Kerrville Song School Schedule 2018


Monday, May 28th

9:00 Welcome to Song School:  Steve Seskin and Thomas Chapmond

9:30 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 Break

10:40 Master Class with Connor Garvey 

“Breaking The Block - Song Prompts, Starts, Continuers, and Creativity Inducers”   An engaging and experiential workshop that provides exercises and foundations for the practice of songwriting. This isn't aimed at writing our deepest truths like a Mary Gauthier classes but more how we show up to the writing process day after day and stay active and effective...so we can write our deepest truths when they surface. Leave this class with momentum, ideas, and a handout compiled from 20+ songwriters. 

12:00  Meet the faculty... Steve Seskin, Mary Gauthier, Connor Garvey, Siobhan Quinn, Michael Bowers, JohnSmith, Ray Chesna, Bill Nash and Steve Gillette. Gary Nicholson will join us later in the week…

12:40 Lunch

1:45 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

     Siobhan Quinn and Michael Bowers:  “Flexible Voice Vocal Clinic” for road-weary, occasional and even “never before” singers, songwriters, guitarists.  Everyone has a unique sound from the physical make-up of their instrument--both body and emotion.  This is about claiming your songs with your own flexible voice, and learning to maintain the health of your voice too.  Siobhán uses classical/contemporary technique as a foundation for vocal flexibility while helping you to maintain individual vocal personality. Using individual and group work to explore and enhance your voice, you will develop a personal basic regimen to remember and maintain skills.  Michael provides additional nuggets of instrumental and interpretive wisdom on joining another instrument with voice.  Bring a song you haven’t “printed” into your voice, either a new one, or any song that you’re really open to exploring (a cappella is just fine).  We will cover 1) vocal/breath warm-ups leading up to advanced workouts, 2) physiology of the voice, how to use your body to create different sounds, knowledge crucial to getting the most out of your instrument, including vocal health issues (like Caliche Throat from dust!)  3) We’ll address specific issues and exercises for songwriters/guitarists, such as posture with instrument, lack of breath, singing flexibly within your range, positioning and strengthening exercises to shake out the unsteady parts of your voice.  (Part 1 of 2)

     Ray Chesna:  Finding new chord progressions from the Major scale. An in depth look at what chords go together and why. This knowledge will greatly help your songwriting.

     Mary Gauthier:  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.

3:30 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES 

     Siobhan and Michael:  “Flexible Voice Clinic” (Part 2 of 2)  (see description above).

     Connor Garvey:  “Intentionality of Connection –  Not Just Another Song Selfie;” this class is an exploration of three levels of connect (Self, Others, and the World Around Us) to make our songs and performances endlessly powerful. Starting from the philosophical place of seeking out our personal "WHY" of songwriting we will arrive at the action part of the class spent writing with connection in mind. This is a call to action to challenge ourselves to not just write a "look at me" song but to actively use our craft to build connection and thus move the world. Particular focus will be spent exploring connection to the natural world. 

     Ray Chesna:  “Power Progression and the ‘V7 of’ Trick” Also, guitar revelations to make navigating the fret board a bit easier…

     Steve Seskin & Mary Gauthier:  Song Critiques – Songs chosen for critique each day will be drawn from a “hat.” 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. Please bring 3 copies of your lyrics.  

5:00 Steve Gillette provides song critiques at Serenity Circle (behind the KFFF office) or participate in group circle song swap on Main Stage.


Tuesday , May 29

In addition to the master classes listed below, there will be 6 – 25 minute private mentoring sessions with Connor Garvey, Ray Chesna,  JohnSmith and Steve Seskin between 10:00 & 12:30. 

9:00 Master Class with Mary Gauthier 

“Three Chords and The Truth” – This class will be a discussion of the power of simplicity. We will look at what we mean by “The Truth”, and why truth matters in a song. We will also discuss how story moves a song into the listener’s heart, and use examples to show how fiction is used to get the truth. 

10:45 Break

11:00 Master Class with Siobhán Quinn & Michael Bowers

“For the Flexible Voice:  Kitchen Chemistry”  – Journey to explore your own flexible voice.  For road-weary, occasional and even “never before” singers, songwriters, guitarists.  We all have different voices and our ingredients are uniquely our own. This will give you a solid exploration of the voice as an instrument and vessel for emotion, to ensure that your song conveys the truth that you are trying to tell in your writing. Consider this as a “kitchen chemistry” experience for claiming the ingredients of your voice in songwriting.  As songwriters, we sometimes forget that we are multi-instrumentalists. While there may be some tricks and thrills we overuse or underuse, there are often ingredients we just haven’t yet explored, the bitter, hot, sweet honey and cool.  In the large group there will be some group participation and movement to suggest what you might consider your own physicality, and to consider all the tastes, spicing and courses of your voice.

