We're excited to announce the faculty for the 2015 Song School.
"Chicago Mike" Beck | Jill Brzezicki | Ron Browning | RJ Cowdery | Joe Craven | Terri Delaney | Val Denn | Ellis | Rebecca Folsom | Robby Hecht | Django Jones | JJ Jones | Arthur Lee Land | John Linn | Clare McLeod | Bill Nash | Justin Roth | Alan Rowoth | Christopher Smith | Amy Speace | Caroline Spence | Tom Wasinger | Annie Wenz | Shannon Wurst
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In conversation and in public, Mary Gauthier (pronounced "go-SHAY") comes off as a practical, no-nonsense woman. Stoic, even. Which wouldn’t seem unusual, except for the fact that her songs [more...] carry so much emotional punch, they can leave you staggering. She has a way of burrowing into that hole so many of us carry inside our souls, and emerging with universal truths that show we aren’t so alone after all.
Gauthier knows where our exposed nerve endings lie because she’s probed her own so deeply, finally learning to unlock the fear and loneliness that controlled her escape-seeking trajectory for so long before songwriting — and the sobriety that drew it forth at age 35 — gave her a steadier flight path.
But even though her six albums have received countless accolades (2005’s Mercy Now earned her the Americana Music Association’s New/Emerging Artist of the Year title, and 2011’s The Foundling was named the No. 3 Record of the Year but the L.A. Times), , Gauthier felt she needed to rack up her pilot hours, so to speak, before she could hit another major milestone: recording a live album. When she was ready, she captured Live at Blue Rock at a concert at the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas, outside of Austin.
“People have been asking for a live CD for a long time and I just knew that I wasn’t ready yet,” admits Gauthier. “It took 10 years of trench work. Of bein’ out there, banging my head against all the things an artist has to bang against. Indifference. Poor attendence. Situations that are over your head. Every night, curve ball, curve ball, curve ball. But stagecraft cannot be taught. You have to be onstage to learn it. So after 10 years of doin’ it, I got good at it.”
Louisiana native-turned-Nashville resident Gauthier (it’s French; pronounced Go-SHAY), whose songs have earned praise from Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, and been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Blake Shelton and many others, is not bragging, just explaining, in that practical way of hers. It’s the same way she discusses experiences that led to some of the extraordinary songs she performs on the album. Renowned songs, such as “I Drink,” “Drag Queens in Limousines” and “Karla Faye” — which addresses the famous fate of that convicted killer, but starts out with lines that undoubtedly reference their author as well: A little girl lost,her world full of pain.He said it feels good,she gave him her vein.
Then there’s “Blood on Blood,” from her last release, 2010?’s The Foundling, which plumbs the particular hell of children given up to closed adoption. With a cinematographer’s eye and a lyrical economy that suggests far more than her 15 years of songwriting experience, she chronicles an always-present sense of rejection and rootlessness, the nagging “whys” and “what ifs,” the endless search of every face for a possible resemblance. I don’t know who I am I don’t know who I’m not/I don’t know my name I can’t find my place, she sings, her voice rising from a whisper to a wail. She’s not just offering a vein here, she’s cutting several wide open. Like all of her songs, “Blood on Blood” takes on even more power when performed live.
“As a songwriter, I’m always trying to go to the deepest possible place inside of me. Past the navel-gazing, past the self-conscious, to get to that ‘we,’” Gauthier explains. “’Cause deep inside of all of us is the universal. And that is an artist’s job, to transcend the self. … I’m in there, but then hopefully, it goes past that and it hits something far, far bigger and more important than me. That’s what I’m aimin’ for every time I write.”
She’s proud that The Foundling opened the floodgates for thousands of fellow orphans who had never heard anyone articulate their pain with so much insight. Gauthier reports therapists are now using the album to better understand the adoptee experience. It’s also resulted in several reunions between children and their birth parents — though Gauthier’s birth mother declined that option after Gauthier made contact five years ago. And she understands that decision, even if she’ll never have the full closure she sought.
Sometimes, life just goes that way — particularly for the outsiders with whom Gauthier has always identified most. They populate Live at Blue Rock, which also contains covers of three songs by fellow poet/philosopher (and recent “Tin Can Caravan” tour leader) Fred Eaglesmith, another master at illuminating the sympathetic sides of characters society is not used to regarding kindly, if at all.
