33rd Annual Songwriters School
May 26 – May 29, 2014

 

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(By clicking the link above, you will be transported to the KFF ticketing page. Make sure to scroll down to the Schools & Workshops section of the Ticketing Page to find the 2014 Songwriter School.)

   

 

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

 

2014 Songwriters School Faculty

Steve Seskin - Director
Ray Chesna (Theory)

Vance Gilbert (Performance)
Mary Gauthier

Allen Shamblin (Monday Only)

Tamara Saviano (Tuesday Only)

Terri Hendrix (Wed & Thur Only)

Lloyd Maines (Wed & Thur Only)
 

The 33rd annual Songwriting School at the Quiet Valley Ranch will be held during the 43rd Annual Kerrville Folk Festival Monday May 26 - Thursday May 29.  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.

 

 

2014 KERRVILLE SONG SCHOOL SCHEDULE

 

Monday

9 am Welcome to Song School

 9:15 am till 10:15 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. Allen Shamblin may sit in on this session and offer some comments.

10:15 till 10:30 BREAK

10:30 till 11:30 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.

11:30 till 12:30 Allen and Steve co – write in front of all students. This will be a great way to illustrate the in’s and out’s, do’s and don’t of co – writing. Allen and I have written 97 songs together over the last 20 years.

12:30 till 1:30 lunch hour

1:30 till 2 pm meet the rest of the full time faculty Vance Gilbert, Mary Gauthier and Ray Chesna. Official welcome to song school!

AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

2 pm to 3:30 pm Vance Gilbert will work on performance issues with a small group of 6 to 12 students. You may participate directly or simply observe his working with others. This will involve the art of performance, stage patter as well as vocal technique and control, diction and projection.

2 pm to 3:30 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.

2 pm to 3:30 Mary Gauthier will explore how to listen for your own unique “Writer’s Voice” in a small class setting
Accessing new levels of awareness in your songwriting
Learn to truly listen to your lyric
Explore the relationships between melody, chord choices, song structure and lyrics
Break fear based writing patterns, take risks

2 pm to 3:30 Steve Seskin will offer the 1st of many critique sessions for students. During this session we will take a look at 4 or 5 songs. Please bring lyric sheets. There will be a lot to learn observing this process so feel free to attend even if you don’t feel ready to look at one of your songs yet.

3:30 till 3:45 break

3:45 till 5:15 afternoon electives continue

Steve Seskin will do another critique session taking a look at another 4 or 5 songs.

Mary will offer her 2pm to 3:30 class again

Ray Chesna will offer more students a chance to work with him

Vance will work with another group of students.


Tuesday

In addition to the master classes there will be private mentoring sessions with Ray Chesna and Vance Gilbert as well as individual song critiques offered by Steve Gillette.
Six 25 minutes slots from 10 am till 12:30 pm.

9am till 9:45 Steve Seskin will lead a directed writing session. There will be an assignment for students who choose to do it. More on the nature of this later.

9:45 till 10:45 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.

10:45 till 11 am break

11:00 till 12:30 Steve Seskin 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 will 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 will 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.

12:30 till 1:30 lunch

1:30 till 3 pm Mary Gauthier will lead a master class for all students on Songwriting As A Healing Art
Mary will show students how to dig deep into their inner selves to discover/uncover their own unique voice, and then effectively use this voice to compose original songs. Songwriters often have to push through firewalls of fear, confusion and self-doubt to effectively articulate their truths in their songs, but the beauty of this challenging work is the discovery that the deeply personal is universal. Digging deep into our heart of hearts, we discover the whole world living there. The universe is inside each and every one of us. Once we understand this, our work can then connect us to ourselves, to other beings, and to the world in ways we never could have imagined. These new connections inevitably bring us joy. We are returned to our own hearts through the sharing of our humanity with others. We go from feeling narrated, into narrating. We experience our own story in powerful new ways when we write it and sing it. We become a witness, take a step back and observe. The space created in this act offers an opportunity discover, name, and abandon self-defeating patterns. The uncovering and revealing of oneself in our human brokenness is a primary source of transformative beauty, the creation of art.

3 pm till 3:15 break

3:15 till 5 pm AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

Mary and Steve will do a talk on co – writing as well as a demonstration by actually starting a song together.

