Denise Skrobecki, Warden, Nebraska Correctional Center for Women.
Linda and James have greatly impacted the hearts, minds and emotions of our population. The testament is to the numbers who attend and request to attend the workshops each time they have come into our facility. Allowing the population to express themselves through creative writing/poetry using music and open conversation to inspire and support them is a profound way to reach folks who have faced much trauma in their lives. Linda and James play a vital role in helping the women take one step closer to building that confidence in themselves and the ability to move forward. Thank you for what you do!
Tim Miller, Assistant Warden, Nebraska Correctional Center For Women.
At first, I didn’t know what to expect from the Express Yourself Writers Workshop. I didn’t know what it was all about and I certainly didn’t know how it all worked. While I now know what it is about; I still have no idea how it works. I can’t explain how two people come in to a prison and meet people for the first time and instantly bond with them. I can’t explain how James and Linda can unlock a heart that has been shut for so long and make it put life, goals and dreams on paper and back into the forefront of the mind. I can’t explain it, but I have seen it happen. It is done with relative ease by two people who can relate with the struggle that overpowers many. It is done because they enjoy what they do; and it is done because they would rather funnel hope back in to a soul than watch it die.
Nancy Vossler, Health Educator, Nebraska Center for Women
You both have graciously shared your most personal experiences helping to build a bridge of trust with the participants. They in turn have been able to reach into their inner most thoughts and bring them to life in beautiful and precious words, feeing them from some memory that may have haunted them for a long time. They seemed to walk out lighter, filled with hope and in a happier place in their hearts and minds. What an amazing thing to watch! You have touched me in your presence and music that I hold and treasure deeply. You have brought many blessings to NCCW and beyond!
Mary Alley, Vocational Teacher, Nebraska Correctional Center for Women
James and Linda are two of the most genuine people I have ever met. As their performance moves on you see the women warming up to the new experiences of their instruments, and style of singing. Each time I feel proud that we are providing that for them. The women leave excited, and wanting more. The writing exercises show them how to begin with their own feelings and experiences and to experiment with poetry and stories. I am there for each session, and love every part of it each time!!
Mike Nelson, Excel Program, Ellensburg, WA
Linda was able to draw in the students with her music and stories and immediately connect with the students in the classroom. Although she had just met the students and was not there longer than a few hours, she was able to win over their attention and respect. Her music articulated universal truths, which all my students were able to relate to. Linda was able to reach all of my students through poetry writing. More impressively, she earned their trust and encouraged them to share their personal writings aloud with the class. This speaks volumes as to her interpersonal skills. Through her guidance, the students genuinely surprised themselves with what they were able to produce.
Thereasa, Greenwood Coalition Workshop Participant, Port Hope, ON
As a teen I was told by teachers and a newspaper editor that I had talent. At 19 I had my first child and began to have grand Mal seizures. For 15 years I have had writer’s block. The exercises Linda and James showed us had me writing things that helped to open me up. I am grateful to have been able to participate in this workshop!
Aubony Chalfant, Center Facilitator, THE HALO FOUNDATION, Kansas City, MO
"The HALO Learning Center - KC was so happy to have Linda and James facilitate a workshop for our homeless and at-risk teens! Their music, personal stories, and creative writing activities were really eye-opening and empowering. They were able to touch the lives of our youth through openness, humor, and encouragement. We would love to have them back anytime they are in Kansas City!"
Anita Haumont, Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center, Geneva, NE
Linda & James facilitated a number of Express Yourself Writing Workshops at the Youth Rehabilitation & Treatment Center in Geneva. Our youth (ages 13-19) absolutely love this workshop!! Linda sang songs, played the banjo, accordian, and guitar, and even "yodeled" for them! In addition, they shared some insight on their own backgrounds, shared some poetry, and through the writing exercises gave the youth here another avenue to express themselves and their feelings! I found both Linda and James to be GENUINE, COMPASSIONATE, and TALENTED! The evaluations we received back from the youth afterward, were AMAZING! The ONLY complaint was that they wanted more than the two hours we had designated for them!