“I find the stories I want to tell are the stories of characters who may or may not make it,” says Gauthier. Though she’s no longer dangling on that precipice, she adds, “I believe in redemption. I needed redemption; I continue to need redemption.”
Luckily, she sometimes finds it onstage, in front of an audience. And just as audiences change from night to night, so do her accompanists.
When Live at Blue Rock was recorded, she had fiddle and percussion adornment. But she’s experimenting with different configurations all the time, which means the songs also take on new identities nightly.
“They’re living things,” Gauthier says of her work. “You record ‘em one way, but that’s just the way you played it that day. Some words change, the tempo changes. It has to go with the flow of the room and the flow of the night.”
Gauthier, a teen runaway who attended college in Louisiana and operated a Cajun restaurant in Boston before getting sober, long ago learned how to go with the flow. And to be patient. Because it takes time to get good enough to wing it.
Between Daylight and Dark, is filled with both hope and anguish, with faith as well as fear. Mary Gauthier knows these places well, having traveled through a night that had stretched into years, from a turbulent Louisiana childhood through odd juxtapositions of accomplishment and devastation. [less...]
These discs were followed by the self-released Somerville Live (2000), lionized by the Boston Globe as the disc "young songwriters should study the way law students cram for bar exams," and One Thru Fourteen (2002), a stylistically varied offering that New York's Town and Village called "lively, eclectic, electrifying and transcending." Gilbert followed with Side Of The Road (2003), a duo album with Ellis Paul, lauded as "haunting, artful, and lovely" by Boston Magazine and nominated for a 2004 Boston Music Award. Then came Unfamiliar Moon (2005). "The songwriter's most compelling work; literate, heartfelt, rippling…emotionally resonant songs" raved the Boston Globe, placing the album in its Top 10 CDs of the year (#4). On Angels, Castles, Covers (2006), "Gilbert's choice of an album of covers seems both fitting and fearless. …he displays his vocal virtuosity with some unexpected choices from the late 20th century songbook. From the sounds of Motown, through the R&B of Al Green to classic Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin…He makes each and every tune sound fresh and new," writes Roberta Schwartz of FAME.
Gilbert then launched into a year and a half as support for George Carlin, leading up to the creation and recording of Up On Rockfield (2008), a landmark album noted for being written in the styles of some of his favorite songwriters. Of this disk Vintage Guitar proclaimed that “His fervor for composing is as powerful as a Colorado thunderstorm...accomplishing the seemingly impossible...Up On Rockfield should be on your must hear list.”
Who else would name their most recent album “Old White Men”, and actually have recorded a groundbreaking, heartbreaking title song to back it up? That’d be Vance Gilbert.
This latest release has received raves based solely on the material folks knew would be on it! The soul aching title cut, OLD WHITE MEN, the winsome BOY ON A TRAIN, and the comic tour de force MY BAD are present. The lonesome KING OF THE RAILS will leave a diagonal crease across the listener’s heart. DRAGONFLY WINGS is a delightful throwback to 70‘s pop. NO ONE CAN LOVE YOU LIKE MARY is an all acoustic life story punctuated by Billy Novick’s funky saxophones. The maddened rant of HELPLESS MAN is followed by the big hearted NEW YEAR’S EVE AT THE LION’S HEAD HOTEL - HOURLY RATES, a one-sided conversation between a prostitute and a policeman. Vance’s original YOU SHOULD BE HERE sounds like a refugee from the Rogers and Hart songbook and is just Vance and a classical guitar. GO and COME HERE MY LOVE are both solo snapshots of breathless points in time. The acapella BRAKEMAN’S SON is a small story of a search for big peace. Eleven killer songs, pared down to their living core, listener ready (OK, there’s a buried track. Listen for yourself…). [less...]
On the new CD, Love In the Ruins, Bonnie infuses her barbed lyrics with her own unmistakable vocal style and adds a new fervor for crunchy guitars and incendiary drumming. The sum is ironic, literary, melodic, tragic, wild, honest, joyful music that also flat out ROCKS. Known for years as a keyboardist (she actually toured as a keyboard player/backing vocalist with such arena acts as Belinda Carlisle and Billy Idol), she turned to writing on guitar to stimulate the creative process. Bonnie's personal reinvention is typical of her uncompromising attitude: "I reject the idea that music has to be either smart or kickass---why not both?"
