We’re excited to announce the beginning of the 2021 Song School faculty! Registration for the 2021 Song School is now open.
Mary has requested that all students read her book, Saved by a Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting, prior to taking her Song School class.
Mary Gauthier is a Grammy Nominated songwriter whose songs have been praised by Bob Dylan and recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Tim McGraw, Bobby Bare, Kathy Mattea, Bettye Lavette and more. Gauthier’s first nine albums presented extraordinary confessional songs, deeply personal, profoundly emotional pieces ranging from “I Drink,” a blunt accounting of addiction, to “March 11, 1962,” the day she was born — and relinquished to an orphanage — to “Worthy,” in which the singer finally understands she is deserving of love.
Maybe that’s where the confessional song cycle ends, for she has midwifed these eleven new songs on Rifles & Rosary Beads in careful collaboration with other souls whose struggle is urgent, immediate, and palpable. And none are about her.
Every day, on average, twenty-two veterans commit suicide. Each year seventy-four hundred current and former members of the United States Armed Services take their own lives.
Every day. That number does not include drug overdoses or car wrecks or any of the more inventive ways somebody might less obviously choose to die.
It seems trivial to suggest those lives might be saved — healed, even — by a song. By the process of writing a song.
And yet there is nothing trivial about Mary Gauthier’s tenth album, Rifles and Rosary Beads (Thirty Tigers), all eleven songs co-written with and for wounded veterans. Eleven of the nearly four hundred songs that highly accomplished songwriters have co-written as part of Darden Smith’s five-year-old SongwritingWith:Soldiers program.
None of the soldiers who have participated in the program have taken their own lives, and there’s nothing trivial about that. Something about writing that song — telling that story — is healing. What Smith calls post-traumatic-growth.
Each song on Rifles & Rosary Beads is a gut punch: deceptively simple and emotionally complex. From the opening “Soldiering On” (“What saves you in the battle/Can kill you at home”) to “Bullet Holes in the Sky” (“They thank me for my service/And wave their little flags/They genuflect on Sundays/And yes, they’d send us back”), while “Iraq” depicts the helpless horror of a female military mechanic being dehumanized and sexually harassed by fellow soldiers.
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 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.
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 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.
In 20 years since his full-length solo debut, One Left Shoe, Steve Poltz blessed the world’s ears with thirteen solo records, spanning the acclaimed 2010 Dreamhouse and most recently, Shine On in 2019. NPR summed it up best, “Critics and fans alike now regard Poltz as a talented and prolific songwriter.”
Evoking themes of “hope, love, contemplation, celebration of Wednesday, pharmacists, and the fact that windows are not inanimate objects and they sometimes have conversations with each other,” Shine On represents Steve at his most inspired and insightful. The opener and title track pairs a delicate vocal with lithely plucked acoustic strings as he urges everyone to, “Shine on, shine on.”
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, music for theatre, dance and film, as well as the script and songs for two musicals—Bouncin’ and The Talented Clementine.
He’s written more songs than the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Stephen Foster combined—somewhere north of 3,500 compositions thanks in no small part to his army of 65,000 kid co-writers as well as his many adult collaborators. Artists including Sissy Spacek, Raul Malo, Darrell Scott, Cracker, Corey Harris, Jesse Winchester and many others have recorded
some of his songs.
At this stage of his life, he’s committed to inspiring the creativity of others through his songwriting workshops as well as through Kid Pan Alley. A few of the places he’s taught include Rocky Mountain Song School (26 years), Utah Song School, New Song Academy, Swannanoa Gathering, Augusta Workshop, Hollyhock, Kerrville, NSAI, Berklee College of Music, and he will be co-founding a new annual Songschool in Italy in April.
Multi-Instrumentalist and Singer-Songwriter Darrell Scott mines and cultivates the everyday moment, taking the rote, menial, mundane, and allowing it to be surreal, ever poignant, and candidly honest, lilting, blooming, and resonating. The words he fosters allow us to make sense of the world, what is at stake here, and our place in it. And ultimately, Darrell knows the sole truth of life is that love is all that matters, that we don’t always get it right, but that’s the instinctive and requisite circuitous allure of things, why we forever chase it, and why it is held sacred.
