It’s YOUR Time:

Make the most of it.

Empowerment Retreat for Musicians


What even is this Empowerment Retreat?

Dana Lynne Varga & Jennifer D’Agostino, Creators & Co-Founders

Amara Pappas, Intern

Learn tools to make the most out of your multifaceted life as a woman in music. This event will feature sessions, breakout rooms, & coachings with presenters who aim to inspire and support your efforts to create balance. It’s YOUR time, let’s learn how to make the most of it together.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?: All humans who identify as musicians. Performers, Teachers, Students, Entrepreneurs, etc.

Retreat Information

Dates: Jan. 8 and 9, 2022

Sat. 1/8: 11am- 8pm EST

Sun. 7/9: 11am- 7pm EST

Location: Virtual

*Zoom link will be shared prior to retreat date

The details

Learn tools to make the most out of your multifaceted life as musician. This event will feature sessions and breakout rooms with presenters who aim to inspire and support your efforts to create balance. It’s YOUR time, let’s learn how to make the most of it together.

Attendees will be provided with a recording of this retreat.


$175 total for two eight-hour retreat days.

Give Back

Want to give back? When registering, select “Pay What You Want” at checkout to contribute to another’s experience.

Scholarships Offered

We will make this accessible to ALL who are interested!

July 18th 12:30pm-1:30pm EDT

How to be an Entrepreneur Without Burning Out

Dana Lynne Varga is an accomplished singer, artistic director, voice teacher and career coach for musicians. In this session, she will give concrete tips and tools for managing your career as an arts entrepreneur. She will discuss balancing your correlating career with your career in the arts through time management, organization, delegation and outsourcing. Resources will be provided.

July 17th 3:15pm- 6:00pm EDT

A Brief Primer on Trauma; What it is and how it shows up

The Nervous System Onstage

Empower Yourself by Exploring Trauma (60 min)

What current research shows us is that trauma is the norm, and not the exception. Though we often think trauma only occurs for veterans or survivors of catastrophe, we now understand that a traumatic response occurs any time that the nervous system is presented with more than it can process in real time. In this session, we’ll dive into what trauma is, and look at some of the most common ways that it shows up for women. We’ll explore the sensation of stuck energy in the nervous system, and practice tools for allowing that energy to move, helping to lessen the hold that traumatic memory can impose on us (and our students).

Break-out session: The Nervous System Onstage (30 min)

The body’s fight-or-flight system has developed over centuries to keep us safe from predators and external threats. When this energy is activated for performance, it can interact with stored trauma in the nervous system, making a performer literally feel like they might die. In less extreme circumstances, it can still have a negative impact on our breathing, hearing, and even the muscles of the face. In this session, we’ll look specifically at the differences between standard nervous system responses, and these heightened states of activation, and use tools from the research on the polyvagal theory to help restore balance.

Private Somatic Experiencing Sessions

This session includes an exploration of the way trauma is showing up in your current experience. Without reliving the event in vivid detail, we will look at how survival response energy is present in your body, and give it a chance to shift in order to tap into healing and greater vitality.

Private Embodiment Explorations

Drawing on tools from Somatic Experiencing, my Yoga Teacher Training, and my work as an Alexander Technique student, we’ll investigate the way you use your body to make music. We’ll look at the blocks you are already aware of, and maybe some that you’re not, update your awareness of your body, and incorporate other information you’ve learned throughout the weekend.

July 17th 3:15pm-4:45pm

Conquering Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome. Those two dreaded words that we’ve all experienced but don’t like to talk about. What do you do when those self-doubting thoughts prevent you from pursuing those fulfilling projects and endeavors? Imposter syndrome can strike no matter where you are in your career. However, what sets successful people apart is knowing how to combat those self-doubting thoughts. This session will teach you important and tangible skills to beat those inner blocks so you can stay focused on moving forward towards what matters most to you and create that fulfilling life and career you know you deserve.

July 18th 1:30pm- 2:00pm EDT

Brain-Based Branding


(A video lecture will be shared on the first day to watch at your leisure.)

In this session, Colleen will guide us through what authentic branding really means, and how best to reach your ideal audiences and clients through storytelling and emotional connection.

Rae-Myra Hilliard, Teacher (Voice)

Rae-Myra Hilliard is equally at home in operatic, solo concert, and choral singing. Her operatic roles include the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Serena in Porgy & Bess, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Miss Pinkerton in The Old Maid and the Thief, Singing Spirit in Sunyata (world premiere), and Emma Berdis Jones (mother of writer James Baldwin) in The Baldwin Chronicles (world premiere).

As a concert artist, Rae-Myra has performed Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Serenade to Music, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Bach’s Magnificat in D, Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Mozart’s Regina Coeli and Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and The Creation, Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus and Beethoven’s Mass in C and Choral Fantasy.Rae-Myra, as an active recitalist, regularly programs works featuring Black-American composers/lyricists or works written for a classical singer of color. Her debut CD, Lifescapes: One Woman’s Journey is a compilation of songs written by Black-American composers.  The CD is available on CD Baby for download.  Her second recording project, a Christmas CD featuring classical and popular works, is underway.

July 18th 3:30pm- 5:00pm EDT

Programming Women of Color

The seed to my journey in researching and performing music written by Black-American composers was planted in the 1980’s after hearing Thomas Hampson in recital at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY. This recital was one of his first in presenting his “Songs of America” project. The big disappointment to me was he did not perform one song by a Black-American. Once I devoted my career to music, specifically vocal performance, so began my research.

