Music is a universal language and a path to the soul. Around 2015-2016, David St. Romain knew he wanted to do something more than just perform music. He learned the magic of music as a medium for healing from his experience by sharing music with people in need and realized he wanted to use his talent to help others. This started as a partnership with Metanoia, a home for young human trafficking victims, where he started using music and songwriting as a means of healing survivors.
“At that point, I started volunteering, came up with a name, and spent a lot of time in reflection and adoration,” St. Romain says.
That name would become Songs of Survivors, of which St. Romain is the sole founder and executive director.
“I began a pilot program working with veterans and did four workshops around the state with the Lieutenant Governor’s office between 2017-2018,” he says. “From then on, I worked for the Children’s Advocacy Center while I was mulling over how to do this. In 2019, I applied for our nonprofit and then held our first event on March 12, 2020. That day we were able to raise money, but we spent the next year in quarantine until 2021 when we rolled out our first workshops again around the state.”
A typical workshop with Songs of Survivors is designed to uplift the veterans and bring them closer together, either in a group setting or via one-on-one instruction. As a National Guard Veteran, St. Romain has a strong connection with them. He invites them to share their stories, whatever they would like to share–the good, the bad, the pretty, and the ugly. From there they spend hours writing a song together by finding a common theme and splitting into groups to write the verses and the bridge. As a facilitator, St. Romain guides them through the songwriting process. They record the song at the end of the day so they can have it with them forever.
“There’s a neurological shift when people share and support each other in these moments,” St. Romain notes. “It’s a very moving experience. I’ve seen people who were scared to touch give each other hugs at the end of the session. Each one of us is there for each other in different ways.”
In the future, he plans to find a way to introduce full, studio-recorded versions of some workshopped songs to the Baton Rouge community. A two-year strategic plan is also in the works to expand Songs of Survivors’ facilitators across the state, where they plan to serve five Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs war memorial homes in partnership with other veteran-serving organizations.
St. Romain credits the support of the Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser, and Olin Corporation’s Golf Tournament fundraiser for the ongoing success of Songs of Survivors.
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” he says. “We are taking time to expand and have a lot of ground to cover. My goal is to put my troops out there to reach out and use music as a healing mechanism.”
Songs of Survivors always needs volunteers to help put on events. If you are a veteran, or if you know a veteran who would be interested in participating, St. Romain invites you to experience a workshop with him. You can share what you choose to share, eat a good lunch, and write a song. From there, you can decide if you want to become a facilitator or maybe just a helper that speaks on behalf of the organization or host a table at an event.
“If you’re good at social media, I could use somebody to follow me around with a camera,” St. Romain adds.
While he plans to do a lot more speaking and performing, keep an eye out for the book he is writing to share his message with the community. Until then, St. Romain will be focusing on Songs of Survivors’ mission: serving others by healing those who serve with the gift of music. To help those in need of healing through the power of music, and for more information and how to get involved with Songs of Survivors, visit sosmusic.org.