2018 Instructors

We're excited to announce the beginning of the 2018 Song School faculty. Registration for the 2018 Song School is now open at shop.bluegrass.com or 800-624-2422.

Songwriting Instructors

Mary Gauthier | Bonnie Hayes | Pat Pattison | Shelly Peiken | Steve Poltz | Paul Reisler | Darrell Scott | Steve Seskin

Elective Instructors

"Chicago Mike" Beck | Terri Delaney | Val Denn | Ellis | Rebecca Folsom | Vance Gilbert | Dan Harris | Arthur Lee Land | Korby Lenker | John Linn | Clare McLeod | Bill Nash | Bonnie Paine | Rob Roper | Justin Roth | Alan Rowoth | Moira Smiley | Amy Speace | Jayme Stone

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Song School finale (photo: Russell Bramlett)


Songwriting Instructors
Mary Gauthier
The Associated Press named Mary Gauthier as one of the best songwriters of her generation. Her songs have been recorded by dozens of artists, including Jimmy Buffett, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, and Candi Staton, Amy Helm and Bettye Lavette and Mike Farris, and have also appeared in Film and Television, most recently on the ABC hit show Nashville, HBO's Banshee, and Masterpiece Theater's Case Histories. She was awarded New Artist of the year by The Americana Music Association in 2005, and has released 10 studio albums. [more...] Her current release is Rifles and Rosary Beads co-written with wounded combat veterans over the last four years via SongwritingWith:Soldiers. Her third album, Filth and Fire was named Best Independent CD of the year by the New York Times. Her following 3 records were listed in both the LA Times and NY Times top three releases of the year. Her record Mercy Now was named in the top 5 records of the decade by No Depression magazine.

Mary tours the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and the UK, performing an average of 175 dates a year, and has appeared dozens on NPR radio (US), BBC radio (UK), CBC radio (Canada), and ABC radio (AU). Her short stories have been published in several books and magazines, including the book Amplified, released by Random House. She is a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry, and currently resides in Nashville, TN. She's often been called a writer's writer, and that thrills her to no end. [less...]
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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...]
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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
Shelly Peiken
Shelly Peiken is a multi-platinum Grammy nominated songwriter who is best known for her #1 hits "What a Girl Wants" and "Come On Over Baby". Shelly earned a Grammy nomination for the song "Bitch" recorded by Meredith Brooks and she has had hundreds of songs placed on albums, and in TV and film. Shelly's book Confessions of a Serial Songwriter lead to a second GRAMMY nomination for Best Spoken Word Album. The memoire chronicles her journey from a young girl falling under the spell of magical songs to writing hits of her own. [more...]

Shelly writes about coming of age, the creative process, the highs and the lows, the conflicts that arise between motherhood and career success, the competition and of course, the lovely people she found along the way. Her Serial Songwriter Facebook page has become a forum for all things songwriting and ideas about navigating a changing music business as a creative person and parent.

Shelly is a music industry mentor, panelist, consultant, guest speaker and a fierce advocate of creators' rights as a founding member of SONA (Songwriters Of North America). [less...]
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Steve Poltz
Steve Poltz is obsessed with the challenge of knowing and understanding the thoughts of each and every person in his audience. He is a lover of life; fascinated by all things large and small. As a road-tested troubadour armed with whimsy, curiosity and a healthy respect for the absurdities of existence, he is unafraid of saying yes, unafraid of letting his relentless, giddy energy fill a room and he is unafraid of letting his streams-of-consciousness take him where he needs to go. [more...]

