‘Operation Song’ sessions offer ‘secret treasure’ for MTSU veterans, budding songwriters, Nashville pros

Leland the service dog seemed unimpressed with his time in the spotlight in Middle Tennessee State University‘s Keathley University Center Theater.

His adoring new audience of roughly three dozen humans, however, applauded like his new album had just gone No. 1 on all the streaming services.

Leland’s person, senior industrial/organizational psychology major Stefanie Marvin-Miller of Murfreesboro, was proud of and thankful for her canine buddy, too, so she wrote a song about him — “Woman’s Best Friend” — with the help of fellow student Paul Mathews, a senior commercial songwriting major from Sherwood, Arkansas, and award-winning Nashville songwriter Adam Hood.

The now-5-year-old Labrador retriever’s been at Marvin-Miller’s side since the summer of 2018, helping her manage the severe post-traumatic stress disorder she lives with after she was sexually assaulted and survived a traumatic brain injury in 2016 while in the Army National Guard.

“Getting to hang out with Adam was awesome, but meeting another MTSU student, who I can see on campus and who I’m actually going to get to see graduate at the same time as me next spring, is amazing,” Marvin-Miller said.

“To work on the song and sit in that room for most of the day was an amazing process, and I can’t thank  Operation Song enough.”

Marvin-Miller re-enrolled at MTSU in 2020, making use of the myriad services that the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center offers student veterans.

One of the services it offers, since 2016, has been the annual Operation Song daylong writing session on campus. The event connects veterans with fellow students, who are majoring in advanced commercial songwriting in the Department of Recording Industry, and the Nashville pro writers who volunteer with Operation Song.

Operation Song, established in 2012 by Nashville songwriters, helps retired and active-duty veterans and their families sort out experiences and emotions by sitting down and telling their stories, which the musicians help turn into tunes.

he organization first offered weekly programs for veterans at Murfreesboro’s Alvin C. York Medical Center and now offers more local programs, including songwriting sessions in Nashville, Clarksville, Chattanooga and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, along with retreats around the country.

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame which has worked closely with Operation Song, contacted Odie Blackmon, director of MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting Program in the Department of Recording Industry, in 2016 about a possible project with the university. The Daniels Center stepped up to find local veterans to join the session.

As in in past years, this fall’s five veterans from across campus found an opportunity to tell difficult stories they’d only shared with fellow soldiers, or perhaps counselors, or partners. The results have often been musical remembrances of fallen comrades, stories of struggling with civilian life and other somber recollections of the hardships of military life, in and out of uniform.

At this 2021 retreat, however, the tone was different. Perhaps the pandemic, which canceled the 2020 Operation Song session, provided fresh perspectives, but the tunes performed together at the day’s end were more buoyant, encompassing gratitude, acceptance, reflection, pride in accomplishments — and in surviving.

Click here to read more.


Categories: News

%d bloggers like this: