34th Annual Songwriters School
May 25 – May 28, 2015

 

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Founded in 1981, Songwriters' School allows students to learn from masters of the craft.  Work side by side with tried and true songwriters.

 

2015 Songwriters School Faculty

Steve Seskin - Director
Ray Chesna (Theory)

Ellis Delaney

Amy Speace

Jon Vezner (Monday/Tuesday Only)

Don Henry (Monday/Tuesday Only)

Allen Shamblin (Thursday Only)

Tamara Saviano (Thursday Only)

Steve Gillette

 

The 34th annual Songwriting School at the Quiet Valley Ranch will be held during the 44th Annual Kerrville Folk Festival Monday May 25 - Thursday May 28. Both beginning and advanced songwriters can benefit from this experience through shared examples and break-out sessions with our guest faculty.

 

There are many valid approaches to songwriting and such differences are encouraged. All types of songwriting are addressed: folk, rock, blues, and country. Students receive both large and small group instruction using hands-on-teaching methods. Individual song critiques and group songwriting are included.

 

 

2015 KERRVILLE SONG SCHOOL SCHEDULE

***Purchase***

 

KERRVILLE SONG SCHOOL SCHEDULE ( tentative ) exact schedule will be posted soon

 9 am  Welcome to Song School

 Monday 9:15 am till 10:30 Steve Seskin will open with a talk on basic lyric writing, imagery/emotion and how to create evocative meaningful lyrics. What elements make up the most potent and engaging lyrics? In this workshop we take a look at lyrics that have that magical combination of imagery and emotion and how those two factors contribute greatly to drawing in the listener. I always say “show me, don’t tell me.” We need to paint pictures with our lyrics. We’ll talk about some of the tools every songwriter needs to be a better lyric writer.

10:30 till 10:45 BREAK

10:45 till Noon Times and Tools of a Songwriter (Ellis)

Master Class for all students

Right-Brained Approaches To Time Management & The Creative Process.Setting aside songwriting time has always been challenging for me amidst a busy touring schedule, being a mom to a toddler, and doing all those music business-y things on my to-do list. About two years ago I was officially diagnosed with ADD. This new understanding of my awesomely powerful creative right brain and not so powerful executive functioning helped to me understand why traditional left-brained time management and organizing skills haven’t worked for me. In this workshop I will bring inspiring ideas, stories, as well as easy daily practices that will help you be more open and creative. I will also be offering friendly tools for time management that are designed for us wandering creative minded songwriter types who want out of the box! I have found that structure is freedom and I can’t wait to show you these tools.

.Noon till 1pm LUNCH

1pm till 1:45 - meet the rest of the full time faculty Amy Speace, Ray Chesna, Ellis, Jon Vezner, Don Henry and Steve Gillete. Official welcome to song school! ( Allen Shamblin and Tamara Savianno will join us Thursday only.

 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES  2PM till 3:30

SING WHAT YOU MEAN, MEAN WHAT YOU SING (Amy Speace)
This is a comprehensive performance workshop. Looking at the song through the lens of performance, we illuminate where we disconnect with our own song and find ways into a more authentic, genuine and, most importantly, connected performance. Looking at singing as a natural extension of speaking, we’ll put our songs and the “singing of them” under a microscope, illuminating the dramatic questions already written into the song and how to have a strong, connected performance without overacting. In the end, this will reinforce that we are singing what we mean, meaning what we sing, and finding new ways to allow the natural voice to express the lyric and bump your performance (and your writing) up to a new level. Along the way, we will deal with all aspects of the performance, from intros and banter to basic stagecraft to overcoming stage fright.

 Ray Chesna will offer the first of several small group classes. This class will present, from a guitarist/songwriter perspective, a concise and useful introduction to “legitimate” music theory. The emphasis will be on gaining an understanding of keys, scales and chords as well as progressions and how they work on the guitar fingerboard. Special attention will be paid to teaching a system of making simple charts for songwriters who want to communicate their songs to other musicians.