His songs are guileless snapshots filtered through the windshield of his brain. He opens his mouth and lets it fall out – a SONG – and it's as shameless and intriguing and profound and wondrous as he is. A mix of high octane performance, singular wit and endlessly entertaining storytelling, Steve is legendary for his improvisational songwriting and timeless, original classics. Oh, and he's a pretty good guitarist too. [less...]
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Paul Reisler
Paul Reisler has written more songs than the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Stephen Foster combined—somewhere north of 3,500 compositions. Ok, he has had some serious help from some of his co-writers including a handful of Grammy winning songwriters as well as the over 50,000 children he’s written with in his Kid Pan Alley program. Artists including Sissy Spacek, Raul Malo, Cracker, Corey Harris, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Jesse Winchester and many others have recorded his songs. Paul has been performing professionally for over 40 years as the leader of Trapezoid, Paul Reisler & A Thousand Questions featuring Howard Levy, and Three Good Reasons.   [more...] During that time, he’s been involved in over 3 dozen recordings as a musician, producer, composer and songwriter.  He’s taught at workshops and songwriting schools including Rocky Mountain Song School, Utah Song School, Swannanoa Gathering, Blue Ridge Songcamp, Augusta Workshop, University to the Pacific, Hollyhock, Berklee College of Music, Folk Alliance, Kerrville, Nashville Songwriters Association, Omega Institute, Moulin a Nef in S. France, Songcamp in the Mountains, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, and many others.

In addition to all his songs and instrumentals, he wrote the full-length piece Aesop’s Fables for Orchestra and Narrator as well as a new musical entitled Bouncin’ in which he wrote the songs as well as the script. [less...]
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Whether its' rock, folk, country or blues, Darrell Scott, the 4-time Grammy nominated Nashville songwriter, has written hits all the way from Brad Paisley and the Dixie Chicks to Del McCoury, Sam Bush and Keb Mo; contributing songs to three of 2016's best albums alone. 'It's not surprising that Scott wrote nine of the 14 songs on his own new album, "Couchville Sessions," and less surprising that he wrote three songs with the like-minded Americana artist Hayes Carll on Carll's magnificent new disc, "Lovers and Leavers,"' in addition to "1000 Things" from Sarah Jarosz's award winning "Build Me Up From Bones" album. [more...]

What's more surprising is that Scott came off of a year and a half of touring in Robert Plant's Band of Joy with a co-write on R&B star Anthony Hamilton's new recording, "Save Me," the opening track on "What I'm Feelin." Over the past two years Darrell has produced, co-written and performed on three songs from Zac Brown's latest project "Heavy Is the Head," in addition to producing Jonathan Edwards latest and Malcolm Holcombe's upcoming 2017 release, "Pretty Little Troubles." But these partnerships all makes sense: Although they hail from different genres, these artists are master craftsmen at fitting words to notes.

Witness his ability to make just about any instrument talk, listen to his vocals and songwriting to hear him contain every emotion between joy and pain within one verse in his singing and in his pen. Nowadays he's taking the outsider role even more seriously; after 23 years in Nashville he spent the last year devoting himself to a self-sufficient lifestyle in the country while simultaneously putting together his best album in years. [less...]
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Steve Seskin
Steve Seskin is a songwriter/singer 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. "Don't Laugh at Me" was also 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 kindness, respect and tolerance in schools. This program has already been implemented in more than 20,000 schools across the country. [more...] 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. In 2007, Steve started Kids Write Songs and these days spends 80 days a year in schools writing songs with students. Go to kidswritesongs.org for more info. He has also been very busy writing songs this year with Seth Glier who recorded 3 songs they wrote together on his new record "If I COuld CHange One Thing" as well as the song "This Too Shall Pass" with Sinclair an amazing new pop artist on Drive records. In 2015, he also released "Some Sunsets", his first new recording in ten years. Produced by Julia Sinclair it features her talents on all the instumrnats except percussion which was handled by the legendary Roy Wooten AKA Future Man. [less...] Top
Elective Instructors
"Chicago" Mike Beck
"Chicago" Mike Beck is an ASCAP-award-winning songwriter and recording artist who has been teaching at the SongSchool since 2005. He's been touring full-time in the USA and Europe since 2001 as a solo performer and with his band Chicago Mike's InterGalactic Brother & Sisterhood of Big Eyed Beans. Mike performs several weeks each year at the Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and has toured Europe over 25 times, performing in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, Spain and Luxembourg. [more...] In December 2015, Mike completed his first tour of Asia, performing shows in Japan and Thailand. He has personally brought over 30 musicians 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, an organization dedicated to helping independent recording artists expose their music to directors, producers and music supervisors working in film, television, videogames and advertising. The 16th annual Access Film Music Showcase will take place during Film Festival Week in Park City, Utah January 17 - 27, 2019. Access Film Music is also the Official Music Partner of the ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, France each Spring, where Access showcase events have helped further their mission to connect music-makers with filmmakers.

