2014 Instructors

We're excited to announce the faculty for the 2014 Song School.

Songwriting Instructors

Antje Duvekot | Mary Gauthier | Vance Gilbert | Bonnie Hayes | Peter Himmelman | Pat Pattison | Paul Reisler | Steve Seskin

Elective Instructors

"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

Note: Due to medical issues, Ysaye Barnwell has had to cancel her appearance at the 2014 Song School. We all wish her a healthy recovery.

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Songwriting Instructors
Antje Duvekot
Antje Duvekot has solidified her reputation as one of Boston's top singer songwriters with "Big Dream Boulevard" her debut studio release and "the Near Demise of the Highwire Dancer" her follow-up CD. The debut CD was produced by Seamus Egan, founder of the Irish super group, SOLAS. The project was released on acclaimed songwriter Ellis Paul's label, Black Wolf Records and quickly attracted international attention for Antje. It was voted "#1 Folk Release of 2006" by the Boston Globe and was named to the "Top10 Releases of the Year" by National Public Radio's, Folk Alley. [more...] Her follow up album "the Near Demise of the Highwire Dancer" was produced by Richard Shindell and along side with Richard features other "folk royalty" such as John Gorka, Lucy Kaplancky and Mark Erelli. It was voted #1 album of the year 2009 by WUMB 91.9 fm in Boston.

Antje has won some of the top songwriting awards including the Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, the prestigious, Kerrville (TX) "Best New Folk Award" and in one of the nation's top music markets, she won the Boston Music Award for "Outstanding Folk Act", three of the top prizes in the singer songwriter world.

Antje has extensive touring experience, criss-crossing the US and Europe several times. She is a compelling live performer and has been invited to play some of the top festivals including The Newport Folk Festival as well as the Mountain Stage, Philadelphia and Kerrville Festivals. Internationally, she's headlined the The Celtic Connections Festival in Scotland and the Tonder Festival in Denmark.

In December of 2007, The Bank of America featured Antje's song "Merry Go Round" in a national TV advertising campaign seen by millions, including a Super Bowl audience. Antje's fast growing fan base, the viral spreading of her music and a track record of sold-out shows are a testament to her growing popularity. [less...]
Mary Gauthier
Please note: Mary is asking all her students to purchase and read Brenda Ueland's classic book If You Want to Write, and bring a copy of this book to Mary's classes. Originally published in 1938, you should be able to find used copies of this book at your local bookseller or Amazon.com.

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...]
Vance Gilbert
Vance Gilbert burst onto the singer/songwriter scene in the early 90's when the buzz spread through the folk clubs of the Northeast about an ex-multicultural arts teacher who was knocking them dead at open mics. Word got out about this Philadelphia-area born and raised performer, and Shawn Colvin invited Gilbert to be a special guest on her 1992 Fat City tour. Gilbert took audiences across North America by storm. "With the voice of an angel, the wit of a devil, and the guitar playing of a god, it was enough to earn him that rarity: an encore [more...] for an opener" wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in its review of a show from that tour. Gilbert's three albums for the Rounder/Philo label - Edgewise (1994), Fugitives (1995), and Shaking Off Gravity (1998) - are all essential additions to the American singer-songwriter collection. With guests as varied as Tuck and Patti, Jonatha Brooke, Patty Larkin, Vinx, and Jane Siberry, all three albums found significant niches on NAC (New Adult Contemporary) and Non-Commercial A3 radio.

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...]
The songs of Bonnie Hayes have always been extraordinary, from "Shelly's Boyfriend", the post-punk badgirl anthem that put her on the map to the authentic passion of "Have A Heart" and "Love Letter," which restored Bonnie Raitt to superstardom with the multi-platinum, multi-Grammy-winning CD Nick of Time. Writing for artists as diverse as Bette Midler, Robert Cray, Adam Ant, David Crosby, Booker T and the MG's, and Cher, Hayes has continued to craft songs one critic described as "sparkling clockwork mechanisms with a tendency [more...] to do the unexpected."

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...]
Peter Himmelman
During his multi-pronged career as a singer, songwriter and all-around performer, as a children's entertainer, TV and film composer and pioneering webcast star, Peter Himmelman has maintained remarkably high standards: Can you point to a song in his vast body of work that feels tossed off, or remember a concert or club date that didn't delight and amuse? Recorded on a dare – his own – to work faster and more under the gun, and closer to the quick of the creative process, Himmelman's new Himmasongs album, "The Mystery and the Hum," tumbled out of him with no planning or preparation. Holed up in a Minneapolis studio, [more...] far from the comforts of his home in Santa Monica, Calif., this native of St. Louis Park, MN, wrote the tunes over a two-week period and cut them in three days. Though he co-produced them with his friend Rob Genedek, who operates the studio, he raised the stakes of his experiment by hooking up with "house" musicians with whom he had never played, taking it on trust that if bassist Jim Anton and drummer Billy Thommes were good enough to run with Jonny Lang, they were good enough to ride the sonic rapids with him.

As the songs emerged, ranging from the irresistibly catchy love song "Change My Channel" to the earthy blues narrative "Georgia Clay" to the wryly observant "Medicine," Himmelman knew they were winners. What he didn't know, having knocked them out so unselfconsciously, is what they meant. Like DNA samples, they needed to be analyzed. To paraphrase a line from one of his tunes, they knew him better than he did.

