July 23–29, 2023
Remember when you used to write songs for fun? Are you in a rut? Do you want to get out of your own head and try something new? Song starters is a place to come every day to do fun little writing exercises, both lyrical and melodic. We will start every morning with an inspirational poem, and then an example of a song to illustrate the day’s exercise. We will do a short exercise then come back and read or play what we wrote. Then we’ll do a different exercise. Most of these exercises are taken from my classes at the University of Virginia, at the Young Writers Workshop, so I know they work. This class will not be cumulative, so you could drop in one day and out the next. I would be surprised if you didn’t come away without a song or two.
Do you know how many great songs in the lexicon of songwriting have been co-written? There’s a reason for that. Co-writes get completed quickly. You have someone to bounce things off of, and help you get inside the song. You get the benefit of adding somebody else’s skill set and perspective to your own. And you end up with something you never would’ve created alone. Have you always wanted to try to co-write but don’t know how to start? Does the idea of co-writing feel like going on a blind date? In this class, we will create a safe place to try our hand at co-writing. You owe it to yourself to give it a shot at least once. Together, we’ll learn how it works and if it’s right for you.
Tom Prasada-Rao BIO
Tom Prasada-Rao is a musician’s musician – an unassuming presence on the folk scene since the early nineties. His voice belies his musicianship and his extraordinary songs. From “Rishi’s Garden” with its homage to Ravi Shankar to the groove of “Sleeping Beauty”, Tom’s music is melodic, ambitious, and reverent. He’s starting to tour again after being featured last year on the nationally syndicated TV show Troubadour Texas. ~ tomprasadarao.com
RECLAIM THE THUNDER
This interactive workshop shares methods Taína Asili has gathered from her long history of writing poems and songs that seek to reclaim power, break barriers, inspire, and unite. The workshops begin by looking at historical and contemporary examples of social change songs and songwriters. She then guides participants in hands-on songwriting exercises, to turn their own social justice ideas into lyrics and musical compositions. Join us in this interactive radical music jam to reinvent our world!
THE RHYTHM OF REBELLION
Inspired by her two-decades-long career as a singer and songwriter for social change, Taína Asili will guide participants in exploring important social justice themes through songwriting. Each day participants will be invited to explore a new social justice theme, including themes of racial, gender, and climate justice. Taína will share her process of songwriting on the theme, and will also share examples of other powerful songs that address these issues. This workshop seeks to inspire participants to explore songwriting as a means of creatively thinking about solutions to our world’s problems and making a positive impact on social change.
Taína Asili BIO
Taína Asili is a New York-based Puerto Rican singer, filmmaker, and activist carrying on the tradition of her ancestors, fusing past and present struggles into one soulful and defiant voice. She combines powerful vocals with a multi-genre fusion – confidently weaving between salsa, rock, reggae, cumbia, reggaeton, and hip hop – with multilingual songs that beat with the heart of social change. Asili’s music offers a sound that spans continents, exuding strength of Spirit, inspiring audiences at venues across the globe – From Carnegie Hall to the Women’s March on Washington to the main stage of San Francisco Pride. With energetic and infectious rhythms, Asili’s music urges people to get on their feet and dance to the rhythm of rebellion. ~ tainaasili.com
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS
How do you make your lyrics stand out in the crowd? This writing workshop explores the art of sense-bound details that can set your songs apart from all the rest. We will work in-depth on creative techniques like Object Writing and Recoloring to generate thoughtful and compelling words to go into your songs. Come prepared to write!
THE MARRIAGE OF MUSIC AND MEANING
No matter where you begin a song—with lyrics or with music— a marriage between these two elements must take place or the song loses its power and impact. This workshop will focus on the concept of “Prosody” and how the relationship between lyric, melody, and chord progression is key to creating wonderful songs. Come prepared to write!