Mike has been a featured speaker and mentor at numerous music industry events, including AmericanaFest in Nashville, South-by-Southwest, Folk Alliance International and many other music conferences, and loves empowering and inspiring musicians to pursue their dreams. He 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...]
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Terri Delaney
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
Ellis
There's just something about Ellis. She is at once funny and wise, thoughtful and uninhibited, and her captivating voice is matched by her uplifting 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
Named "The Creativity Shaman" by her artist-to-CEO clients, Rebecca Folsom inspires whole system transformation. If you are motivated to thrive, ready to lose your fascination with old stories of limitation, and to live into the reality of new possibilities through essential action, Rebecca is the coach for you. She helps you dissolve old barriers, transmute fear into flow, and take action to live in the marrow of your creative goals. Rebecca invites you into expanded territories so simple people often shake their heads with a "Why didn't I think of that?" response. You embody openness and flow. [more...] You release life-inhibiting static and resonate with the genius that is your birthright. This is where you shine brightest and have creative impact in the world. Rebecca's approach is direct, kind, and fun loving with the measured precision and care of one who has navigated these streams for a lifetime.

Rebecca has refined her coaching methods through more than 22 years of performing, coaching individuals, and leading workshops. Her one-on-one sessions offer supportive, personal depth exploration with practical life changing results. Her workshops offer fertile ground to catalyze individual growth, while at the same time empower community and connection. Life-long relationships often emerge from her workshops. She mixes non-traditional shamanic exercises, Taoist, Toltec, Big Leap, Yogic, and Martial Arts with traditional Vocal, Theater, and Public Speaking techniques to offer deep systemic change. By accessing Body Intelligence, she helps you create the "magic" of streamlined change.

Maybe you're new, ready to change your life or experienced seeking refinement and hungry for more. All are welcome in Rebecca's coaching arena: singers, artists, writers, bands, business teams, CEOs, one-on-one, small and large groups. The only requirement is the willingness to dissolve limitation, ease into what you really want, and experience a turbo-booster launch down the path of creative freedom. Rebecca returns to the teaching staff at Song School for her 20th season. A prolific artist and accomplished businesswoman, Rebecca tours nationally and has 12 CDs to her credit. Along with being a transformation facilitator, she is also a published author of two books, a painter with a BFA degree in Fine Arts, and shows her work in numerous galleries.

Songs from her most recent CD hit #1 on National Folk DJ Chart, #4 on National Americana Country Charts, and #42 for the year 2016 on the National Folk DJ Chart. Radio DJs deemed it "Stunning" and "Spectacular." Boulder Magazine called it "Achingly Beautiful." She has played Opryland, The Bluebird, The Bitterend, Falcon Ridge Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Kerrville Folks Festival, and BBC Radio and Television. Her songs crack open hearts, awaken longing, and inspire listeners into expanded perspectives. [less...]
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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...]
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Dan Harris
John Prine meets Steve Earl, with a Vermont authenticity… On a cold winter night the coyotes would cry from way up in the hills as the midnite train blew its whistle farther on up the Connecticut River valley. I could feel the wind coming through the windows in the drafty farmhouse we grew up in. The coyotes were there most of the time, howling at the train whistle. There wasn't much else to do on nights like that other than play my guitar, and scribble songs on little scraps of paper. I did alot of fishing in the river back then too. [more...] And spent days on end rummaging around in the forest, looking for a cool tree with a cool bird whistling the afternoon away, or maybe a deer, or a trout from the little stream about a mile back in.

On Sundays I was pulled away from my lonely little utopia in the woods and streams and taken to church. My family was very religious and church music rang out loud and clear from our household as far back I can remember. I can also remember sitting on my dads lap, at a very early age, before the coyotes, learning to hold a pick, strum the strings and sing "Hey Good Looking" together.

Once, in the third grade, we went on a school trip to hear Dizzy Gillespie play trumpet and give a talk on the history of jazz. I'll never forget the way that music made me feel, or how his cheeks would blow up into balloons when he was belting out once cool lick after another.

