2015 Instructors

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

Songwriting Instructors

Mary Gauthier | Vance Gilbert | Bonnie Hayes | Lucy Kaplansky | Shane Koyczan | Pat Pattison | Paul Reisler | Steve Seskin | Richard Shindell | Peter Yarrow

Elective Instructors

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

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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.

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, [more...] 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 8 studio albums.

Her current release is Trouble and Love, and she is touring the world with it. 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...]
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...]
She started out singing in Chicago bars. Then, barely out of high school, Lucy Kaplansky took off for New York City. There she found a fertile community of songwriters and performers—Suzanne Vega, Steve Forbert, The Roches, and others. With a beautiful flair for harmony, Lucy was everyone’s favorite singing partner, but most often she found herself singing as a duo with Shawn Colvin. People envisioned big things for them; in fact, The New York Times said it was “easy to predict stardom for her.” But then Lucy dropped it all. [more...]

Convinced that her calling was in another direction, Lucy left the musical fast track to pursue a doctorate in Psychology. Upon completing her degree, Dr. Kaplansky took a job at a New York hospital working with chronically mentally ill adults, and also started a private practice. Yet she continued to sing. Lucy was often pulled back into the studio by her friends, (who now had contracts with record labels) wanting her to sing on their albums. She harmonized on Colvin’s Grammy-winning Steady On, and on Nanci Griffith’s Lone Star State of Mind and Little Love Affairs. She also landed soundtrack credits, singing with Suzanne Vega on Pretty in Pink and with Griffith on The Firm, and several commercial credits as well—including “The Heartbeat of America” for Chevrolet.

Then Shawn Colvin—who was itching to produce a record—hooked up with Lucy, her ex-singing partner. They went into the studio, and it all came together. When Lucy’s solo tapes got into the hands of Bob Feldman, president of Red House Records, he was blown away. Suddenly, Lucy was back in the music business. She signed with Red House and started playing gigs. Red House released The Tide in 1994 to rave reviews, and within six months Lucy signed with a major booking agency—Fleming Tamulevich & Associates—and began touring so much it required leaving her two psychologist positions behind.

Lucy’s second album, Flesh and Bone (1996), was produced by Anton Sanko (producer of Suzanne Vega’s Days of Open Hand), and it clearly showed a performer and songwriter stepping into her own. Some of Lucy’s favorite singing partners joined her in the studio, including Jennifer Kimball (formerly of The Story), Richard Shindell, and John Gorka. Where The Tide had showcased Lucy’s formidable interpretive skills, Flesh and Bone emphasized her development as a gifted songsmith. The album is graced with eight absorbing original songs, as well as four sharp covers.

After releasing, The Tide, Lucy’s success took flight with back-to-back hit albums Ten Year Night and Every Single Day. Both received the AFIM award (Association For Independent Music) for best pop album of the year. Lucy’s rising popularity has led to appearances on the CBS Morning Show, NPR’s Weekend and Morning Editions and All Things Considered, Mountain Stage, and West Coast Live. Lucy also contributed her story to a unique book, SOLO: Women Singer- Songwriters in Their Own Words, which includes some of the best known women on the music scene today: Ani DiFranco, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and others. She was also featured in Lipshtick, a collection of essays by NPR commentator Gwen Macsai, published in the fall of 1999.

In 1998 Lucy teamed with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell to form supergroup Cry Cry Cry, and recorded some of their favorite songs written by other artists. The resulting album, Cry Cry Cry (which The New Yorker dubbed “a collection of lovely harmonizing and pure emotion,” and to which Entertainment Weekly gave an “A” rating), was an astonishing success in stores and on radio. A national tour of sold-out concerts by the trio served to introduce Lucy’s luminous voice to a new audience.

The Red Thread followed and marked Lucy’s tenth year (and fifth album) on Red House. It wove together themes of motherhood, home and the family with beautiful production.

Lucy’s new life as a mother has enhanced the emotional depth of her songwriting. Her 2007 release Over the Hills explored universal themes of love, joy, loss, and dreams for the future, through reflections on family. After the release of Over the Hills, The Boston Globe referred to Lucy as “becoming the songwriter laureate of modern city folk.”