Darrell Scott comes from a musical family with a father who had him smitten with guitars by the age of 4, alongside a brother who played Jerry Reed style as well. From there, things only ramped up with literature and poetry endeavors while a student at Tufts University, along with playing his way through life. This would never change.
After recently touring with Robert Plant and the Zac Brown Band (2 years with each), and producing albums for Malcolm Holcomb and Guy Clark and being named “songwriter of the year” for both ASCAP and NSAI, these days ﬁnd him roaming his Tennessee wilderness acreage hiking along the small river, creating delicious meals with food raised on his property and playing music. He often leads songwriting workshops to help people tell their own truths with their stories, and is as busy as always writing, producing, performing, and just plain fully immersing himself in life.
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. His 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.
In 2014, 2018 and 2020, Steve was nominated to the NSAI Hall of Fame. 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, “This Too Shall Pass,” by Sinclair and “Standing Still”, “Proof”, “Lift You Up” and “Electricity” by Seth Glier.
While Steve is best known for writing hits, he is also a successful performer and recording artist. His 20th album, Some Sunsets, released in 2014, is filled with inspiring, hopeful songs, and features Steve and the talented Julia Sinclair. “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.
Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, Ph.D. MSPH, is a commissioned composer, arranger, author, actress and former member of the African American female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock. She is a vocalist with a range of over three octaves and appears on more than twenty-five recordings with Sweet Honey as well as other artists. Trained as a violinist for 15 years beginning at the age of 2 1/2, she holds degrees in speech pathology (BS, MSEd), cranio-facial studies (Ph.D.) and public health (MSPH).
She was a professor at Howard University College of Dentistry for over a decade, and over the following 8 years developed training programs in Child Protection at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center, and administered community-based health programs at Gallaudet University, all in Washington DC. For almost thirty years, and on three continents, Barnwell has led the workshop Building a Vocal Community - Singing In the African American Tradition, which utilizes oral tradition, an African world view and African American history, values, cultural and vocal traditions to build communities of song among singers and non-singers alike. Her pedagogy is highly respected among musicians, educators, health workers, activists, organizers, and members of the corporate and non-profit sectors.
“Chicago Mike” Beck
“Chicago” Mike Beck is an ASCAP-award-winning songwriter and recording artist who has been touring full-time in the USA and Europe since 2001 as a solo performer and with his band Chicago Mike’s InterGalactic Brother & Sisterhood of Big Eyed Beans. Mike holds a residency several weeks each year at the historic Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and has toured Europe over 25 times, performing in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg.
In December 2015, Mike completed his first tour of Asia, performing shows in Japan and Thailand. He has personally brought over 30 musicians on their first overseas tours and coached hundreds more. His debut CD, released in 2002, has received radio airplay in the USA, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Transylvania, Romania, Macedonia and Japan.
In addition to his performing and recording endeavors, Mike is the founder of Access Film Music, an organization dedicated to helping independent recording artists expose their music to directors, producers and music supervisors working in film, television, video games and advertising. Since 2004, Access Film Music has presented showcases during Film Festival Week in Park City, Utah each year during the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals featuring platinum selling recording artists, hit songwriters, music legends as well as exceptional as-of-yet unknown artists. Access Film Music is also the Official Music Partner of the ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, France each Spring, where Access showcase events further their mission to connect music-makers with filmmakers on an international stage.
Mike has been on the faculty of the Planet Bluegrass Rocky Mountain SongSchool in Lyons, Colorado since 2005 and has been a featured speaker and mentor at numerous music industry events and educational institutions, including AmericanaFest in Nashville, Tennessee, South-by-Southwest in Austin, Texas, Folk Alliance International, and several other songwriting camps and retreats, music conferences and film festivals throughout North America and Europe. He has also presented his music business workshops at UCLA, Berklee College of Music in Boston and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He is a founding partner of Song Camp Italy, a songwriting retreat that takes place in Illasi, Italy, in the vineyard-covered hills about 30 minutes outside of Verona. Mike loves empowering and inspiring musicians to pursue their dreams and enjoys sharing practical ideas, methods and information to help make them real.
Ryan Benyo is a Los Angeles based, Gold-Record Award-Winning producer, engineer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with credits including Parachute, Sheppard, Baker Grace (Bitter’s Kiss), Lisa Loeb, Lime Cordiale, Alberta Cross, Through Fire, Vusi Mahlasela, and Caro Emerald. He has also worked on a variety of music and sound design projects for visual media including for Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s, NBCUniversal, and many others. In addition, Ryan works at Kid Pan Alley as the Director of Music & Technology where he records, arranges, produces and markets their growing catalog of songs.
