What does a beach, A&R, hit-making producers, and a room filled with up and coming musicians have in common? It may sound too good to be true, but we promise this isn’t in Neverland! It is a real music business retreat held in beautiful Costa Rica.

On November 11th, Montreal singer/songwriter AIZA packed her bags and left for the experience of a lifetime! Below, she shares her experience at the Neverland Retreat.

Being Accepted as The WiMN’s Scholarship Artist!

When I found out that I was chosen amidst a list of over 500 applicants as the WoMEN’s first Neverland Music Retreat scholarship winner, the magnitude of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity hit me like a ton of bricks. And as expected, my experience was nothing short of a dream come true…

The Mentors

First of all, the mentors were incredible! They were very approachable, down-to-earth and I learned so much from them.

Multi-platinum songwriter/producer Damon Sharpe discussed the importance of bending and flowing with the opportunities that present themselves, as well as nurturing our work ethic in order to achieve longevity in this business.

AIZA pictured with Multi-platinum songwriter/producer
Damon Sharpe

It was refreshing to hear someone as successful as him talk so openly about his struggles; how he started out as a boy-band artist, was dropped from different labels many times before finally venturing into writing and producing, where he finally got his big break after penning J.LO’s hit song Love Don’t Cost a Thing. I appreciated the fact that he didn’t beat around the bush; geography can and will most definitely aid or hinder someone’s ability to build a fruitful career, so make sure to choose your homebase wisely.

Multi-platinum selling songwriter Lindy Robbins focused on the importance of honouring our individual creative processes, whether we’re more intuitive or linearly structured writers. “Co-writing is the way to go because you get to bounce off each other and combine the best ideas from many sources at a time,” she said. “People who prefer to write alone in their little corner are usually more green and inevitably missing out on the magic of creating in a group. Seasoned writers will most likely have learned how to push past the feelings of vulnerability that come with writing with other people.”

Meeting Rick Barker, the first manager of pop mega-star Taylor Swift, was very cool.

Rick Barker (Taylor Swift) and AIZA smiling after a
mentorship session!

He was a no-nonsense, funny guy who taught us how to best use social media and how to build our online brand. He reminded us that patience is most definitely a virtue, and that there’s no point in trying to rush and jump into the game before our product is ready.

Magician, hypnotist, motivational speaker and also a dear friend of mine David Lion did what he does best during his workshop on improving self-confidence: he inspired the heck out of us! He is all about moving away from the paradigm of pursuing things we don’t want and shifting towards the art of following our excitement instead.

David Lion and AIZA enjoying the sun at The Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel

My Personal Highlight

One of my personal highlights of the week was meeting professional dancer, model, actress, jiu-jitsu instructor, children’s book author and mother, Victoria Parsons Gracie. She spoke with us about her time on tour with Rihanna, about how to deal with unexpected surprises on the road, and she also explained why it’s important to make time to “dance with our shadows, where all our hidden gems and freedom lie.” One quote that struck me was: “instead of thinking how can I sell myself?, why not wonder how can I share myself?”… Her uplifting speech and powerful presence brought most of us to tears and it felt like she was a kindred spirit whose limitless potential reflected my own back to me.

“Instead of thinking how can I sell myself?, why not wonder how can I share myself?”

– AIZA quoting Victoria Parsons (Rihanna)
Victoria Parsons Gracie all smiles with The WiMN Neverland Retreats scholarship winner AIZA

Where I studied (Nosara, Costa Rica)

The Gilded Iguana Surf Hotel in Nosara, Costa


Aside from all the valuable knowledge I gained during the mentorship sessions, Nosara is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous little surf village in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, and is one of the most peaceful, heavenly places I’ve traveled to thus far.

We all stayed at the beautiful Gilded Iguana hotel, a two-minute walk away from the beach.


During the week, I was given my very first Jiu-Jitsu lesson by none other than Ryron Gracie (his grandfather basically introduced Jiu-Jitsu to the US, no big deal…), I went horseback riding for the very first time like a boss through the mountain and by the ocean with a few  of the mentors, and I also went out dancing to some bomb Reggae music until the wee hours at the local spot El Bar while gazing at the most insanely star-filled night sky I have ever seen… It was absolutely surreal.

In Costa Rica, I made great friends and genuinely connected with artists of all ages from around the world.

Neverland Retreats attract up and coming singer/songwriters
from around the world.

As floating and over-the-moon as it felt to be there, it was also one of the most grounding experiences of my life.Now more than ever, I can genuinely appreciate where I am and what I’ve already accomplished to get here, all while continuing to pursue bigger and greater things in my career.

I will forever be thankful to the Women’s International Music Network for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

I hopped on a plane, excited yet unsure about what to expect in Costa Rica, and I flew back home a week later feeling empowered, aligned and ready to take on anything.

I may not know yet exactly how my music will continue to blossom into a service to the world, but one thing is certain: in divine timing, everything that is meant for me will be revealed, and I can’t wait to see what life has in store. Pura Vida!

To learn more about this unique music mentorship experience, visit http://neverlandretreats.com