About Veterans Songbook

Welcome to the living archive for HGOco’s Veterans Songbook Initiative, made possible by a Media Arts Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since its creation in 2007, HGOco connects HGO’s creative resources with our diverse and vibrant community. The “co” in HGOco stands for companycommunity, and collaboration.  HGOco’s innovative and engaging programs take place throughout the Houston area—in schools, parks, community landmarks, alternative performance spaces, and the new HGO Resilience Theatre, providing a range of opportunities for Houstonians of all ages to seek, engage, and learn through the inspiring art of opera. The nationally recognized Song of Houston initiative commissions new chamber operas and song projects that resonate with contemporary life in Houston and develops community projects that foster collaborations with many Houston-area organizations.

It is from this unique entry point that HGOco devised the Veterans Songbook project in 2014.  This program has taken a broad view of community to one of shared experience – military service to one’s country. The invitation extended to family members, as the impact of this commitment is felt by parents, grandparents and siblings. Not only an outlet for creative self-expression for Houston veterans, the project sought to raise awareness of the commitment and challenges faced by this diverse, resilient and growing group. With the involvement of over 10 partner organizations, 150 participants and 12 composers, a new Houston songbook of some 30 pieces has been created from the stories of our city’s veterans.

The first workshop in 2014 was a six-week program in partnership with U. S. VETS led by former HGOco Director Sandra Bernhard. Through a guided series of reflections, participants first created a “word wall” based on words and phrases that held meaning for them in relation to their service, and then wrote and shared a personal story with the group. Composer Mark Buller joined the final sessions and will create original songs based on his experience of the group’s work.

Other workshops saw partnerships with Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA ), the Tennessee-based African-American ensemble Carpetbag Theatre, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, and Grace After Fire, a support organization for women veterans.  Each workshop drew on the power of sharing stories to underline the essential commonalities between all people and to celebrate our shared humanity.

Please join HGOco as the conversation continues.

Emily Wells, HGOco Programs Manager