Ryan also produces a new music radio show which is syndicated worldwide and aired weekly on KROQ in Los Angeles. Ryan brings an array of musical experiences and expertise to the table giving each project the utmost amount of attention and creative options.
Mai Bloomfield is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her creative work reflects the musical miles she has traveled, the diversity of projects and people she’s partnered with, and her resilient journey through breast cancer. At the heart of it all, is her love for the art of songwriting and the transformational power of words and music.
Born into a family of artists, Mai started playing cello at age 9, and by 15 she was writing her own songs on guitar. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, she moved back home to Los Angeles and became a founding member of indie folk-pop band, Raining Jane. Mai wears many hats as a musician–from band member, accompanist, and session player, to producer, writer, and solo artist. With her solo music releases, she’s received songwriting awards from the Kerrville, Telluride, and Rocky Mountain Folks Festivals. She has collaborated with many artists, such as Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, Adam Cohen, Willy Porter.
In 2016 she played cello on Leonard Cohen’s album “You Want It Darker.” Working with Jason Mraz as a writer and band member, Mai has co-written hits such as “Look For The Good” (2020), “Have It All” (2018), “Love Someone” (2014), and “A Beautiful Mess” (2008). She has toured the world, playing stages from coffee shops to Royal Albert Hall, and she’s performed live on The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (and Jimmy Fallon), The Ellen Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and American Idol.
In 2010 Mai helped start the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, a social justice non-profit dedicated to empowering girls and gender-expansive youth through music. She teaches songwriting there and serves as Art Director year-round. She has also led songwriting workshops at the Song School in Colorado, Rain City Rock in Seattle, and The Americana Song Academy in Oregon.
Whether performing, writing, or mentoring, Mai brings a combination of strength, vulnerability, and wisdom to her work. Her songs often speak of the pursuit of finding the light inside the dark–a theme magnified in her own life when she became a breast cancer survivor. Playing and performing between chemo treatments, Mai learned first-hand that music is medicine. She does inspirational speaking engagements and is currently writing a memoir, hoping her story will encourage others on their creative paths.
Ron Browning is internationally known as the “Voice Coach to the Stars.” Alison Krauss, the most celebrated Grammy Award winner (27 wins), recently praised him in the New York Times, USA Today, BBC News, the Tennessean, and The Sun in London, where she called him “a genius” after he saved her from a debilitating case of dysphonia and brought her back into excellent voice where singing felt effortless.This restored the confidence needed to finish her Windy City album, which won her 2 Grammy nominations. She was then able to move on with her singing career.Ron accompanied Alison Krauss on the Red Carpet for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in Madison Square Gardens.
Ron has been seen and heard on Entertainment Tonight, The Voice, Oprah Network, and BBC’s Simply Classics, to name a few.His clients include all levels of singers from beginners to award-winning celebrities in all genres of music.The National Association of Teachers of Singing has celebrated Ron in a lengthy tribute for “World Voice Day” in the Journal of Singing.He has had articles published by NATS, as well as The Voice Council in London, where he served as Artist in Residence two consecutive years.Other artists on his roster of clients include Wynonna, Amy Grant, Jamey Johnson, Patti LaBelle, John Hiatt, Lake Street Dive, Keb Mo, Carrie Underwood (Sound of Music Live NBC), Greta Van Fleet, Vanessa Carlton (Beautiful—the Carole King Musical in NYC), The Ace of Cups, Dailey and Vincent, RaeLynn, Chris Lane, Langhorne Slim, Steve Conn, and the international Broadway star, Pia Douwes, to name a few.He teaches privately in his Nashville studio and via Skype. Ron is also a songwriter and jazz pianist. His solo jazz piano CD, In a Sentimental Mood, is available on iTunes and CD Baby.
Jenn Cleary is a folk-rock singer-songwriter from Boulder, Colorado, with many years’ experience performing on international stages. Highlight shows include Sundance Film Festivals and Colorado Rockies games. She has a range of song styles and performs bluesy acoustic solo shows as well as rockin’ shows with her full electric band. Jenn has four albums out, including her recently released first children’s album, which among other honors has won prestigious recognition from the 2021 NAPPA awards for being best in the music industry, as well as the 2021 Hot Diggity Award that signifies innovation, quality, entertainment, educational value and a commitment to excellence. Jenn has always included playful tunes in her output and her children’s album blends full-on fun with environmental and social consciousness.