Susan Cattaneo BIO
Susan Cattaneo is one of Boston’s most respected singer-songwriters, combining vivid storytelling with a modern songwriter’s spin. Call it New England Americana with a twang. Susan won the CT Folk Festival and was nominated for Singer-Songwriter of the Year at the 2022 Boston Music Awards. She has been a finalist or winner in the country’s most prestigious songwriting and music contests. An in-demand collaborator for a wide range of local and national artists, she is a three-time Kerrville New Folk finalist. Her double album The Hammer and The Heart charted #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and yielded a folk radio #1 single and top 10 album. Her latest work, All is Quiet was a top 25 Album of 2022. In her 20 years teaching Songwriting at Berklee College of Music, Susan helped students work on over 15,000 songs in all musical genres and styles and mentored over 2,000 artists. She’s taught master clinics at the International Folk Conference and at regional Folk conferences (NERFA, SWRFA, and SERFA). She’s written for American Songwriter and Guitar Magazine and her lyric writing has been featured in Pat Pattison’s award-winning books Writing Better Lyrics and Writing Beyond Boundaries. ~ susancattaneo.com
HARMONY SINGING AND FOLKSONG REPERTOIRE
This group-singing class will teach a collection of traditional and original folk songs well suited for harmony singing. Emphasis will be on songs just outside of the mainstream, the “also-rans”, with a primary goal being to expand the repertoire of the class participants. Practice finding harmony parts, switching parts, choosing keys, etc. The goal here is not so much to emulate existing harmony arrangements as previously recorded, but rather to build skills and confidence in finding the harmony around a newly discovered (or written) song.
GUITAR TECHNIQUES FOR SINGERS
Intermediate guitarists, having knowledge of basic open-position chords and some experience accompanying songs, will benefit from this study of pick and fingerstyle guitar. Strum patterns, bass runs, basic fingerstyle technique, melodic accompaniment, applied basic music theory, and skill-building exercises will promote more thoughtful guitar playing, with service to the song always the primary consideration.
Jefferson Hamer BIO
Jefferson Hamer is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. He has toured and recorded albums with Anais Mitchell (Child Ballads, winner of a BBC2 Folk Award), Sarah Jarosz (as guitarist and harmony singer on her Grammy-nominated Blue Heron Suite), and Session Americana. The Murphy Beds, his long-running traditional folk duo with Eamon O’Leary, has released two self-produced albums, about which the Huffington Post wrote, “[the album] bears repeated listening from start to finish, with ten beautiful, crystalline songs.” His original songs and lead guitar work are featured on Alameda, an acoustic and electric collaboration with bassist Jeff Picker and drummer John Fatum, featuring special guests from the NYC folk community and beyond. ~ jeffersonhamer.com
SING HEART, BODY, & SOUL
Singing is fun! Inside each of us lives a beautiful and unique instrument! In this workshop, we will move our bodies, soften our hearts, open our mouths, and let our voices out to play! With an emphasis on vocal health and self-care, we will use a combination of vocal warm-ups and workouts, to help relax and strengthen the voice – making it more flexible and reliable. I’ll provide individual attention and support to each person in class and to the group as a whole.
FIND JOY ON STAGE!
How to find your calm and peaceful center in the eye of the storm….in the eye of the energy of expression. How to claim space on stage and be in the beautiful and exciting moment of performing. Exploring the world of “owning it”! Experience being your authentic self and in the flow with an audience. Releasing your inner strengths to savor the moment so you can perhaps remember your performance instead of the memory being erased by nervousness. Sloan will provide a safe and supportive atmosphere for all-around performance. Song selection, intros, elements of taking care of yourself on and off stage, tools for preparing, practicing, facing, and engaging happily with an audience. We’re gonna talk a little and check in with what you need.