Kaplansky’s voice has continued to remain in high demand by her peers. Her song “Guilty as Sin” was featured in the NBC television show Ed. In addition, she can be heard on recent releases by Bryan Ferry, Nanci Griffith, and on the Greg Brown tribute album Going Driftless (also featuring Ani Difranco, Iris Dement, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and others).

In 2010 Lucy joined up with acclaimed singer-songwriters John Gorka and Eliza Gilkyson to record an album as part of new folk super-group Red Horse. Awash in gorgeous harmonies and simple acoustic production, the album features the singers performing each other’s songs. Red Horse has received rave reviews and was the number one album on Folk Radio for several months in 2010. Since the album’s release, the trio were interviewed on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” with Liane Hansen and appeared on NPR’s “Mountain Stage.”

In 2011 Lucy released an EP, Kaplansky sings Kaplansky, featuring songs written by her father, famed University of Chicago mathematician Irving Kaplansky, including live performances of the two of them performing together in California. This is Lucy’s first venture into 1940’s style swing, reminiscent of the work of Kaplansky’s former student Tom Lehrer. Lucy is also featured on a new Bob Dylan tribute album, A Nod to Bob 2, featuring her performance of the Dylan classic “Every Grain of Sand.”

Lucy released “Reunion”, her seventh solo CD, in 2012. For this album, Lucy reunited with her impressive core of musicians–Buddy Miller, Richard Shindell, Jonatha Brooke, John Gorka, Eliza Gilkyson, Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter, J. Geils Band), Jon Herington (Steely Dan) and producer/drummer Ben Wittman (Paula Cole, Don Byron)–creating a true masterwork.

The title song “Reunion” celebrates Lucy’s pioneering immigrant grandmother and her journey from Poland to Toronto, where the matriarch and business woman founded the Health Bread Bakery chain in the early 20th century. Depicted on the album cover in a painting by noted political cartoonist Avrom Yanovsky (one of the original bakery workers and father to Lovin’ Spoonful’s Zal Yanovsky), the bakery was the center of the Kaplansky family’s life. Although raised in Chicago, Lucy attended many family reunions in Toronto, reuniting one last time with her cousins in 2011 after the passing of her parents, aunts and uncles.

“It’s inevitable that as you get older and your life deepens you find more ways of connecting to an even larger circle of people,” says Lucy. “This album is largely about reunions with family and deepening social connections with friends and audiences through my music. I find myself clearer about my priorities, my purpose, my politics and my faith.”

Like the title track, each song on Reunion tells its own unique story. Lucy and co-writer Richard Litvin connect us to our common humanity through songs of family, origins, loss and discovery–from watching parents pass on (“I’ll See You Again” and “Sleep Well”), to witnessing a daughter blossom (“Mother’s Day”), to chronicling the journey of an abandoned child refugee (the radio-friendly “Scavenger”). These poignant originals are woven with unique covers of Woody Guthrie/Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson, Amy Correia and The Beatles. Together these tracks create a tapestry that is at turns deeply moving, joyful, meditative and rollicking.

Lucy continues to perform all over the world. When not performing, she lives in New York City, where she enjoys spending time with her husband and nine year-old daughter. [less...]
Shane Koyczan
[Please Note: Shane will be teaching on Thursday of Song School.]
The world took notice of Shane Koyczan when his influential, anti-bullying, "To This Day Project" video went viral in early 2013 and has reached over 14 million views and counting.  Powerfully engaging and authentic in attitude, Shane’s explorations are relevant to our times in the way that Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen were to theirs. But unlike the musicians that he’s often compared to, poets rarely infiltrate pop culture.  [more...] Shane emerges in a new wave of 21st century poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them in their own voice.

Shane is both a writer and spoken word virtuoso. His first published collection, Visiting Hours, was the only work of poetry selected by both the Guardian and the Globe and Mail for their Best Books of the Year lists in 2005. Destined to become a future classic, Visiting Hours is now in its third edition, and includes We Are More, performed by Shane at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Shane followed up on the success of Visiting Hours with Stickboy, a novel in verse that chronicles the dark and lonely journey of a bullied child gripped by helpless rage. Shane shines a light into the bleak world behind some of the most incomprehensible acts in our culture, and also shows the healing power of love. Written for anyone who has ever been a child, Stickboy continues to be hailed by teachers, academics, and mental health experts alike for its deft handling of the subject of bullying.

