Gift of music lifts Wimberley’s soul after tragic flood
When a Wimberley elementary teacher asked singer-songwriter Robyn Ludwick to write a song called “Wimberley Strong” after the 2015 Memorial Day Floods, Robyn wasn’t sure if she was emotionally up for the challenge. “I didn’t know if I could be strong anymore,” says Robyn, who has lived in Wimberley for the past 14 years.
Robyn lives on the Blanco River, directly across from the house that perished in the floods and took eight people with it, including a young child and a mother with her two young children.
The singer-songwriter had always wanted to buy the idyllic house for its charm and pristine location on the river. When she woke up the morning after the floods, Robyn and her family were shocked and devastated to see that the house across the river was no longer there. The house had been swept off its foundation and destroyed downstream by the magnitude of the flood.
As Robyn and her family stood at the river near their property that morning, they realized that homes were gone, the sky was full of helicopters, and the area was covered with search parties looking for more than a dozen people missing from the flood. “I didn’t lose anything tangible,” Robyn says. “But my heart was broken.”
She wasn’t alone. The community of Wimberley was grieving for the lost lives, homes, and pets. “The flood blindsided the entire town. A lot of us were out celebrating during the three-day weekend, and we didn’t have any idea it was raining 13 inches upstream from us,” she says.
After the flood, classes were cancelled for the last week of school and residents spent much of the summer rebuilding the community. When school started back up in the fall, the sadness and loss from the flood was still lingering, Robyn says.
Around this time, Mimi Taylor, a music teacher at Jacob’s Well Elementary, reached out to Robyn and asked her to write a song for the kids to infuse more hope and positivity into the community.
Robyn, who has released five Americana albums and toured the world, had just finished working nonstop on a musical fundraiser for the flood victims called “Flood of Love,” which raised more than $150,000. But she had never written a song for kids.
Though months had passed since the flood, she still hadn’t personally processed or fully grieved for the losses. “How am I going to do this without writing a bummer song?” she asked herself. With the day-to-day reminders of the devastation and loss of life, she wasn’t even sure if she could stay in Wimberley.
Eventually, she decided to push through the pain. She locked herself in a room where she likes to write songs and thought about what it would be like to grow up in Wimberley.
The lyrics for the song came to Robyn much quicker than expected. She sent the first cut of the song to Mimi and the principal at Jacob’s Well Elementary. “Evidently, it was pretty powerful,” Robyn says. Robyn was told that when the staff played the song for the first time, many of teachers were moved to tears.
“The song captures the magic and beauty of Wimberley and speaks from a child’s perspective, but it also conveys a powerful theme about stepping up for people when they are in need,” says Robyn. “Children have such an intrinsic ability, within reason, to overcome so much. That was an underlying sentiment in the song. We have so much to learn from them. We need to listen to what they are saying —the kids are our ray of sunshine.”
Students from Jacob’s Well Elementary embraced the song and performed it for the community. In November 2015, several of the students joined Robyn in professionally recording “Wimberley Strong” at The Zone Recording Studio in Dripping Springs. The studio pitched in and donated all equipment and studio time to the cause. After finishing the recording, Robyn sold copies of the single to raise funds for the music program at Jacob’s Well Elementary.
The song’s popularity within the community took off after the recording, notes Robyn. The children sang the song frequently and performed it at the school’s holiday event, which was covered by a KXAN-TV crew and local newspapers. Wimberley residents even created a popular hashtag for the song.
Robyn also received calls from nearby churches asking if they could sing the song during church programs. “That’s around the time when I think the hope started transitioning to the town,” says Robyn, adding that it took the community several months to regain optimism after the tragic event.
Writing a song that gives children and adults hope was a new experience for Robyn. She has always turned to music to get through life’s challenges, but she’s not sure everyone feels that way. Of course people often turn to love songs during heartbreak for “armchair therapy,” Robyn says, but setting out to a write a song to lift people up and adjust their overall emotional well-being is a little different.
Yet the reaction to Robyn’s song, “Wimberley Strong,” seems to show she did just that. “Music is so unique because it has the ability to heighten the senses all at once,” Robyn says. “No matter what you have to heal from, music is such an amazing healer—it is universal.”
You can download Robyn Ludwick’s “Wimberley Strong” song on iTunes.