2015 Instructors

We're excited to announce the beginning of the faculty list for the 2015 Song School.

Songwriting Instructors

Mary Gauthier | Vance Gilbert | Bonnie Hayes | Pat Pattison | Paul Reisler | Steve Seskin | Peter Yarrow

Elective Instructors

"Chicago Mike" Beck | Ron Browning | Joe Craven | Terri Delaney | Val Denn | Ellis | Rebecca Folsom | Arthur Lee Land | Clare McLeod | Justin Roth | Alan Rowoth | Christopher Smith | Amy Speace | Tom Wasinger | Annie Wenz


Registration for the 2015 Song School is open now at shop.bluegrass.com or 800-624-2422. We expect The Song School to sell-out in early March, so don't wait much longer to make your plans to join us in Lyons this August.

Connect with your fellow Song School students in the Festivarian Forum. Make sure you're signed up for the "Notes from the Planet" email newsletter for all the latest news.

Song School finale (photo: Russell Bramlett)

Songwriting Instructors
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...]
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...]
Peter Yarrow
Peter Yarrow's talents as a creative artist—both with the legendary trio Peter, Paul & Mary and as a solo performer—are frequently directed at using music to convey a message of humanity and caring. His gift for songwriting has produced some of the most moving songs from Peter, Paul & Mary, including "Puff, the Magic Dragon," "Day is Done", "Light One Candle" and "The Great Mandala." As a member of the renowned musical trio, Yarrow has earned multiple gold and platinum albums, as well as numerous GRAMMYs. Over the years, many issues have moved Peter to commit his time and talent: equal rights, peace, the environment, [more...] gender equality, homelessness, hospice care, and education. All have utilized his skills as both a performer and an organizer. Peter Yarrow's life and work – culminating in the founding and leadership of Operation Respect with its "Don't Laugh At Me" initiative – is based on his passionate belief that music, with its power to build community and catalyze change, can be a particularly powerful organizing tool. [less...] Top
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...]
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
Joe Craven
Award winning creativity educator, former museum curator, actor, festival emcee, Director of RiverTunes Music Camp, a Co-Director of the Wintergrass Youth Academy and proud father, Joe Craven's love of music making has put him in many musical genres and alongside many musicians over the years, from Jerry Garcia, Yo-Yo Ma, David Lindley, Jason Marsalis and Roy Rogers to his fabulous Joe Craven Trio and other groups such as Alison Brown's Quartet, The Persuasions, Psychograss, The Horseflies and the list goes on. For 17 years, he was percussionist/violinist with mandolinist David Grisman. [more...] Whether presenting a workshop or lecture in a Costa Rican community, to business executives in Contra Costa, CA, or thousands of school kids in Scotland ~ to performing at house concerts, major music festivals, the stage of Carnegie Hall or a street corner at Cannery Row, Joe's at home and loving every minute. [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 12 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 seven CDs, the most recent “Girls Like Us” with the Rhythm Angels has charted at number 4 on the national Folk/DJ chart and top 50 on College radio. 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 eleventh year at Song School. [less...] Top
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
Clare McLeod
Australian Clare McLeod is a vocalist, teacher and assistant professor at Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA. Clare earned a Graduate Diploma of Education from Monash University and she performed with the Australian Opera, including Der Rosenkavalier, Hansel and Gretel, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, and Turandot. In describing her teaching: “I want to help singers close the gap between what they intend to do and what they are currently able to do; to help them understand the physical aspects of how their instrument works. The voice of the [more...] singer is like a race car, the singer is the driver and I’m in the pit, getting them road ready.”

“I began singing classical works quite young, and when I was a teenager my father brought home the Complete Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks. I started exploring jazz and dived into all kinds of genres, always curious about the variety of tones and colors in different voices—including my own. I started attending voice conferences and reading journals, asking ‘How does this work? What’s the science behind it?’ That curiosity has become one of my strengths as a teacher.”

“I want my students to have a strong sense of the lyrics and what it is they are saying. Great singers have a connection not only with their instrument, but with their material and their audience. Once they have a vision and the training to produce a range of sounds freely and efficiently, they can express themselves with greater precision and emotion. Knowing the options they have removes some of the fear and guesswork from the process of singing. The answer to fear is knowledge. I live by that.”

“One of the best parts about teaching private instruction is building a relationship in which students expand their awareness, are able ask questions, and learn to trust their bodies. There are moments in working with people, not necessarily when they have mastered a skill or completed a task, but when they see new possibilities and paths open for them. That’s when the lights go on.” [less...]
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
Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith is one of the best "under the radar" songwriters in the country. His acoustic based music is grounded in folk roots with american and celtic influences. His musicianship always serves the song, and his voice is sweet and engaging. What sets Smith apart is the sheer strength of his material. He holds a listener's attention for song after song because he writes stories that spring from interesting ideas. There is no filler in a Christopher Smith show. Christopher has been playing music in the San Francisco Bay area for over 25 years, where he lives with his wife and two sons. He credits his day job [more...] (the world’s greatest kindergarten teacher) for helping to maintain his playful, creative energy. Besides writing great songs, he also makes killer playdough. Smith can put his songs across in a variety of venues, from intimate house concerts and listening rooms to large outdoor festival stages. He knows how to connect with his audience. He has won the performing songwriter competition at the Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon, and his song "Gravedigger's Boy" won Best Song at West Virgina's NewSong Festival. [less...] Top
Amy Speace
Although Amy began her creative career in the theater, acting with The National Shakepeare Company and various other classical repertory theaters, she long ago left behind the stage to pursue music full time. She was discovered by Judy Collins and signed to Collins' imprint, Wildflower Records, releasing two critically-acclaimed albums. Judy Collins herself recorded Amy's song, "The Weight of the World," calling it "one of the best political folk songs I've ever heard." Along the way, she gained support and praise from such legends as Guy Clark [more...] and Nanci Griffith, Ian Hunter and Alejandro Escovedo, an unlikely combination until you hear Amy's songs. The Houston Press called her "The unconscious cool of Americana," nodding to the lean poetry of her rootsy folk, an edge possibly learned busking in the subways of NYC, or playing Juliet in parking lot productions of "Romeo & Juliet". But it's her voice that catches the audience off guard. A crystal clear voice with an emotional catch and a fluttering vibrato that seems grounded in another era yet somehow speaks to this one. Mary Gauthier says, "There are voices that serve as a bridge from the past to the future and act as soul connectors, and as a people we need them to keep singing. These voices open hearts with this rare, one in a million quality. Amy Speace has such a voice. Just ask the legendarily discerning Judy Collins; she'll tell you. Amy's got it, and then some. She is a timeless artist, a time traveler. Part past, part future. And that's a good thing, a really good thing." [less...] Top
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
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, mystical Independent Film 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 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 7 recordings on her own indie label “Island Gypsy” including her newest buzzed about CD “Ride The Sky” penned at stoplights while twirling about dusty back Americana roads on her Harley. She lives in her natty boots. "it's a muddy road out there, but somebody's gotta ride thru it!" [less...]



Past Instructors

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.