Her songwriting for children is informed by a lifetime of assisting, educating, and raising them. She founded a non-profit that provided housing, schooling and medical care for Nepali children, and also started a K-12 private school in her community. She has been a foster parent and has three children of her own.
Jenn has taught in various arenas for over 30 years, including at The Living School, in Boulder, CO, from 2003 to 2011, and as an instructor for children and adults in guitar, singing, songwriting and performance for over 10 years.
Jenn is a 16 year veteran of Song School, where the high level of inspiring instruction continually spurs her to shape and improve her own teaching style.
Columbus, OH: Singer-songwriter guitar player RJ Cowdery is motivated by the best things in life: making people think, laugh, cry and feel. Fans tell her it’s uncanny the way her songs seem to take a peek directly into their lives. Much like the Midwestern Ohio landscape she calls home, her songs are stories of middle ground, and her tales are expressions of being in the midst of life. And RJ really plays hard; her unique, characteristic style is fingerpicking with a deep bass line. An injury to a finger on her left hand as a child resulted in Cowdery learning her own playing style out of necessity; this gave rise to the distinctive technique that’s earned Cowdery her rightful place at the folk table.
She has been a winner at the Kerrville New Folk contest in 2008 and the Mountain Stage New Song Contest in 2007, and won at Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist and Sisters Folk Festivals too. She’s played at venues like 30A, The Ark, The Bluebird, and Vancouver Island Folk Festival. Cowdery has worked with Don Dixon, Billy Crockett, and Amy Speace. She’s also received glowing press from No Depression, Country Standard Time, Making a Scene, The Alternate Root, WMOT, The Morton Report, Americana Highways, and many others.
Her 2019 release, What If This Is All There Is (GoosePie Music) was produced by Amy Speace and rerecorded and mixed by Thomm Jutz. Her all covers release Something Fine came out in 2015 on GoosePie Music and was produced, recorded and engineered by Matt Nakoa and Neale Eckstein. Her 2011 album was In This Light (Blue Rock Artists), produced by Billy Crockett recorded and engineered by Keith Gary. And her debut abum was 2008’s One More Door, out on GoosePie Music, and produced by Todd Burge.
Terri Delaney is a Minneapolis-based social worker turned booking agent turned trauma therapist. 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 then re-focused her career onto trauma therapy and helping people heal using mind-body approaches. She still collaborates with her wife, contemporary folk musician Ellis, co-managing her record company Singing Crow Music.
Terri is a jane-of-all-trades, acting as vocal producer with Ellis in the studio and on-hand co-writer when needed, and teaching classes on time management, work/life balance, and nervous system regulation. Terri is known for her passionate commitment to helping artists reach their full potential and she is available for mentoring sessions during Song School.
There’s just something about Ellis. She is at once funny and wise, thoughtful and uninhibited, and her captivating voice is matched by her uplifting lyrics. She has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion four times and has been voted “most-wanted-to-return” performer at festivals including Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Moab Folk Festival, Kerrville, and Sisters Folk Festival. She has 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.” Ellis is currently working on her tenth album, Ordinary Love, and will be showcasing many of those songs at her annual closing set on the Wildflower Stage the last day of Folks Festival. She is available for mentoring sessions and is interested in helping others to find their mission and artistic voice.
Rebecca Folsom is an award-winning songwriter, a national touring performer, a teacher, and a coach of transformational creativity. Dubbed “The Creativity Shaman” Rebecca has been coaching individuals and groups in transformational creativity for over 27 years. She offers a toolbox of simple and potent embodiment exercises, both traditional and non-traditional to help singers/writers/performers open streamlined vocal, songwriting, and performance flow.
Rebecca is a national touring artist with 27 years of experience on the road performing for audiences ranging from 1 to 2 ½ million people. Along with being a prolific songwriter, she is also a published author of two books, and a fine artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Rebecca’s music is about liberation. Her agile voice traverses a four-octave range. KUNC describes her voice as “knock-you-to-your-knees.” The Daily Camera describes her music as “shining…with lush harmonies,” and Westword Magazine says, “Her songs hit like little earthquakes!” While her range is impressive, it’s the expression in her voice that rivets attention. She sings with both a simple storytelling purity along with a gritty blues prowess. Her voice pours from an inner spring, flowing with lilting tenderness to fully liberated, unbridled release.