Shane has returned to his roots with a collection of poetry titled, Our Deathbeds will be Thirsty, which was released in 2012. This book features the piece, To This Day, a poem about bullying that was made into a video by collaborating animators. It was released as a project to acknowledge anti-bullying day.  Since the video’s release Shane has presented at TED Talks, where the audience leapt to their feet in applause. Sir Ken Robinson has listed that talk as one of his top ten talks on education. That TED Talk led to him collaborating with TED Education to create a classroom tool that provides teachers a way to discuss anti-bullying with students.

Shane Koyczan however, is best known for his award winning spoken word performances. With his rhythmic verse in high gear, he navigates his audience through social and political territory with a furious honesty and a tender humanity that has brought audiences to their feet in New York, London, Edinburgh, Sydney and Los Angeles, to name a few. He received 5 star reviews for his performance at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the video, Instructions for a Bad Day, was showcased as the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival. Winner of the US Slam Poetry Championship and the Canadian Spoken Word Olympics, Shane is truly an extraordinary talent that has blown the dust off of the designation “poet”. [less...]
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
Paul Reisler is a composer, songwriter, recording artists, performer and teacher. He is the founder and artistic director of Kid Pan Alley, co-founder of Trapezoid, as well as his current bands, Paul Reisler & A Thousand Questions featuring Howard Levy, and Three Good Reasons. Over the past 40 years, he has performed in over 3,000 concerts, recorded close to three-dozen albums, written Aesop's Fables for Orchestra and Narrator, as well as the script and songs for a new musical entitled Bouncin'. [more...]

He has written more songs than the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Stephen Foster combined—somewhere north of 3,500 compositions. And, he's probably had more than enough collaborators to make it into the Guinness Book of World records—approaching 40,000 and counting (though he's lost count). He's written songs with tens of thousands of children through his Kid Pan Alley project and he's written songs with a bunch of Grammy winning songwriters. Artists including Sissy Spacek, Raul Malo, Darrell Scott, Cracker, Corey Harris, Jesse Winchester and many others have recorded his songs.

He's one of the most popular songwriting teachers in the country and has taught at workshops and songwriting schools including Rocky Mountain Song School, Utah Song School, New Song Academy, Swannanoa Gathering, Augusta Workshop, Hollyhock, Kerrville, NSAI, Songcamp in the Mountains, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Berklee College of Music, University of the Pacific, and Moulin á Nef (France). [less...]
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
Richard Shindell
Widely acclaimed as one of today's finest narrative songwriters, Shindell has a rare gift for using detail to illuminate his characters' motivations and actions without ever getting mired in minutiae. Not Far Now's nine new compositions (complimented by a pair of outside songs) are haunting vignettes that exist vividly beyond the song that documents them: Shindell gives the listener a window into these lives, but their story continues long after the window is shut. "Time deposits me, the character I'm writing about, and a listener there at the first line," he observes. "[more...] Then, at the end of the song, at the end of the last line, life and time go on. The song happens in between those two moments." [less...] Top
Peter Yarrow
[Please Note: Peter will be teaching on Thursday of Song School.]
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
Jenn Adams
Twisting the corners of folk, blues and jazz into immediately personal songs, Jenn Adams is an award winning, internationally recognized performing songwriter known for her distinctive sound and well-crafted songwriting. Over the last 25 years, she has traveled in Europe and the USA, performing in listening rooms, coffeehouses, theaters and some of our country's most notable festivals. She's won several songwriting awards including the USA Songwriter Awards, top prize for her song "Rosalia". [more...]

Since graduating from Berklee College of Music, Jenn has returned to Montana to continue teaching, performing and community building through music arts education and performance. In 2013 she helped establish the Bitterroot School of Music and is now director. The School focuses on providing a broad range of programs for children, teens, adults and seniors.