Don Henry will offer…

THE MUSE LOVES TO SEE YOU AT WORK  It’s a beautiful moment when a wave of inspiration hits you. However, if you’re like most of us, it can be a long time between those moments. Fortunately, the Muse is kind to those who are busy at work! Inspiration never travels without the companion of craftsmanship, and we’re going to use the whole toolbox: hard and soft rhymes, cadences and chord changes, cut and paste, puns and juxtapositions. In the process we’ll conquer three challenges during the week: assignment writing, writing lyrics without an instrument, and putting music to a co-writer’s lyrics. Come explore how creativity can blossom from boundaries.

Jon Vezner will offer

Writing to a Title and how to find one if you don’t start with one..

3:30 – 3:45 break

3:45 – 5:15pm

Ellis will offer….

INTENTIONAL PERFORMANCE  Connect To Your Audience By Fully Embracing Who You Are. Every concert is different, but every audience wants the same thing: to feel moved and connected to the music you are making! Magic happens naturally when there is ease, joy, and a shared sense of a real connection between an audience and a performer. It can happen in the unexpected imperfect moments and there are practices you can use to strengthen your sense of balance and “play” in your performances. You are the only you in the whole wide world. So how do you allow yourself to be as full and bright as you can be and as the world needs? In this class, we will examine how to identify and use your music and explore how to prepare mentally and musically so you can fully ‘show up’ at every show.

GUITAR TOOLS: STRING THEORY FOR GUITARISTS A & B (Ray Chesna)
(Note: This class is offered twice. Each section covers the same material) Ray ties it all together and breaks it all down. Be it your own personal style, your songwriting, blues, bluegrass, new age, Celtic, pop, jazz; the one thing that they all have in common is THEORY. This fun and involving course will explore melody (scales) and harmony (chords) in understandable terms and with simple concepts. The insightful, practical instruction will enable the student to easily apply the concepts to the guitar. This has been a popular course for several years now, and, of course, Ray has some new tricks up his sleeve. This year we will be spending more time on chords, chord progressions and deconstructing classic songs. Clear, helpful handouts will allow the student to bring this information home for continued study. Repeat offenders always welcome.

Jon Vezner will offer

The groove and Tempo can make or break your song. So can the key….

Jon Vezner will explore how the musical setting of every song is very important to the impact of each piece. Tempo, groove, key and prosody will be covered among other things. As songwriters, we have many choices when it comes to lyric writing and music. Learn to use them well.

SONG CRITIQUES (Don Henry and Steve Seskin together)
Songs chosen for critique each day will be drawn from a “hat.” Attendees will be encouraged to attend all sessions for it will be beneficial to be a part of the process whether your song has been chosen or not. Critiques will be very in-depth, and we’ll hope to cover three to four songs per 75 minute session. We will address song form and structure, prosody, storyline, melody, arrangement and last but not least, commercial potential.

5:30 till 7 ish Main Stage student song swap. Play a song or just listen. Get to know your song school cohorts through their songs. Some faculty will attend as well.

Tuesday

In addition to the master classes there will be private mentoring sessions with Ray Chesna and Amy Speace as well as individual song critiques offered by Steve Gillette.

Six 25 minutes slots from 10 am till 12:30 pm. (Ellis is off for the morning)

9am till 10:00 Master class with Steve Seskin Point Of View

In this seminar we explore eight different perspectives to choose from when deciding how your characters can best tell their story. We will look into figuring out how to find the most powerful way to tell any given story. We’ll talk about 1st, 2nd, 3rd person and various combinations as well. We will then look into more complex ways to use perspective to bring out the most emotion in all your lyrics. I believe this is one of the most important lessons on the road to writing great songs.

 10 am till 10:15 break

10:15 till 12:00 pm Master Class with Jon Vezner and Don Henry

Jon Vezner and Don Henry - Beginnings, experiences and the process:

Jon and Don have learned a lot in their combined 70+ years of experience as professional songwriters. They’d like to give you a look into when/how they got there, who helped them along the way, and what they’ve learned throughout the decades of changes.

They’ll talk about their writing process and offer up ways of keeping it fresh and fun after all these years. They hope to have a lot of Q and A to help shape this class so you get what you need out of it. These classes are always fun and tend to take on a life of their own.

Noon till 1:00 lunch

1 pm till 2 pm Ellis and Steve will do a talk on co – writing as well as a demonstration by actually starting a song together. This is a master class!

