Striking a Chord: Instruments of Healing shows how veterans with PTSD are finding their way back to themselves through music and art. The spine of the 30-minute documentary is singer-songwriter Nell Bryden’s concert tour of U.S. military bases in Iraq. Her performances carve out a sliver of rare emotional space for soldiers whose daily routines require suppression of feelings. We see how the music transforms – in body language, facial expressions, and the intimacy of the stories shared by individual soldiers in post-concert private exchanges with the band.

Director Susan Rockefeller also intertwines footage from the battlefield with footage of veterans fighting a very different battle – a battle to rediscover normal. Through art, dance, theater, and music, vets gradually find their voice and their health. Their journeys offer civilians insight into the trauma of war and the challenges that returning soldiers face when they re-enter “reality.” Soldiers learn that, for those who find the courage to speak their truths, there are unexpected paths to healing.

About Striking a Chord

We are so thrilled to feature the stunning photographs of Lynn Johnson, which were featured in the February 2015 issue of National Geographic.
Find out more about Johnson’s work on her website.

Susan Rockefeller, Director & Co-producer

Susan Rockefeller

Susan Rockefeller is an entrepreneur, conservationist and filmmaker. She’s the CEO and Founder of Protect What Is Precious, a company that advises businesses on how to improve their products and processes in a way that contributes to a better future for the planet, while enhancing the value of their brands.

Susan’s films have explored a range of contemporary issues such as ocean acidification and the future of ocean health, PTSD and the use of music to heal, the confluence of race, poverty and illness; and global food sustainability. Her films have aired on HBO, PBS, and the Discovery Channel. Susan sits on the boards of Oceana, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, We Are Family Foundation, and is a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council Global Leadership Council.

She received her undergraduate degree from Hampshire College, a certificate in ecological horticulture from University of California Santa Cruz and her master’s degree from NYU. Susan lives in New York City with her husband and children.

Please watch a compilation of Susan’s documentary film work:

We Are Family Foundation

Striking a Chord was produced in partnership with the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the vision of a global family by creating and supporting programs that inspire and educate the next generation about respect, understanding, and cultural diversity—while striving to solve some of our biggest global problems at the same time. This film will add to their vision by expanding our public understanding of the larger community of our troops in Iraq and the role of music as a force for peace. Find out more at wearefamilyfoundation.org.


Nell Bryden

Nell Bryden is a singer/songwriter with six CDs under her belt. Born and raised in New York City, and currently living in London, Bryden has blended blues, country, modern-Dixie and jazz into a songwriting style uniquely her own. Constantly crossing the oceans, she’s played nearly 500 gigs in just over two years, including opening slots with KT Tunstall and the Counting Crows. Nell’s especially popular in the British Isles. As an independent release, her debut single tracked Top 40 in the Official Irish Charts. Find out more at nellbryden.com.


Featuring the music of Nell Bryden
“Second Time Around”
“Where the Pavement Ends”
“It’s Not Like Loving You”
“Only Life I Know”
“What Does It Take to Get to You”
“Helen’s Requiem”

all songs written by Nell Bryden
courtesy of Nell Bryden Music
performed by Nell Bryden and her band

VOCALS & GUITAR: Nell Bryden
BASS GUITAR: Mark Stewart
DRUMS: Bryan Bisordi

original guitar score
composed and performed by Eric Lindberg


“We Are Family”
Performed by Nell Bryden & her band
Written by Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards
© 1979 Cotillion Records, Courtesy of Nile Rodgers

“We Are Family” (slow remix)
arranged and performed by Nell Bryden & Eric Lindberg
written by Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards
© 1979 Cotillion Records, Courtesy of Nile Rodgers

“Ring of Fire”
performed by Nell Bryden, Eric Lindberg,
and the Talil Air Force Fire Department
written by June Carter & Merle Kilgore
© 1963 Painted Desert Music Corp.

Performed by Danny Roberts
Written by Gavin Rossdale
© 1994 Kirtland Records

“Here I Stand”
composed and performed by Cheldyn Donovan

piano score
composed and performed by Kevin McLeod

concert audio engineer
James Deering

post-production supervisor
Sean Frechette

audio mix
Bill Markle

research supervisor
Beth Poague

Karen Shatzkin

music library

Opuzz Music

Associated Press
Google Maps
U.S. Department of Defense


Americans for the Arts/National initiative for Arts & Health in the Military
American Dance Therapy Association
American Legion Auxiliary
The ArtReach Foundation
Capital News Service Television
CBS “60 minutes”
Combat Arts San Diego
The Commonwealth Club
The Daily Planet
Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Will Dickey, The Times-Union
Half of Us Foundation
Lynn Johnson, National Geographic
Johnson County Community Foundation
Dario Magnolo
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Devin Mitchell, Veteran Vision Project
MTV Networks on Campus, Inc.
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Psymposia
National Veterans Creative Arts Festival
Andrew Nunn
Polsky Family Supporting Foundation
Psychedelic Frontier
Susan and Richard Selke
Tappert & Associates, The Arts & The Military
Twin Cities Daily Planet
Under the Hood Café Outreach Center
US Air Force
US Dept. of Veterans Affairs Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation
Veteran Artist Program
VetCAT – Veterans’ Creative Arts Therapy
VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation
Voice of America
The White House

Clips from “Inspirations of Hope & Recovery” courtesy of
Veterans at the Tampa VA Psychosocial Rehabilitation & Recovery Center, Tampa, FL

Nancy Hunt
Nile Rodgers
Nell Bryden
Ana Abramcyk
Gwen Alston
Angela Alston
Roberto Berrios
Maj. Gen. David Blackledge
Maj. Iwona Blackledge
Sgt. Gustavo Blanco
Ron Borczan
Larry Brilliant, M.D.
Rachel Brink
Dr. Judith Broder
John Bradbury
Chicken and Egg Pictures
Edun Clothing
Brian Dallow
Cheldyn Donovan
Larry Gallmier
Sgt. Garrett
Julie Gilhart
Hugo B. Gonzalez
Judith Helfand
Clay Hunt
Staff Sgt. Meg Krause
Laura Krejci
Capt. Todd Kruder
Elizabeth Mackey
Tony Macie
Christopher T. Martin
Shon McDougal
Ret. Admiral Mike Mullen
President Barack Obama
Lt. Col. Scott Rainey
Danny Roberts
Dr. Richard Rockefeller
Sgt. Ronald Rosser, Ret.
Capt. Emily Stehr
Corey Stephens
Kim Silas
Tara Tappert, Ph.D.
Sean Walko
Elizabeth Washburn
Jonathan Wei
Marete Wester
Allison Winters

Camp Ali Al Salem
Camp Adder
Camp Al Asad
And Camp Rimadi
who participated in the making of this film