"Teaching has been an unexpected revelation. It's a natural extension to my veracious appetite for learning but I never expected it to become such a passion. While at Berklee, I worked one on one with students like myself; challenged by learning in one form or another. I'm truly fascinated by how we all go about it so differently. I'm hooked on discovering learning strategies, sharing ideas and tying it all together to help a student get the most out of the experience." [less...]
"Chicago" Mike Beck
"Chicago" Mike Beck is an ASCAP-award-winning songwriter and recording artist who has been teaching at 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. He performs several weeks each year at the Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, performs annually at the Sundance Film Festival, and has toured Europe over 20 times, [more...] performing in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg. 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 Ltd., an organization that helps independent recording artists expose their music to directors, producers and music supervisors working in the realms of film, television and other visual media. The 13th annual Access Film Music Showcase will take place during Film Festival Week in Park City, Utah next January 21 - 31, 2016. For the past five years, Access Film Music has been the Official Music Partner of the ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, France furthering their 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...]
Mai Bloomfield
Influenced early on by folk-singing parents and years of campfire sing-alongs at summer camps, Mai Bloomfield grew up with a love for the language of Song. Her formal training began with cello at age 9, and at 15 she started playing guitar and writing songs. After getting her degree at UC Santa Cruz and living in France and Switzerland, Mai returned to her hometown Santa Monica, CA and quickly found herself playing in the all-female band Raining Jane. Together for over 15 years, the group has released 4 albums, and most recently toured the world [more...] with the album "Yes!" which they co-wrote and recorded with Jason Mraz. All the while they've remained independent and self-managed, a theme that is also reflected in the non-profit that they helped launch in 2010 (Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles) which is a social justice organization dedicated to empowering girls through music. Mai helps maintain the organization year-round, and teaches songwriting in the spring and summer sessions.

Over the years Mai has also worked closely with many other artists on the road, in the studio, and on screen (Sara Bareilles, Willy Porter, Adam Cohen, Sarah Sample to name a few.) She's appeared on The Tonight Show, Ellen, David Letterman and has had songs placed in Grey's Anatomy and more. In 2010 she released a solo EP "Eclipse" with songs that would garner her awards in the Kerrville New Folk, Telluride Troubadour and Rocky Mountain Songwriting Competitions.

Career accolades aside, what Mai treasures about music is, the transformational practice of songwriting and its ability to nurture Listening and Discovery. In 2007 she came to the Song School for the first time and she said it felt like "coming home." She's been back 7 times, and considers it to be a sacred place of refuge, resource and reinvention. She returns this year to teach for the first time. Her class, which has to do with The Healing Heart of Song, will be informed by her recent journey with Breast Cancer. She says her diagnosis and recovery changed her life –for the better. Who would've known that the darkest year could also be the brightest? She never could have predicted that she'd be at once going through chemo while also opening for Bob Dylan in France. For Mai, that juxtaposition is precisely what she loves about music. As she says, "if we are willing to walk through the dark, we will inevitably stumble into the light." [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
Jill Brzezicki
Interpreting life through music while integrating a vast composition of styles, Singer/Songwriter Jill Brzezicki (pronounced Brrrr-Zit-Ski) weaves from a feel of country to rock to folk and even a hint of bluegrass in her second full-length release, The Horizon. Bringing the listener through stories of love, pain, fear and growth, all while trusting music as a path to express the heart and connect with all humans. Jill attended the Colorado Contemporary Music College in Fort Collins Colorado in 2004 and graduated with a diploma in performance and education. [more...] Jill released her debut full length solo CD Consequence of Truth in 2007 and her second full length CD The Horizon in 2012. Jill owns and operates a sound company called Resonate (established 2008) out of her home west of Fort Collins and enjoys teaching guitar and sound to kids and adults. [less...] Top
RJ Cowdery
After working for years in health care and writing on the side, Ohio native RJ Cowdery finally found the nerve to choose music  as her career.  Since joining the ranks of traveling troubadours,   RJ has racked up major songwriting awards (Kerrville New Folk, Mountain Stage NewSong, Wildflower! Arts and Music, runner  up at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, and  Sisters Folk Festival. Winning fans from across the country with her heartfelt lyrics and tender voice. “In This Light”, RJ’s 2011 release on Blue Rock Artists label, [more...] is a collection of 11 intimate songs produced by veteran Billy Crockett and recorded at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas. The CD features Cindy Cashdollar on dobro/lap steel and special appearances by Pierce Pettis,and Jonathan Byrd.

