1st Annual Ojai Songfest | Harmony, Joy, and Healing Through Song
with Maggie Wheeler, Arnaé Batson, Melanie DeMore, Debbie Nargi-Brown, Ahlay Blakely and Meredith Scott Lynn
April 19 - 21, 2024
1st Annual Ojai Songfest | Harmony, Joy, and Healing Through Song
With Maggie Wheeler and Friends
with Meredith Scott Lynn on drums
- Friday, April 19 5:00pm–9:00pm
- Saturday, April 20 8:30am–9:30pm
- Sunday, April 21 8:30am–5:00pm
Topa Institute is thrilled to host our inaugural Ojai Songfest this spring! Led by an incredible team of song leaders hailing from across the West Coast—including Los Angeles, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Seattle—this three-day retreat is for experienced and beginner singers alike.
Over the last year Topa has presented several daylong song circles and received rave reviews about their transformative power. Now we are pleased to bring you an extended weekend of singing and living in community together on our stunning 36–acre ridge.
The collective power of song allows us to access our courage, connect deeply with one another, and bring these healing experiences back to our communities. Prepare for a magical weekend!
What to expect:
- Varied Repertoire: Experience pieces both written and collected by our group of diverse song leaders, including songs sung through the ages during times of struggle, resistance, and triumph.
- Inclusive Atmosphere: Our song leaders make music accessible to singers of all levels. This program is open to all, whether you consider yourself a singer or not, no prior experience is required.
- Harmony and Healing: Through the creation of song, harmony, and rhythm, participants will be inspired, energized, and connect with one another. Joining voices not only deepens connections with others, but also within ourselves, releasing that which no longer serves us and bringing in what does.
- Amazing Food: Farm fresh meals prepared with local ingredients by our incredibly talented Topa Institute chef.
- Friday dinner through Sunday lunch are provided. Bring your own snacks to supplement. Please share your dietary restrictions when registering.
- Note: There is no kitchen or fridge available for use. There are fire kivas on site where participants can cook food
- The town of Ojai is 15 minutes away for dining and shopping
Please bring a closed hot beverage container and a closed water bottle for use in our Council House.
- Campsite: Each campsite allows one tent with max of 2 people. Participants must provide all their own camping equipment. Please arrive by 4pm on Friday to set up your site.
- Sleeping Bag Space: Sleeping bag space in a shared yurt, sleeps up to four people. Sleeping pads are provided, and participants must bring their own bedding.
- Twin Bed in Shared Yurt: Shared yurt, furnished with two twin beds, sleeps up to two people. All bedding is provided.
- For those who wish to make other overnight arrangements, there are numerous hotels in Ojai that are a 10–15 minute drive from Topa. Reach out to us if you need recommendations.
Maggie Wheeler is best known in the US and internationally for her work as an actress in film, television and voice-over, and most notably as the character of Janice on NBC’s hit series Friends. Maggie is a passionate singer, songwriter, choir director and workshop facilitator. She has been teaching her vocal workshop for over 30 years at retreat centers, universities, and in communities to provide the experience of creating interpersonal and internal harmony through the powerful act of creating vocal harmony. For 17 years Maggie directed the 100-voice Golden Bridge Community Choir in Hollywood—an intergenerational, non-auditioned choir. She is a…
Learn more about Maggie Wheeler
Arnaé Batson is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and song leader who uses music to create spiritual pathways for health and wholeness while advocating for progressive social change. Her dedication to racial and environmental justice is an extension of her work with the internationally acclaimed ensemble, Sweet Honey In The Rock. Arnaé currently serves as artistic director for the Hearts Afire Community Choir and the Voices Raised LA Vocal Collective, two grassroots acapella groups based in Los Angeles. She also contributes original compositions to the Art/Theomusicology Working Group of the California Poor People’s Campaign. Over the past year, Arnaé has expanded…
Learn more about Arnaé Batson
Melanie DeMore is a three-time Grammy nominated singer/composer, choral conductor, music director, and vocal activist who believes in the power of voices raised together. In her presentations, DeMore beautifully brings her participants together through her music and commentary. DeMore facilitates vocal and stick-pounding workshops for professional choirs and community groups, as well as directing numerous choral organizations across the US, Canada, and beyond. She is a featured presenter of SpeakOut! (The Institute for Social and Cultural Change); the Master Teaching Artist for Music at UC Berkeley/CalPerformances; works with everyone from Baptists to Buddhists; and was a founding member of the…
Learn more about Melanie DeMore
Debbie Nargi-Brown is a gifted community song leader, an award-winning dance teacher, and a talented songwriter, she offers her songs with love, compassion, and the hope of bringing joy and healing to others. Debbie’s lyrics and melodies are sung all over the world. She writes songs for the heart, healing, transformation, love, grief, and all that connects us as human beings. Bringing people together in dance and song is one of her greatest joys in life! To learn more, please visit debbienargi-brown.com.
Learn more about Debbie Nargi-Brown
Alexandra “ahlay” Blakely is a descendant of Ashkenazic, Scandinavian, and British folk. She is an artist, singer-songwriter, communal grief tender, community organizer, facilitator, and ceramicist walking the path of ancestral healing and the reclaiming of lost cultural memories. Her community singing album, Spells from the Unknown encapsulates songs for the community to transform, ask questions, and seek to lead lives in service to the future ones. Her upcoming 2024 community singing album, WAILS: Songs for Grief was recorded in July 2023 with a choir of 200 voices. The album is completely dedicated to grief, inspired by the Whales of the…
Learn more about Ahlay Blakely
Meredith has been drumming for Maggie Wheeler’s song circles and LA-based community choir for over 20 years. A “familiar but not famous” actress, Meredith is most recognized for her roles in films such as Legally Blonde and countless television series, in addition to her almost six-year stint on Days Of Our Lives. Meredith launched her children’s education company WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS ten years ago and has been a full time social entrepreneur and speaker, working to elevate self-esteem in the most under–resourced, undervalued, and underperforming students in America. She cannot wait to be bangin’ her djembes and shakin’ her shakers for these women of song coming to…
Learn more about Meredith Scott Lynn