Rebecca’s performances include Opryland, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and BBC Radio and Television, Kerrville Folk Festival, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and Planet Bluegrass’s own Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Sanctuary, her most recent single released in 2020 was a semifinalist in the International Songwriting Competition ISC. Her songs have charted at #1 on the National Folk DJ Charts, #4 on the National Americana charts, and multiple times top 40 on the National Americana/Country charts.
“I am delighted to assist people in breaking down inner barriers, freeing themselves to live in the bullseye of their dreams.”
Songwriter, recording artist, recovering attorney, coffee lover, and undeniable fan of the Oxford comma, Mark Gibson, will be joining us for his 12th Song School. In addition to teaching the “Taking Care of Business” workshop with Chicago Mike Beck, Mark will once again, (and much more importantly), be serving our morning coffee, tea, and pastries. After 25 years of legal practice, Mark abandoned the heat and humidity of the deep South and relocated to Colorado where he now spends his time enjoying the outdoors and writing and performing his songs along the western slope.
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 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…).
Dan Harris is a singer/songwriter and guitar builder based in Lafayette, CO. He grew up in a drafty farmhouse in southern Vermont, listening to The Grand Ol Opry and strumming along with an oversized guitar. Dan studied jazz and classical guitar in high school and college and has played in a variety of different bands and ensembles, from jazz big bands to flamenco dance groups and his current band, The Renegade Roosters, a bluegrass/old time group also based in Lafayette.
Dan also owns and operates Harris Guitars, Ltd, a small custom guitar shop in a tiny shed in his back yard. His music draws inspiration from the likes of Guy Clark, John Prine and Woody Guthrie, among others. He is currently working on his first album, due out the end of 2021.
Bob Hemenger is a Colorado based musician, educator and naturalist. His “soul full” approach to music and many years of teaching how indigenous people lived with the land have led him down some interesting trails. He has been an instructor at Victor Wooten’s Center for Music and Nature for the past 15 years. It is there that he has been a part of the magic that takes place when creative people slow down enough to really listen and connect with nature and themselves.
“Bob is at the top of my list when it comes to embodying Music and Nature. He was there when I first made the connection almost 30 years ago. I can’t say enough good things about Bob” – Victor Wooten
Bob grew up in Michigan and has spent the last 29 years in Pagosa Springs, CO (where he continues to grow up). His experiences include; many great nights of playing music, Tom Brown Jr Tracker School instructor, director of Touch the Earth Camps, adventure travel guide, EMT/search and rescue, High School Teacher (special education, science, music and ESL) and the principal of an alternative high school. He is also the co-founder of Inside:Outside Retreat for Saxophonists and has a weekly radio show “Close Enough for Jazz” on Four Corners Public Radio.
“Bob has helped open my eyes to a greater sense of awareness in creativity - and in one session! Find out what he can offer you; it could change your life!” – Joe Craven
Often referred to as a musician’s musician with a big set of ears, he has been very fortunate to add the sound of his saxophone to many great players including; Darrell Scott, The Victor Wooten Band, The Zac Brown Band, Peter Rowan, Joe Craven, The Infamous Stringdusters, John Fullbright, The Band of Heathens, Elephant Revival, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Eric Bibb and many more.
Bob strongly believes that a great musician doesn’t play music….music plays a great musician.
Heather’s path started as a 10 year old with scoliosis and a deep dislike for her chiropractor. Then, she found yoga. 17 years and one straight spine later, Heather is grateful to have learned more than how to touch her toes and stand straight on this journey and is filled with deep passion for sharing the lessons she has learned on her healing path. With a 4 year teaching career and a 500 RYT certification under her belt as-of June 2020, Heather brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to each class and workshop to assure each student leaves with a deeper connection to their mind, body, and spirit.
In every class with Heather, the practitioner can be guaranteed the best of both worlds - themes and cues to encourage a deep connection to Self with humor and tenderness paving the way to true embodiment.