In 2008, Rj released her second CD, “ONE MORE DOOR.” A compelling gathering of 13 songs, ”One More Door”      – a title very much reflective of the exciting promise of her current career good fortune was recorded live in only two days in Parkersburg, West Virginia with percussionist Ammed Solomon and guitarist Michael Lipton, who are both band members with National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage. The sessions for the recording, were produced by West Virginia’s renowned singer-songwriter Todd Burge. The disc also features  Don Dixon, singer, songwriter, musician and producer of such pop icons as R.E.M. Smithereens, and Marti Jones. [less...]
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
As a professional musician for 18 years, Rebecca has toured nationally including such venues as Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, Nashville's Opryland, Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater and New York's Bitter End. Additionally, she's traveled to the UK where she performed her music on BBC radio and television. She has published two books of poetry and has a BFA in Fine Arts focused in painting and drawing. She has been teaching the Art of Vocal Freedom workshops for over 18 years; [more...] reflecting her collective artistic experience she inspires and empowers others to move into authentic expression and action. These sessions mix non-traditional shamanic exercises, Taoist, Toltec and Yogic practices with traditional vocal techniques to help individuals gain strength and ease through simple adjustments in alignment and synchronization of all parts of the body. This will be her 17th year at the Song School. [less...] Top
Heiko Grein
Since 1996, Heiko Grein has managed the music PR company [ps] promotion which is based in Bremen, Germany. [ps] promotion offers full print, online, radio and TV media services for tour and release promotion. [ps] promotion has run the international music network "SONGS & WHISPERS" since January 2009, cooperating with several German and European / international partners. Its aim is to support the development of German and international musicians with a focus on acoustic music, celebrating the "SONG" in its many forms. [more...] "SONGS & WHISPERS" operates as an independent label, publisher, publicist and presents acoustic artists throughout Germany and Europe. Tour circuits and other performance opportunities are arranged for emerging international and smaller profile artists throughout northern Europe, in addition to offering a variety of services to this global community of songwriters and performers, including the "SONGS & WHISPERS" recording studio and school.

Heiko is a former student of Biology, who also worked part time as a bike messenger. He started and fronted the international touring German Hard-Floor Metal band 44XES. Rooted in the alternative hardcore music scene, they got signed to Castle Communication and supported Babes in Toyland and other US acts, performing internationally for European audiences in the '90s.

Heiko's interest in a wide range of musical genres, long distance running and project management, as well as the concepts of DIY and "Thinking Out Of The Box", have been the driving forces in his life.

Heiko's primary interest is building mutually beneficial relationships and managing long term, sustainable projects. As a marathon runner, he is aware of the ups and downs a journey might involve. He loves exploring the unknown, empowering people, being part of a team and sharing success in the long run. Quoting Joe Strummer of The Clash, Heiko asserts "The Future Is Unwritten!" [less...]
Robby Hecht
Robby Hecht won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubadour Contest in 2010 and has also grabbed the top honor in the Folks Festival Songwriter Showcase. Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Hecht was exposed to his parents' collection of 70s acoustic pop albums and his dad's mandolin playing. The summer before he started college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hecht made a conscious decision to become a singer/songwriter. "Playing music just never seemed like work, so I knew that was what I was meant to do. I used the Internet to teach myself guitar. [more...] I discovered I had an affinity for fingerpicking and went from there." After traveling abroad, Hecht fronted the folk/swing band All Day Radio in San Francisco and settled in Nashville to pursue his songwriting career. Robby Hecht is a unique voice—one that is stirring, instantly recognizable and truly original. Hecht's debut album Late Last Night, made with notable Nashville friends and colleagues such as singers Mindy Smith and Jill Andrews plus producer Lex Price, was flagged by numerous critics and colleagues as a top release in its genre. Maverick magazine called it "gorgeous" and one blogger flagged it as one of his five favorite discs of all time. The album's lovelorn tone gave way to a brighter mood on its follow-up, Last Of The Long Days in 2011, which was tapped by CMT as a "mellow and beautiful effort." Robby's third album, self-titled as if to announce a true arrival. Again Hecht turned to Nashville's Lex Price, a low-key sonic master who's worked with with k.d. lang, Mindy Smith and others, as producer. The honestly recorded, elegantly mixed record is well positioned to stir the hearts that have been stirred before and more besides. [less...] Top
Django Jones
Fans of the award-winning indie band Girlyman take heart! Girlyman may have disbanded, but three of its members have reconstituted themselves as Django Jones, bringing Girlyman's sweet harmonies and irrepressible sense of fun to kids and families. Django Jones's debut family music album, D is for Django, was released in April 2014 to critical acclaim, including a prestigious Parents' Choice Gold Award, as well as being one of the top-selling kids' music records at CD Baby since its release. [more...]

