Song School 2017

Last week there was no blog, because my partner and I were at the Rocky Mountain Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. I spent the week almost entirely unplugged: away from my phone, not thinking about work, not focusing so hard on the news. It was…

Well, it was incredible, really. I didn’t get a lot of writing done (there are classes pretty much all the time, and they’re all fascinating, and it’s impossible to get to all of them), but I learned so much. I met so many amazing, beautiful people doing amazing, beautiful work. We talked about songwriting generally, but also about songwriting as survival, as resistance, as revolution. We held space for each other, cheered each other on and pushed each other to do better. 

I’ve never been in a new place around so many new people and felt so safe to be myself. 

It was an amazing experience. I don’t have adequate words to describe it. 

The road trip there and back was pretty great, too, although we did have some moments in small towns where we didn’t feel so safe (being an obviously queer couple in small town rural America can be frightening). I remembered, once we were finally in Colorado, that getting out of the city and into nature sometimes is essential to my mental health. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget in the convenience of living in Chicago, where I can get everything else I need, but it’s important. 

I’m going to be processing what I learned and working on the new songs I started for a few months, I think. I can’t wait to go back next year!

2 thoughts on “Song School 2017

  1. You are both a very welcome additions to the Song School family. I’m glad to hear that you felt the acceptance that we try to engender. You’re wonderful people and we are honored that you chose to spend time with us, share your stories and talents.

    Rob Mattson


  2. Hello Alexander. In the summer of 2016, I flew into Denver to visit my brother. A few days later, on Sunday, I would borrow his camping gear, and head out to Lyons. I could not remember the last time I camped, that’s how long it’s been. My adventure began after goodbyes to my brother, his wife, and my two deliciously cute nephews aged 4 & 6. I had no idea what to expect while sitting inside the glass metal rubber wheels surrounded by nature’s wonder. I was headed on to the Rocky Mountain Song School in Lyons, Colorado.

    Once I arrived, picked out a spot to pitch my tent, and repeatedly stumbled while trying to pitch a one and a half person tent, I too realized the depth of my urban life and how disconnected I was to nature. And yet the warmth of those whose annual pilgrimage brought them to Lyons, quickly enough welcomed me into this world they knew so well.

    The evenings were filled with scattered campfire like song groups, each person taking turns singing and playing their originally written songs. The days were filled with a variety of outdoor class groups from songwriting to visualizations, to guitar skill development, and on and on. In the early evenings over the coming days, we’d gather into the performance hall, treated to a collection of original songs by each visitor to the Song School. The talent was intimidating. But that’s when I realized: “Here we are, surrounded by nature, people singing, playing instruments, while the rest of the world burns. So take this all in, and bring back the talent into the world. The world needs this.”

    It was Thursday evening, I had been working on my song to perform in the performance hall, but wasn’t feeling quite well. I’d wake up in the mornings with a dry scratchy throat, and it took me a bit to get going. I always had difficulty with altitude, coupled with dry Colorado air. One hour before my scheduled time on stage, and I couldn’t go on: I’d completely lost my voice. But I went on stage anyway, and whispered into the mic my song to the audience.


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