12:30 Lunch 

1:30 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

     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 demystify this process and show you how to use multiple capos to make you sound like an even better guitar player than you actually are. 

     Ray Chesna:  “Power Progression and the ‘V7 of’ Trick” Also, guitar revelations to make navigating the fret board a bit easier…

     Connor Garvey:   Intentionality of Connection –  “Not Just Another Song Selfie;” this class is an exploration of three levels of connect (Self, Others, and the World Around Us) to make our songs and performances endlessly powerful. Starting from the philosophical place of seeking out our personal "WHY" of songwriting we will arrive at the action part of the class spent writing with connection in mind. This is a call to action to challenge ourselves to not just write a "look at me" song but to actively use our craft to build connection and thus move the world. Particular focus will be spent exploring connection to the natural world.

     JohnSmith: “Roll Up Your Sleeves" This class will be a "roll up your sleeves and start writing". Most of us just need a gentle push to sit down and do it.  Along with a couple helpful writing exercises, there will be a song assignment from prompts. This class will continue tomorrow but students are not required to attend both days. (Part 1 of 2)

3:15 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES 

     Bill Nash:  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. 

     Siobhán Quinn & Michael Bowers:  Siobhan Quin and Michael Bowers:  “Flexible Voice Vocal Clinic” for road-weary, occasional and even “never before” singers, songwriters, guitarists.  Everyone has a unique sound from the physical make-up of their instrument--both body and emotion.  This is about claiming your songs with your own flexible voice, and learning to maintain the health of your voice too.  Siobhán uses classical/contemporary technique as a foundation for vocal flexibility while helping you to maintain individual vocal personality. Using individual and group work to explore and enhance your voice, you will develop a personal basic regimen to remember and maintain skills.  Michael provides additional nuggets of instrumental and interpretive wisdom on joining another instrument with voice.  Bring a song you haven’t “printed” into your voice, either a new one, or any song that you’re really open to exploring (a cappella is just fine).  We will cover 1) vocal/breath warm-ups leading up to advanced workouts, 2) physiology of the voice, how to use your body to create different sounds, knowledge crucial to getting the most out of your instrument, including vocal health issues (like Caliche Throat from dust!)  3) We’ll address specific issues and exercises for songwriters/guitarists, such as posture with instrument, lack of breath, singing flexibly within your range, positioning and strengthening exercises to shake out the unsteady parts of your voice.  

     Mary Gauthier:  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 & JohnSmith:  Song Critiques – Songs chosen for critique each day will be drawn from a “hat.” 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. Please bring 3 copies of your lyrics. 

      Connor Garvey:  Offers four 25 minute individual mentoring sessions for people who are interested in “Life On The Road” Learning to navigate through the complex journey of touring. It affects more areas of your life than you’d think.

5:00 Steve Gillette provides song critiques in a group circle song swap at Serenity Circle (behind the KFFF office) or participate in Song Swap on Main Stage.


Wednesday,  May 30

In addition to the master classes listed below, there will be 6 – 25 minute private mentoring sessions with Mary Gauthier, Bill Nash and duo Michael Bowers & Siobhan Quinn between 10:00 & 12:30. 

9:00 Master Class with Steve Seskin

A 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. 

10:45 Master Class with JohnSmith

"How to be comfortable in your own skin while bearing your soul on stage."  - Singing through the Fear.  

You've got your songs, now it's time for gathering the skills to deliver them in public with confidence and grace. In this class we will talk about the art of delivery. ‘How to be comfortable in your own skin while bearing your soul on stage’. How to deal with the fear. Staying grounded, connecting with the audience, eye contact, dynamics of your voice and instrument, introductions, pre-show mojo, set lists, and more. We will take turns in the class critiquing each other’s performances.

12:15 Lunch 

1:15 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

     JohnSmith: Roll Up Your Sleeves” with part two.  This class will take a look at some of the songs that came out of the song assignments from yesterday. There will also be a discussion about how it felt to write from a song prompt provided by someone else and the experience of making it your own. (Part 2 of 2)

     Bill Nash:  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 & Steve Seskin:  “Songs of Social Justice” Pointing your pen at what’s going on in the world. Why it’s more important than ever to devote at least some of your writing to commenting on what you believe in. We will discuss Mary’s work with soldiers and Steve’s anti bullying school programs.

     Gary Nicholson: Mentoring about songwriting or guitar; 4 – 20 minutes time slots 

2:30 Break

2:45 (tentative) Master class with Brooks from TALA ( Texas Lawyers for the Arts 

Brooks will touch on a number of legal issues facing songwriters including an understanding of co-authorship, songwriter split sheets. Registration with BMI/ASCAP, SoundExchange, etc. This will be part lecture as well as a Q and A session. 

