The greatest gift

I had a falling out with a dear friend and music partner several years ago when we made the attempt to turn our creative, musical partnership into a financial one. We had co-developed a method of songwriting together, which was born of the seeds of a songwriting method that my colleague and friend had called Autoethnographic Songwriting. This method, which came to be known as Story-to-Song (STS) during our time working together (I had the thought that giving it a name that reflected its parts and was simple might make it accessible to a broad audience beyond the academy), became the focus of our academic doctoral research, as well as our professional lives.

Our relationship was very meaningful for me and our creative time together was formative and life changing. Though our business endeavor did not materialize, I remain thankful for the time we had together. It has been a long process of grief and healing to move on and arrive at the place where I am today. I am continuing to guide songs into the world and am ever grateful for to have found an incredible poet, artist, and human being to work with here in Brussels.

I have periodically seen the work my former colleague has been doing in the songwriting realm, and it is impressive. He has created the business he desired and has a flotilla of documentary songwriters from around the world with whom he collaborates. His website is well-developed, and I have noticed phrasing and wording similar to that I use on my own site likely born from our time working together.

My own creative goals were different, which I believe was one reason our business endeavor ultimately did not succeed. I did not wish to train new songwriters. I wanted to be out in the world as a songwriter, helping people to give voice to as many stories as possible through music.

What has been painful, beyond the sadness of losing a trusted friend and creative partner (both of which are very precious), has been to discover that my contributions to the co-creation of the Story-to-Song (STS) method have been completely deleted from the history of the method. On his website, I am not mentioned at all for my work with him in developing this songwriting method. In addition, my requests to be be given ownership of the original domain name have also been refused, which has been challenging for me.

When I was first beginning my career as a park ranger, I experienced firsthand a colleague taking credit for my work. It was shocking and hurtful, and I would not wish the experience on anyone. It is for this reason that I always always do my best to honor the origin of ideas. I see my role as a songwriting guide as revealing and honoring the truth, so this is especially important.

In addition, I view collaboration was both beautiful and welcome in the realm of creativity. There should be no shame in sharing credit for a joint venture. In my opinion, the finished product from the joining of two minds is so much greater than the work of a sole individual.

I do not know why my contributions have been deleted from the origin story of this songwriting method, and it is all too easy to create my own narrative around it. My role in the creation of the STS method has also not been cited in scholarly work from his students. It is as though I do not exist at the origin story of this method, at least not in my former partner’s narrative. In his capstone project for undergraduate School, Wilder (2019) notes my former partner as the sole creator of STS in a capstone project for Oblerin College that is, ironically, titled, “Responsible Songwriting: Problem of Ethics and Negotiation in Collaborative Autoethnographic Songwriting.” So, too, does student Willauer (2018) in her undergraduate thesis for the University of Oregon.

Both of these works are published, and both contain information that is inaccurate, according to my narrative and experience, developing the method. When I reached out to Wilder, he had no knowledge of my role in developing the method and expressed surprise when I suggested that the information in his article was inaccurate.

The origin story of the method, as reported in these two published works and the text on the website for the organization my former partner developed, are also inaccurate according to his own definition of shared credit. Per his perspective, if I sent him a song I had written because I was curious about what he thought and he shared feedback, then this song became one that we would put both our names on per copyright. In this way, there should be no question that the STS method is a shared creation. My former partner brought an idea for songwriting to me and invited me to join him in exploring the idea. Together, we lifted the idea into a method with elucidated steps. It became a collaborative, shared creation.

These discoveries have been affecting me on a deep level and inhibiting inner peace. I believe it is important to share all human experiences, and so I felt it important to air my emotions as a means of attempting to let them go and allow for healing. Perhaps someday, I will finally let it all go. All that matters is my own knowledge of my contributions and that as a result of our collaboration a beautiful method for writing music was born.

As always, I am so very grateful for the support I receive from people near and far in my endeavors to give voice to all people’s experiences.

As my first yoga teacher used to say, “The greatest gift you can give the world is to tell your truth.”

Every person has a story, and every story deserves to be heard.

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