Famed for her kick-out-the-jams live show, Hayes has also enjoyed success as a recording artist and producer. In 1984, her pop/punk debut Good Clean Fun was released on seminal LA indie Slash Records to critical raves and national college airplay and in 1995, the Hayes-produced CD Steppin' Out by the Gospel Hummingbirds was nominated for a Grammy. Her new CD marks a return to center stage for this exceptional songwriter.
Bonnie Hayes is a popular and experienced teacher with an original slant on writing songs that satisfy both artistic and commercial criteria. She teaches classes in various aspects of songwriting and popular music regularly. Her students have won prizes in the John Lennon songwriting contest, the WCSA songwriting contest, the Soulmaking contest, and others. [less...]
Convinced that her calling was in another direction, Lucy left the musical fast track to pursue a doctorate in Psychology. Upon completing her degree, Dr. Kaplansky took a job at a New York hospital working with chronically mentally ill adults, and also started a private practice. Yet she continued to sing. Lucy was often pulled back into the studio by her friends, (who now had contracts with record labels) wanting her to sing on their albums. She harmonized on Colvin’s Grammy-winning Steady On, and on Nanci Griffith’s Lone Star State of Mind and Little Love Affairs. She also landed soundtrack credits, singing with Suzanne Vega on Pretty in Pink and with Griffith on The Firm, and several commercial credits as well—including “The Heartbeat of America” for Chevrolet.
Then Shawn Colvin—who was itching to produce a record—hooked up with Lucy, her ex-singing partner. They went into the studio, and it all came together. When Lucy’s solo tapes got into the hands of Bob Feldman, president of Red House Records, he was blown away. Suddenly, Lucy was back in the music business. She signed with Red House and started playing gigs. Red House released The Tide in 1994 to rave reviews, and within six months Lucy signed with a major booking agency—Fleming Tamulevich & Associates—and began touring so much it required leaving her two psychologist positions behind.
Lucy’s second album, Flesh and Bone (1996), was produced by Anton Sanko (producer of Suzanne Vega’s Days of Open Hand), and it clearly showed a performer and songwriter stepping into her own. Some of Lucy’s favorite singing partners joined her in the studio, including Jennifer Kimball (formerly of The Story), Richard Shindell, and John Gorka. Where The Tide had showcased Lucy’s formidable interpretive skills, Flesh and Bone emphasized her development as a gifted songsmith. The album is graced with eight absorbing original songs, as well as four sharp covers.
After releasing, The Tide, Lucy’s success took flight with back-to-back hit albums Ten Year Night and Every Single Day. Both received the AFIM award (Association For Independent Music) for best pop album of the year. Lucy’s rising popularity has led to appearances on the CBS Morning Show, NPR’s Weekend and Morning Editions and All Things Considered, Mountain Stage, and West Coast Live. Lucy also contributed her story to a unique book, SOLO: Women Singer- Songwriters in Their Own Words, which includes some of the best known women on the music scene today: Ani DiFranco, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and others. She was also featured in Lipshtick, a collection of essays by NPR commentator Gwen Macsai, published in the fall of 1999.
In 1998 Lucy teamed with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell to form supergroup Cry Cry Cry, and recorded some of their favorite songs written by other artists. The resulting album, Cry Cry Cry (which The New Yorker dubbed “a collection of lovely harmonizing and pure emotion,” and to which Entertainment Weekly gave an “A” rating), was an astonishing success in stores and on radio. A national tour of sold-out concerts by the trio served to introduce Lucy’s luminous voice to a new audience.
The Red Thread followed and marked Lucy’s tenth year (and fifth album) on Red House. It wove together themes of motherhood, home and the family with beautiful production.
Lucy’s new life as a mother has enhanced the emotional depth of her songwriting. Her 2007 release Over the Hills explored universal themes of love, joy, loss, and dreams for the future, through reflections on family. After the release of Over the Hills, The Boston Globe referred to Lucy as “becoming the songwriter laureate of modern city folk.”
Kaplansky’s voice has continued to remain in high demand by her peers. Her song “Guilty as Sin” was featured in the NBC television show Ed. In addition, she can be heard on recent releases by Bryan Ferry, Nanci Griffith, and on the Greg Brown tribute album Going Driftless (also featuring Ani Difranco, Iris Dement, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and others).