4:00 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

     Steve Seskin & Mary Gauthier:  Song Critiques – Songs chosen for critique each day will be drawn from a “hat.” 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 in this 60 minute session. We will address song form and structure, prosody, storyline, melody, arrangement and last but not least, commercial potential. Please bring 3 copies of your lyrics. 

     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 demystify this process and show you how to use multiple capos to make you sound like an even better guitar player than you actually are. 

     Gary Nicholson:  A discussion on chord substitutions and melody leading, writing without an instrument, and finding the song core before composing.

      Siobhán Quinn & Michael Bowers:  “It’s All About the Song” This class focuses on the emotional intention of the voice.  We all interpret songs, either your own or others’.   You’ve decided to put a song out there… so how do you bring the deeper meaning of a song to your performance and to your audience? How do you get to the sweet spot of true connection between the writing process and the ear of the audience?  We’ll take some of the tools from the kitchen chemistry class and focus on how to get to the various expressions of emotional intensity of our songs. This class is to help you find interpretive tools to capture your absolute best performance in full songs of your choice. There will be individual work/performance and interactive vocal work each day. Everyone will learn crucial vocal and performance skills for translating technical singing skills into excellent vocal performance of songs – whether humorous, sensitive, deep, dark songs, or the wailing blues.  

5:00 Steve Gillette provides song critiques in a group circle song swap at Serenity Circle (behind the KFFF office) or participate in Song Swap on Main Stage.


Thursday, May 31

In addition to the master classes listed below, there will be 6 – 25 minute private mentoring sessions with Mary Gauthier, Steve Seskin, and Siobhan Quinn & Michael Bowers between 10:00 & 12:30. 

9:00 Master Class Gary Nicholson

A talk about various topics including Chorus or no chorus, refrain and repetition as a means to communicate with or without the chorus/ verse form. Meditation tools for composition and Open tunings and slide guitar options

10:30 Break

10:45 Master Class with Ray Chesna

Discussion on several ways to use the Major Scale Descending Bass Line. He will also attempt to demystify theory in a way that will have you using what you learn in your songwriting immediately.

12:15 Lunch

1:15 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

     Gary Nicholson: Guitar tricks of the trade to make you sound like a way better guitar player than you might be without you having to practice for hours on end.

     Mary Gauthier:  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.

     Siobhán Quinn & Michael Bowers:  Siobhan Quin and Michael Bowers:  Flexible Voice Vocal Clinic for road-weary, occasional and even “never before” singers, songwriters, guitarists.  Everyone has a unique sound from the physical make-up of their instrument--both body and emotion.  This is about claiming your songs with your own flexible voice, and learning to maintain the health of your voice too.  Siobhán uses classical/contemporary technique as a foundation for vocal flexibility while helping you to maintain individual vocal personality. Using individual and group work to explore and enhance your voice, you will develop a personal basic regimen to remember and maintain skills.  Michael provides additional nuggets of instrumental and interpretive wisdom on joining another instrument with voice.  Bring a song you haven’t “printed” into your voice, either a new one, or any song that you’re really open to exploring (a cappella is just fine).  We will cover 1) vocal/breath warm-ups leading up to advanced workouts, 2) physiology of the voice, how to use your body to create different sounds, knowledge crucial to getting the most out of your instrument, including vocal health issues (like Caliche Throat from dust!)  3) We’ll address specific issues and exercises for songwriters/guitarists, such as posture with instrument, lack of breath, singing flexibly within your range, positioning and strengthening exercises to shake out the unsteady parts of your voice.  

2:45 AFTERNOON ELECTIVES

     Mary Gauthier & Steve Seskin:  “Songs of Social Justice” Pointing your pen at what’s going on in the world. Why it’s more important than ever to devote at least some of your writing to commenting on what you believe in. We will discuss Mary’s work with soldiers and Steve’s anti bullying school programs.

     Siobhán Quinn & Michael Bowers:  “It’s All About the Song” This class focuses on the emotional intention of the voice.  We all interpret songs, either your own or others’.   You’ve decided to put a song out there… so how do you bring the deeper meaning of a song to your performance and to your audience? How do you get to the sweet spot of true connection between the writing process and the ear of the audience?  We’ll take some of the tools from the kitchen chemistry class and focus on how to get to the various expressions of emotional intensity of our songs. This class is to help you find interpretive tools to capture your absolute best performance in full songs of your choice. There will be individual work/performance and interactive vocal work each day. Everyone will learn crucial vocal and performance skills for translating technical singing skills into excellent vocal performance of songs – whether humorous, sensitive, deep, dark songs, or the wailing blues.  

     Gary Nicholson: will offer a fun class on The Blues called “Feel Better Blues” He is a master of this genre so if you lean this way musically, don’t miss this!

4:00 Closing session. Q and A comments and a general catch all session with all the instructors. 

5:00 Big hugs and goodbyes till next time!