I attended my first Lambs Retreat for Songwriters in November 2013 and I have returned every November since. This event is hosted by my long-time friend John D Lamb and held at Birchwood Inn in Harbor Springs on the first two weekends of November. This year I attended both weekends for the first time. In the company of about 40 musician/songwriter/student attendees and five or six professional/dedicated/successful songwriter teachers, I submerge into a fantasy camp of sorts where everyone there speaks my language and they all (or most) are just as crazy as I am. For a few magical days, nothing matters except writing songs and making music. The schedule is busy and John runs a tight ship with everything happening on time and as advertised. Thursday evening we drink wine and respectfully listen to one another perform a couple original songs. Friday we are introduced to our instructors before we are each given a detailed song assignment to be performed on Sunday morning. Instructors present various workshops throughout Friday and Saturday. Saturday evening a well attended open to the public concert features our instructors performing for an adoring audience. Late night free time always includes song circles and jam sessions where we may show off our songs or maybe all join in on a favorite old chestnut.
So how do I benefit from attending Lambs Retreat? Aside from having loads of fun for a few days, the benefits are long-lasting. My writing has improved significantly from the instructors’ tips methods and advice, especially from one-on-one sessions with instructors. Hearing my peers perform and talk about their process has helped me put my work into perspective and focus on my own strengths and frailties. The friends and connections I have made over these few years has transformed my life as a songwriter from isolation to inclusion. I now feel part of a community and there are even a few smart and talented folks who are willing to listen to my work.
Results – I am noticing a pattern where I write songs all year and save them in folders. Then as I prepare for Lambs Retreat, I review them and decide which ones I should perform at Lambs. The audience reaction at song showcase is an excellent sounding board. Also at Lambs I work on a song or two with one of the instructors and usually with a few of my peers. Then a few weeks following Lambs, I visit Michael Crittenden’s recording studio and lay down some tracks, including songs that were developed in the process at Lambs. I confess that I have not produced any hit songs yet, but I am certainly having fun and getting better at this. Will I attend Lambs in future years? I am absolutely planning on it!