In 2010 Lucy joined up with acclaimed singer-songwriters John Gorka and Eliza Gilkyson to record an album as part of new folk super-group Red Horse. Awash in gorgeous harmonies and simple acoustic production, the album features the singers performing each other’s songs. Red Horse has received rave reviews and was the number one album on Folk Radio for several months in 2010. Since the album’s release, the trio were interviewed on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” with Liane Hansen and appeared on NPR’s “Mountain Stage.”
In 2011 Lucy released an EP, Kaplansky sings Kaplansky, featuring songs written by her father, famed University of Chicago mathematician Irving Kaplansky, including live performances of the two of them performing together in California. This is Lucy’s first venture into 1940’s style swing, reminiscent of the work of Kaplansky’s former student Tom Lehrer. Lucy is also featured on a new Bob Dylan tribute album, A Nod to Bob 2, featuring her performance of the Dylan classic “Every Grain of Sand.”
Lucy released “Reunion”, her seventh solo CD, in 2012. For this album, Lucy reunited with her impressive core of musicians–Buddy Miller, Richard Shindell, Jonatha Brooke, John Gorka, Eliza Gilkyson, Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter, J. Geils Band), Jon Herington (Steely Dan) and producer/drummer Ben Wittman (Paula Cole, Don Byron)–creating a true masterwork.
The title song “Reunion” celebrates Lucy’s pioneering immigrant grandmother and her journey from Poland to Toronto, where the matriarch and business woman founded the Health Bread Bakery chain in the early 20th century. Depicted on the album cover in a painting by noted political cartoonist Avrom Yanovsky (one of the original bakery workers and father to Lovin’ Spoonful’s Zal Yanovsky), the bakery was the center of the Kaplansky family’s life. Although raised in Chicago, Lucy attended many family reunions in Toronto, reuniting one last time with her cousins in 2011 after the passing of her parents, aunts and uncles.
“It’s inevitable that as you get older and your life deepens you find more ways of connecting to an even larger circle of people,” says Lucy. “This album is largely about reunions with family and deepening social connections with friends and audiences through my music. I find myself clearer about my priorities, my purpose, my politics and my faith.”
Like the title track, each song on Reunion tells its own unique story. Lucy and co-writer Richard Litvin connect us to our common humanity through songs of family, origins, loss and discovery–from watching parents pass on (“I’ll See You Again” and “Sleep Well”), to witnessing a daughter blossom (“Mother’s Day”), to chronicling the journey of an abandoned child refugee (the radio-friendly “Scavenger”). These poignant originals are woven with unique covers of Woody Guthrie/Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson, Amy Correia and The Beatles. Together these tracks create a tapestry that is at turns deeply moving, joyful, meditative and rollicking.
Lucy continues to perform all over the world. When not performing, she lives in New York City, where she enjoys spending time with her husband and nine year-old daughter. [less...]
The world took notice of Shane Koyczan when his influential, anti-bullying, "To This Day Project" video went viral in early 2013 and has reached over 14 million views and counting. Powerfully engaging and authentic in attitude, Shane’s explorations are relevant to our times in the way that Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen were to theirs. But unlike the musicians that he’s often compared to, poets rarely infiltrate pop culture. [more...] Shane emerges in a new wave of 21st century poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them in their own voice.
Shane is both a writer and spoken word virtuoso. His first published collection, Visiting Hours, was the only work of poetry selected by both the Guardian and the Globe and Mail for their Best Books of the Year lists in 2005. Destined to become a future classic, Visiting Hours is now in its third edition, and includes We Are More, performed by Shane at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Shane followed up on the success of Visiting Hours with Stickboy, a novel in verse that chronicles the dark and lonely journey of a bullied child gripped by helpless rage. Shane shines a light into the bleak world behind some of the most incomprehensible acts in our culture, and also shows the healing power of love. Written for anyone who has ever been a child, Stickboy continues to be hailed by teachers, academics, and mental health experts alike for its deft handling of the subject of bullying.
Shane has returned to his roots with a collection of poetry titled, Our Deathbeds will be Thirsty, which was released in 2012. This book features the piece, To This Day, a poem about bullying that was made into a video by collaborating animators. It was released as a project to acknowledge anti-bullying day. Since the video’s release Shane has presented at TED Talks, where the audience leapt to their feet in applause. Sir Ken Robinson has listed that talk as one of his top ten talks on education. That TED Talk led to him collaborating with TED Education to create a classroom tool that provides teachers a way to discuss anti-bullying with students.