Ray and Vance will continue to work with small groups on theory/guitar chops and performance. Tamara will offer a small group class continuing her morning talk with a more personalized Q and A approach.



Wednesday

In addition to the master classes, there will be individual mentoring offered by Mary Gauthier and Vance Gilbert and song critiques by Steve Gillette. ( Mary and Vance will not listen to songs in these sessions. 10am till 12:30 six 25 minute slots

9 am till 9:45 Steve Seskin will lead directed writing/object writing

9:45 till 10:45 Steve Seskin talk for all students on 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.


10:45 till 11:00 Break

11:00 till 12:30 Lloyd Maines and Terri Hendrix master class presentation. Topic TBA for all students

12:30 till 1:30 Lunch

1:30 till 3 pm 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.
3:00 till 3:15 break

3:15 till 5 pm AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

Lloyd and Terri will offer a small group class on a different topic than their master class. TBA

Vance will continue to work with individual students on performance

Musical Song help offered by Ray in a small group setting

Song critiques by Steve Gillette

Steve Seskin will offer a class called “The Curse Of The 2nd Verse” This is often the toughest part of a song for many writers. Ways to demystify what you might write next. Often, the hint is in what you’ve already written.

Thursday

Mentoring will be offered by Lloyd Maines, Terri Hendrix
and Ray Chesna six 25 minute slots will be available for each of them. 10am till 12:30 pm

9 am till 10:15 am Steve Seskin 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.

10:15 till 10:30 break

10:30 till noon Vance master class for all students on the art of performance
During the critique sessions, and co-writing sessions, students can attend or choose to take time off or do some writing.

Noon till 1 pm Lunch

1 pm till 2:45 Lloyd and Terri will do a small group class on a different topic than their master class

During that same time period, Ray will offer more small group help.

Steve Seskin will review the directed writing efforts and discuss the experience. More on this later.

Steve Gillette will offer small group critique

Vance will hold his last small group performance class

2:45 till 3:15 Break

3:15 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

 2014 CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

 

 

Mary Gauthier

In 2005 the Associated Press named Mary Gauthier as one of the best songwriters of her generation. Her songs have been recorded by dozens of artists, including Jimmy Buffett, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, and Candi Staton, and have appeared in Film and Television, most recently on the ABC hit show Nashville, HBO’s Banshee, and Masterpiece Theater’s Case Histories. She was awarded New Artist of the year by The Americana Music Association in 2005, and has released 7 studio albums. Her third album, Filth and Fire was named Best Independent CD of the year by the New York Times. Her following 3 records were listed in both the LA Times and NY Times top three releases of the year. Her record Mercy Now was named in the top 5 records of the decade by No Depression magazine.
Mary tours the world, performing an average of 200 dates a year, and has appeared dozens of times on NPR radio (US), BBC radio (UK), CBC radio (Canada), and ABC radio (AU). She’s often been called a writer’s writer, and that thrills her to no end.

“With songwriting as powerful as hers, there’s no need to go looking for qualifiers. She’s a unique, intrinsically valuable musical voice. And there’s never a surplus of those.” — Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Time


2014 Songwriter Class - Songwriting As A Healing Art


Mary Gauthier teaches students how to dig deep into their inner selves to discover/uncover their own unique voice, and then effectively use this voice to compose original songs. Songwriters often have to push through firewalls of fear, confusion and self-doubt to effectively articulate their truths in their songs, but the beauty of this challenging work is the discovery that the deeply personal is universal. Digging deep into our heart of hearts, we discover the whole world living there. The universe is inside each and every one of us. Once we understand this, our work can then connect us to ourselves, to other beings, and to the world in ways we never could have imagined. These new connections inevitably bring us joy. We are returned to our own hearts through the sharing of our humanity with others. We go from feeling narrated, into narrating. We experience our own story in powerful new ways when we write it and sing it. We become a witness, take a step back and observe. The space created in this act offers an opportunity discover, name, and abandon self-defeating patterns. The uncovering and revealing of oneself in our human brokenness is a primary source of transformative beauty, the creation of art.
This class will teach students to:
• Listen for their own unique “Writer’s Voice”
• Access new levels of awareness in their songwriting
• Learn to truly listen to their lyric
• Explore the relationships between melody, chord choices, song structure and lyrics
• Break fear based writing patterns, take risks
 

 

 

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.

 

2014 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.

 

2014 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.