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"The retreat was life-changing. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to buy The Guest House and turn it into a NESR commune (a clean-smelling commune) where we could all live—and play at any hour of the day or night; inspiring each other and co-creating exquisite compositions of the heart; and of course I would maintain and double the salaries of the killer culinary talent currently in place. The venue, the atmosphere, the faculty—and the gathering of musical souls fully open to their wisdom—came together in the most perfect rapport. The concerts were achingly sublime."

—Jennifer Barrows (NESR IV)


"I can't wait for next year.  If I could bottle up the feeling post-Retreat this year and keep that going year round, I'd be doing pretty well."

—Jay Swindle (NESR III, IV)


"NESR has given me so much reinforcement of my musical impulses, but, more importantly, has also given me the tools to better be able to create, to edit, to sing, and to perform in front of my peers and audiences. Musically–artistically–there is before NESR and after NESR. It’s that simple."

—Michael T. Lewis (NESR II, III,IV)

"My life is changed by this weekend. By everyone, every song, every moment. I can still hardly believe it. But I do. I really do. Thanks, Ellis Paul, Laurie MacAllister, Vance Gilbert, George Wurzbach, Eben Pariser, Molly Venter (and Otis!), Abbie Gardner, Craig Akin (and Ginger!), and Tim Drake. Thanks, all of you incredible new friends and fellow songwriters I got to meet and be with all weekend. And thank you, Marianne and every single staff member of Guest House Retreat and Conference Center. Every meal was fabulous, desserts divine, rooms so comfortable, staff so friendly, and the spaces inside and out so beautiful. Can’t wait till next year."
—Randy Weeks (NESR III, IV)

"I'm still buzzing from the past weekend. Thank you again for all you did to make the weekend a magical and affirmational event."

—Geoff Cox (NESR IV)

"Finally, thanks to both of you for all the work you did to make my third year, and I’m sure everyone else’s experience so valuable. Laurie, it was evident that you are not only a superb organizer and event planner, you also make a delightful den mother. Your performances (and you) were beautiful, and your voice and presence held such power. Ellis, you have such a talent for making everyone comfortable, making us laugh, and bringing out the best in the students. The “judgement-free” aura allows for us to blossom as musicians as well as friends. And your musical and artistic talents are epic. It is evident that you both have created a “movement” that I hope will continue for a long time. And I hope to be a part of it for a long time as well!"

—Cynthia Smith (NESR II, III, IV)

"I'm filled to the brim with something that is indescribable. Thank you."
—Brian Theoret (NESR I, II, II, IV)

"I don't want to brag but I wrote a song today for my niece. She recently got quite banged up in a car vs. elk accident in Idaho, away from her home in Missouri. When I played it for Nancy, we both cried. Something fine washed over me at NESR and I don't want it to lose it."
—Jeff Sternberger (NESR IV)

"You both are amazing beings and I so love and appreciate your wide open and loving hearts including your extraordinary talents, creativity and playfulness. Thank you for an experience that will unfold for many months to come! ps I’m very excited! My son will be getting married in August and I wrote the mother-son dance. The band they hired will learn and play the song! I feel so grateful for my experiences at NESR for offering me the possibility and skills to even consider that this is a possibility…..thank you!!!"
—Shelley Hartz (NESR II, IV)

"I can’t begin to tell you what a fabulous first-time experience it was for me to be with you guys. I felt welcome—like an old friend—the minute I walked through the door on Friday afternoon. Such a pleasure being with you and Paul and getting to know so many I can now call friends. You created an intimate, contemplative, relaxing, supportive, yet lively, fun and uplifting atmosphere! Great formula!"
—Nick Carter (NESR IV)

"That was the most profoundly wonderful experience. Thank you so much. Your organization and overall running of everything was just so lovely and nice and thorough and I just thought the quality of everything was great. Met so many great people and was humbled and inspired by so much talent and drive. Can’t wait to do it again!"
—Nat Grauman (NESR IV)

"Laurie, you may have created a monster, albeit a nice one. Something's been unleashed. I'm playing Saturday night, and my confidence meter is strong, thanks to you, Ellis, Brian and everyone that was NESR. You and Ellis have been great for my soul, and many others I'm sure."
—Don Gilmond (NESR III, IV)

"I had written many song in my teens-early 20s. Then I got caught up with work. Twenty years later I started writing again but wrote mostly fragmentscompleted 2 songs in 10 years. But after attending NESR IV, I have written about 18 completed songs. So grateful.

Dan Pejril (NESR IV)

"Get this—I’m opening the NJ Folk Project Getaway Weekend. ME! I never believed I would say this, but, I have a gig. Unbelievable. Can’t wait for NESR V!"
—Diane Polledri (NESR II, III, IV)

"So many feels—and words fail me. Just so thankful for the community you have built."

—Lisa Jeanette (NESR III, IV, VI)

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