Shane Koyczan however, is best known for his award winning spoken word performances. With his rhythmic verse in high gear, he navigates his audience through social and political territory with a furious honesty and a tender humanity that has brought audiences to their feet in New York, London, Edinburgh, Sydney and Los Angeles, to name a few. He received 5 star reviews for his performance at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the video, Instructions for a Bad Day, was showcased as the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival. Winner of the US Slam Poetry Championship and the Canadian Spoken Word Olympics, Shane is truly an extraordinary talent that has blown the dust off of the designation “poet”. [less...]
He’s got a voracious musical appetite. Known for his many years as founder and leader of Trapezoid for over 25 years, he’s recently embarked on several new musical adventures: His new band Paul Reisler & A Thousand Questions featuring Howard Levy and Angela Kaset with their new album At Night the Roses Tango , his Kid Pan Alley children’s songwriting project, and his duo with Amy Speace. He also continues perform with the inter-disciplinary Ki Theatre and compose for film, theatre and orchestra.
He’s passionate about inspiring other people to live the musical life. He’s one of the most popular songwriting teachers in the country and he’s also the founder and artistic director of Kid Pan Alley, a project in which he has now written over 800 songs with over 18,000 children nationally. Their recent CD, Kid Pan Alley Nashville, features many of that city’s best-known artists recording the songs written with the children. That album received a Grammy nomination and won both Parents’ Choice and NAPPA Gold Awards. He has taught songwriting to adults at workshops and songwriting schools throughout the country including the Rocky Mountain Song School, Utah Song School, Swannanoa Gathering, Blue Ridge Songcamp, Augusta Workshop, Hollyhock, Kerrville, NSAI, Songcamp in the Mountains and many others. [less...]
Steve's 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. The video for Raye’s “I Think About You” single was named the Academy of Country Music’s Video of the Year in 1997, and the song and video were also given an award by the Tennessee Task Force Against Domestic Violence. Recent recordings of his songs include “Pictures,” by John Michael Montgomery, “We Shook Hands,” by Tebey, and “I’ll Always Be There For You,” by Brian McComas.
“Don’t Laugh at Me” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and became the impetus for the Operation Respect/Don’t Laugh at Me project, a curriculum designed to teach tolerance in schools. This program has already been implemented in more than 20,000 schools across the country. Steve now enjoys performing at school assemblies in support of this program. The song is now available as a children’s book, Don’t Laugh At Me, which was featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow in September 2002.
Steve spends time in Nashville writing for Larga Vista Music and pitching his songs, while maintaining an active performing career both back home in Northern California and at festivals and acoustic venues throughout the United States and Canada. He has been a featured performer at the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, the Vancouver Folk Festival, and the Napa Valley Music Festival. [less...]
Peter Yarrow's talents as a creative artist—both with the legendary trio Peter, Paul & Mary and as a solo performer—are frequently directed at using music to convey a message of humanity and caring. His gift for songwriting has produced some of the most moving songs from Peter, Paul & Mary, including "Puff, the Magic Dragon," "Day is Done", "Light One Candle" and "The Great Mandala." As a member of the renowned musical trio, Yarrow has earned multiple gold and platinum albums, as well as numerous GRAMMYs. Over the years, many issues have moved Peter to commit his time and talent: equal rights, peace, the environment, [more...] gender equality, homelessness, hospice care, and education. All have utilized his skills as both a performer and an organizer. Peter Yarrow's life and work – culminating in the founding and leadership of Operation Respect with its "Don't Laugh At Me" initiative – is based on his passionate belief that music, with its power to build community and catalyze change, can be a particularly powerful organizing tool. [less...]
In addition to his performing and recording endeavors, Mike is the founder of Access Film Music Ltd., an organization that helps independent recording artists expose their music to directors, producers and music supervisors working in the realm of film, television and other visual media. The 10th annual Access Film Music Showcase will take place during Film Festival Week in Park City, Utah next January 17 - 27, 2013. Access Film Music is also the Official Music Partner of the ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, France and the On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Festival, where Access showcase events have helped further the mission to connect music-makers with film-makers.