Girlyman traversed the U.S. and Europe for twelve years, wowing audiences with tight, three-part harmonies, heartfelt songwriting, freely improvised "tuning songs," and wildly unpredictable stage patter. The transition to music for families has been a natural evolution. Django Jones was inspired, in part, by the sheer number of underage Girlyman devotees. Parents would remark that their children were enchanted by the harmonies, the humor, and, most of all, the silliness of the made-up tuning songs. When the time came to develop a family music repertoire, Doris Muramatsu, JJ Jones, and Nate Borofsky simply pretended they were kids again (it wasn't very difficult) and imagined what they would have liked to hear. The resulting album they cooked up, D is for Django, is replete with songs about germs, our 206 bones, and Bigfoot, seasoned with lullabies and served as musical nourishment for the "inner child" that is snuggled within all of us. [less...]
JJ Jones
JJ Jones is a drummer, producer, and educator who combines a classic-rock background with singer/songwriter, indie, and Americana music. Sensitive and musical, she drums to the emotion of the vocals as much as the bass or rhythm guitar. As if a dancer on the drumset, a constant comment from fans is: "I love to watch you play." JJ has accompanied and recorded with numerous indie and acoustic artists and bands, including Lucy Wainwright Roche, Margaret Cho, Edie Carey, Ellis, Beth Wood, and Tret Fure, among many others. [more...] She toured extensively through the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Netherlands with both the Canadian roots band Po' Girl, and beloved folk-pop band Girlyman, selling out venues across the U.S., in addition to playing many renowned folk festivals. In three years playing with Girlyman and Po'Girl, JJ played over 350 shows in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 60 shows in the U.K. and Europe. When Girlyman disbanded, JJ and two other members of the group reformed to release a kids' music album under the name Django Jones, which JJ co-wrote and co-produced. The record received critical acclaim and won a Parent's Choice Gold award, the most prestigious award in children's music. Most recently, a performance of a song JJ co-wrote with Margaret Cho and two other members of Girlyman will be featured in Margaret's upcoming concert movie to be released later in 2015.

Formerly self-taught, JJ completed Berklee College of Music's drum specialist online certificate program this year. She is a drum instructor, band coach, and workshop facilitator at girls and ladies rock camps across the U.S., and also teaches privately online giving Skype lessons to students all over the country. JJ is excited to be back at song school! [less...]
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
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 teaching at the Song School for the first time in 2015. 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 trio After the Flood, and he has served as Music Director for Lean and Hungry Theater's audio productions of Julius Caesar and Oedipus Rex on Washington's WAMU public radio in Washington.   [less...]
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...]
Bill Nash
Bill Nash is a 15 year veteran of the Rocky Mountain Song school and has been a guitarist for the past 37 years, with 33 years of teaching experience under his belt. He has been mentoring guitar students at the Song School for the past 5 years, in a one on one basis under his canopy. He teaches fingerstyle guitar technique (mostly three finger Travis style) and also instructs students on the use of altered tunings, capo use, assorted other guitar techniques and music theory. More recently, he has been working on cutting edge guitar technique, using cut capos, [more...] multiple cut capos, altered tunings, and altered tunings with multiple capos. One of his songs even uses 4 capos, in DADGAD tuning, and each capo is critical to performing the song. He also works with songwriters on polishing their melodies, chord choices in their songs, and honing their musical ideas. [less...] Top
Justin Roth
Justin Roth is a nationally touring singer/songwriter, fingerstyle guitarist, and a home studio recording engineer. 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. 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." Justin has toured with John Gorka and David Wilcox, as well as opened for Shawn Colvin, Martin Sexton, and Darrell Scott. [more...] 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 at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival and International Folk Alliance Conference. When not on the road, Justin records and produces other independent artists in his home recording studio. He is also a proud new father of a baby girl, Adelyn, and is quickly becoming a master at spontaneously composing songs on the spot, mid-diaper change. [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
"Amy Speace channels the classics," writes Billboard Magazine of "That Kind Of Girl" (Windbone, March 2015), her most personal record yet. Jon Pareles of The New York Times described the record as “grace over drama” and No Depression wrote "The next time someone tells you they don’t make good music anymore, tell them they must not have heard of Amy Speace. She is a timeless singer/songwriter who has captured this writer’s attention with a record which should be a topic of debate on several year-end award lists." [more...] Recorded in 3 days with producer Neilson Hubbard and a small ensemble of musicians, the record is spare and direct, honest and focused.  Holly George-Warren, celebrated author and music critic, calls it “breathtaking.”