Ultimately, great artists are more than the sum of their recordings. More than the sum of their performances. More than the sum of their press clippings (speaking of which: "Himmelman writes songs with the same emphatic edge and aesthetic urgency that impelled the Lost Generation to write novels" – Time Magazine; "One of rock's most wildly imaginative performers" – USA Today). What becomes an artist of Himmelman's stature most is continuing to reach deep inside for answers to life's mysteries, while continuing to reach out to listeners. Himmelman may not have the mystique of his father-in-law Bob Dylan or the swagger or hipitude of some of his contemporaries. But his honesty and soul-searching intensity make him one of the most treasured rock musicians of his era.

As convenient as it is to categorize him as a singer-songwriter, it is as a singersongwriter-husband-father-son-supplicant that Himmelman has left his mark. His devotion to his wife and four children is its own work of art. At critical junctures in his career, he has resisted pressure to stay on the road flogging an album and returned home to raise his kids instead. To make it easier to navigate between touring and homebodying, he has performed more frequently as a solo act. The first highly recognized (and highly applauded) Observant Jew since Sandy Koufax, he has refused to perform on Friday nights, when the Jewish Sabbath begins. What pop artist would turn down a guest shot on "The Tonight Show" (which he did more than once) for religious reasons?

Himmelman makes no bones about being torn over the career sacrifices he has made in the name of family. Even knowing he made the morally appropriate decision in putting his wife and children first didn't ease his sense of regret over the chances at greater fame and commercial success he had missed. But if some artists can resist the pull of their little boy or girl crying on the phone from thousands of miles away, begging "Daddy, come home," he was – is – constitutionally unwilling.

In the post-9/11 world, his songs have gotten darker, losing some of the idealism of earlier efforts including his much-loved "Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men" (based on an encounter with an ALS survivor who could communicate only with her eyebrows). A few years ago, Himmelman was in a serious funk. Between albums, dulled by the strain and monotony of TV work, and unsure as to where to go next, he found himself reading and thinking about Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter executed by Arab extremists for no other reason than being Jewish. He regretted that he had never met Pearl, or become friends with him, or performed for him. Then a friend sent him an article in which it was revealed that Pearl had been a fan of his – that, in fact, Himmelman was his favorite artist. Himmelman also was stunned to learn from the author of the article, a longtime friend of Pearl, that he and Danny had bonded over Himmelman's songs and had come backstage to meet him following a 1995 show in at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Himmelman, he said, gave each of them a broken string as a souvenir.

The revelations proved life-changing. "The knowledge that my songs have had reach beyond what I could ever begin to imagine has made me less concerned about the difficult choices I've made and focused me with a greater sense of mission," said Himmelman, who has become close with Pearl's parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl. "Sometimes when I write, I feel like I'm connecting with my Dad, who died many years ago, or my sister, who died six years ago in a car crash in Wisconsin, or Danny Pearl, with whom I'm strangely forging some kind of Earthly/heavenly relationship."

The unfathomable loss of Daniel Pearl resonates in the strange cry that rises from "Raining Down from Satellite," a new song that muses on the sad global divisions technology seems to only widen. "The Mystery and the Hum" is frequently about distance and detachment, opening twangily with a guy holed up in a "Motel Room in Davenport," "waiting on a resurrection," and ending movingly with a lonely soul in an empty house yearning for lost connections, feeling the "Trembling in the Beams." As moody as it is, "The Mystery and the Hum" may be the most radio-friendly of all Himmelman's albums, for which he gives credit to the friend who mixed it, veteran producer Don Smith (Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, U2), whose recent death was a major blow. As always, Himmelman's belief in the power of love, and the power of music, to lift us above and beyond our circumstances shines its special, uplifting light.

If anyone can call the performance stage home away from home, it is Himmelman. Many fans prefer his solo shows because there's no band to get in the way of his improvised verbal riffs and hilarious back and forth banter with the audience. Unlike such celebrated rock wits as Randy Newman and Warren Zevon, he keeps humor out of his songs, preferring to use it as a "counterbalance" to the serious themes in them. There's Himmelman the singer and Himmelman the comic. "Sometimes they duke it out with one another on stage," he says approvingly.

For fans of Himmelman the comic, his groundbreaking webcast, "Peter Himmelman's Furious World," is manna from heaven. Originating from his Santa Monica studio (and accessible at peterhimmelman.com), the newfangled variety program features live music and spoken bits by the host (joined by his cast of regulars), off-the-wall videos, and guest performers. "Furious World" has featured acclaimed veterans such as Joe Henry and Michael McDermott, up-and-comers such as Joe Firstman and Raining Jane and compelling non-musicians such as Judea Pearl, a scientist/philosopher, humorist, Sandra Tsing Loh, and Jeff "the Dude" Dowd – inspiration for the Coen Brothers' film, "The Big Lebowski." A second webcast, "Peter Himmelman's Curious World," is aimed at kids, for whom Himmelman has recorded five albums – among them, "My Green Kite," which was nominated for a Grammy. "I'm as proud of those albums as anything I've done," he says.

Himmelman started his first band in sixth grade, and, armed with the red Fender Duo-Sonic his father bought for him from his cousin, led several others in junior high. A Jewish kid among gentiles, a boy with curly brown hair in the land of uncurled Scandinavian blonds, an introspective soul among jocks, he found escape in black culture: in funk and R&B, reggae and blues. During 11th grade, he auditioned for R&B star Alexander O'Neill, an original member of The Time. Before his senior year was out, he was playing lead guitar and writing songs for Shangoya, a legendary local band with Caribbean origins. "Maybe because I write songs and talk too much, it's easy for people to forget that at the root of it all, I'm a guitarist," said Himmelman, a cutting soloist inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker and Luther Allison.

