The Sing Me A Story Foundation, a brilliantly-conceived program designed to bring songwriters together with youth advocacy groups across the globe, was inspired by the maxim: “As a global community, we are only as healthy as our children.”
The foundation offers an online platform that allows youth groups worldwide to upload stories written and illustrated by children to the SMAS website. Songwriters can then view the children’s stories, turn the stories into songs, and post them on the website for the children to hear.
According to Austin Atteberry, co-founder of SMAS, the concept began with a happenstance encounter with “the most beautiful girl who happened to move in right next door and who also happened to work at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital as a Child Life Specialist.” It wasn’t long, of course, before Atteberry found himself volunteering at the hospital and falling in love.
But Atteberry wasn’t only falling in love with the girl of his dreams – he was falling in love with the power of music and the opportunities that it could create.
“In working with the kids every week on writing songs,” Atteberry says, “I often would ask, ‘Okay, tell me a story about anything you want’ and we would come up with a song from there. You can imagine asking a 5 year old to tell you a story about anything he or she wants! We had stories about monsters under the bed, Dad saving the day, Chemo-brain, girls vs. boys, you name it! When I could, I would come home from the hospital, record a tune I had worked on with a child on my laptop and send it to the music therapist to burn on a CD and give to the family.”
Soon Atteberry realized he wanted to share this method of collaboration with other songwriters and children throughout the world. So, in 2011, Atteberry, along with Sara Doschandis – soon to Mrs. Atteberry – incorporated the Sing Me a Song Foundation in Nashville.
Since then, Atteberry and Daschandis – along with a board of eight others who live in various countries throughout the world – have partnered with approximately 40 youth organizations and more than 125 songwriters.
“As you can imagine, given the more pressing issues that are at hand for these types of organizations, gathering stories from those organizations’ children can be a difficult process,” Atteberry says.
In order to combat this slow response, the foundation has begun working with some of the world’s largest volunteer companies to help spread the word about SMAS and help lay groundwork internationally. In partnering with these larger volunteer companies, Atteberry expects that the amount of content on the website will grow exponentially in 2012.
Atteberry also has plans to start similar programs in a handful of hospitals here in the U.S.
While the foundation is helping to provide these youth organizations with the supplies needed to create the stories and foster creativity, such as blank storybooks and crayons, they are also supplying these children with something many organizations overlook – an opportunity for the children to give back and possess a global voice.
Songwriters of all stripes are welcome to submit songs – this includes professional and amateur songwriters, music students, rappers, classical composers, etc. As far as submissions go, the foundation encourages creativity and imagination. They do request that the songs be at least based on the ideas presented in the stories, as one of the goals of the program is to encourage collaboration.
For more information about how you can contribute to the Sing Me a Story Foundation, check out www.SingMeAStory.org.