Mike loves empowering and inspiring musicians to pursue their dreams, and enjoys sharing practical ideas, methods and information to help make them real. He's currently at work on a new album, and hopes to have some new recordings available in time for SongSchool! [less...]
In 2008, Rj released her second CD, “ONE MORE DOOR.” A compelling gathering of 13 songs, ”One More Door” – a title very much reflective of the exciting promise of her current career good fortune was recorded live in only two days in Parkersburg, West Virginia with percussionist Ammed Solomon and guitarist Michael Lipton, who are both band members with National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage. The sessions for the recording, were produced by West Virginia’s renowned singer-songwriter Todd Burge. The disc also features Don Dixon, singer, songwriter, musician and producer of such pop icons as R.E.M. Smithereens, and Marti Jones. [less...]
Girlyman traversed the U.S. and Europe for twelve years, wowing audiences with tight, three-part harmonies, heartfelt songwriting, freely improvised "tuning songs," and wildly unpredictable stage patter. The transition to music for families has been a natural evolution. Django Jones was inspired, in part, by the sheer number of underage Girlyman devotees. Parents would remark that their children were enchanted by the harmonies, the humor, and, most of all, the silliness of the made-up tuning songs. When the time came to develop a family music repertoire, Doris Muramatsu, JJ Jones, and Nate Borofsky simply pretended they were kids again (it wasn't very difficult) and imagined what they would have liked to hear. The resulting album they cooked up, D is for Django, is replete with songs about germs, our 206 bones, and Bigfoot, seasoned with lullabies and served as musical nourishment for the "inner child" that is snuggled within all of us. [less...]
Formerly self-taught, JJ completed Berklee College of Music's drum specialist online certificate program this year. She is a drum instructor, band coach, and workshop facilitator at girls and ladies rock camps across the U.S., and also teaches privately online giving Skype lessons to students all over the country. JJ is excited to be back at song school! [less...]
As a performing songwriter, John's music has been described as "songs for sinners and everyday angels." Whether you hear stories of growing up on the prairies of the Midwest, of a coffeehouse flirtation, or of the sweet disappointments of love, John's music will leave you with a sense of the depth and mystery of human experience, vibrating with its surprising joys and hidden tragedies.
John has performed his music in venues across the U.S., and has toured internationally as a tenor with Mastersingers USA, winners of Best Male Choir at the 2003 International Eisteddfod in Wales. John is an active member of the local D.C. arts scene, as a member of the Americana trio After the Flood, and he has served as Music Director for Lean and Hungry Theater's audio productions of Julius Caesar and Oedipus Rex on Washington's WAMU public radio in Washington. [less...]
“I began singing classical works quite young, and when I was a teenager my father brought home the Complete Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks. I started exploring jazz and dived into all kinds of genres, always curious about the variety of tones and colors in different voices—including my own. I started attending voice conferences and reading journals, asking ‘How does this work? What’s the science behind it?’ That curiosity has become one of my strengths as a teacher.”
“I want my students to have a strong sense of the lyrics and what it is they are saying. Great singers have a connection not only with their instrument, but with their material and their audience. Once they have a vision and the training to produce a range of sounds freely and efficiently, they can express themselves with greater precision and emotion. Knowing the options they have removes some of the fear and guesswork from the process of singing. The answer to fear is knowledge. I live by that.”
“One of the best parts about teaching private instruction is building a relationship in which students expand their awareness, are able ask questions, and learn to trust their bodies. There are moments in working with people, not necessarily when they have mastered a skill or completed a task, but when they see new possibilities and paths open for them. That’s when the lights go on.” [less...]
Baltimore–born Folk/Americana songwriter Speace received rave reviews for her 2013 record, "How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat," a song cycle inspired by Shakespearean characters, from Mojo Magazine to The New York Times to a feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. She was discovered by Judy Collins in 2005, releasing her debut in 2006 on Collins’ Wildflower Records, “Songs For Bright Street” to rave reviews. “The Killer In Me” was released in 2009 with NPR comparing her to a young Lucinda Williams. She moved to Nashville from NYC in 2009, releasing “Land Like A Bird” on Thirty Tigers. Her songs have been recorded by Judy Collins, the late Memphis blues artist Sid Selvidge, Red Molly and others. Her song “The Weight of the World”, which Judy Collins has called “one of the best political folk songs I’ve ever heard” was named as the #4 Folk Song of the Decade by NYC’s premiere AAA radio station WFUV.
