ABOUT | Dar Williams
"…I'll just say that her songs are beautiful. Some are like finely crafted short stories. They are, variously, devastatingly moving, tenderly funny, subtle without being in any way inaccessible, and utterly fresh—not a cliché or a clunker in her entire songbook." –Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker
Dar Williams has been writing songs and touring for over twenty years, drawing inspiration from her travels over four continents and from the Hudson Valley where she lives. She has recorded nine studio albums (eight with Razor & Tie Records), clocked in over 2,000 gigs, and has enjoyed teaching at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival song school, Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch, Steve Earle's Camp Copperhead and in conjunction with concerts at many schools. Teaching an undergraduate course about music movements and democracy at Wesleyan University renewed Dar's faith in the importance of making music and also in the intrinsic, life-affirming value of creating songs, a process she is excited to be sharing in her neck of the woods.
If we're lucky we feel our lives
Know when the next scene arrives
So often we start in the middle and work our way out
we go to some Grey sky diner for eggs and toast
New York Times or the New York Post
Then we take a ride through the valley of the shadow of death
But even for us New Yorkers, there's a time in every day
The river takes our breath away
And the Hudson, it holds the life
We thought we did it on our own
- Dar Willliams, The Hudson
“Perhaps the best that can be said is that everyone who I speak to about it says they haven’t heard me sound this alive and passionate about something in a long, long time… Since I’ve gotten home, I’m writing with new confidence and inspiration. I gained more out of it than I could put into words.” -R., 2013
ABOUT | The Team
Rick Gedney, Guitar Coach
Michele Gedney, Songwriting Coach
Rick and Michele Gedney, known as the duo, Open Book, have been writing, recording, and performing together since 2000. Their original music features multi-part vocal and instrumental harmonies. In addition to their own music, Rick and Michele have provided instrumental and vocal arrangement and accompaniment on many recording projects. Rick is also a teacher of guitar, mandolin and banjo. Open Book has released three albums which have received critical acclaim and national airplay. In addition to providing daily guitar tips and inspiration for those guitarists in the group, Rick will be taking appointments for one-on-one guitar consultations for all level players. Michele will be available for private song consultations for any songwriters wanting to benefit from her refined perspective.
Raquel Vidal, Retreat Coordinator, Songwriting Coach
Raquel Vidal is the lead singer and songwriter of Diamond Hotel, an original band performing throughout the Hudson Valley and greater NYC area. In addition to her band project, she has enjoyed collaborating with other artists vocally and instrumentally both on stage and in the recording studio. As a mom, photo stylist and shoot producer, her experience has organically prepared her for the varied skill set required as all-round happiness facilitator and retreat coordinator. Raquel will be available by appointment to help songwriters looking for an ear and a heart on their work in progress.
Justina Golden, Vocal Coach
Justina Golden is a mezzo-soprano who has been teaching students aged 11 to 82, shower singers to professionals, for thirty years. She has sung in the contemporary folk, Celtic, early music, jazz and classical genres. Justina is a member of the Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble, the 5-member early music ensemble Cantabile, The Wilde Irish Women Repertory Company, and is on the staff of the Umbrian Serenades, taking groups of professionals and talented amateur singers to Spoleto, Italy to perform choral concerts under the direction of conductor David Hayes. Justina worked with Dar in the early years of her career and will be joining us with some vocal tips, tricks, information and inspiration to help better understand our unique vocal instrument and learn how to access our finest voice while presenting our songs.
Lara Demberg Voloto, Yoga Instructor (June)
Lara began practicing yoga because she thought it would be easy. By the time she realized her mistake, she was hooked and has now been teaching in the Hudson Valley for the past 15 years, offering creativity, careful attention and thoughtful conversation. She is also currently pursuing a master’s degree in mental health counseling with a specialization in trauma and the body. Lara’s classes are challenging, accessible, empowering, sometimes goofy, and fun. They are about building an ever-deepening conversation with ourselves through stories, metaphors, and experiential learning in a safe and welcome space. Lara encourages students to bring their curiosity, their challenges and their intellect to the mat. Lara will conduct an all level yoga class for an hour each morning, incorporating our songwriting focus into the practice. It's by no means mandatory, but if you haven't been to a yoga class before, this would be a very friendly place to give it a try!
Sandra Slokenbergs, Yoga Instructor (August)
Sandra received her 200 hour yoga certification in 2006 and has been sharing her love of yoga the last twelve years to adults, teens and kids. She is a certified Chair Yoga instructor and teacher/trainer for Kidding Around Yoga, a company whose goal is to promote peaceful, happy children. Sandra spent a decade living in Riga, Latvia, where she was the owner of Satya Yoga, a studio which attracted a wide diversity of nationalities and led classes and retreats in English and Latvian. In addition to teaching yoga at various studios locally, Sandra offers private sessions for yoga and public speaking. She is an adjunct professor at Marist College, where she teaches Public Speaking and integrates yoga principles into public presentation. She is a member of the Hudson Valley Writing Project and strives to devote her time to creative writing and promoting the love of language to teenagers and young adults. Sandra is honored and delighted to spend a week among inspiring and aspiring singers and songwriters!