The composers presented will be Florence B. Price, Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore and Regina Harris Baiocchi. A biographical sketch will be shared and examples of their compositions will be heard. These four composers will be highlighted due to their importance, although obscure from the history books, in the composition world for other composers and performers of color.

July 18th 11:00am-12:00pm EDT

Alexander Technique: Take Up All The Space You Are Allowed In This World

Sometimes we can retreat into our own bodies, unaware of how a physical sense of smallness or tightness can make us feel unimportant, unseen, or unheard. Whether because we are shy or lack confidence, have bad posture or unnecessary tension, or are just too mentally distracted to think about how we use our bodies, this phenomenon can influence our self-perception as well as how we project ourselves to others.

In this workshop we explore Alexander Technique principles to develop awareness of body use, body language, and the mind-body connection. These simple yet powerful tools can help us attain greater poise, move more mindfully, and project confidence on stage, at work, and in interpersonal interactions.

We will be sitting, standing, and lying down. Here are some things that will help you get the most out of the workshop:

1. Sit in a real chair without arms – avoid things like soft couches and rolling office chairs

2. For the lie down, you can use yoga mat if you want, but it’s not necessary

3. Have a stack of 3-4 paperback books (we put these under our heads while lying down)

July 18th 2:00pm- 3:30pm EDT

Self- Care Methods From the East

In this session, Xia Chen will introduce you to several eastern methods of self-care which are not well known in the US. There are three key phrases for self-care in the eastern culture: present-minded, flexible body and blood flow. We will explore two specific methods within each of these categories to improve mental and physical health. Self-care methods tend to be similar all over the world, exercise, massage, singing, dancing, “retail therapy” etc. However, in other areas of the world, there continues to be unique ways rooted in local culture and tradition. In this session, Xia Chen will introduce you to several methods of self-care from her culture background and share with you her understanding of the eastern self-care philosophy: present-minded, flexible body and improved blood flow. We will explore two specific methods within each of these keywords, and we will learn a massage and acupressure method for our eyes to relieve strain.

July 17th 11:30am- 1:30pm EDT

Everything You Wanted to ASK but DIDN’T for Fear of Being Mansplained

Bring your most feminist and daring questions to Michelle Markwart Deveaux for an irreverent hour discussing women and our relationships with money, creating budgets that set us up for independence, business ownership, intersectional feminism, and all the ways gender roles contribute to the pay gap and continued bondage in today’s marketplace. In this “Ask Me Anything meets Ranting with a Purpose” session, Michelle will engage the way women historically have communed – with conversation, clarity, and compassion. In the second hour, Michelle will offer a public group coaching session: you, as brave women can have your specific business questions answered. If you would like to be a hot seat participant, please email for further instructions and to reserve your slot.

July17th 1:45pm-3:15pm EDT

Empower Yourself By Conquering The Stress Response Cycle

Stress: We all experience it. In fact, stress is a part of life. We encounter challenges, setbacks, and even tragedies throughout our lives, all of which can trigger the stress response in our bodies. This is a normal part of being human and our bodies are set up to move between states of “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” frequently. Problems can arise however, when we fail to move out of the “fight or flight” response and instead get stuck in the middle of the stress response cycle. Getting stuck in this state often turns into chronic stress, which can wreak havoc on our bodies. The good news is that by understanding how the stress response cycle works we can empower ourselves to recognize when we are stressed and choose to “complete” the stress response cycle. This session will explain the science behind this cycle and, most importantly, introduce strategies for completing the cycle to improve overall health and well-being. Empower yourself by learning to conquer the stress response cycle!

Amara Pappas

Amara Pappas, soprano, recently completed her freshman year at The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She is currently studying under Andrew Skoog to receive her Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance, while also completing minors in Leadership Studies and Entrepreneurship.

She has been a NATS Mid-South Regional finalist, as well as a multi-time National NATS qualifier. In addition to classical performance, Amara loves musical theatre, and has played numerous roles through her high school and Knoxville community theatre.

Amara’s career aspirations include advocating for the performing arts in schools, as well as creating a space for performers to obtain the skills they need to succeed in the ever-changing world of music. She is excited and thankful to be interning with The Empowered Musician.

Date: Jan. 8th

11:00am to 11:30am Opening Ceremonies, Welcome

Jennifer D’Agostino & Dana Lynne Varga

11:30am-1:30pm Lecture/Hotseat in Group Coaching Q&A

Michelle Markwart Deveaux

1:45pm-2:45pm Lecture: Burnout/Stress Response

Evangelia Leontis

2:45pm-3:15pm Activity: Meditation

Evangelia Leontis

3:15pm-4:45pm Lecture/Q&A: Imposter Syndrome

Sarah Whitney

5:00pm-6:00pm Lecture: A Brief Primer on Trauma; What it is and how it shows up

Emily Jaworski

6:00pm-6:30pm Activity: The Nervous System Onstage

Emily Jaworski

6:30-8:00 Wrap up / Conversations / Round table

What to expect tomorrow

Date: Jan. 9th

11:00am-12:00pm Activity: Alexander Technique

Laura Medisky

12:00pm-1:30pm Brain- Based Branding

Colleen Star Koch

1:30pm-2:00pm Activity: Q&A (Video provided to watch at leisure prior to Q&A)

Colleen Star Koch

2:00pm-3:30pm Lecture & Activity: Self-Care Methods from the East

Xia Chen

3:30pm-5:00pm Presentation: Programming Women of Color

Rae-Myra Hilliard  

5:00pm-6:30pm Lecture/Activity: How to be and Entrepreneur Without Burning Out

Dana Lynne Varga

6:30pm-7:00pm Conversations/Closing

**schedule and presenters are subject to change**

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