He first made a serious noise with his power-pop unit Sussman Lawrence, which released a pair of well-received albums in 1980 and 1984, respectively. But it was his 1985 solo debut, "This Father's Day," the moving title song of which was written following his dad's death, that announced him as a special kind of artist. It led to his first major-label effort, "Gematria," the title of which comes from a system used by rabbis to interpret scripture by assigning numerical values to words and letters. He has soared ever-higher in that special place where romantic and spiritual expression meet – and where it's sometimes difficult to separate one from the other – on a succession of acclaimed albums including "Synesthesia," "From Strength to Strength," "Flown This Acid World," the bold conceptual effort "Skin," "Love Thinketh No Evil," "Unstoppable Forces," "Imperfect World" and "The Pigeons Couldn't Sleep."

(Ever generous, he also has made available, in some cases as free bonuses, 11 volumes of previously unreleased songs from the "Himmelvaults" and other rarities including "Blackout In the Book of Light," an album he recorded years back with a name producer but didn't like enough to put out then.)

There has been plenty else to keep him busy. In addition to his soundtrack composing (his TV shows have included "Judging Amy," for which he received a Grammy nomination for the song, "The Best Kind of Answer," and the Fox hit, "Bones"), he has written music for commercials, fashion shows and a Teddy Bear used with rape victims and autistic kids and penned songs, "like Cyrano, for lonely, speechless men to woo unwilling lovers." Himmelman also is an increasingly prolific visual artist whose work has been purchased by art collectors the world over.

He's never in danger of not working on something. "My Mother tells me," he says, "that when she gave birth to me in 1959 without any anesthesia whatsoever – a completely natural childbirth – there was a group of medical students watching the delivery and that they actually applauded when I emerged. You could say I was born to be onstage." [less...]
Pat Pattison is an author, clinician and Berklee Professor of Lyric Writing and Poetry whose students have composed for major artists and written number one songs. At Berklee, he developed the curriculum for the only songwriting major in the country. In addition to his four books, Songwriting Without Boundaries, Writing Better Lyrics, The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, and The Essential Guide to Rhyming, Pat has developed three online lyric writing courses, one on poetry, and one on creative writing available through [more...] Berkleemusic.com. He has filmed a series of lectures and masterclasses, available through Songwork.com and has written over 50 articles for various magazines and blogs.  Pat continues to present songwriting clinics across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Several of his students have won Grammys, including John Mayer and Gillian Welch. [less...] Top
Paul Reisler
“If I were Free” is a manifesto for living the musical, the creative life.  It’s a 30-year journey for Paul Reisler as he explores the musical life—a life where you respond to what’s going on around you in music.  Through his own music as performer, writer and recording artist and through his songwriting teaching for adults and children, he inspires others to explore that creative landscape. He’s created a direct and emotional music that cuts across borders—combining folk roots, world music eclecticism, classical precision, and new age mysticism [more...] with the vitality of contemporary music.  As the Washington Post says, his music "climbs up the Blue Ridge and down to the bayou and back up to the Himalayas. Goose bumps are a risk."

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 Seskin
Steve Seskin is a successful songwriter who has written seven number one songs, including Grammy-nominated “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” recorded by Tim McGraw, and “Don’t Laugh at Me,” winner of NSAI Song of the Year and Music Row Magazine Song of the Year in 1999 as recorded by Mark Wills. While Steve is best known for writing hits, he is also a successful performer and recording artist. He is currently touring in support of his latest CD, Steve Seskin "Live". This is his 17th recording released on his own record label. Steve is also an active [more...] keynote speaker and songwriting teacher for the West Coast Songwriters Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Swannanoa Gathering, and The Song School.

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...]
Elective Instructors
"Chicago" Mike Beck
"Chicago" Mike Beck has been teaching at SongSchool since 2005, and he's been touring full-time in the USA and Europe since 2001. He performs several weeks each year at the Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and has toured Europe 19 times, performing in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg as a solo performer and with his band Chicago Mike's InterGalactic Brother & Sisterhood of Big Eyed Beans. He has personally brought over 30 musicians [more...] on their first overseas tours. His debut CD, released in 2002 has received radio airplay in the USA, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Transylvania, Romania, Macedonia and Japan.