2 pm till 3:30 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

WHAT WRITER’S BLOCK? LET’S GET UNSTUCK (Amy Speace)
PART ONE When I feel I’ve got writer’s block or I’m in that place where I feel like I’ve either got no new ideas or I’m just plain “stuck” – either stuck plagarizing my last 3 songs, stuck in a groove rut, a lyric or a musical rut, that’s when it’s time for the Amusement Park of Songwriting. In this class, we’ll be writing songs from Games to Get You Unstuck. Some of the fun we’ll have: the 20 minute song (yes, you can write a fully-formed song in 20 minutes, I know you can, and you’d be surprised at how deep you go when you’re not thinking so hard about it); The 20 Word Limit Song; the ‘everyone gets the same hook line’ song; Songs from Improvisation; partnering and swapping stories for songs, etc. We’ll also talk about techniques for writing exercises to try when you’re already writing a song and are stuck, how to access deeper writing and story to bring to that lyric, and we’ll look at your own songs where you may be stuck and try to unstick them. PART Two offered at 3:45

2pm – 3:30 pm

Jon Vezner and Don Henry - Co-writing a song and recording the demo:

Jon and Don have been writing songs together long before and ever since their Grammy winning co-write “Where’ve You Been”. They’ve also co-written with a vast stable of some of the greatest writers in Nashville and beyond.

Co-writing can feel like an unnatural act for a lot of writers. Being only children in their families, both Jon and Don have struggled with bringing their “insides out “ and sharing/baring it all to co-writing “strangers”, especially after years of writing songs in their heads in the safety of their own writing spaces. They’d like to share their co-writing experience and help you step out of your co-writing “shell”.

And then there’s the process of demoing the finished tune. Jon and Don have recorded home demos and records, from the days of reel-to-reel to computers. You’ll see how a lot of those arrangements are made as part of the writing process. By the time they finish a song, they almost instinctively know how to record it to get the maximum idea across to the listener.

 2 PM – 3:30 PM

INTENTIONAL PERFORMANCE (Ellis)
Connect To Your Audience By Fully Embracing Who You Are. Every concert is different, but every audience wants the same thing: to feel moved and connected to the music you are making! Magic happens naturally when there is ease, joy, and a shared sense of a real connection between an audience and a performer. It can happen in the unexpected imperfect moments and there are practices you can use to strengthen your sense of balance and “play” in your performances. You are the only you in the whole wide world. So how do you allow yourself to be as full and bright as you can be and as the world needs? In this class, we will examine how to identify and use your music mission and we will explore how to prepare mentally and musically so you can fully ‘show up’ at every show!

3:30 till 3:45 break

3:45 till 5:15 pm Electives continue

Part two of 2 pm class

Jon Vezner and Don Henry - Co-writing a song and recording the demo:

Jon and Don have been writing songs together long before and ever since their Grammy winning co-write “Where’ve You Been”. They’ve also co-written with a vast stable of some of the greatest writers in Nashville and beyond.

Co-writing can feel like an unnatural act for a lot of writers. Being only children in their families, both Jon and Don have struggled with bringing their “insides out “ and sharing/baring it all to co-writing “strangers”, especially after years of writing songs in their heads in the safety of their own writing spaces. They’d like to share their co-writing experience and help you step out of your co-writing “shell”.

And then there’s the process of demoing the finished tune. Jon and Don have recorded home demos and records, from the days of reel-to-reel to computers. You’ll see how a lot of those arrangements are made as part of the writing process. By the time they finish a song, they almost instinctively know how to record it to get the maximum idea across to the listener.

Musical Song help offered by Ray in a small group setting

Steve Seskin and Steve Gillette will offer….

SONG CRITIQUES  Songs chosen for critique each day will be drawn from a “hat.” Attendees will be encouraged to attend all sessions for it will be beneficial to be a part of the process whether your song has been chosen or not. Critiques will be very in-depth, and we’ll hope to cover three to four songs per 75 minute session. We will address song form and structure, prosody, storyline, melody, arrangement and last but not least, commercial potential.

5:30 till 7 ish Main Stage student song swap. Play a song or just listen. Get to know your song school cohorts through their songs. Some faculty will attend as well.