Sloan Wainwright Bio
Folk-pop artist Sloan Wainwright belongs to a musical dynasty of impossibly gifted singer-songwriters. Her family tree (brother and folk-music luminary Loudon Wainwright, sister-in-law Kate McGarrigle, nephew Rufus Wainwright, nieces Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche) reads like a who’s who of contemporary folk music. Sloan’s incredible gift is not only her unique songwriting ability, but also her dramatically voiced rendition of her original songs. Defying standard categorization, singer/songwriter Sloan Wainwright consistently demonstrates her easy command of a variety of American musical styles — pop, folk, jazz, and blues — held together by the melodious tone of her rich contralto. The end result is a unique and soulful hybrid. With a solid and impressive discography of 11 original CD releases to her credit, Sloan continues to write, sing and perform live. In addition, Sloan has written numerous musical compositions for theater and dance and teaches at many of the best-known master songwriter series and workshops. Sloan’s open spirit and first-hand experience are welcomed – year after year – in the musical classrooms of such prestigious song camps as Richard Thompson’s Frets and Refrains, Moab Folk Camp, The Swannanoa Gathering, SummerSongs, WinterSongs, WUMB Radio’s Summer Acoustic Music Week (SAMW), and Lamb’s Retreat. ~ sloanwainwright.com
GRAIN OF SALT
Stuck somewhere in the middle? Here’s an interactive and participatory workshop for any songs or parts thereof that you might wish to have some input on. We’ll hear these songs-in-progress and become a collective think-tank about what’s working so far and what might benefit from a closer look. It’s also an opportunity to hone your listening and feedback-giving skills as we work with each songwriter in pondering the many elements – lyric, rhythm, chord progression, key, arrangement, intangibles, etc. – that make a song click.
PLAYING IN THE SANDBOX OF WRITING FORMS
Freeing the mind of expectations and goals can be exactly that – freeing! Let’s spend the week exploring different short and engaging writing forms to break the shackles of structure, perfection, habit, routine, and finish line. Acrostics, haikus, blitz poems, bob and wheel, and bref double are among the styles we’ll engage – all with an eye toward adding melody to words along the way. This will give you new ideas for the way words can go on the page, especially if you feel like you’re in a rut or writing the same kind of song over and over again.
David Roth BIO
David Roth is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and enthusiastic instructor who has taken his songs, experience, and expertise to a wide variety of venues in this and other countries full-time for more than three decades. His work has found its way to Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Kennedy Center, Peter, Paul, & Mary and Kingston Trio CDs, the Kerrville New Folk Award, NASA’s Goddard Space Center, the Rise Up Singing and Rise Again (sequel) songbooks, and 15 CDs on the Wind River and Stockfisch (Germany) labels. David has taught singing, songwriting, and performance at SummerSongs (where he serves as Executive Director), the Augusta Heritage workshops (WV), Common Ground on the Hill (MD), the Woods Dance & Music Camp (Ontario), Moab Folk Camp (UT), the National Wellness Institute (WI), and for many other songwriting groups and associations around the country. David annually leads musical tour groups to Ireland and Scotland, rafting/camping trips in Idaho, and is creator/director of the Cape Cod Songwriters Retreats which began in 2014. He’s also organizer/host of the Cape’s Full Moon Open Mic which since 2005 has provided a forum for musicians to connect/be heard while at the same time collecting donations (more than $16,000 to date) for local non-profits to help neighbors in need.~ davidrothmusic.com
Master musician, engineer, and SummerSongs staple Mark Dann will again offer his mid-day variety of different one-time classes which will include guitar setup and adjustments, basic chart writing, learning how to accompany anybody on the bass in one class – even if you’ve never held a bass in your hands before – and Garageband 101 (Mac users). Come to any or all!
Mark Dann BIO
I got hooked on tape recorders as a young child. Quite a bit later, I started recording songwriter-oriented albums in the Greenwich Village music scene. That led to opening a pro-level recording studio in NYC that I ran for over 31 years. All the while I was constantly playing gigs, and building and repairing guitars. Hence, my course subjects!
