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VT parents, caregivers pen one-of-a-kind songs for their kids

A group of several people sit on couches and chairs in a circle, smiling. One person holds a guitar.
Kelli Prescott, Vermont Network
A group of Lullaby Project participants write songs in collaboration with Scrag Mountain Music.

Editor's note: This story was produced for the ear. We recommend listening, but have included a transcript below.

Recently in the Old Grange Hall in Berlin, Vermont, a group of local musicians performed a concert of original music.

But the lyrics from these songs didn’t come from the professional musicians — they were penned by local parents and caregivers as part of The Lullaby Project.

The program initially started at New York City’s Carnegie Hall and its Weil Music Institute, and has since spread around the globe.

In Vermont, organizers versed in trauma-informed care pair up with new and expecting parents, grandparents and caregivers who find themselves in vulnerable situations. Then they connect them with musicians — and facilitators from Writers in Recovery, the Lund Center and KidSafe Collaborative, among others groups — to help write personal lullabies to strengthen the bond between parent and child. Afterward, they perform the songs during a concert.

This year, two participants shared with us their experiences working on lullabies with Scrag Mountain Music, the Marshfield group that helps organize the Lullaby Project. And we’re identifying them by the first letters of their first names, as the Lullaby Project does.

First up is E., a preschool teacher from New Hampshire.

E.: I'm working on finding things that pull me out of my comfort zone a little bit. And this seemed like a really good opportunity to do that.

The process of sitting down in a circle with a bunch of strangers who all have a different path and story — it's like placing a magnifying glass over a small community and realizing that, like, we all walk our own paths, and we see and engage with people all the time that we don't know them. Imagine, seeing a tree and you see their branches, but you don't get to see their roots. And this process is like taking a deep dive into the roots of other individuals that you don't know that you just see, and you have this idea or stereotype and instead you get to know them. Because in that session, it's safe, it's vulnerable, it's stories — and everybody's story matters.

A portion of sheet music shows a musical staff and notes along with song lyrics, "Here I'll do it all again."
Lullaby Project, courtesy
One local participant in the Lullaby Project used a poem as the catalyst for her original song. Scrag Mountain Music members performed the piece at a live concert last month at the Old Grange Hall in Berlin.

I did bring my kids to see the performance. And it was probably one of the most beautiful moments of my entire life. They completely nailed it!

Of all the places in the world, all of my travels, where is my safe space? When I'm with my family, and my children and my husband at home after a long day. That is the exact place where I feel the most myself. And so the lyrics of the song are, "Here, I find myself. Here, I'd do it all again. When the noise becomes too loud, when the day aches from the inside out, here's where I find myself. And here I'll do it all again."

D., a medical assistant at the UVM Medical Center, also described her experience writing a song with Lullaby Project.

D.: Creating my own lullaby was definitely a new avenue. It's a incredibly powerful and sentimental project. I felt incredibly welcomed. For me the process was very reassuring and soothing... and also healing for me.

My kiddo, she's eight. And we've been through a lot. We're currently in some stuff now, which is pretty heart wrenching. Unfortunately, the court systems are pretty backed up from COVID. And it seems as though her and I have kind of fell through some of the cracks, which is quite disappointing and pretty much added and prolong some trauma. And I can really only pray that that can be rectified once, you know, I get my time in court.

So this was really empowering for me. She hasn't heard this and she hasn't seen this. So this is something that I have gotten to put in with other things like writings and drawings and stuff that I sort of created for her during this time.

A hand holds a pen and writes lyrics onto a music score.
Jess Kell, Lund/Kids-A-Part
Faciliators from Writers for Recovery helped Lullaby Project participants write their own songs, while musicians from Scrag Mountain Music helped with melodies and instrumentation.

Some of my lyrics include, "Your beauty, your bravery is something so powerful. Deep in your soul, may you always know the miracle that you are. Please don't ever forget that you belong here, and the miracle that you are to me on earth."

My daughter, I think, for me, when I had her, her being here on earth is my first and only example of what the true meaning of unconditional love is. It's not something that I had or was taught and then having her, you know, I truly understand what it is and what it looks like.

This project just healed some wounds for me. And really just reminded me that, while there's distance, there's still so many things that I can do. And I can only hope when, you know, we're reunited, that she'll really understand that I've been here, just not physically.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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