Women Leading Central Mass.: Musician/Trauma Survivor Robin Lane

Monday, May 06, 2013
Susan Wagner, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

From a storied rock music past, Robin Lane survived domestic violence and now uses music to help other women heal.
"The music that was created over such a short period of time floored me.  The songs have such honesty and pain in them.” Katie Carlson, LICSW, Gift Program Director, Roxbury Youth Works, Inc. 

Coming of age in California in the 1960’s, Robin Lane cavorted with the movers and shakers of the day…Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds, to name a few. The daughter of Dean Martin’s musical arranger, she grew up amid Hollywood glitz and glamour. She grew up with Sally Field, lived with and sang for Neil Young and married Police guitarist Andy Summers. Lane’s music career began with her appearance on Neil Young’s 1969 album “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.’’ Lane left the Laurel Canyon scene and headed east in the 1970s.

Upon arrival in New England, Lane formed her renowned band Robin Lane & The Chartbusters with a couple of members of the Modern Lovers, and the band caught traction with the hits “When Things Go Wrong’’ and “Why Do You Tell Lies.’’ They had the 11th video broadcast on the debut day of MTV, performed for audiences worldwide and were one of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 bands of 1980. The group broke up in 1983, and Lane made a few solo albums and wrote songs for other artists. A film documentary of Lane's life, "When Things Go Wrong", is now in post production.

Now Lane is on a mission to transform lives through the art of songwriting—a medium she credits with saving her own life. The music trailblazer is using her three decade long recording and performance career to help fellow survivors of trauma. Her nonprofit, Songbird Sings, addresses the needs of victims of domestic violence, childhood abuse, youth-at-risk and incarcerated women.  Through the powerful combination of lyrics and music, participants begin to find their own voice and the key to their own healing capabilities in a safe and supportive environment.

Lane knows the trauma of neglect and abuse only too well. Despite a life tailor made for a bestseller, she is a survivor of childhood neglect and adult domestic violence who was dropped by the record industry when she chose to be a mother. This personal history makes her a powerful advocate for social change.

Lets talk a little about the path that led to where you are today?

After a bitter divorce in the early 1990’s, I decided to join a writing workshop and it soon became a songwriting workshop. Trauma seemed to be a common theme whether from abuse, violence, loss or illness.  I become certified as Teaching Partner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Cultural Council and began providing therapeutic music programming to at-risk youth Giving Youth A Voice and trauma survivors A Woman’s Voice. I have taught workshops on creativity at The Artist’s Way and various locations and been a presenter at the Dare to Act Conference in Baltimore and Break The Silence Conference at Rowe, MA. We have also produced and recorded seven CD’s for our women’s music collaborative entitled A Woman’s Voice.

Can you talk a little bit about the mission of Songbird Sings, which sprang from these experiences?

Songbird Sings is a nonprofit organization I founded. Our mission is to transform the lives of women and children silenced by abuse and violence. Songwriting workshops enable participants to give a voice to their experiences and emotions, build inner strength and resilience and to develop much needed support systems.Songbird Sings is teaching women and children who have survived abuse to learn to use their voice and creativity as a means of strengthening connection to their peers and their community. Our workshops are not a cure but for those who have survived trauma, it is a powerful step in the healing transformation. It is my hope that songbirdsings.org will spread this crucial message that we must stop ignoring and denying the effects of childhood abuse, domestic abuse and violence in all it’s forms. Let’s Break The Silence, so that we can heal, one song at a time. Songbird Sings is dedicated to facilitating that change.

When our workshops caught the attention of Hot Stove Cool Music and the Foundation to Be Named Later, I was encouraged to do more with both teens and young adults. In addition to writing and recording with teens involved with the Home for Little Wanderers, I also cut a couple of tracks with the young women at Roxbury Youth Works in a program for trafficked survivors. That was two years ago and my work there has led to a new pilot program that has just begun.

Lets talk a little about your current pilot program for trafficked girls and young women?

Working with the young women in the GIFT program impacted me in a profound way. We think of human trafficking as something that happens in other countries but the sobering truth is that sex trafficking of young people occurs everyday in the United States. We are currently beginning the pilot program with Roxbury Youth Works and their GIFT Program. This group, of courageous young women, was often introduced to the world of sex trafficking as young as six. We are currently looking for partners to help us to bring the program to Worcester and Central Massachusetts.

You mention that Songbird Sings helps program recipients to find a voice. Can you explain how that happens with these young women?

Many of these young women live in intense fear of reprisals and are haunted by memories of unspeakable cruelty. Telling their story gives them a way out of the darkness. Our songwriting programs provide a method and a place to start the long road to recovery by breaking down the walls of silence. Songbird Sings allows participants to discover the power of their own voice.

What are your future plans for Songbird Sings?

I plan to expand programming through the Boston and Worcester metro areas. I am looking for partners in Central Massachusetts to duplicate the success of the program at Roxbury Youth Works.  A possible collaboration with Ivy Child International in Worcester is being discussed. Eventually I would like to have musicians across the nation trained to do this program.

How do you fund your work?

Funding for Songbird Sings comes through individual and foundation grants. I also hold private Living Room concerts where the host and friends can hang out in an intimate setting of their choice and do potluck. I perform with anecdotes between songs from my upcoming memoir (sharing her life with Neil Young, Timothy Leary, the Sunset Strip in the 60’s, surviving Charles Manson, “Love ins and Looney Bins/When Things Go Wrong” and the # 11 video on MTV). We are now live on Fundraise.com where you can become a fundraiser by reaching out to friends and family. We also have a donation page on our site.

How has this experience impacted you?

It is so powerful to know that you can help facilitate healing from trauma. Music is so healing in itself and it saved my life. I love watching its impact on others and seeing real self-esteem replace bravado. I watch participants begin to change right in front of my eyes. Their poetry, words, thoughts and lyrics come out of such honesty and pain. It is often that kind of pain that creates real art.

Susan Wagner is the founder and president of Susan Wagner PR and director of corporate communications for Boston Web Designers. She specializes in strategic planning, public relations, writing services, website development, and community outreach. Her recent work has concentrated on helping new and emerging businesses to thrive. www.susanwagnerpr.com