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April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

Featured Stories

Everybody Has a Song Within:, a Transformative Songwriting Workshop Series

December 2019

Astra Kelly. Photo by Cathryn Beeks.

Conducting a workshop in the studio.

Conducting a workshop at Donovan State Prison.

Q&A with local performer and songwriter Astra Kelly about her new transformative songwriting workshop series, called

1. Who is Astra Kelly?
I‘m a good ol’ midwestern girl livin’ the dream in California. I’m proud to have built a career as an artist/musician, performer, singer/songwriter, producer, and vocal/songwriting coach. I’ve been wholeheartedly committed to a spiritual path and to a meditative practice since I was a preteen and I’m also a Reiki master/teacher. I’ve put out eight records on my own label and perform well over 200 shows a year. I find great fulfillment in being of service through music, i.e., helping others find their creative mojo and process the tough stuff of life via the vehicle of songwriting.

2. What is and what is the inspiration behind it?
It is a themed small group songwriting experience for non-musicians and musicians alike. It is meant to open a space for each person to tap into their own creative source and facilitate growth, healing, and connection within the process of songwriting. Music has saved my life time and again and has really been an other worldy experience since the first moment I began songwriting at about age 12. Somewhere along the way, I realized in my heart that I wanted to share the profound nature of the process with others and give back through music. I’ve explored various ways of doing this, but when I started working with Jail Guitar Doors to facilitate a rehabilitative songwriting workshop at Donovan State Prison, things really came into perspective and I was able to hone in on an approach that could translate well within any scenario.

3. What exactly is the process?
Okay, well this is by no means exactly how it goes down every time, but I want to give you a really good idea of what happens in that space because this is the number one question I’m getting. So here you go:

• You just know this is something you have to do, so you sign up for the workshop.

• You show up ready and open for whatever will come into that space.

• Introductions

• I guide us in a short meditation to open the space, unify as a group, tap into creative source, and set an intention for the song to be heard.

• I blow apart the topic, exposing all angles, stripping away layers, and revealing various perspectives. Everyone throws in their thoughts and we discuss while I continue taking notes

• We write for five minutes (lyrics or just random thoughts… there are no rules.) When time is up, each person shares a few lines from their writing. I add these to our white board notes and we discuss more. We clarify our ideas and work through confusion, questions, and blocks. This is where the real nitty gritty starts to happen. It’s the stuff of breakthroughs and revelations. And by now, we are undoubtedly in this together and are understanding and supporting each others individual processes.

• Everything is making more sense now and we start assembling our thoughts and words into the song as lyrics. Sometimes verses come first, sometimes the chorus. It just depends. We refine for a bit, get a few strong lines and then pick up our instruments and find a couple of chords to experiment with.

• From this point, things start to come together pretty quick. We move back and forth between refining and adding lyrics and singing them with the chords until we’ve got a solid song and can perform it as a group.

• I record us performing the song and voila!

Note: My job as facilitator is to keep us moving forward always. I often feel like a conductor pulling together all of the elements spontaneously. So many times, I’ve wondered (and even worried) if it was going to happen or not. Somehow, it always does. Also, if no one else is musically inclined, I will always be that foundation for us.

4. What are your future plans for
I want to continue trying public workshops at various locations to see which ones click. Maybe a weekend retreat or a “Sipping and Songwriting” event paired with wine. I’d also like to expand the philanthropic element of the workshops and be able to offer them to women’s shelters, rehab centers, veterans, youth programs, and cultural centers. We are exploring ways to receive funding for this via grants and sponsorships. I also envision offering these workshops privately, as team building exercises for businesses, and as one-on-one sessions where individuals choose their own topic. I’d love to hear suggestions and ideas from your readers!

5. When is the next workshop and where can people get more information or contact you with questions?
The next workshop takes place on Tuesday, December 10, 6-9p at the Lotus Room, a studio located at 3752 Park Blvd. #102. We will explore the topic of “acceptance.” I chose this topic for a number of reasons. The holidays often challenge us to accept our family members for who they are. We’re reflecting upon the year and perhaps need to accept ourselves and the challenges the year has given us. Maybe we need to “drop the oars” and accept we cannot control things as we move into a New Year, for example. There’s so much great fodder for songwriting!

Visit to register in advance and for more info. And please go to to find out more about yours truly.

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