Please check back this winter for information about the 2020 Songwriter’s School which will be held May 25-28, 2020 during the 49th Annual Kerrville Folk Festival (dates subject to change). All information below is for the recently completed 2019 Songwriter’s School.

Our Song School Scholarships have been awarded for 2019:

DOUG FESLER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP:

Alex Coba - Houston, TX

Genny Haley - Brownsville, CA

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CHUCK PYLE MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP:

Lynne Hansen - Ottawa, ONT CANADA

The folk festival has hosted our songwriter school for over 35 years, held in the Kennedy Outdoor Theater so that there's plenty of room for break-out sessions. The intimate setting of the ranch on weekdays, the quality of the faculty and the synergy of creative collaboration have given the Quiet Valley a solid reputation for helping writers move up to the next level. Experienced songwriter performers mix with lawyers who really want to be songsmiths. Classes are limited to 60 to maximize the opportunities for each student to get feedback and coaching on their work.

 

Steve Seskin will provide instruction in the nuts and bolts of songwriting and lead you to the place where creativity meets craft. He will also focus on how to move people with your words and your melodies.


Mary Gauthier will guide you in getting past your head to the real stuff in your heart. Honesty is king!


Amy Speace will provide tips in performance and vocal technique. With Amy, you will learn how to deliver every song from a true and powerful place.


Ellis Paul leads many songwriting workshops and shares lessons learned from navigating a songwriting career spanning over 35 years which is broad, both out of desire and necessity.


Dick Goodwin is a master of theory and all things music. He will provide you with insights and tips that will instantly make you a better songwriter.


Ellis Delaney will talk about how to be the best person you can and stay positive.. She will provide guidance on writing- focusing on writing about things you care about. She will also provide tips on how to perform in an infectious way that endears the audience to you.

KERRVILLE SONGWRITER’S SCHOOL 2019 SCHEDULE 

Monday

9 am

Welcome to Song School  Steve Seskin and Thomas Chapmond

9:15 am till 10:15 opening class
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. 

10:15 till 10:30 - Break 

10:30 till noon Mary Gauthier - 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. 

Noon till 1:00 - Lunch 

1:00 till 2:00 pm 

Meet the the full time faculty Steve Seskin, Ellis, Mary Gauthier, Dick Goodwin, Amy Speace and Ellis Paul and talk a bit about the schedule for the week. Some of our part time instructors may attend this as well. 

Afternoon Electives 

2:00pm to 3:30

Ellis will offer Build a Wholehearted Creative Life: How Your Music Dreams Fit into a Balanced Life! –  This workshop is designed to inspire, encourage, and provide you with insight into how you can create a balanced life that includes your musical aspirations but isn’t limited by them. In this workshop, I will help you to identify what makes you feel alive and whole, as well as what your music gives to others. This workshop is for everyone, regardless of whether you make a living making music (or hope to) or you just live for the love of music!

 

Ellis Paul will offer The Editing Wheel: The Editing Wheel is a learning tool that visualizes how to edit songs into a more effective place. It streamlines the editing process by focusing on a Mission Statement for the song. What’s the song about? Who’s the narrator? Who is the audience? Why is it worth the listener’s time? What do you want the song to do out in the world?  How do you better capture that mission in the music, the verses, the chorus, orchestration, etc?

I will hand out posters of the Editing Wheel, teach the process and edit songs in progress played by the students.

Bill Nash will offer a class on alternate tunings. He will teach you what they are and how to use them to open up a whole new world of possibilities for the musical side of your writing.

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. 

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. 

 

3:30 till 3:45 - Break

Afternoon Electives continue

3:45 till 5:00 


Steve Seskin and Ellis Paul 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. Please bring at least two copies of your lyric.

Amy Speace 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, projection and learning how to get inside each song you sing. 

Bill Nash Multiple capos! Bill is one of the masters of using two or three or even four capos to create amazing possibilities of sound with his guitar. he will de mystify this process and show you how to use multiple capos to make you sound like an even better guitar player than you are. 

Ellis will offer Time and Tools of a Songwriter:  Right-brained Approaches to Time Management and Planning – she will teach you friendly tools for time management and organization that are designed for wandering creative-minded songwriter types who want out of the box! Says Ellis, "Setting aside songwriting time has always been challenging for me amidst a busy touring schedule, being a mom and doing all those music business-y things on my to-do list.  All of the traditional left-brained time management and organizing skills haven't worked for me.  I have found that structure is freedom and we can’t wait to show you these tools." 

5:00 pm till whenever
SONG CIRCLE on the main stage. 

TUESDAY 

In addition to the master classes this morning, there will be private mentoring sessions with Mary Gauthier, Ellis Paul, Ellis, Bill Nash and Amy Speace Five 30 minute slots from 10 am till 12:30 pm. Signups for these slots will be at 8:30 am on the main stage. Please sign up for only one per day until everyone has had a chance to take a slot. If there are open slots after that, you may sign up for a 2nd slot on the same day.