Baltimore–born Folk/Americana songwriter Speace received rave reviews for her 2013 record, "How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat," a song cycle inspired by Shakespearean characters, from Mojo Magazine to The New York Times to a feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered”.  She was discovered by Judy Collins in 2005, releasing her debut in 2006 on Collins’ Wildflower Records, “Songs For Bright Street” to rave reviews.  “The Killer In Me” was released in 2009 with NPR comparing her to a young Lucinda Williams.  She moved to Nashville from NYC in 2009, releasing “Land Like A Bird” on Thirty Tigers. Her songs have been recorded by Judy Collins, the late Memphis blues artist Sid Selvidge, Red Molly and others.  Her song “The Weight of the World”, which Judy Collins has called “one of the best political folk songs I’ve ever heard” was named as the #4 Folk Song of the Decade by NYC’s premiere AAA radio station WFUV.

A graduate of Amherst College, where she studied literature and playwrighting, she did graduate work in Classical Acting at The National Shakespeare Conservatory in NYC and was a company member of the National Shakespeare Company and Expanded Arts Theater Company in NYC.  She was the Artistic Director and Founder of Five Points Theater Company in NYC and acted and directed in NYC and Regional Theater before becoming a full-time touring and recording musician.  Along with her busy concert career, she teaches songwriting and performance at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School, The Kerrville Folk Festival Song School, Sisters Americana Song & Art Academy, The Swannannoa Gathering and privately coaches songwriters in Nashville and on tour. [less...]
Caroline Spence
Caroline Spence is enamored with words and songs. Though countless singer-songwriters boast the same simple claim, few have been lifted up by their passion the way Caroline has. Her passion led the Virginia native on a pilgrimage to Nashville, where the 25-year-old honed her writing and her coy, dusky soprano across folk, Americana and alt-country genres. That same passion resonates throughout every track on her first full-length solo debut, the magical and meditative Somehow, set for release on March 3rd 2015. [more...]

With songs that wrap the truths of life up into personal vignettes of clever wordplay and catchy hooks, it’s no wonder that in 2013 Caroline won American Songwriter Magazine’s June/July lyric contest as well as the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest songwriter competition later that year. Caroline also had her songs recorded by up-and-coming independent singer songwriters Andrew Combs (“Heavy”) and Annalise Emerick (“A Good One” and “Somewhere In Between”). But when American Songwriter named her the grand prize winner out of all song submissions for all of 2013, she began to feel her passions validated.   

So, with help from producer Michael Rinne, Spence selected 13 original songs out of about 30 to record at Farmland Studios with some of her favorite musicians, including Danny Mitchell (Kim Richey) on keys, Kris Donegan on electric guitar (Matthew Perryman Jones, Amy Speace), Daniel Parks (Kelsey Waldon, Lucy Hale) on acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo, Michael Rinne on bass (Rodney Crowell, Steelism) on bass, Christian Sedelmeyer (Jerry Douglass, 10 String Symphony) on fiddle, Justin Schipper (Josh Turner) on pedal steel, Evan Hutchings (Escondido, Rayland Baxter) on drums and Andrew Combs, Erin Rae and Anderson East all providing additional vocals.

The album opening “Trains Cry” sets the album’s reflective, almost reverent tone with an insight Spence weaves throughout her songs – time inevitably marches forward, and we must take all the joy as well as the sadness that brings. Spence’s unabashedly honest approach also means acknowledging her tough side, with songs like “Don’t Call” and “Kissing Ain’t The Same As Talking,” two songs that refuse superficial relationships. She also acknowledges the need for bold female singer-songwriters in a landscape dominated by men. “Women are expected to write emotional music, but when a man writes emotional music, its profound and its praised. I just feel like that’s bullshit and I think that the only music that should be made is emotional music.”

Meanwhile the band lives and breathes with Spence’s guitar and vocals, masterfully navigating a breadth of genres with a perfect sense of intimacy and style, at times with the rock of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, the twang of Lower Broadway, or the sensitivity of swelling pedal steel and simple percussion. 