This is where my music comes from, it started a journey that has taken me to some fun and interesting, and sometimes dark and heart wrenching, places. I listen to and love the music of John Hartford, Woody Guthrie, Del McCoury, Tim Obrien, piles and piles of bluegrass, and of course all of my fellow musician friends in my area. 

My latest project involves playing guitar in a newly formed old time/new time string band called the Renegade Roosters. We  have  Jason Lowery on clawhammer banjo and vocals and Jay Allen playing upright bass. 

When not performing or writing music I teach private lessons on guitar and mandolin. I'm also an instrument builder and have a small shop where I repair stringed instruments and build mandolins and guitars. [less...]
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Arthur Lee Land
Innovative Lyons Colorado based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, Live-Looping Artist, producer and educator: Arthur Lee Land plays an eclectic fusion of folk-rock, AfroGrass (bluegrass/worldbeat) and electronica dubbed: Electro-Americana. Arthur has toured for years as an unforgettably unique solo act employing the Art of Live-Looping to create a full band sound. Equally unique is the creative songwriting collaboration with his non-performing lyricist and wife Carol Lee who contributes the majority of the lyrical content for "Arthur Lee Land." [more...]

In November 2014, Arthur joined the Colorado Americana Jam band "Great American Taxi" replacing Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon. Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth produced their new album that is due out in fall 2016. Arthur and lyricist Carol Lee penned five songs on the new ten song album. Drummer Duane Trucks (Widespread Panic, Hard Working Americans) played on the record and also joins them for shows.

In May 2013 Arthur released his 4th album Cracked Open on Perfect Groove Records, offering a groundbreaking style that is driven by the integration of sophisticated musical, emotional and spiritual juxtapositions. "Fresh!.... Arthur has a unique, creative approach in his music." Grammy Award winning producer Bil Vorndik (Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck, Doc Watson)

Arthur's autobiographical song: Good Enough (music and lyrics penned alone) and music video were the feature of a campaign to help raise awareness and money for AbleChild: Parents for Label and Drug Free Education—a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to parents, caregivers and ADD/ADHD children's rights.

Since 2004, Arthur's inspirational and interactive Art of Live-Looping assembly programs and music workshops have reached over 50,000 students in over 25 states across the country. He has been on staff at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons CO since 2003. [less...]
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Korby Lenker
Korby's deliberate approach to music is the mainstay of career now tipping into its third decade. Along the way there have been numerous songwriting awards (including first place wins at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriters Showcase) and festival appearances, (Sasquatch, Bumbershoot). Lenker has also shared the stage with such luminaries as Willie Nelson, Ray Lamontagne, Nickel Creek, Chris Isaak, to name a few. It was in the publication of MEDIUM HERO, Lenker's first collection of short stories (Turner Publishing December 2015) that he found his true voice, as well as his vision for THOUSAND SPRINGS. [more...]

"For me," says Lenker, "the two most important qualities of good art are originality and meaning. By original, I mean you've got to tell your own story and no one else's…one thing that was good for me when I moved to Nashville was that it forced me to really dig in and figure out what I did that was different than what everyone else was doing. In Nashville, everyone can write a song and everyone can sing. But there is actually very little in the way of true originality. I spent my first three years in town parking cars at a hotel and taking a bunch of chances, creatively speaking. No one really cared about me, which turned out to be very freeing. Those first years were when I wrote most of the stories that became Medium Hero. I started writing songs that tended toward personal meaning over commercial appeal, and along the way I discovered there was an audience for this approach to telling my story. That was the best discovery of all. There are people out there who will let me be myself!"

Deciding that Story is Everything, Korby hatched an ambitious plan for his 7th album. After raising $20K in a crowdfunding campaign, he purchased some recording gear and a high-end battery typically used in climbing expeditions, and drove out to Idaho to see what would happen. He recorded the heart of each song — the guitar and vocal — in different places important to him personally. He recorded during the day and slept in a tent at night. He blogged about it.