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...]
Michael Bowers
When he witnessed history in the making as a young boy in Selma, Alabama, Michael Bowers realized that his most prized possessions were not in boxes or on paper, but in his mind and his voice. He's known for his strong, sophisticated lyrics as well as cut-to-the-chase songs. The lessons of his storied southern roots sometimes surface in live performance and his lyrics range from the heartfelt to humorous. To add even more spice to his vocals and guitar, Michael will use resonator and high-strung guitars to create different approaches to his songs. Top
Ron Browning
Maestro Lorin Maazel, world-renowned conductor for the New York Philharmonic: “RON BROWNING is simply a master! The singers absolutely love working with him!” Ron is an internationally sought voice, performance, and crossover coach based in Nashville, Tennessee. His clients include Grammy® Award recipients and major recording artists in all genres of music. He has had the privilege of coaching leading singers from the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, and from other major domestic and international opera houses. He is a [more...] member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and a voting member of The Grammy Foundation® and Country Music Association. Ron has traveled the globe with celebrity singers, grooming them for events such as the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony Concert and Royal Command Performances. Her voice reduced to a whisper, Grammy® winner, Patti LaBelle, called Ron a “miracle worker” after he helped her quickly restore her voice by show time, avoiding a costly show cancellation. Accolades about Ron’s work by major artists on TV and radio talk shows, press, and liner notes of CDs have earned Ron the title of “Voice Coach to the Stars.” Wynonna Judd says in the liner notes of her 2006 CD A Classic Christmas, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears. God sent Ron to me just in time.” Ron is an accomplished jazz pianist and successful songwriter, which earned him Artist in Residence for the city of Winnipeg, Canada. He developed the voice and performance curriculum for the Nashville Jazz Workshop where he is currently on staff. Ron holds music degrees from UCLA, California State University at Northridge, and the University of Kentucky. [less...] Top
Edie Carey
Chicago-based singer-songwriter Edie Carey is known for her unmistakably soulful voice, her intelligent, heart-grabbing songs, but perhaps most especially for her warm, engaging presence on - and off - stage. As much a part of her show as the music itself, Edie's wry and often self-mocking humor makes audiences feel as though they have just spent an evening with a very close friend.Carey has been performing across the US, Canada, and Europe since 1999. Her latest album, "Bring The Sea," as well as her previous two records, [more...] was funded entirely by her loyal legion of fans."Bring The Sea" features appearances by Shawn Mullins, Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), and multi-instrumentalist Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls). [less...] Top
Terri Delaney
Terri Delaney is a Minneapolis-based social worker turned booking agent. What started as a brief consulting gig for a local musician turned into a full-time music career. Terri founded Peppermint Booking Agency in 2000 and she received the National Association of Campus Activities award of "Agent of the Year" in 2005. She also collaborates with nationally touring folk/rock musician Ellis, co-managing her record company Rubberneck Records. Terri applies her social work training in her music career, and she is known for her passionate commitment to helping [more...] artists reach their full potential. In addition to coaching musicians and helping them to set goals and action plans, Terri has taught music business workshops at several festivals and music conferences throughout North America. [less...] Top
Val Denn
The Val Denn Agency was opened in 1994 when Val began booking legendary Texas songwriter, Ray Wylie Hubbard. They had met when she and her husband had opened for Ray. In 1980 Val attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where she studied jazz guitar. While there she met her future husband James. They married in 1982. Val Denn Agency has grown to 10 artists with a concentration on working with singer-songwriters and also working with artists from Atlantic Canada. Val Denn Agency's offices are located in Austin, TX [more...] and her Canada office in picturesque Upper Blandford, Nova Scotia outside of Halifax. Kelley Mickwee joined the agency as the office manager in 2008. in 2009 Val will finish out her 4 years of service on the Board of Directors for the International Folk Alliance where she was Secretary, Vice President and President. Val also plans and partners with other artists to lead coaching and creativity workshops for the enrichment of the creative/artistic process. [less...] Top
There's just something about Ellis. She is at once funny and wise, thoughtful and uninhibited, and her captivating voice is matched by her upli fting lyrics. After her recent appearance on A Prairie Home Companion, Ellis' music charted in the Folk Top 100 in iTunes and Folk Top 20 on Amazon.com. She also received hundreds of messages from strangers including, "you exude pure joy", "I heard you and fell in love" and "I was stopped in my tracks by your music and captivating laugh" as well as "Yours is a voice we all need to hear." [more...] Ellis' performances are transformational; she leaves her audiences better than she finds them, with softened edges & opened hearts. A winner of several awards and honors, Ellis has been recognized both for her songwriting skills as well as her engaging performances. Many folk festivals have "audience choice" awards, and Ellis has claimed those honors at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Moab Folk Festival, and Sisters Folk Festival. She also won the Midwest Mountai n Stage New Song Contest (US) in 2011 and the award for the Just Plain Folks (International) Best Female Singer Songwriter Album in 2009. If you haven't yet caught her engaging and disarming live show, take a chance on Ellis and you'll become a lifelong fan. With compelling songwriting and engaging performances, Ellis is quietly amassing a loyal following of supporters across the country. She founded her own record company at age 18 and has since released seven albums including the critically acclaimed Right On Time (2010). Ellis has been instructor at the Rocky Mountain Song School since 2006, and has repeatedly taught at the Americana Song Academy in Sisters, OR and the IAMA Songwriting Academy in Salt Lake City, UT. [less...] Top
Rebecca Folsom
Rebecca Folsom has taught the Art of Vocal Freedom for over 18 years. She finds great joy in helping others claim the natural resonance, strength, and passion of their own voice. She has a very effective and unique approach of mixing nontraditional shamanic exercises with traditional building block vocal practices. She has taught body centered Vocal Freedom workshops with some of the nations top elite athletes, and helps singers find fluidity and strength with martial arts, yogic, Taoist, and Toltec practices along with classical [more...] vocal techniques. Her years of study with Joy Gardner Gordon's Healing Voice work, Stephen Chun-tao Chengs's Tao of Voice work, the study of yogic posture and breath, Americo Yabar's Salka Connection, and years of extensive performance and touring have created an instinctive, effective, and totally fun practice of vocal mastery. She has sung on hundreds of other artist's recordings, has published two books of poetry, has a BFA in Fine arts and has exhibited her work, has released 10 CDs, "Girls Like Us" with the Rhythm Angels has charted at number 4 on the national Folk/DJ chart and top 50 on College radio. Her most recent CD Reunion merges all her creative talents with a painting and a poem made for every song on the recording. She has performed on BBC radio and television in N. Ireland, Nashville's Bluebird, Opryland, and Tin Pan South stages, NY's Bitterend and Falcon Ridge Music Festival, and Colorado's own Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and Red Rocks Amphitheatre. She is happy to be back for her 17th year at Song School. [less...] Top
Robby Hecht
Robby Hecht is a romantic realist. He writes melodic and captivating songs that don’t shy away from the complexity of human relationships and delivers them with a smooth tenor that evokes both sorrow and hope. His new record, and second solo effort, takes the listener through a broad spectrum of emotions touching on forgiveness, love, indifference, joy, self-doubt and more. He writes with an honesty that captures the truth of a sentiment, building allegorical themes that allow anyone to relate the songs to the experiences of his or her own life. [more...]