A graduate of Amherst College, where she studied literature and playwrighting, she did graduate work in Classical Acting at The National Shakespeare Conservatory in NYC and was a company member of the National Shakespeare Company and Expanded Arts Theater Company in NYC. She was the Artistic Director and Founder of Five Points Theater Company in NYC and acted and directed in NYC and Regional Theater before becoming a full-time touring and recording musician. Along with her busy concert career, she teaches songwriting and performance at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School, The Kerrville Folk Festival Song School, Sisters Americana Song & Art Academy, The Swannannoa Gathering and privately coaches songwriters in Nashville and on tour. [less...]
With songs that wrap the truths of life up into personal vignettes of clever wordplay and catchy hooks, it’s no wonder that in 2013 Caroline won American Songwriter Magazine’s June/July lyric contest as well as the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest songwriter competition later that year. Caroline also had her songs recorded by up-and-coming independent singer songwriters Andrew Combs (“Heavy”) and Annalise Emerick (“A Good One” and “Somewhere In Between”). But when American Songwriter named her the grand prize winner out of all song submissions for all of 2013, she began to feel her passions validated.
So, with help from producer Michael Rinne, Spence selected 13 original songs out of about 30 to record at Farmland Studios with some of her favorite musicians, including Danny Mitchell (Kim Richey) on keys, Kris Donegan on electric guitar (Matthew Perryman Jones, Amy Speace), Daniel Parks (Kelsey Waldon, Lucy Hale) on acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo, Michael Rinne on bass (Rodney Crowell, Steelism) on bass, Christian Sedelmeyer (Jerry Douglass, 10 String Symphony) on fiddle, Justin Schipper (Josh Turner) on pedal steel, Evan Hutchings (Escondido, Rayland Baxter) on drums and Andrew Combs, Erin Rae and Anderson East all providing additional vocals.
The album opening “Trains Cry” sets the album’s reflective, almost reverent tone with an insight Spence weaves throughout her songs – time inevitably marches forward, and we must take all the joy as well as the sadness that brings. Spence’s unabashedly honest approach also means acknowledging her tough side, with songs like “Don’t Call” and “Kissing Ain’t The Same As Talking,” two songs that refuse superficial relationships. She also acknowledges the need for bold female singer-songwriters in a landscape dominated by men. “Women are expected to write emotional music, but when a man writes emotional music, its profound and its praised. I just feel like that’s bullshit and I think that the only music that should be made is emotional music.”
Meanwhile the band lives and breathes with Spence’s guitar and vocals, masterfully navigating a breadth of genres with a perfect sense of intimacy and style, at times with the rock of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, the twang of Lower Broadway, or the sensitivity of swelling pedal steel and simple percussion.
Once the album was finished, Spence went on to win the Kerrville Folk Fest songwriting contest in May and in August was one of the headlining acts at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest alongside The Stray Birds, Hooray for the Riff Raff, John Fulbright, Josh Ritter, and Brandi Carlisle. She also visited the acclaimed Daytrotter studios in September to record an exclusive acoustic set.
With all the courage, grit and passion that pervade her 13 new tracks, Spence is more than ready to share Somehow and take her place in the world of professional songwriters. Still, she does so without losing touch with her reality: “It just feels like all of this happened somehow, making these songs, this record, just somehow happened, kind of magically. And I know what I want and I just know that somehow I am going to make it happen.” [less...]
Annie’s experiences span over 25 countries "bringing people together through music”, performing & teaching for earthquake victims & dignitaries in SE Asia, to "New Zealand's Millennium Celebration", The Kennedy Center, festivals & theater productions in Costa Rica, Germany, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, Bali & more!
Her former band members & include Senegalize talking drum wizard Massamba Djop of Babba Mal's band, percussionist Jose Gonzalez, Steppenwolf's Guy DeVito, & London's Robert Dean (of “Japan” & Sinead O'Connor's guitarist). She’s taught with Roy “Futureman” Wooten of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones & co-written/collaborated with Dr Jeri Nielsen of the Ice Bound book & movie, and National Boyd Award winning novelist Robert Macomber.