After recording the basic tracks, he spent the next several months driving around the country, recording his friends where they lived — in backyards and hotel rooms - in Seattle, Portland, LA, Austin, Madison, Boston and more. Thousand Springs was recorded in 7 states and features almost 30 different artists from the young folk scene, including Nora Jane Struthers, Critter Eldridge, Anthony Da Costa, Amy Speace, Molly Tuttle, Carrie Elkin, Kai Welch, Beck Warren and many more. [less...]
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John Linn
Largely due to a visioning session in Ellis Delaney’s class at Song School, John Linn now teaches guitar and makes music full-time in Washington, D.C., with over twenty-five students, aged six to sixty-five.  His mission is to share the joys of creativity and musical living with his students and audiences.  Having discovered so much of that joy in Lyons, John is especially glad to be returning to teach at the Song School again in 2016.  In his teaching practice, John especially enjoys the gentle exploration of music theory, creativity coaching and performance development. [more...]

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 band 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 WAMU public radio in Washington. [less...]
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Clare McLeod
Clare McLeod is an Assistant Professor in the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music. A Certified Master Teacher in Estill Voice Training, Clare also trained at the National Center for Voice and Speech, and is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. In addition to teaching at Berklee, she presents voice clinics regularly in Los Angeles, Colorado and Austin and continues to study developments in the voice research field. Top
Bill Nash
Bill Nash is a 17-year veteran of the Rocky Mountain Song school and has been a guitarist for the past 39 years, with 35 years of teaching experience under his belt. He has been mentoring guitar students at the Song School for the past 6 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
Bonnie Paine
The ethereal voice of Bonnie Paine is one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of the musical experience that is Elephant Revival. Her multi-octave range and haunting, hushed tones is complimented by her skill on a wide variety of percussive and bowed instruments, from the washboard to cello and many points between. Her performance skills, when joined with that of her Elephant Revival bandmates, create a brand of music often described as “Transcendental Folk. Of all her contributions to the band’s unique and dynamic sound, the most important is her songwriting. Top
Rob Roper
In an industry where "Alternative" means mainstream and "Indie" means pop, Rob Roper's songs are independent of Indie and alternative to Alternative. Jon Solomon of The Westword calls him "...a guy with some sharp songwriting skills and a knack for penning witty lyrics." The Belgium website Rootstime.be described his full-length CD "Misfit" as "...drenched with emotion, with truly beautiful songs...A modest masterpiece." Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Roper spent his teenage years in Dallas, Texas. [more...]

After college he left for Arizona and lived there for many years, playing music with various people and bands. He moved to Denver in 2000, where he is now based. A guitar player since the age of 12, he took up songwriting and singing in 2004.

In 2007 Roper released a DIY demo EP, Some Songs I Wrote. 2009 saw the release of the acoustic EP, Me. In 2011 Roper released his first full-length album, Misfit, produced by John McVey. In 2012 he released an 8-song acoustic EP, The Other Side of Nowhere, featuring Paul Ermisch on violin. In 2016, Roper released a 3-song EP for download, Word, which features spoken word or rap over a hybrid of rock and hip hop music. Also in 2016, Roper released the hard rock/psychedelic rock EP Roses under the band name Total Flower Chaos.

Rob Roper has played over 100 gigs since 2006, mostly in Colorado, but also in Oregon, Texas, Iowa, Massachusetts and The Netherlands. Since 2010 he has primarily played his songs with violinist Paul Ermisch in the acoustic group Scupanon. From 2013-2014 he played guitar and was one of the songwriters for the Denver rock band, Dorian. Roper is currently in the process of forming a hard rock/psychedelic rock band, Total Flower Chaos.

From 2015-2017 Roper has been taking music theory, piano and composition classes at Metro St. University in Denver. He expects this knowledge will help not only with his own compositions and songwriting, but for composing music for film and TV, and in working with professional musicians in the studio while producing his own and other people's recording projects.