Wednesday

In addition to the master classes, there will be individual mentoring offered by Ellis and song critiques by Steve Gillette. 10am till 12:30 six 25 minute slots

9:00 till 10:45 Steve Seskin talk for all students on Melody writing

In focusing on melody writing, I teach from a place of writing melodies for lyrics. Prosody is the marriage of music and lyric. We explore ways to determine if the overall vibe of the music feels right, and look at specific parts of songs in terms of choosing an appropriate melody that milks the emotion that the writer would like the listener to feel from the lyric. I also talk about phrasing and accents. There is an important word in every sentence. We look at choosing accent places that stress the right syllables and help drive home your point. Music can actually change the meaning of a lyric when used to its fullest potential. We also discuss rhythm and range and how to use them effectively in songs.

10:45 till 11:00 Break

11:00 till 12:30 Master class with Ray Chesna for all students

 More theory Ray ties it all together and breaks it all down. Be it your own personal style, your songwriting, blues, bluegrass, new age, Celtic, pop, jazz; the one thing that they all have in common is THEORY. This fun and involving course will explore melody (scales) and harmony (chords) in understandable terms and with simple concepts. The insightful, practical instruction will enable the student to easily apply the concepts to the guitar. This has been a popular course for several years now, and, of course, Ray has some new tricks up his sleeve. This year we will be spending more time on chords, chord progressions and deconstructing classic songs. Clear, helpful handouts will allow the student to bring this information home for continued study.

12:30 till 1:30 Lunch

1:30 till 3 pm Afternoon electives

 Amy Speace will offer a vocal class designed to help people relax, breathe and get the most out of their voices.

She will also discuss warm-ups and staying healthy on the road. Some individual work will be done with students.

Steve and Ellis will continue their co write from Tuesday

3:00 till 3:15 break

3:15 till 5 pm AFTERNOON ELECTIVES continue

SING WHAT YOU MEAN, MEAN WHAT YOU SING (Amy Speace)
This is a comprehensive performance workshop. Looking at the song through the lens of performance, we illuminate where we disconnect with our own song and find ways into a more authentic, genuine and, most importantly, connected performance. Looking at singing as a natural extension of speaking, we’ll put our songs and the “singing of them” under a microscope, illuminating the dramatic questions already written into the song and how to have a strong, connected performance without overacting. In the end, this will reinforce that we are singing what we mean, meaning what we sing, and finding new ways to allow the natural voice to express the lyric and bump your performance (and your writing) up to a new level. Along the way, we will deal with all aspects of the performance, from intros and banter to basic stagecraft to overcoming stage fright.

Steve Seskin will offer a session on “The Curse of The 2nd verse”.

The place where most writers seem to get stuck. We will discuss strategies that can make your second verse even stronger than your first.

5:30 till 7 ish Main Stage student song swap. Play a song or just listen. Get to know your song school cohorts through their songs. Some faculty will attend as well.

Thursday

Mentoring will be offered by Ray Chesna

and Amy Speace six 25 minute slots will be available for each of them. 10am till 12:30 pm

9:00 am till 10:00 Allen Shamblin “Faith in The Face of Futility”

Master Class for all students

Allen will be speaking on living a writers life, staying true to yourself and above all else being honest in your writing. He will also focus on overcoming writers block and how to keep the faith when things aren’t seemingly going well. Maybe they

Are actually going better than you think.

10am till 11:15 am Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin will talk about rewriting. Writing can more easily come from that dreamy/stream of consciousness place. Rewriting involves considering what you’ve already written and in many ways is a lot more tedious. In this seminar we examine all types of rewriting. Are you rewriting because the content is not serving the moment in the song, or is the problem the tone of how you put forth your idea? We'll also look at how to know when a song is done and the wisdom of sticking to the task versus putting a song away for a while and giving it a rest. Many times I write more than I need just to give myself choices.

11:15 till 11:30 break

11:30 till 1 pm Tamara Savianno will give a talk to all students on:

Being Real – How to make an authentic connection with your audience.

Music is emotional.  Your audience is emotionally attached to your music. Because of that attachment, they buy concert tickets, CDs, and merchandise. 

What can you do to elevate your identity with your audience and nurture that attachment? How do you build authentic relationships with your fans and the media?