Once the album was finished, Spence went on to win the Kerrville Folk Fest songwriting contest in May and in August was one of the headlining acts at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest alongside The Stray Birds, Hooray for the Riff Raff, John Fulbright, Josh Ritter, and Brandi Carlisle. She also visited the acclaimed Daytrotter studios in September to record an exclusive acoustic set.  

With all the courage, grit and passion that pervade her 13 new tracks, Spence is more than ready to share Somehow and take her place in the world of professional songwriters. Still, she does so without losing touch with her reality: “It just feels like all of this happened somehow, making these songs, this record, just somehow happened, kind of magically. And I know what I want and I just know that somehow I am going to make it happen.” [less...]
Judith Wade
Judith Wade
Judith Wade believes in the amazing transformation that energy work can provide just by being open to receiving it. She is a certified Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, Kundalini Reiki Master/Teacher, Pranic Healing Practitioner, and Integrated Energy Therapy Practitioner. She serves as a facilitator for intuitive healing energies and information assisting you on your path. She will help guide you on your path assisting in alleviating stress putting your body back to its natural state of health and well-being. The Song School is one of the highlights of her year. She loves sharing Reiki and loves the Planet Bluegrass family. 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, Independent Film & theater scores, & blaring speakers at Major League Ballparks! As a writer & performer, she is known for her Kerouac-ish magnifying glass-ified lyrical portrait story songs & her unique way of blending roots, multi-cultural influences & funky rhythms. [more...] As a multi-instrumentalist, she teaches & accompanies herself & others on guitar, piano, indigenous flutes & percussion instruments on stages around the worldة

Annie's experiences span over 25 countries "bringing people together through music", performing & teaching for earthquake victims & dignitaries in SE Asia, to "New Zealand's Millennium Celebration", The Kennedy Center, festivals & theater productions in Costa Rica, Germany, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, Bali & more! Her former band members & include Senegalize talking drum wizard Massamba Djop of Babba Mal's band, percussionist Jose Gonzalez, Steppenwolf's Guy DeVito, & London's Robert Dean (of "Japan" & Sinead O'Connor's guitarist). She's taught with Roy "Futureman" Wooten of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones & co-written/collaborated with Dr Jeri Nielsen of the Ice Bound book & movie, and National Boyd Award winning novelist Robert Macomber.

Her story songs are inspired by her journeys... as a biker, kayaker & backpacker, working as a registered nurse, rafting guide, activist and teacher. Annie also travels throughout the world sharing her grant winning songwriting, percussion, flute, piano accompaniment & dance/yoga/movement inspired workshops ! She has 8 recordings on her own indie label "Island Gypsy" including her newest all instrumental CD "Rain on Bare Skin" used by yoga & wellness practitioners around the world, & her buzzed about CD "Ride The Sky" penned at stoplights while twirling about dusty back Americana roads on her Harley. She lives in her natty boots. "it's a muddy road out there, but somebody's gotta ride thru it!" [less...]
Shannon Wurst
Shannon Wurst and her voice — the one that wraps around you like a sweet, slow slick of molasses — have firmly established themselves at the intersection of everyman folk and Americana rooted in the traditions of Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton. By turns plaintive and playful, Wurst's songs wade into the deep waters of lost love, winding rivers and small‐town gossip before setting their lyrical sights on lighter fare. Wurst has written the music for the Walton Art Center and Trike Theater's "Bear State of Mind" play where she also performed as a musician, actor, and puppeteer in this original performance for K-2nd graders. [more...] She conducts songwriting workshops focusing on literacy for K-12th graders, as well as perform assemblies featuring songs from her children's album "Green and Growing." She has been involved in co-writing songs with inmates as part of the "Stories from the Inside Out" program in Northwest Arkansas. Each summer you can find Shannon on a remote river providing evening campfire entertainment on whitewater rafting trips.

Wurst has won the Arkansas Governor's Fellowship Award in Music Composition, the Walnut Valley New Song Showcase, Northwest Arkansas Female Singer/Songwriter of the Year, and was selected for Kerrville New Folk Contest.

Inspiration for the forthcoming collection comes from Wurst's recent travels, a release of wanderlust marked by indulgence in moments of quiet introspection, stops at junk stores, run‐ins with a cult or two, and a concerted effort to learn to conquer love, both past and present, requited and unrequited, on a scale lived large.   [less...]



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.