"Everything I've done up til now," Roper recently said, "is just preparation for what comes next. My best work is still to come." [less...]
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Justin Roth
Justin Roth is a nationally touring singer/songwriter, fingerstyle guitarist, and recording engineer/producer. His path to acoustic music was solidified at 17 when he heard innovative guitarist, Michael Hedges, and saw how the acoustic guitar was capable of creating such a huge sonic palette, much more than he had ever heard before. From that moment on, he knew it would be the root of his musical world. His use of alternate tunings, partial capos and his innovative two-hand tapping technique has been described as, 'more than just an instrument, but an extension of himself.' [more...] "Fans of Leo Kottke or Michael Hedges will find themselves right at home with [Roth's] intricate guitar work...beautifully written lyrics." - San Francisco Art Magazine

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. Justin's self-produced and fan-funded album, Now You Know, was voted as one of the Top 100 Folk Albums of 2011. Two songs from Now You Know have also been featured on the #1 ranked soap opera The Young & The Restless reaching over 5 millions viewers worldwide. In late 2013, Justin wrote and released "Rise," inspired by the Colorado floods, and has donated 100% of the proceeds to flood relief.

Justin has attended Song School every year since 1997 and taught each year since 2003, as well as teaching at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, International Folk Alliance Conference, and offering online lessons at www.JamPlay.com. When not on the road, Justin is a recording engineer/producer for independent artists at Bridgeway Recording, a multi-room, full-service recording facility, as well as at his home studio, The ToneBar, in Fort Collins, CO. [less...]
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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
Moira Smiley
Moira Smiley is a Singer / Composer who creates and performs new work for voices. A musical polyglot, and vocal shape-shifter, her voice – and composing – are heard on feature films, BBC & PBS television programs, NPR, and on more than 60 albums. When she's not leading her own group, moira smiley & VOCO, Moira tours with Indie artist tUnE-yArDs, Irish music powerhouse, Solas, The Lomax Project and Billy Child's "Laura Nyro Re-Imagined". Recent solo performances include TED, Stravinsky's 'Les Noces', the London Proms Festival, features on BBC3's The Choir, and ABC Australia's Books & Arts programs. [more...] Moira's recordings feature spare, vocally driven collections of warped traditional songs, original polyphony and body percussion. In addition to her performing work, she is in high demand as a choral clinician, composer and arranger. [less...] Top
Amy Speace
“Amy Speace has one of the richest and loveliest voices in the singer/songwriter genre and her songs are luxuriously smart…she’s profoundly personal yet also a bit mythic. The imagery and the careful use of language is stunning and more evocative of classical poetry than most contemporary Americana peers” – Craig Havighurst, author & host of Nashville’s “Music City Roots”.   Baltimore born, NYC bred and Nashville based, Amy Speace has been making critical waves since Judy Collins discovered her in 2006, releasing “Songs For Bright Street” on Collins’ own Wildflower Records. A logical protégé to classic singers like Collins and Baez, Amy’s brand of folk comes with a bit of grit and soul. [more...]

Each release since her debut more personal, more crafted, her voice deepening with intimacy and authority.  The critics followed with increasing notice.  2009’s “The Killer In Me” had NPR likening her to a younger Lucinda. 2013’s “How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat,” a song cycle conversation with Shakespeare’s characters, brought her national recognition with a feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and acclaim from famed rock critic Dave Marsh. 

Her most recent release, 2015’s “That Kind Of Girl,” was lauded by The New York Times’s Jon Pareles and marked her 4th appearance on “Mountain Stage”.  Judy Collins has recorded her songs, as well as the late Memphis Hall of Fame member Sid Selvidge and other folk and jazz artists.  Just recently she released a trio record with Amber Rubarth and UK-based Emily Barker called Applewood Road, which got 5 star reviews in England including The Sunday London Times writing “a flawless set that has to be the most haunting release of the past year”. 

But all this is not what she had planned. After graduating from Amherst College with a dual degree in English and Theater, she moved to NYC to study acting at The National Shakespeare Conservatory, fully intending on a career as a playwright, director and actress. She spent a few years doing just that: a member of a few classical repertory companies, a founding Artistic Director of Off-Off Broadway’s Five Points Theater Company – until a borrowed guitar and a spectacular break up led to her penning her first few songs.  It was only a few years later that a demo of hers was brought to the attention of Judy Collins who was in search of talent for a fledgling record label. 

