lana Kozol, Masterpiece Camp Photographer

NEW MUSIC + Thoughtful Gifts For Songwriters

Well, friends, the time really got away from me this fall! While it's not quite as wintry here in Nashville as in this lovely photo, it's getting a bit brisk for the thin-skinned (me) and Christmas is a mere 15 days away! 

Somehow between tour's end and now, I failed to post about the two most recent songs released through Tune Tribe! These two happen to be a couple of my favorites this year, so I don't want to leave them out. 

ALSO, since it's December and you just might need gift ideas for a special music-maker in your life, I have some great suggestions for you at the end.


DOWN DOWN LOW

It was campaign season here in the States, and like most everybody, my ears were so tired of the ugliness. Many of us had to be intentional about taking a break from social media because it can become so unhealthy to feed on the strife. It was a challenge to me, too, because I want to know how to be a good listener and share my thoughts in a loving and open way.

So on the first leg of the Three Birds Tour, while I drove from Atlanta to Nashville alone, I kept the radio off and started thumping on the steering wheel and singing this melody a capella. A totally new approach for me, as I typically have to be at the piano to write.

The accompanying artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton is appropriately titled "Noisily Day and Night."

Here's a preview of Down Down Low:


THIS DECEMBER

The last new song of 2016 is "This December" which I also did not start at the piano. I wrote this chorus on the ukulele with my oldest son in mind, but also so many others who are asking lots of great questions about faith and tradition. It has a hint of Christmas and winter, but I like to think you could listen to it year-round and not be offended. :)

This piece of Mandy's is titled - also aptly - "Something I Cannot Name."


TUNE TRIBE + TRIBE SONGS

Digital Downloads - If you're new around here and are interested in getting these and the rest of the year's song demos digitally, you can subscribe HERE ($10) & we'll send you a link to stream/download (wav + mp3) at your leisure. You'll get 11 songs now plus one more next month and the opportunity to vote for the ones you think I should include in my next full-production album. Would love to have you join in!

Physical CD - Order a copy of Tribe Songs, my home-brewed album of all these new song demos I've recorded with Jess Ray this year. I'll send you a hand-labeled audio CD with 11 previously unreleased songs. Click HERE to get your copy of Tribe Songs ($12).


THOUGHTFUL GIFTS FOR SONGWRITERS

INSTRUMENTS or ACCESSORIES

A new or different instrument, other than their primary one...New strings...Travel case...Cables...Boom stand...Guitar stand...Yeti Pro USB Microphone (I love mine!) for home recording/worktapes...Quality headphones...Portable PA...Soundboard...Performance mics...

JOURNAL + GOOD PEN

Everyone has their preferences. In recent years, I've used basic marble composition books. My most treasured one was a small-sized soft leather journal with a string that wraps around it. Small enough to not be intimidating, lovely enough to be inspiring.

BOOKS

Here are a few of my favorite creativity-themed books:

  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
  • Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo
  • Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison (supposed to be great, though I haven't yet read it)
  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin

I also recommend books of poetry and great fiction, both great food for the soul and inspiration for songwriting!

SUBSCRIPTION to American Songwriter magazine. This is truly a great gift for any music-maker. I only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover!

CONCERT TICKETS - There's almost nothing more helpful to a musical artist than to actually go see live performances. If cost were not an issue, most of us would be attending a lot more of these events & would be better for it.

Don't just look for the big productions, though. Those are a lot of fun, but your typical working artist needs real inspiration and ideas that can come from enjoying a great performance at a more intimate venue. It's so helpful to be up close and learn how to share music in an effective way without the big machine & lights. 

I also recommend giving tickets to theater productions and arthouse movies. Most of us will spend the money to see a mainstream film that's gotten great reviews. Fewer people take a "risk" on indie films, but those can be the most provocative and interesting. Read reviews & get two tickets so you can go together and discuss after!

HOST A HOUSE SHOW

If your writer is ready to share their work publicly, you could plan a concert in your own home and invite your neighbors, co-workers and family. Being a host is always a gift to yourself as much as anyone else. It takes a bit of planning and effort, but it's so worthwhile. You don't have to have a lot of space or a fancy house. Just space for some friends to gather & listen - everyone will thank you!

SCHOLARSHIP TO A SONGWRITING RETREAT OR MASTERPIECE PROJECT

Retreats - There are always songwriting workshops and retreats available & I speak from experience when I say it can be just the thing an aspiring songwriter needs to take the next step and grow. I am co-hosting one such retreat with my friend & collaborator Nicole Witt in East Nashville January 6-8, 2017 (one spot left), but with a little googling you'll be able to find one nearby, maybe even hosted by one of your favorite writers! (Link to our retreat: "Artist And" Songwriting Retreat)

Masterpiece Project - Masterpiece is a creative arts camp for high schoolers in southern Kentucky. I facilitate songwriting workshops there one week each summer and cannot speak highly enough of this experience. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was 16.