With its blend of acoustic and electric instrumentation, Last of The Long Days harkens back to a time when well-crafted lyrics and timeless melodies ruled the radio airwaves. “Real Someday” is a hopeful mid-tempo tune with a lyric that promises there will be better days to come. The chorus is a descending, wordless harmony with Jill Andrews, formerly of The Everybodyfields, supplying the soaring backing vocals. The folksy “Pot of Gold” sings the praises of a long time relationship while playing on traditional methods of fortune seeking. On this track, muted upright bass and James Digirolamo’s accordion complement Hecht’s warm, assuring vocals and intricate fingerpicking.

John Deaderick (Dixie Chicks, Patty Griffin) adds shimmering B3 organ and piano to the swelling melody of “A Reckoning of Us.” Here, Hecht’s heartfelt vocals tell the tale of a failed romance while assuring that forgiveness will eventually and inevitably ease the pain. Jill Andrews again supplies the harmonies that back this and so many of the other arrangements on Last of The Long Days. She duets with Hecht on Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” – where Hecht’s slight variation on the melody and the weeping pedal steel of Paul Niehaus (Calexico) make this cover something special. The album closes with the quiet, devotional sentiments of “Never Let Go.” Deaderick provides ambient notes on the accordion enhancing what may be Hecht’s most quietly passionate vocal.

Last of The Long Days is a low-key stunner, an album marked by well-crafted melodies, poetic lyrics and arrangements that bring every note and emotion to life. Producer Lex Price (Mindy Smith, Matthew Ryan) has fashioned an intimate yet powerful record full of understated touches that add emotional resonance to every song. “I loved working with Lex on the last project – we have complimentary styles and I wanted to build on that compatibility,” Hecht says. “He has a unique vision in the studio that adds incredible layering and nuance to my songs.” As with their first collaboration, Late Last Night, Hecht and Price have created a record that slowly unfolds to reveal its emotional depth, the more so with every listen.

Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Hecht was exposed to his parents’ collection of 70s acoustic pop albums and his dad’s mandolin playing. “My mom loved Paul Simon, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg and other classic singer/songwriters. When I started writing songs, I was listening to their modern counterparts, artists like Tracy Chapman, Sarah McLachlan and David Gray. That combination was a big influence on my writing.”

The summer before he started college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hecht made a conscious decision to become a singer/songwriter. “Playing music just never seemed like work, so I knew that was what I was meant to do. I used the Internet to teach myself guitar. I discovered I had an affinity for fingerpicking and went from there.”

After graduation, Hecht moved to Paris with a friend and busked on the streets to make money. “A guy who played bagpipes used to set up across the street from me; he’d drown me out and make all the money. It wasn’t an incredibly lucrative gig to be an American folksinger in Paris, but still was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.”

