About Broken Silence

Broken Silence began in 2014 while participating in a Guitar Circle course, hosted by the Mexico Circle. There was a lot of energy flying around that course, and when I returned home, I took a period of 91 days, wrote down all the ideas for projects I had, and put them in the box. I made a promise not to act on any of the ideas, just to keep writing out the concepts.

In February 2015, Pauline Oliveros, Tony Geballe, Mary Madigan, Deborah Steinglass, and Fr. Michael Lynch and I gathered for three hours in which I read out each of the ideas. At the end, Pauline pointed to Broken Silence and said "this is the one". The group (we now leave an empty chair for Pauline at our meetings) has continued to meet every six months or so to develop the project. I also met regularly with the late Chris Mann, who was essential in hammering out the concepts behind the work, as well as their application.

As I researched text, sounds began to come to me. At the time, I didn't know what these chords might mean or what to do with them. One day, I tried reading out loud while the chords were playing and noticed that I could connect with the text on a deeper level.

I saw a need for a space where listeners could actually engage with subject. I noticed that although many people knew that something horrible had happened, many were not really connecting with it. As I continued to work on the project, I followed discussions and exchanges on social media. Raising awareness is important; it seems to me that social media is not a good place to metabolize the experiences.

I realized early on that I would need more training to handle the energies moving through this material, and enrolled in practitioner training with Somatic Experiencing Institute. I'm now in my second year. One aspect of the Somatic Experiencing work is called "resonance": it's possible for a practitioner to sense what is going on in the nervous system of someone else. I began to explore this idea with musicians, sensing where the music might need to go as we engaged with the text.

I've worked with Erin Rogers, Kristen McKeon, Dan Joseph, Alex Lahoski, and Elisa Corona. We've presented three invite-only performances where we've tested and developed the music together with the text.

My aim for this work is healing. Certainly I don't want any more children to be hurt. While many others are doing good work in different legal and spiritual aspects, I see an opportunity for music to be a space where we can slow down and metabolize the scandal. By encountering the truth of the events right where we are, I hope that we develop the capacity to move through it. I've noticed that in holding this space together with others, listeners seem to expand their own capacity.


In the closed presentations, we've hosted listeners affected by this scandal as well as priests in the hierarchy of the Church. So far, many listeners have reported positive responses, leaving the space lighter than when they entered. Some have had difficulty, some have experienced anxiety. Some listeners not affected directly by the scandal have found that the experience supported them to address other experiences.

The greatest gift for me developing this work the past four years has been hope. I know that we can get through this, and musicians can play a significant role in supporting people to come out the other side.

—Craig Shepard