Amy has taught performance and songwriting at Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Song School for over a decade and been on staff at The Kerrville Folk Festival Song School, Swannanoa Gathering, Sister’s Folk Festival & Americana Academy, Berklee College of Music (Summer Session), her own Songs From The Well Writing Retreats and is honored to work with Songwriting With Soldiers.  [less...]
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JaymeStone
Two-time Juno-winning banjoist, composer and instigator Jayme Stone makes music inspired by sounds from around the world—bridging folk, jazz and chamber music. His award-winning albums both defy and honor the banjo's long role in the world's music, turning historical connections into compelling sounds. Jayme Stone's Folklife (2017) follows the bends and bayous through the deep river of song and story. Evolving out of Stone's "Lomax Project," this gathering of versatile musicians blows the dust off of old songs and remakes them for modern ears. [more...] With spellbinding singing, virtuosic playing and captivating storytelling, their concerts and educational programs are moving, inventive and participatory experiences. Think Sea Island spirituals, Creole calypsos and stomp-down Appalachian dance tunes. The album is due out in March on Borealis Records.

Jayme Stone's Lomax Project (2015) focuses on songs collected by folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax. This collaboratory brings together distinctive and creative roots musicians to revive, recycle and reimagine traditional music. The repertoire includes Bahamian sea shanties, Sea Island spirituals, Appalachian ballads, fiddle tunes and work songs collected from both well-known musicians and everyday folk: sea captains, cowhands, fishermen, prisoners and homemakers. Collaborators include Grammy-winning singer Tim O'Brien, Bruce Molsky, Margaret Glaspy, Moira Smiley, Brittany Haas, Julian Lage and more.

The Other Side of the Air (2013) is a travelogue of imaginary landscapes and faraway lands. The album traverses the Cinnamon Route through Persia and India, revisits and reinvents melodies Stone collected in West Africa and includes a Concerto for Banjo and Chamber Symphony. Room of Wonders (2010) explores music from Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Brazil, Italy and America. The repertoire includes a movement from Bach's French Suite, a Moorish sword-fighting dance and Stone's lush, edgy originals. Africa to Appalachia (2008) is a boundary-crossing musical collaboration with griot singer Mansa Sissoko that explores the banjo's African roots and Stone's adventures in Mali. The Utmost (2007) draws inspiration from Japanese poetry and Brazilian literature and includes a tiny symphony that takes place inside an imaginary lightbulb.

Stone is the consummate collaborator, unearthing musical artifacts and magnetizing extraordinary artists to help rekindle these understudied sounds. He is a passionate educator, producer and instigator. [less...]
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Past Instructors

2017 Song School Instructors

Mary Gauthier, Bonnie Hayes, Peter Himmelman, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Rachel Sermanni, Ben Sollee, Steve Seskin Elective Instructors Jenn Adams, "Chicago Mike" Beck, Mai Bloomfield, Ron Browning, Jill Brzezicki, RJ Cowdery, Terri Delaney, Val Denn, Ellis, Ramy Essam, Rebecca Folsom, Vance Gilbert, Ali Handal, Dan Harris, JJ Jones, Arthur Lee Land, John Linn, Clare McLeod, The Mae Trio, Rich Moore, Bill Nash, Mollie O'Brien, Bonnie Paine, Emily Scott Robinson, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace

2016 Song School Instructors

Vance Gilbert, Bonnie Hayes, Kathy Mattea, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Darrell Scott, Steve Seskin, Cheryl Wheeler, Jenn Adams, "Chicago Mike" Beck, Mai Bloomfield, Ron Browning, Jill Brzezicki, Terri Delaney, Val Denn, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Foxfeather, Connor Garvey, Robby Hecht, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Arthur Lee Land, John Linn, Clare McLeod, Mouths of Babes, Bill Nash, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Sarah Sample, Amy Speace, Judith Wade, Tom Wasinger

2015 Song School Instructors

Mary Gauthier, Vance Gilbert, Bonnie Hayes, Lucy Kaplansky, Shane Koyczan, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Steve Seskin, Richard Shindell, Peter Yarrow, Jenn Adams, "Chicago Mike" Beck, Mai Bloomfield, Jill Brzezicki, Ron Browning, RJ Cowdery, Joe Craven, Terri Delaney, Val Denn, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Heiko Grein, 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, Judith Wade, Tom Wasinger, Annie Wenz, Shannon Wurst

2014 Song School Instructors

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

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.