9 am till 10:30 Master Class

Steve Seskin 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. 


10:30 till 10:45 - Break 

10:45 till 12:30

Dick Goodwin Master Class 

You don’t need a degree in music theory or even have to be able to read music to learn some tricks that can help you expand your melodic, harmonic and rhythmic choices. We’ll go through a checklist of possibilities to see what might help make your songs more musically memorable and take them to the next level. 

12:30 till 1:30 - Lunch 

1:30 till 3:00 

Afternoon Electives 

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. 

Bill Nash will offer a class on alternate tunings. He will teach you what they are and how to use them to open up a whole new world of possibilities for the musical side of your writing. 

Ellis Paul The Origins of Songs

Where do songs come from? How do I create fresh ideas? How do I increase the numbers of songs I write? This class will discuss the songs that fall from the ether and songs you pull from stone. How to find them, how they find you, and how to create more of them.

 

Amy Speace and Steve Seskin will offer the 2nd critique session 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.

Ellis Intentional Performance: Performing From The Inside Out –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, Ellis will give you new practice model for performing that focuses on the performer appreciating the audience!  

 

3 pm till 3:15 break 

3:15 till 5 pm 

Afternoon Electives 

Amy Speace see Monday at 3:45 for description

Bill Nash Multiple capos! Bill is one of the masters of using two or three or even four capos to create amazing possibilities of sound with his guitar. he will de mystify this process and show you how to use multiple capos to make you sound like an even better guitar player than you are. 

Ellis will offer Times and Tools of a songwriter. Please see Monday at 3:45 for a description of this class.

Dick Goodwin will offer a look at the musical side of things.The emphasis will be on gaining an understanding of keys, scales and chords as well as chord progressions and how they work as a tool for your songwriting. He will also talk about lining up your verses so there is continuity between them. 

 

Ellis Paul Performance

This is a performance class using a teaching tool call the The Performance Hall. We will critique performances, discuss ways to prepare for a show, how to visualize the set, creating a set list, prepping banter, choosing clothing style and lighting.

5:00 pm till whenever - SONG CIRCLE on the main stage 

 

WEDNESDAY 

In addition to the master classes, there will be individual mentoring offered by Mary Gauthier, Ellis Paul, Bill Nash, Steve Seskin and Dick Goodwin 10am till 12:30 five 30 minute slots. 

9:30 till 10:45
Ellis will offer a master class on Undefended Songwriting – Are you interested in writing with an undefended heart? Ellis will share her songwriting processes and the many strategies she uses to generate and explore song ideas. She will help you prime your brain to support creativity and share ways to utilize community to keep those songs coming!

10:45 till 11:00 - Break 

11:00 till 12:30
Master Class with Amy Speace 

Performing Fearlessly I: The Song

 We’ll look at performance from center of the song, asking a few questions of the song and of you, the performer, to help connect you to the meaning and to give you some really really simple tools to perform authentically each time! This is a kind of ‘inside/out’ class where we utilize exercises and tools from the theater to invite a deeper, more truthful performance, giving you a point of focus each time you get in front of people to sing a song. Using this technique, you will create meaningful, never boring ‘in the moment’ performances, no matter what kind of song you are singing. This is a fun, active, on-your-feet week, so be prepared with a song (your own or another’s) that you know by heart and do not need lyrics in front of you. Bring your instrument and an open, curious mind. There are no right’ or ‘wrong’ moves in this class. You will be moved and surprised by your own power.

12:30 till 1:30 Lunch 

1:30 till 3 pm
Master class on writing Songs of Service. Mary Gauthier, Steve Seskin and Amy Speace and any other faculty that would like to join in. From Songwriting with Soldiers to Operation Respect ( Don’t Laugh AT Me ) to writing songs with the Parkland school shooting survivors, we are all pointing our pain at something that means something to us and can hopefully help heal the world. We will offer some ideas about how you might do the same if you’re not currently. 

3:00 till 3:15 break 

3:15 till 5 pm 

Afternoon Electives

Mary Gauthier will offer a small group critique session taking a look at a number of songs to identify what’s working and what’s not. This will be a good lesson in how to write honestly and learn how to recognize language you’ve used that sounds ingenious. 

Steve Seskin and Amy Speace will critique songs again together. Please see Monday at 1:30 for a description

Ellis Paul Performance

This is a performance class using a teaching tool call the The Performance Hall. We will critique performances, discuss ways to prepare for a show, how to visualize the set, creating a set list, prepping banter, choosing clothing style and lighting.

Dick Goodwin will offer a look at the musical side of things.The emphasis will be on gaining an understanding of keys, scales and chords as well as chord progressions and how they work as a tool for your songwriting. He will also talk about lining up your verses so there is continuity between them. 

 

 

5:00 pm till whenever - SONG CIRCLE on the main stage. 