This marketing and publicity workshop with Grammy-winning producer, manager and publicist Tamara Saviano will teach you the skills to be real, be charitable, be vulnerable, be responsive, and strengthen your relationship with your audience via publicity and relationship marketing.

You will learn how to create and distribute press releases to traditional and new media, be your own PR machine and generate coverage of your music and appearances. 

We’ll also review case studies in relationship marketing and adapt great ideas that have worked for others.

1pm till 2 pm Lunch

2pm till 3:15 pm Last elective classes

Tamara will work in a small group setting

Allen Shamblin will do a class TBA

Ray will offer more small group help.

Ellis will offer a small group her take on an artist being a business person no matter what level you’re at. (Further description soon)

Steve Gillette will offer small group critique

Amy will hold her last small group performance class

3:15 till 3:30 Break

3:30 till 5 pm  Closing session. Q and A comments and a general catch all session with all the instructors.

5 pm big hugs and goodbyes


FACULTY BIOS and

 2015 CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

 

Steve Seskin

A Steve Seskin concert will have you wiping away a tear one minute and laughing out loud the next. His songs all have messages that touch the hearts of everyone: from the feelings of a little boy missing his father, to growing up and being true to yourself, to one of his most well know themes of being considerate to and respectful of one another as expressed in “Don’t Laugh at Me. He is a tri coastal kind of guy, growing up in NY, living in San Francisco and having a lot of success in Nashville with his songs. He also works with children, writing songs with them that support the curriculum of Operation Respect, an anti bullying foundation created by Peter Yarrow, based on "Don't Laugh At Me".

He is a successful songwriter who has written seven number one songs, including Grammy-nominated “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” recorded by Tim McGraw, and “Don’t Laugh at Me,” winner of NSAI Song of the Year and Music Row Magazine Song of the Year in 1999 as recorded by Mark Wills. His other #1 hits are “No Doubt About It” and “For a Change,” both recorded by Neal McCoy, “No Man’s Land” and “If You’ve Got Love,” both recorded by John Michael Montgomery, and “Daddy’s Money,” recorded by Ricochet. Other chart toppers include “I Think About You,” recorded by Collin Raye, and “All I Need To Know,” recorded by Kenny Chesney.

While Steve is best known for writing hits, he is also a successful performer and recording artist. He is currently touring in support of his latest CD, "Some Sunsets". This is his 19th recording released on his own record label.

 

 

Allen Shamblin

 

Allen Shamblin was born in Tennessee and grew up in Huffman, Texas, about 30 miles outside of Houston. After graduating with a Marketing degree from Sam Houston State University, Allen moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked as a real -estate appraiser by day and honed his songwriting skills by night. In August of 1987, Allen moved to Nashville, with 14 completed songs. His “story songs” with vivid detail and honest, earthy lyrics quickly caught the ear of the Nashville music establishment.

In 1989, it was Randy Travis’ #1 version of He Walked On Water, which brought Allen to the forefront of the songwriting community seemingly “overnight”. This began a string of award winning songs throughout the 1990’s and on into the new millennium such as Walk On Faith /Mike Reid, In This Life /Collin Raye, Thinkin’ Problem /David Ball, Life’s A Dance /John Michael Montgomery, We Were In Love /Toby Keith, Don’t Laugh At Me /Mark Wills, Live, Laugh, Love /Clay Walker, Where The Blacktop Ends /Keith Urban and Dove Award winner It’s In Gods Hands Now/Anointed. I Can’t Make You Love Me, a song co-written with Mike Reid and recorded by Bonnie Raitt was nominated for a Grammy Award and voted the #8 song of “The 100 Greatest Songs Of All Time” in the August 2000 issue of Mojo Magazine. Most recently The House That Built Me co-written with Tom Douglas and recorded by Miranda Lambert has garnered several awards including 2010 CMA Song Of The Year, NSAI Song Of The Year, 2011 ACM Song Of The Year and two Grammy nominations.