JJ Jones is an internationally touring, Berklee-trained drummer and educator. She has performed with folk-pop darlings Girlyman, Canadian roots band Po’Girl (now Birds of Chicago), singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche, Egyptian revolutionary Ramy Essam, and LA’s riot-pop band WASI, among many, many others. As a writer and producer, she co-wrote a song with comedian Margaret Cho that was featured in her Showtime concert movie “psyCHO”, and one of JJ’s own projects, a kids’ music record under the name Django Jones, won a Parents’ Choice Gold award, one of the most prestigious honors in children’s music.
JJ is passionate about education: her mission is to empower women and girls through playing drums. She’s an instructor and band coach at girls and ladies rock camps across the U.S., is the Tech Editor of Tom Tom Magazine, the world’s only magazine dedicated to female drummers, and is the founder of EmpowerDrumming.com, a drum education and coaching company for women. This is her eleventh year teaching at song school!
Arthur Lee Land
Lyons Colorado based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Arthur Lee Land is known for his joy filled, innovative live performances, his mad guitar and live-looping skills, Arthur’s hands are full theses days writing, recording and performing with multiple projects. First as a solo artist, you have his unforgettable one-man act employing the Art of Live-Looping to create his Electro-Americana BAND of ONE featured in his last studio album release Cracked Open featuring songs co-written by his wife and songwriting partner, clairvoyant lyricist Carol Lee. In late 2014, Arthur replaced Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon in the veteran Colorado Americana Jam-Band Great American Taxi.
The Arthur Lee Land TRIO is crushing it live and gearing up for a new original studio album. The TRIO’s unique Grateful Dead Tribute: Twang Is Dead has been a festival favorite. On top of all that, Arthur has been bringing his melodic guitar skills touring with String Cheese Incident’s keyboardist’s solo project the Kyle Hollingsworth’s Band, as well as the Elephant Revival family side projects featuring Daniel Rodriguez and Bonnie Paine that also became folk rock icon Donovan’s band for a headline festival slot in 2016. Other fun projects find him teaming up with Brain McRae’s gogoLab and Tyler Grant’s band Grant Farm for the “GRANTful Dead Revue.” Arthur’s Art of Live-Looping Educational Outreach Programs have reached 50,000+ students in 27 states and he’s been an advocate for Reframing ADHD as the gift of the “HUNTER” Brain Wiring. Arthur has been a member of the Song School instructor staff since 2003.
Michael Lille is a Virginia native and award winning singer/songwriter who has traveled the globe and shared his music and love of adventure with friends and fans for over 4 decades. Lille is a winner of the 1993 Kerrville new-folk songwriting award as well as a first place winner in the Telluride Troubador competition in 1996. In addition to his solo work, Lille is a member of The Sherpas (with fellow new-folk winners Tom Prasada-Rao and Tom Kimmel), SGGL, the popular DC/Charlottesville-based quartet, and Man from Tuesday with San Diego based songwriter Andy Lund. Lille was also one-third of The Famous Unknowns with fellow VA musicians Robbin Thompson and Lewis McGehee.
During Michael’s years in Nashville he opened shows for Alison Krauss, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Leo Kottke and Little Feat, and his four solo projects featured guests such as Alison Krauss, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Valerie Carter, Victor Wooten, John Jennings, Bonnie Raitt guitarist George Marinelli, and James Taylor violinist and vocalist Andrea Zonn.
From 1997 to 2018 Michael also represented Elixir Strings and Taylor Guitars as a product specialist / demo player, artist relations director, and International Sales Manager covering Canada, SE Asia and the US.
Lille’s love of the road began in 1983, when he moved to Aspen, CO. There, he befriended Dan Fogelberg, who often joined Michael at his solo shows. Michael has lived in Austin and Nashville where he also added his guitar playing skills to dozens of fellow singer-songwriter’s recordings.
After a year long trip thru New Zealand, Australia and southeast Asia, Michael returned to North America where he was the house musician at Panorama ski resort in British Columbia. The following summer he was bitten by the whitewater bug which began a 15 year love of whitewater kayaking, taking him to exotic destinations including Nepal, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Mexico, France, Morocco, The Grand Canyon and dozens of other North American rivers and streams.
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. His mission is to share the joys of creativity and musical living with his students and audiences. In his teaching practice, John especially enjoys the gentle exploration of music theory, creativity coaching and performance development.
