Our Approach to Retreats
Over the years we have found the following ingredients to be what makes for a successful retreat:
- support and respect for everyone
- catering to individual participants' needs for collaboration or solo time
- honoring a range of individual skills
- a delicate balance between freedom and structure
- good-natured humor and playfulness
- good food
- an inspiring setting
- encouraging creative risk-taking
- giving gentle and constructive feedback
- letting go of competitiveness
- building trust and community
(Image by George Osner)
Chris and Jim: Our Story
We have been professional colleagues as teachers, creative collaborators, writers, bandmates, and friends for many years. Both separately and together we have led many retreats, intensive courses, and workshops for adults and teenagers. Writing, performing, and sharing our knowledge and experience with others have been some of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of our lives.
Here's a clip of us performing a freshly written collaboration Anything You Want for students at a retreat in Mendocino a few years ago
And here is the final version performed by Big Dog Trouble:
Chris Alexander, Co-Leader
Born in the UK. Performed at Cambridge Folk Festival, then in bands with various members of Robyn Hitchcock's Soft Boys and Katrina and The Waves. Recorded with PVK Records. Worked on the Eurovision Song Contest. Moved to San Francisco in the 80's, played solo and in The Captions, HQ, The Aliens, Rough Draft, Two Rivers, The Overcommitments, and Big Dog Trouble (the last two with Jim), and formed the Boarding Party—a pirate rock band. Taught teenagers for over twenty years and led annual songwriting retreats. Wrote a children's rock opera. Won best song of the month twice for West Coast Songwriters. Now a regular performer at Wu Wei in Fairfax, where he gets the crowd to sing along with his catchy choruses...
Here's a recent home demo of Chris' song Red
A ballad No Valentine with Heather Rogers singing:
And a power pop adaptation of a poem by Rachael Richman, Holly:
Jim Baldwin, Co-Leader
Influenced by the folk-purist leanings of his brother, in grade school took up bluegrass guitar. In high school, infatuated with the Beatles, the Byrds, the Stones, etc., struggled to follow changes in a 12-bar blues. Around then, played guitar with William Ackerman of Windham Hill Records. Starting in college, played guitar, bass and/or keyboard in Helm’s Deep, The Great Nameless Wonderband (opening for Cold Blood at Stanford’s Old Pavilion), The Dixie Rockets (later with Bonnie Hayes on keys), Passenger, The Overcommitments (with Chris), Big Dog Trouble (also with Chris) and since 2012, Domestic Harmony. A teacher for 37 years of English, Guitar, and Multi-Track recording (His student Jim Reitzel recorded, mixed and mastered the new Santana LP). A regular at local open mics, at a recent reunion, performed three songs with Will Ackerman—playing together for the first time since high school.
Here's a link to Jim's song Johnny Crewcut:
Jim's blog about writing and songwriting can be found at his website here.
Jim's song Train with his current band Domestic Harmony:
For questions,comments, or to reserve a retreat space, please click here.
Claudia Alexander, Caterer
Everyone loves Claudia's cooking! Her recipes and stories can now be found monthly in Zest, in the Lifestyle section of the Marin Independent Journal, and under Food Blog on the Barestoneware site.