Escape to the LakeThis non-profit organization is all about promoting "gourmet" faith-based music, and their annual 4-day music festival is unlike anything else. The biggest difference is that it's small, no green rooms, no smoke and mirrors. Your songwriter will get to sit at the lunch table with the performing artists and writers, talk around the campfire, play at an open mic, and attend panel discussions. AND the festival is usually prefaced by a 2-day songwriting bootcamp! This is a fantastic opportunity, another one I would have loved to have had early on.

DEMO RECORDING SESSION

Help your writer get a song professionally recorded. Cost can range from $200-1500. Find some local producers, listen to their work online and make sure you like what they do, and consider the purpose of the demo before determining your budget so you don't over-spend. This can be an exhilarating experience for a new writer and would be a fantastic gift!

MUSIC

I know Spotify and Apple Music are the go-to, but here's the thing. They pay us next to nothing. The reality is musicians NEED to be paid for their work in order to keep creating it. Encourage your artist to pay for the music he/she loves most by giving an iTunes gift card. Or give a vinyl copy of a favorite album to your younger listeners. Physical CDs for the car. And maybe give music that has stood the test of time, something a young writer can learn from and enjoy.

TIME

If your creative person is married to you or has children, the best gift you could give them is TIME & SPACE. Take the kids for a whole day or one night a week and let her write in peace! Or surprise him with a room or space set up just for his composing. Simple, free, and oh so meaningful!

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS

We all need them, and the good ones are usually expensive. Help arrange and pay for their next session with someone who specializes in artist photography!

WEBSITE DESIGN

You can build your own, but some of us could use a little help taking it up a notch. Or maybe your friend doesn't have a domain yet and you could buy the domain in their name so it's ready when they are!

ONLINE MENTORING SESSIONS

I - and other writers I know - love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. We don't have all the answers and are still growing ourselves, but we have learned a few things along the way, and it's really a pleasure to share what we have. When I host a session, I like to hear some music and give feedback and then discuss anything the other writer has questions about. It's really great (and rare) to get one-on-one attention from someone just a few steps further up the road. Email for more info: taylor@christawellsmusic.com

Through a group we've started called ARTIST AND, my friend Nicole Witt and I also periodically host online gatherings of about 8 people at a time to discuss particular themes related to artmaking. Join the Facebook community ARTIST AND to stay in the loop!

So I think that's a wrap (heh heh) on gift ideas! Have something you'd add to the list? Please leave suggestions in the Comments section.

Love to you and yours as we wait & prepare for the glorious coming, now just a couple of weeks away!

christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, there you have it. My quick brainstorm on thoughtful gifts for songwriters. Have more ideas? By all means, share them below!

Love,

christa

 

 

In case you missed it before...April 17th, Wheaton, IL

Join us at Wheaton Bible Church on April 17 to find out about Masterpiece Project, a uniquely intimate setting for young artists to explore issues of art and faith and build mentoring and peer relationships. (And have fun, of course!)


masterpiece promo from David Vosburg on Vimeo.

  Masterpiece Invitation

Masterpiece is incredibly close to my heart. 

I was once a very lonely teenager, despite being in the middle of a large and loving family. Although I didn't yet identify myself as being an "artist," I didn't identify with other established groups at school, either. I didn't play a sport and was pretty shy--didn't volunteer for student council or anything like that. And I had no idea why my music-making should ever really matter beyond my own pleasure. 

If the intimate environment of this week-long summer camp had been available to me then...a place where I could be mentored by adult artists of faith, where I could get to know other young people who were wired towards the arts, and where I could find encouragement as I practiced the various art forms...I cannot begin to tell you what that would have meant to me. 

But if you come to be with us on April 17, some of our students can tell you firsthand. If you are in the Chicago area, please come. I'll be there, along with internationally renowned calligrapher Timothy Bottsand author/art historian Daniel Siedell (God in the Gallery).  

CLICK HERE to read my blog post on Masterpiece Project 2009: Flow.

CLICK HERE to read my blog post on Masterpiece Project 2008: Genesis Eternal.
 

You know someone who needs this camp...

Masterpiece Project...two camp sessions offered in summer 2010...a uniquely intimate setting for young artists to explore issues of art and faith and build mentoring and peer relationships. Last year's theme: Flow. This year: Frame the Clouds. (hmmm, where have we heard that before?) Check it out!

masterpiece promo from David Vosburg on Vimeo.