After returning to the states, Hecht moved to San Francisco where he fronted the folk/swing band AllDay Radio and then settled in Nashville to pursue his songwriting career. He toured and wrote relentlessly over the next several years, winning the Great Waters Music Festival Songwriter Competition in 2006, the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition in 2008 and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubadour Contest in 2010—along the way garnering comparisons to early James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Amos Lee. Like these celebrated artists, Robby Hecht is a unique voice—one that is stirring, instantly recognizable and truly original. [less...]
Arthur Lee Land
Arthur Lee Land combines diverse influences to create a fresh new musical vibe: Afrograss Flavored Folk Rock. During a tour of Nigeria and Ghana, West Africa in 2001, Arthur spawned the concept of Afrograss: a synthesis of West African percussion and bluegrass in a folk rock context with a touch of funk, reggae, latin and world beat. Touring as a multi-instrumental solo act Arthur calls “A One-Man Afrograss Folk Rock Ensemble,” he utilizes THE ART of LIVE-LOOPING to create a full band sound by layering African percussion, bass, acoustic [more...] & electric guitars, guitar synth, vocals and talk box. In and around touring and recording Arthur has been devoting more time to his passion of working with youth and teaching. Since 2007 Arthur's Musical Life Skills K-12 Assembly Program & Looping Clinics have been presented to over 20,000 students in more than 15 states. This is Arthur’s 7th year teaching at the RMFF Song School. [less...] Top
Bill Nash
Bill Nash is a 15 year veteran of the Rocky Mountain Song school and has been a guitarist for the past 37 years, with 33 years of teaching experience under his belt. He has been mentoring guitar students at the Song School for the past 5 years, in a one on one basis under his canopy. He teaches fingerstyle guitar technique (mostly three finger Travis style) and also instructs students on the use of altered tunings, capo use, assorted other guitar techniques and music theory. More recently, he has been working on cutting edge guitar technique, using cut capos, [more...] multiple cut capos, altered tunings, and altered tunings with multiple capos. One of his songs even uses 4 capos, in DADGAD tuning, and each capo is critical to performing the song. He also works with songwriters on polishing their melodies, chord choices in their songs, and honing their musical ideas. [less...] Top
Siobhan Quinn
Siobhán Quinn received the 2006 WAMMIE award for Best Folk-Traditional Vocalist, has been a 2007 Kerrville New Folk Finalist (with Michael Bowers), a top 5 Boston Folk Festival songwriting Finalist, and Master Class vocal teacher at the Swannanoa Gathering, Kerrville Folk Festival, Rocky Mountain Song School (Planet Bluegrass), and Summersongs. She was born of immigrant parents, and is a force and talent that should not be ignored.  Siobhan released “Dreamers, Lovers and Outlaws” with husband and music partner Michael Bowers in late April 2007.  She previously released “Two Rivers” (1999) & “Grande Affaire” [more...] (ltd ed., 2003) with Ben Murray and an EP with the UK band Boneshaker (2005).  She has toured through the U.S./U.K., and has had airplay on four continents.  In addition to writing and performing, Siobhán has nearly two decades of professional arts and cultural administration experience in both public and private institutions including museum, cultural, arts center, educational, funding and presenting institutions. With an expertise is in jump-starting programs through evaluation, strategic planning, and the development of arts related community & educational programming, she has assisted individual artists with programmatic/artist-as-product business plans, booking, and has nearly two decades of experience developing program proposals for arts grant applications. [less...] Top
Etan Rosenbloom
Etan Rosenbloom is Associate Director/Deputy Editor of Marketing & Communications at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). His duties include creating content and interviewing members for the ASCAP website, "We Create Music" blog and Playback, writing speeches and scripts for ASCAP's award shows, and working on ASCAP's political advocacy and communications strategies. Before coming to ASCAP, Etan worked as the Director of Marketing at the small jazz label Cryptogramophone Records. [more...] Etan is also a freelance music journalist specializing in heavy metal, and writes the monthly "Killing Is My Business" column for Decibel. He currently lives in Los Angeles. [less...] Top
Justin Roth
Justin Roth is a nationally touring singer/songwriter and fingerstyle acoustic guitarist who combines an artful blend of hooks laid on a bed of brilliantly inventive guitar technique for a unique mix of acoustic indie folk. His path to acoustic music was solidified at 17 with his "Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show" moment, when he saw innovative guitarist Michael Hedges open for Crosby, Stills & Nash. Seeing that the acoustic guitar was capable of so much more than he had been exposed to before, from that moment on he knew it would be the root of his [more...] musical world. His use of alternate tunings, partial capos and his two-hand tapping technique leaves audiences mesmerized and displays his impressive guitar playing that has been described as, 'more than just an instrument, but an extension of himself.' Justin has toured with John Gorka and David Wilcox, as well as opened for some of the finest singer/songwriters on the acoustic music scene, including Shawn Colvin, Martin Sexton, and Darrell Scott. Equally, his guitar playing has earned him shared stages with some of the greatest fingerstyle players of today, such as Tommy Emmanuel, Andy McKee and Pat Donohue. He has sold over 12,000 copies of his five independent CDs, won the Indie Acoustic Project's award for Best Song for "Shine," and was a core contributor to the Lifescapes - Solo Guitar CD produced for Target Stores which sold over 70,000 copies nationwide. Justin's fan-funded new album, Now You Know, which he engineered, produced, played and sang every note himself in his bedroom studio, was voted as one of the Top 100 Folk Albums of 2011 by Roots Music Report. His song, "Surrender," from Now You Know was featured on the #1 ranked soap opera The Young & The Restless reaching over 5 millions viewers worldwide. Roth has also taught and performed at Song School/Folks Fest for 10 years, as well as at Kerrville Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival and Folk Alliance. When not on the road, Justin is a producer and engineer for other artists in his home studio in Fort Collins, CO. [less...] Top
Alan Rowoth
In 1991, Alan started the folk music listserv, and later organized the first Internet Quartet Songwriters Showcase, a tour that took 24 songwriters to 11 cities in the Northeast in a total of 66 concerts. Alan has written for several music magazines including Dirty Linen and Sing Out! and has taught seminars on the internet for musicians at national and regional Folk Alliance conferences, the Kerrville Folk Festival, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Christine Lavin’s Martha’s Vineyard Singer Songwriter Retreat, and of course, our own Song School. Top
Sarah Sample
"Sarah Sample's raw, graceful voice enhances lyrics that cut to the bone." (Salt Lake City Weekly) Four albums and tons of touring into her career, Sarah Sample is proving she's no trend-chasing flash in the pan scrambling for the latest production trick or songwriting gimmick. Listen to her songs and you'll hear true commitment to a quality body of work, not to mention the creative trajectory of somebody very talented working their tail off. That sort of work means the music can finally take the front seat and the accomplishments can be nice footnotes. [more...] For footnotes, the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest mainstage, Cayamo cruise, and 1st place in the '11 We Are Listening Singer/Songwriter awards– plus Kerrville and Telluride finals– aren't too shabby. And those are just some of the highlights. Sarah has kept good company too, sharing the stage with Darrell Scott, Steve Martin, Over The Rhine, Melissa Ferrick, Willy Porter, Peter Himmelman, Mark Stuart/Stacey Earle, Edie Carey, and more. But if it weren't for continually great songs that somehow keep getting better, none of it would matter. Sarah's latest project is a duet Lullaby album with the award winning songwriter Edie Carey, due summer 2014. [less...] Top
Amy Speace
“What Amy Speace says – what she sings – she says with a confluence of poetry and honesty, of emotional specificity,” wrote The New York Times of Amy’s 4th release, “How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat,” an ambitious song cycle inspired by Shakespeare.  The album brought critical raves from NPR’s “All Things Considered,” rock critic Dave Marsh, American Songwriter and UK tastemaker Mojo Magazine.  Baltimore-born, but a long time New Yorker, she was discovered by Judy Collins while playing in folk clubs and signed to her imprint Wildflower Records, releasing 3 albums [more...] before moving to East Nashville a few years ago and releasing 2011’s “Land Like A Bird” on Thirty Tigers.  The Houston Press called her “The unconscious cool of Americana,” nodding to the lean poetry of her rootsy folk.  But it’s her voice that catches the audience off guard-- crystalline with an emotional catch and a fluttering vibrato that seems grounded in another era yet somehow speaks to this one.  Peripathetic by nature, having moved every few years during childhood, Amy studied playwrighting and literature in college.  Still searching for the right creative path, she moved to NYC to study classical acting, cutting her teeth as an actor with The National Shakespeare Company and started performing her songs at downtown folk clubs.   She has appeared on Mountain Stage, The Philadelphia Folk Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, The Maverick Festival (UK), toured with Ian Hunter, Alejandro Escovedo, and has had her songs recorded by Judy Collins, Red Molly and Sid Selvidge.  She is currently at work on her 2015 release and lives in East Nashville, TN. [less...] Top
Mary Vyn
Mary's dancing began at age two. Lavender tutu and full head of rollers were essential to her center stage debut to the Ghostbuster's theme song. She studied ballet and modern dance with Denise Sklar of Marblehead, MA, contemporary dance and release technique with Debra Bluth of Cambridge and the work of Graham, Horton & Cunningham with Martha Gray. Mary's own choreography relies on collaborative processes with her dancers. She invokes storytelling and moments of mindless abandon to weave into scores. [more...] For one piece, seven women were stitched into vintage wedding dresses and got drenched before show time. Mary's most recent dance was with a boxer in a New York gym; percussive hits and breath made their soundtrack. In all her dance making there is a suggestion of being kind and reflections of beauty.

