2020 KFF Songwriters School II Faculty

Steve Seskin 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-known themes of being considerate to and respectful of one another.  Steve has written seven number one songs, including the Grammy-nominated Grown Men Don’t Cry, No Doubt About It, For a Change, No Man’s Land and You’ve Got Love, Daddy’s Money, and Don’t Laugh at Me. Don’t Laugh at Me became the impetus for the Operation Respect/Don’t Laugh at Me Project, a curriculum designed to teach tolerance in schools. The program has been implemented in more than 20,000 schools across the country. He is also a well respected songwriting teacher entering his 6th year as director of the Kerrville song school.


Folk singer/songwriter Johnsmith was born into a family of ten children in Dewitt, IA. After learning to play the guitar at 19, he began writing songs, leading to a career that found him playing over 150 dates a year. For the past thirty-plus years, Johnsmith has been sharing his music all across America and abroad. He has become a favorite at festivals, clubs, and house concerts alike. In addition to being a Kerrville New Folk Winner, he has also won songwriting awards at the Telluride, Rocky Mountain Folks, and Falcon Ridge Folk Festivals. Johnsmith has released eight solo CDs to rave reviews, leads musical tours to Ireland, teaches songwriting, and has served as a staff songwriter in Nashville.

With his faded jeans, his twinkly blue eyes, and his infectious smile, John immediately connects with audiences. You get the sense of a man who loves his life, his family and friends, and who loves nothing more than sharing that love in song and stories all across this land.


Rachel Garlin is a San Francisco-based singer-songwriter, currently recording her sixth full-length album "Mondegreens" with producer Julie Wolf. Garlin is a Berkeley native and a songwriter's songwriter who pens "finely etched songs that respect the folk tradition." (SF Bay Guardian) Her live performances combine a warm stage presence with the same folk, rock and roots flavors that season her recordings. Media fans include Diffuser Magazine ("an impressive catalog of unforgettable songs”) and Curve Magazine who calls her lyrical work “storytelling at its best.” 

Songs from Garlin’s first five albums have gained her recognition at folk festivals around the country, including the Newport Folk Festival where show won first place in the Talent Search. She recorded a live album at the historic Freight and Salvage in Berkeley and has headlined at Club Passim, The Bitter End, and other clubs of national standing. Garlin has toured as far as Sweden and Scotland (her mother's homeland) where she performed in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her songs aired on NPR’s Democracy Now!, Click and Clack’s Car Talk and were featured in documentary films such as "Fuel" and "A Womb of Their Own."

A teacher at heart, Garlin leads songwriting workshops for adults and kids and co-writes songs with community members. She mentors songwriters at Sunset Youth Services, an agency that supports in-risk youth in San Francisco.