Christine Gish, SFG Family Resource Centre, Prince George, BC
The Family Resource Centre (FRC) is a neighbourhood based facility that offers programs and activities that promote the health and wellbeing of families and individuals of all ages and incomes. Having Express Yourself Writing Workshops here at our Centre was really exciting. The Artists that facilitated this workshop, Linda McRae and James Whitmire were professional, genuine and down to earth. An artists’ work is very personal and to see Linda be vulnerable to the youth with her songs, stories and poetry enabled the youth to connect and feel empowered in their own self journey. I would very much like to work with Linda McRae and James Whitmire again in the future!
Dennis Hawkins-Bogle, Principal, McNaughton Centre, Quesnel, BC
The students from our alternate secondary program that participated in this workshop all were engaged in writing and sharing. Linda's engaging storytelling and the techniques she used to bring out the creativity in our students was amazing. After the workshop, on the drive back to our school, the students talked about how "cool" the workshop was and how they would like to participate in another workshop.
Rob Richard, Assistant Deputy Warden, Prince George Regional Correctional Center, BC
Linda and James put on an inspiring workshop for both the male and female inmates here at the Prince George Regional correctional centre. Linda started with a powerful performance of her own music that really made attendees feel comfortable and welcome. The writing exercises helped participants to explore their feelings and express themselves creatively. By sharing their life experience they quickly built a trust with the inmates and the result was that the inmates really expressed some of their most personal feelings. The next day one man told me “that two hours was better for me than all the counselling I have had”. I recommend Linda’s workshops to anyone wanting to improve their writing skills or just people wanting to express themselves to others. I was inspired as were the inmate’s that attended.
Conrad Turner, Storefront Program, Joh McInnis Centre, School District #57, Prince George, BC
Linda and James visited the Storefront community alternative program in Prince George, British Columbia in mid January 2013. The presentation was fantastic! Our students were absolutely transfixed for the duration of the two hour engagement. The kids actively participated, including many students who do not usually let their guard down to people outside of their social circle. Linda and James have a very unique ability to make those around them feel instantly comfortable. Their easy going mannerisms enabled them to engage a group of at risk students in a way that is seldom accomplished by visiting presenters. The content was meaningful, poignant and enabled the students to access thoughts, feelings and ideas that seldom see the light of day. I would wholeheartedly recommend taking advantage of their wonderful presentation.
Sue Judge, Artistic Director, Coldsnap, The Prince George Winter Music Festival
In 2012, we presented a workshop in conjunction with "Youth Around Prince" helping to facilitate discussion about diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism and racism. Our featured artists were Linda McRae and James Whitmire. These brilliant and incredibly giving artists shared stories (and songs) with a group of young people about how music helped them find their way in life, how it helped them through hardships and even just about how it brings people together. But the best part was that many young members of the audiences got up and shared their own stories and songs. These professional artists were very moved by this display of trust and outpouring of emotion from these young folks. I believe these sorts of gatherings are an incredible way to promote understanding and communication.
Julie Fowler, Executive Director of Island Mountain Arts and ArtsWells Music Festival
"With thirty years of working as a professional musician, Linda McRae brings a wealth of experience to the stage and classroom, sharing her passion and gifted ability for songwriting with the audience and the students that take part in her workshops. A much requested teacher, her popular lyric writing workshop has been running at the ArtsWells Festival for the last seven years attracting a loyal following of attendees. On every level Linda is a consummate professional and a pleasure to work with."
Mike Christie, Program Coordinator, Camp Trapping, Prince George, BC
It was a great experience. There were students that participated who normally wouldn’t participate. Linda and James were both uplifiting, honest and motivating. The students came up with excellent responses to the poetry prompts. I believe many will use these new skills in their futures.
David Green, Prince George Youth Custody Centre
The residents were completely captivated with the workshop and with Linda’s music. They continued to talk about their writing and the topics covered during the workshop and how Linda and James have inspired them to use writing to express themselves in a positive way. I hope they can return to inspire a new group of youth with their music and message.