Mary has studied food as medicine and cooks professionally. She has served billionaires and famous chefs, but in her restaurant kitchen, Mandarava, she makes the daily bowl with Mom. She sees service as a form of grace and can boss you about with joy.

At Song School 2014, Mary is offering two movement classes - one cathartic and the other contemplative. She'll also hold one group session on the natural kitchen. [less...]
Ton Wasinger
Tom Wasinger is a composer, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist based in Boulder, Colorado. Tom has received three Grammy Awards as producer of the “Best Native American Music Album” in 2003 and 2007, and 2009. Tom also produced two other GRAMMY nominated records, one in 2001, and another in 2005. Tom’s first commercial success as a producer came in 1994 when his collection of international lullabies “The World Sings Goodnight” reached #3 on the Billboard World Music chart. This collection has since been [more...] licensed by National Geographic for the release “Lullabies, Dream Songs From Around the World”. For other recordings Tom has received four A.F.I.M. Indie awards (American Federation of Independent Music), five NAMA Nammy awards (Native American Music Association) including best producer for 2001 and 2005, as well as awards from Amazon.com, the American Library Association, and New Age Voice. Please see discography for award details. As a composer, Tom wrote the score for the feature length mountain biking film “Tread”, and the scores for numerous commercial short films. His music has been used in programming and syndicated programming on ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, ESPN, and Animal Planet. He has also been commissioned to compose music for prominent modern dance companies including Llory Wilson and Dancers of Seattle, and Helander Dance Theatre of Boulder, Colorado. Tom has performed live in concert halls around the world from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul Turkey. Tom builds experimental musical instruments and is the founder of “The Lost Angel Stone Ensemble”, the world’s only touring ensemble of resonating stone instruments. Tom and his music have been featured twice on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”. As an educator Tom has taught music privately since 1976, and has been a guest lecturer at the University of Colorado/Boulder and the University of Colorado/Denver. [less...] Top
Kai Welch
I was born into a tribe of semi-nomadic back-to-the-land hippies in Eastern Oregon in 1980. "Lady" by Kenny Rogers was the #1 song in America and John Lennon had a few weeks left to live. My parents had figured out a pretty good gig with a bunch of their friends, planting trees in the mountains for the US Forest Service and living in camps of teepees and yurts. The rest of the time they tended their garden, took care of the horses, practiced midwifery on their friends, tanned buckskins and beaded clothes. It was like The Little House on the Prairie, [more...] crossed with a Grateful Dead concert. As I remember it, it falls somewhere between Eden and squalor.

Then we moved to town, and those sweetly subversive dreams of "getting off the grid" got papered over with the normal shit of child-rearing in the '90s; parent-teacher conferences, piano lessons, insurance, VHS camcorders, rollerblades and skis and skateboard ramps, high-school musicals, ramen noodles, roofing leaks, Les Miserables 2-CD-Box Set, puppy obedience training, TV-watching time limits. My mother turned to religion, maybe to counteract our bad hair-dos. My father got into the internet before it was very popular. And before I knew who I was, I was an under-size under-weight teenaged dubiously born-again-Christian who was really actually Jewish but who was raised a mystical-agnostic-wood-nymph, trying to fit into meth-riddled logging mill small-town America. I wasn't allowed to listen to Nirvana so I sneaked it on unmarked cassette tapes.

To the West of our town, the freeway disappeared into a mountain pass called Deadman's Pass, making a little notch like a gun sight between the hills. And when the sun went down into that notch, it was like watching the glow of a distant party. I wanted to go to that party. Like any other kid I wanted to be where the action was, and it was clearly elsewhere, or so I thought. Like I'm sure it was for a lot of people, breaking out of my hometown was a revelation for me. I was 17 years old and I'd only ever had 4 radio stations to choose from. I liked the pop country songs that blasted from the doors of mud-covered trucks with oversize wheels in the high school parking lot – they seemed like they were about us. But I had a feeling there were things going on somewhere else that I needed to know about.