Allen has also co-authored two children’s books (Don’t Laugh At Me and A Chance To Shine) with his friend and co-writer, Steve Seskin. Don’t Laugh At Me has been translated into several languages and is being used by teachers throughout the United States and other parts of the world as an aid against bullying. In 2009, Allen was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriter’s Honor Roll with Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Michael Martin Murphy. In 2011, Allen was inducted into the Nashville Songriters Hall Of Fame with Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Thom Schyler and John Bettis.

Allen has had more than 100 songs recorded by artists in several genres of music. He currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife Lori and their three children on a small farm with 4 horses, 3 dogs, 5 goats, 6 cats and a yard full of chickens.
 

 

 

Tamara Saviano                             Shae Acopian Detar Photo

Tamara Saviano is a Grammy and Americana Award winning producer and music business consultant. Saviano owns and operates a consulting, artist management and public relations company serving the Americana and Folk communities.

She manages the day-to-day operations for Kris Kristofferson’s record label KK Records, and Radney Foster’s label, Devil’s River Records. Saviano has managed projects and record releases for many acclaimed artists including Foster and Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Gene Watson, Ashley Monroe, The World Famous Headliners, Shawn Camp, John Corbett, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Janis Ian, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Gretchen Peters.

As a producer, Saviano’s contributions include Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster, honored with a 2004 GRAMMY for Best Traditional Folk Album; The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson; the Grammy-nominated This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, which won Album of the Year at the Americana Honors & Awards in 2012; and 2014’s Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne.

Saviano is the co-author of “From Art to Commerce: A Workbook for Independent Musicians” and teaches a workshop of the same name with her partner Rod Picott. She is currently writing an in-depth biography of Guy Clark.

Saviano is a former President and six-year board member of the Americana Music Association; and former board member of Folk Alliance, the Recording Academy and the Future of Music Coalition. She is a member of Leadership Music, Class of 2007.

 

2015 Songwriter School

Be Real – How to make an authentic connection with your audience

Music is emotional. Your audience is emotionally attached to your music. Because of that attachment, they buy concert tickets, CDs, and merchandise.

What can you do to elevate your identity with your audience and nurture that attachment? How do you build authentic relationships with your fans and the media?

This marketing and publicity workshop with Grammy-winning producer, manager and publicist Tamara Saviano will teach you the skills to be real, be charitable, be vulnerable, be responsive, and strengthen your relationship with your audience via publicity and relationship marketing.

You will learn how to create and distribute press releases to traditional and new media, be your own PR machine and generate coverage of your music and appearances.

We’ll also review case studies in relationship marketing and adapt great ideas that have worked for others.

 

Ray Chesna

An accomplished singer,guitarist and songwriter, Ray Chesna has developed his performance abilities in many styles, but especially swing, blues and bluegrass, all represented on his CDs.The most recently released is THE PERFECT BLEND. Ray has appeared on stage in the bands with Hazel Dickens, Kenny Baker and Josh Graves, Bela Fleck and others. And some of the acts he has
been on the same bill with are Taj Mahal, Jimmy Rogers, Chris Smither, Geoff Muldaur and Peter Rowan.  A private music teacher since 1971 Ray has been also been on staff at the Augusta Heritage Center, the Swannanoa Gathering, and Guitar Intensives at Bar Harbor and at Club Passim in Cambridge Ma.

 

2015 Songwriter School - GUITAR TOOLS: STRING THEORY FOR GUITARISTS

 

This class will present, from a guitarist/songwriter perspective, a concise and useful introduction to “legitimate” music theory. The emphasis will be on gaining an understanding of keys, scales and chords? progressions and how they work on the guitar fingerboard. Special attention will be paid to teaching a system of making simple charts for songwriters who want to communicate their songs to other musicians.

Note: This class is offered twice. Each section covers the same material. Ray ties it all together and breaks it all down. Be it your own personal style, your songwriting, blues, bluegrass, new age, Celtic, pop, jazz; the one thing that they all have in common is THEORY. This fun and involving course will explore melody (scales) and harmony (chords) in understandable terms and with simple concepts. The insightful, practical instruction will enable the student to easily apply the concepts to the guitar. This has been a popular course for several years now, and, of course, Ray has some new tricks up his sleeve. This year we will be spending more time on chords, chord progressions and deconstructing classic songs. Clear, helpful handouts will allow the student to bring this information home for continued study. Repeat offenders always welcome.