Her story songs are inspired by her journeys... as a biker, kayaker & backpacker, working as a registered nurse, rafting guide, activist and teacher. Annie also travels throughout the world sharing her grant winning songwriting, percussion, flute, piano accompaniment & dance/yoga/movement inspired workshops !
She has 7 recordings on her own indie label “Island Gypsy” including her newest buzzed about CD “Ride The Sky” penned at stoplights while twirling about dusty back Americana roads on her Harley. She lives in her natty boots. "it's a muddy road out there, but somebody's gotta ride thru it!" [less...]
Wurst has won the Arkansas Governor's Fellowship Award in Music Composition, the Walnut Valley New Song Showcase, Northwest Arkansas Female Singer/Songwriter of the Year, and was selected for Kerrville New Folk Contest.
Inspiration for the forthcoming collection comes from Wurst's recent travels, a release of wanderlust marked by indulgence in moments of quiet introspection, stops at junk stores, run‐ins with a cult or two, and a concerted effort to learn to conquer love, both past and present, requited and unrequited, on a scale lived large. [less...]
Antje Duvekot, Mary Gauthier, Vance Gilbert, Bonnie Hayes, Peter Himmelman, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Steve Seskin "Chicago Mike" Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Edie Carey, Terri Delaney, Val Denn, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Robby Hecht, Arthur Lee Land, Bill Nash, Siobhan Quinn, Etan Rosenbloom, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Sarah Sample, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Tom Wasinger, Kai Welch, Annie Wenz
Ysaye Barnwell, Mary Gauthier, Vance Gilbert, Bonnie Hayes, Lynn Miles, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Steve Seskin, "Chicago Mike" Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Terri Delaney, Val Denn, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Robby Hecht, Jagoda, Arthur Lee Land, Mike Meadows, Clare McLeod, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Sarah Sample, The Sea, The Sea, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace, Judith Wade, Tom Wasinger, Kai Welch, Annie Wenz
2012 Song School Instructors
Mary Gauthier, Peter Himmelman, Holly Near, Pat Pattison, Gretchen Peters, Paul Reisler, Darrell Scott, Steve Seskin, Richard Shindell, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Don Conoscenti, Terri Delaney, Ingrid Elizabeth, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Girlyman, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Danielle Morales, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhán Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Maggie Simpson, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Judith Wade, Tom Wasinger, Annie Wenz
Ysaye Barnwell, Mary Gauthier, Vance Gilbert, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, Anais Mitchell, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Steve Seskin, Livingston Taylor, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Tim Burlingame, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Girlyman, Bob Hemenger, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Bill Nash, Siobhán Quinn, Etan Rosenbloom, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Sarah Sample, Kathrin Shorr, David Slater, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Judith Wade, Annie Wenz
Jonatha Brooke, Sheila Carabine, Vance Gilbert, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Darrell Scott, Steve Seskin, Amanda Walther, David Wilcox, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Joe Craven, Ellis, Girlyman, Bob Hemenger, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, David Slater, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Judith Wade
Mary Gauthier, Peter Himmelman, Karin Bergquist, Linford Detweiler, Pat Pattison, Steve Seskin, Vance Gilbert, Paul Reisler, Carmen Allgood, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Tim Burlingame, Chuck E. Costa, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Thomas Golubic, Jagoda, Jennifer "JJ" Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Ryan Mintz, Kathy Moser, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Kathrin Shorr, Maggie Simpson, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace, Annie Wenz
Josh Ritter, Melissa Ferrick, Pat Pattison, Susan Werner, Steve Seskin, Vance Gilbert, Paul Reisler, Carmen Allgood, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Tim Burlingame, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Jagoda, Jennifer JJ Jones, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Julie Portman, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Kathrin Shorr, Moira Smiley, Amy Speace, and Annie Wenz.
Peter Himmelman, Darrell Scott, Mary Gauthier, Zoe Lewis, Catie Curtis, Steve Seskin, Vance Gilbert, Arthur Lee Land, Moira Smiley, Annie Wenz, Rebecca Folsom, Ellis, Terri Mazurek, Alan Rowoth, Amy Speace, Kathrin Shorr, Tim Burlingame, Jennifer "JJ" Jones, Siobhan Quinn, Michael Bowers, Anna Wolfe, Justin Roth, Ben Wisch, Carmen Allgood, and "Chicago" Mike Beck.