SONGWRITING WITH A LIGHT TOUCH
Songwriters tend to be very observant with a lot to say about the state of things. Our songs are the perfect tools to tell stories, invite change, and shine a light on injustice. I find that “a spoonful of sugar” or humor can frequently make the message much easier to swallow, so I often reflect on things that weren’t funny at all when they happened and try to look at them through the lens of humor. I’ve found that even using touches of humor in my songwriting can often allow the listener to really hear the message on a deeper level. In this workshop, we’re going to inject some humor into our songwriting…and who knows, you may get a great start on writing a completely humorous song.
Sue Riley BIO
Sue believes in the power of music to touch hearts and heal lives. As one of the co-founders of emPower Music & Arts, she helps host the yearly empower Music Festival and Posi Awards recognizing excellence in songwriting for artists who create songs with messages of peace, interfaith, and joyous living. A prolific singer-songwriter herself, Sue has created 8 CDs of original, award-winning, uplifting positive music. Her newest, There Are Moments was produced by Glen Roethel and released in 2020, just in time for the Covid shutdown. Timing is everything (this is an example of looking for humor in everyday life). Sue is a grateful member of the SummerSongs Board of Directors as well as a board member of Unity Worldwide Ministries. ~ sueriley.com
PLAYING WELL TOGETHER ~ SLOW JAM CIRCLE!
Join Glen in a swirling circle of fun where you will learn – in slow motion – to play one or two (maybe three) upbeat songs the way he plays them. After Glen gives a quick demo we’ll take a song apart then start learning and playing it together, unpacking the many technique lessons it holds.
- Guitar is preferred, but bring what you have.
- May involve some bar chords, but you’re invited if that’s new to you.
- Drop-ins are welcome to snatch a lesson or two.
- Singing is not a requirement, but you might not be able to help yourself!
Glen Roethel BIO
Glen Roethel, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/entertainer/producer, helps kindle the energy of the SummerSongs experience. Study guitar, songwriting, harmony, or performance with him; take part in a late-night jam-singalong-dance party after the evening coffeehouses have wrapped up. He is an award-winning songwriter, a jury-selected performer at NERFA and the Singer-Songwriter Cape May festival, and a 2020 Gold prize winner at the Mid Atlantic Songwriting Contest (MASC) with Us! (his socially-minded trio with Summies Judy Kass & Amy Soucy). He received a Grace Note Award and a Posi Award at the 2022 emPower Music & Arts Music Festival. You’ll see or hear his songs in a Presidential Museum and New Thought music and Hal Leonard Corp songbooks. To Glen’s credit are multiple self-produced CDs and beautiful compilation CDs, plus instrumentation, vocals, production, and co-writes on gorgeous and award-winning recordings by Penny Nichols, Sue Riley, David Roth, Sloan Wainwright, Jan Garrett & JD Martin, and many others. Oh, and come to Ireland with Glen, Sue Riley, and Sloan in 2023 and 2024! ~ glenroethel.com
Would you like to write stronger lyrics? Enhance your “image”ination? The practice of drawing is the practice of seeing, noticing more and paying closer attention to the visual world and the imaginative world. You may also notice that you write better, more completely, and more descriptively. Drawing can be used as a meditation, communication, and inspiration. It can be therapeutic as well as expressive. Are you drawn in? No experience is necessary. Limited to 16 participants.
Roger Tomhave BIO
Prior to 10 years as a Professor in Studio Art, Design, and Art History at James Madison University, Roger worked for 12 years as the Fine Arts Coordinator and 8 years as the Art Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools. Under his supervision, Fairfax arts curricula were recognized for excellence by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He has also taught middle school and high school art for 11 years on the White Earth Indian Reservation of northern Minnesota. In his own artwork, Roger has concentrated on the areas of drawing, painting, and wheel-thrown ceramics. Additionally, Roger has also been nationally and internationally recognized as a singer/songwriter in such competitions as the Great American Song Competition, the International Indie Awards, the MidAtlantic Songwriting Competition, the Unsigned Only Music Competition, the USA Songwriting Competition, the WAMMIES, the Appalachian Trail- MyATstory contest, and Empower Music and Arts Posi Awards. ~ rogertomhave.com