Some Frequently Answered Questions about SummerSongs — here are the answers!
Q: I’ve never written a song. Is SummerSongs for me?
A: SummerSongs is for songwriters and music-makers of ALL levels. If you’re interested in dipping your toe into writing a song, we offer beginner-level workshops that are perfect to get your creative process flowing and the basics down pat. But if you’d rather focus on other aspects of music, you can take classes in singing, harmony, guitar, performance, piano and much more. Or, you can just rest and relax and enjoy the vibe!
Q: I’ve been writing songs for years and am an experienced performer. Is SummerSongs for me?
A: Absolutely! We have many long-time “campers” who are experienced songwriters and join us to have a summer retreat and share new work; learn some new techniques and tricks on their instrument; collaborate with others on co-writing; or just jam the week away. Our teachers, coaches and facilitators are always available to help you take your artistry to the next level.
Q: What if I don’t play an instrument or sing…at all!
A: That is perfectly fine! We have had many attendees who come without playing any music at all — perhaps they are accompanying a spouse or a young adult. There are lots of spots to hang out and meditate or take a walk; the Hudson River is nearby; hiking trails are not far; and in the evenings there are performances galore.
Q: What is the cost of SummerSongs and what is included in the price?
A: The lowest price for SummerSongs 2023 is $1349. The price includes shared lodging at the Stony Point Center in dorm-style semi-private rooms (two beds) w/ shared baths (3 rooms share one bath) The lodges include communal areas with refrigerators and storage. In addition, all meals are included (wonderful local and organic food, some grown right on the property!) as well as all classes, one-on-one coaching, performances, jams and other activities. Private rooms and other upgrades are available for a fee on a first-come first-served basis.
Q: What differentiates SummerSongs from other music camps?
A: There are many wonderful music camps to choose from, but there are so many things that make SummerSongs stand out. First of all, we’ve been around for 25 years! So, without sounding boastful, we know what we’re doing! Our focus on songwriting and the creative process is key — and our fearless founder, Penny Nichols, meant that to include LISTENING. There is something very powerful about both listening to your peers share their songs and having your peers listen to you share yours. This is a highly-supportive and encouraging environment where everyone wants you to discover your own creativity and artistry.
Q: Why is SummerSongs such a powerful experience?
A: One of the most powerful things about coming to songwriting camp is being together with your peers — you’re there with others who are interested in you, interested in what you’re writing about, and they are also sharing their own songs. The mix of listening and sharing is incredibly, deeply inspiring and empowering. You’re sharing not only in song circles, in which people sit around and play songs for each other, but also sharing on stage at nightly “coffeehouse” open mics and student shows.
Q: How did SummerSongs get started?
A: Penny Nichols, a well-known singer-songwriter and vocal teacher originally from Orange County, California, founded SummerSongs with an initial camp in New York’s Catskill Mountains in 1999. She says: “Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s I was teaching out of the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, a big music camp outside of Seattle. I came home and I realized that this connection and this socialization of songwriters is very important, because we get very isolated. So, along with a few other female songwriters, we started having quarterly weekend get-togethers where we’d talk about songwriting, write songs, and eat a lot of strawberries and coffee and chocolate. I had an opportunity to put a songwriting class together — there were 27 students and that was the first SummerSongs. After that I formed a nonprofit corporation and started doing it full-time.”
Q: Is SummerSongs a “competitive” and “critical” environment?
A: No. Um, NOT! SummerSongs is meant to be a supportive, encouraging, enriching creative experience. We are all there to listen to one another, to share with each other. We encourage participants not to criticize another student’s work unless they ask for critique first!
Q: What are the accommodations like at SummerSongs?
A: SummerSongs takes place at the Stony Point Center, 30 miles north of NYC near the beautiful Hudson River, where most of the accommodations are semi-private dorm-like lodge rooms with baths that are shared by three rooms. You can also upgrade to a private lodge room, or to a private room in an 11-room Victorian-style B&B on the property which has private baths.
Q: What are the teachers like at SummerSongs?
A: The teachers, coaches and facilitators at SummerSongs are carefully curated and are typically touring, award-winning artists and performers with many years, even several decades, of experience teaching adult students at retreats. Some may be brand-new to SummerSongs, others are beloved instructors who come back often. In all cases, they are there for you — supportive, encouraging and meant to help you take your creative process to the next level!
Q: What is a typical day like at SummerSongs?
A: There is no typical day at SummerSongs! Every day is whatever you want it to be — you can participate in as much or as little as you like. There IS a lot going on you can take advantage of: Two class periods in the morning, two after lunch, as well as one-on-one coaching sessions you can sign up for and post-dinner open mics, staff shows, song circles and jams. But, you might just want to designate a period as perfect for a nap, or set aside some quiet time to take a walk or just noodle on your guitar.
Q: What if I’m on the fence about a songwriting retreat like SummerSongs?
A: Do yourself a favor and take a chance!
Q: What if I have additional questions?
A: Reach out! You can get in touch with us via our Contact form —we will get your question to the right person.