I never learned the importance of specialization, still haven't. So when I went off to college I was like a raccoon and I got into everything that wasn't sealed shut. I studied everything I possibly could. It was a feeding frenzy for me. I gobbled up new music, languages, philosphy, poetry, math, physics, literature – I thought it was all… cool. This was in 1999 and I remember listening to a Led Zeppelin record under headphones at the library and feeling like I had just discovered some ancient Mayan ruins. I had never thought of myself as sheltered, I mean not in like the Amish sense of the word, but college was definitely blowing my mind. And I loved my alma mater, Eugene, OR. Then suddenly I couldn't wait to get out of there either. I wanted to go somewhere very far away, totally alone, to test out the theory of absolute freedom and to prove to myself that I could do it.

So I split. I had a plane ticket to anywhere, a graduation gift, and I opted for the South Pacific because it sounded like the most exotic place I could think of. A place so isolated by ocean that time hadn't had a chance to tarnish it. A place where paradises were so numerous as to be expendable, where whole islands could be nuked by atomic scientists wearing safari hats and sunglasses, and no one would miss them. Everyone was going for Costa Rica or Europe. Nobody I knew was buying the Lonely Planet guide to New Caledonia or The Cook Islands. I figured chances were good that I could find an uninhabited island and play Robinson Crusoe. I really just wanted to learn how to hang out and survive off the land. And if I happened upon some exotic fellow travelers, maybe Swedish backpacker girls or something, that would be fine too. But the basic goal was pretty simple: to get out of the cycle of earning and spending money to buy things that really only serve the purpose of facilitating that selfsame cycle. I had also started writing a lot by then, poetry and music, countless half-baked songs and one or two good ones. So it was a journey to get away from everything I knew and find my voice as an artist too. I wanted to tear it all down, everything I'd learned and seen and tried to emulate in the past. I wanted to start with nothing, a clean-burning unfiltered life-form reacting to a world full of wonders.

It never came out quite as clean as all that. When ideas become realities they take on a form and a shape that's unpredictable and always beautifully deformed and mutilated by the whims of circumstance. I headed for the "South Pacific", but I was waylaid cavorting with hooligans in Australia. Hooligans that I now love dearly, by the way. I did eventually find an uninhabited island to inhabit, but it was only about 100 yards from the shore of the mainland in New Zealand.

I only stayed there for a week or two, till I got tired of the sand-flies, and rowing back to the mainland every time my water jug ran dry. I hopped sailboats to the Tongan islands, in search of a pure virginal culture, a romantic Rimbaud-like disappearance into something impossibly distant. But there I found Mormon missionaries, donuts, a lot of pregnant stray dogs, and gangster rap. I learned gospel songs, in English, from Tongan fishermen who didn't speak English. I made some field recordings of their curious blend of Christian tradition with the sounds of the islands. They couldn't believe their ears when they discovered that they could listen back to themselves on my Minidisc recorder.

I was trying to get somewhere pure, away from the world I knew. And I was a little sad to find that I couldn't. But I think it took me until then to really appreciate that human life is mixed up and messy, that we are all painted into landscapes that are tarnished and inconceivably varied. Because that's the way the world is now. The fluctuating matrix stew of cultures and ideas that we exist in is so fast and so thick, you just have to let it wash over you, embracing what you can and rejecting what you can't. There are a lot of people trying to pose as purists of one type or another. Pure rocker, pure folkie, pure punk, pure street. I'm not a pure anything. I'm an American male, whitish, aged 31.

I have now moved to Nashville, Tennessee – bastion of "country" music, land-locked Southern-fried pseudo-Christian ecologically-insensitive comfort zone where rent is cheap, jeans come with rhinestones, "co-write" is the word on the street, and life couldn't be much more different from where I started out. But it is also in Nashville that I have found my indispensable musical comrades – people like Abigail Washburn, Bobby Bare Jr., Carl Broemel, Jamie Dick, James Wallace, Brittany Haas, Bela Fleck, Tommy Hans, and countless more. There are way too many great people in this town to list, and as much as I sometimes get a hankering for those heady, romantic days of high-seas, high-mountains, high-ideals, and a lot of general high-ness, I also love being in a place where even your pizza delivery dude is really good at music. It's headquarters, it's our community, and it's really good to us.

I'm now going to attempt to sum up my entire life, and leave you with a mission statement of sorts… The one constant that I can distill from the grand total of everything I've ever seen and done, and my strongest belief, is this: Life is mysteriously divine, and this planet we are a part of is host to infinite wonders. Our challenge while we are here is to appreciate them fully. [less...]
Annie Wenz
Singer/songwriter/percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Annie Wenz has shared her songs & stomped her dusty musical boots & from festivals, rallys, street corners, schools & arts centers across the US & abroad, to refugee camps in Pakistan, spas in Malaysia, ESPN videos, Independent Film & theater scores, & blaring speakers at Major League Ballparks! As a writer & performer, she is known for her Kerouac-ish magnifying glass-ified lyrical portrait story songs & her unique way of blending roots, multi-cultural influences & funky rhythms. [more...] As a multi-instrumentalist, she teaches & accompanies herself & others on guitar, piano, indigenous flutes & percussion instruments on stages around the world.

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 8 recordings on her own indie label "Island Gypsy" including her newest all instrumental CD "Rain on Bare Skin" used by yoga & wellness practitioners around the world, & her 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...]


Past Instructors

2013 Song School Instructors

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

2011 Song School Instructors

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

2010 Song School Instructors

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

2009 Song School Instructors

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

2008 Song School Instructors

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.

2007 Song School Instructors

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.

Song School finale (photo: Russell Bramlett)