 

THURSDAY 

Mentoring will be offered by Amy Speace, Ellis, Bill Nash and Dick Goodwin. Five 30 minute slots will be available for each of them. 10am till 12:30 pm 

9 am till 10:30 am

Ellis Paul Master Class

This class is designed to show a songwriter how the listener can be pulled deeper into a song when the writer’s craft makes them witness  the story for themselves. In this way, the listener gets to co-create an emotional response with the writer’s art. Every listener brings their own biography to a song, their own emotional history, their own imagination. Imagine your song as the creation of a three dimensional world; a place, setting, characters, plot. A place for the listener’s imagination to unfold. It’s like a snow globe world you’ve created, and if done properly a listener slips inside it, recreating your images with snapshots from their own life. You provide the words, but their imagination provides the images that they are seeing in their minds. 

 

By focusing on exercises on details, back story, character development, the senses, the class will devote itself to developing a working eye for showing a story rather than telling one.  Engaging the listener, moving them, and sharing a song with them that brings their life into the music.


10:30 till 10:45 - Break 

10:45 till 12:00 

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. 

 

12:00 pm to 1:00 - Lunch 

1:00 pm till 2:15
Ellis will offer Time and Tools of a Songwriter:  Right-brained Approaches to Time Management and Planning – Ellis will teach you friendly tools for time management and organization that are designed for wandering creative-minded songwriter types who want out of the box! Says Ellis, "Setting aside songwriting time has always been challenging for me amidst a busy touring schedule, being a mom and doing all those music business-y things on my to-do list.  All of the traditional left-brained time management and organizing skills haven't worked for me.  I have found that structure is freedom and we can’t wait to show you these tools." 

Amy Speace will offer more of Performing Fearlessly I: The Song

See Master class on Wed morning for a description

Dick Goodwin will offer a look at the musical side of things.The emphasis will be on gaining an understanding of keys, scales and chords as well as chord progressions and how they work as a tool for your songwriting. He will also talk about lining up your verses so there is continuity between them. 

Steve Seskin will offer will offer one 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.

2:15 till 3:45 

Last small group classes

Ellis will offer Build a Wholehearted Creative Life: How Your Music Dreams Fit into a Balanced Life! –  This workshop is designed to inspire, encourage, and provide you with insight into how you can create a balanced life that includes your musical aspirations but isn’t limited by them. In this workshop, I will help you to identify what makes you feel alive and whole, as well as what your music gives to others. This workshop is for everyone, regardless of whether you make a living making music (or hope to) or you just live for the love of music!  

 

Ellis Paul will offer The Editing Wheel is a learning tool that visualizes how to edit songs into a more effective place. It streamlines the editing process by focusing on a Mission Statement for the song. What’s the song about? Who’s the narrator? Who is the audience? Why is it worth the listener’s time? What do you want the song to do out in the world?  How do you better capture that mission in the music, the verses, the chorus, orchestration, etc? I will hand out posters of the Editing Wheel, teach the process and edit songs in progress played by the students.

Amy Speace will offer Performing Fearlessly II: The Show 

How do we access the audacity inside of us to have the courage to get up and perform? How do you get rid of stage fright? How do you put together a show, not just one or two songs? How do you know which songs to play? As a performer, have you asked yourself any of the following questions: Who are you onstage? Why are you writing the songs you are writing? What do you want your audience to experience? Why are you choosing the covers you are singing?  How does one performer have such a distinct “thing” and another is forgettable? This will be a deep dive into the conversation of what IS performance? What makes a show? We’ll look from the song to the show: into each of your ideas of yourself, what brings you to music, what brings you to want to perform your songs (or other people’s songs) in front of people. And even more broadly, how can you fit this desire to perform in with your so-called Real Life? From banter to the set list to choices of cover material to presenting yourself to bookers and so-called Industry people... 

Dick Goodwin will offer a look at the musical side of things.The emphasis will be on gaining an understanding of keys, scales and chords as well as chord progressions and how they work as a tool for your songwriting. He will also talk about lining up your verses so there is continuity between them. 


3:45 till 4:00 - Break


4:00 till 5 pm 

Closing session. Q and A comments and a general catch all session with most of the instructors. 5 pm big hugs and goodbyes!

"You know how it is when you discover something so cool that you want to share it with all of your friends? That's the Kerrville Songwriters School. The faculty is first rate and the student-teacher ratio is the best of any songwriting program that I have attended. Highlights included receiving a constructive song critique (and spontaneous harmony accompaniment) from Kathy Mattea, Steve Seskin, and Bonnie Hayes (head of the songwriting department at Berklee School of Music) and a demo recording session with Lloyd Maines. I'm so glad that I finally gave myself the gift of attending."

Lisa Fancher, Kerrville New Folk award-winning songwriter, lawyer, and performer with Clyde, Gal Dangit!, and Firewater

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