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Volunteer Spotlight with Local Singer-Songwriter Rachel Garlin

Updated: Jun 29, 2019

Since 2017, singer-songwriter Rachel Garlin has been traveling to our youth center from her home in Noe Valley to mentor young people in weekly songwriting sessions. “I appreciate they haven’t had the easiest time as kids. I want to be part of the support system.” She works with youth on lyrics and melodies for original songs. Click on the video below to listen to "This Life"––a recent collaboration with SYS youth AB.

“In the course of an hour we write a first draft of an original song. We write quickly so the inner critic isn’t chiming in, trusting that ideas can be generated unselfconsciously if we just keep moving forward.” One session in particular, with a youth named Tiffany, inspired a collaborative project with MUNI riders of the N-Judah streetcar. “Tiffany and I were free-styling lyrics as we were watching the N Judah going by, imagining people’s moods and conversations. The streetcar pauses long enough so you can make eye contact and almost have a brief moment of communication.”

It inspired Rachel to take SYS youth on a field trip, boarding the N-Judah streetcar to talk to riders. “We approached people, told them about our songwriting and youth record label and invited them to tell us about where they were going that day or anything else about their day. We did on-the-spot songwriting based on what we were seeing and hearing. Later, we looked for through-lines and themes while continuing to compose songs based on the interactions. It was a chance to be in the community, share musical moments with people, and come up with lyrical ideas based on the real stories that are happening on the streetcars.”

“I appreciate this experience as a person who lives in a city. I love the work and it’s a meaningful way to be involved in community life. I also think it’s important that we create bridges. How can we make that bridge? We can hop on the train and be musicians-on-the-go and invite people to share their stories with us and transform them into a musical idea. There’s a richness in the exchange.”

More about Rachel: A seasoned singer-songwriter and touring artist in the folk-rock tradition, Rachel is completing her sixth full-length album "Mondegreens" with producer Julie Wolf. Check out song tracks from her album, slated for release in fall 2019.


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