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 is an active member of the local arts scene in Washington, DC, performing as solo artist and as a founding member of the Americana band After the Flood, a folk-rock quintet. In 2017 he was named an Overall Winner of the Radioairplay.com Summer Song Contest for his song, “Mama,” and he is a two-time semi-finalist in the Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Competition. After the Flood’s eponymous debut album and John’s solo album, Illinois 14, were both released in 2016, each receiving national airplay and critical acclaim on folk radio, where John’s writing has been noted for its honesty and deep connection to traditional folk influences.
Unfazed by what a typical pop artist today is “supposed” to look or sound like, Heather Mae, an award-winning songwriter whose evocative vocals and rhythmic piano style call to mind artists like Stevie Nicks and Sara Bareilles, creates intoxicating music that tackles complex topics surrounding mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, self-love, racial injustice, social inequality, and women’s rights. Inspired by her own personal experiences and identities - a queer, plus size woman living with Bipolar Disorder - Mae is an on-fire musical and emotional experience. In her most sonically adventurous project yet, GLIMMER (Sept 2019) - her second produced record and first full length album - breaks the stigma surrounding mental health, reminding us all that we are not alone.
In 2018, Heather Mae launched RAD HEIFER: a boutique marketing and artist development company that focuses on career coaching for female and/or LGBTQ+ artists in the music industry. Crowdfunding and social media education, branding and marketing curation, planning and producing music videos or managing full album rollouts - RAD HEIFER is a coaching service for the hungry artist with hustle and heart.
A troubadour of truth, DC resident Crys Matthews is among the brightest stars of the new generation of social justice music-makers. An award-winning, prolific lyricist and composer, Matthews blends Americana, folk, blues, bluegrass, and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies punctuated by honest, original lyrics. She is made for these times. Of Matthews, ASCAP VP & Creative Director Eric Philbrook says, “By wrapping honest emotions around her socially conscious messages and dynamically delivering them with a warm heart and a strong voice, she lifts our spirits just when we need it most in these troubled times.” Justin Hiltner of Bluegrass Situation adds, her gift is a “reminder of what beauty can occur when we bridge those divides.” Her new, hope-fueled, love-filled, social-justice album called Changemakers was just released March 26.
Rob is a musician, singer, actor, voice-over artist, playwright, director, videographer, and photographer. He’s built furniture and written 58 plays that at current count have been performed in 34 states and 4 continents. He’s released 3 independent CDs, performed on festival stages, and won awards as a playwright and an actor. His voice can be heard in independent films, commercial videos, and on a number of phone systems across the US. Rob refers to himself as “A Long-term Dilletante.”
Clare McLeod is an Assistant Professor in the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music. A Certified Master Teacher in Estill Voice Training, Clare also trained at the National Center for Voice and Speech, and is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. In addition to teaching at Berklee, she presents voice clinics regularly in Los Angeles, Colorado and Austin and continues to study developments in the voice research field.
Bill Nash has been a musician all his life. He was a 5-year-old boy soprano, a 4th grade french hornist (played horn all through college), a 15-year-old beginning guitarist and then an 18-year-old guitar teacher, and a graduate of Bradley University’s School of Music, majoring in composition studying under the tutelage of Professor Dean Howard, and an almost master’s degree from time at the University of Colorado (just one semester short!). Bill began writing music and lyrics in his early teens and his roots are firmly embedded in what is now known as the singer/songwriter acoustic music genre. He has performed styles as diverse as rock ‘n roll, fusion, country, polka, folk, and even old-time western music, ala the Sons of the Pioneers.
Bill has 3 albums currently available, Mostly True Stories (1996), Runs With Scissors (1998), and Dreaming Again (2010), containing mostly original songs and a few cover tunes from some of his favorite songwriters. His songs range from love songs to heartbreak songs, from true stories to completely imaginative fabrications, from protest songs to environmental songs, and he even wrote a tribute song for Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse in Dallas (“… the best coffee and hugs in town!”), where he has been a volunteer almost every Friday night since 1993.
On “Runs With Scissors”, Bill was delighted to be joined by the likes of Dana Cooper (harmonica), Chris Gage (honky tonk piano), Marsha Webb (classical piano), Denny Allen (bass guitar and recording engineer), and Don Conoscenti (practically everything, from wailing guitars to drum set to flute to dumbeck to metal chair!), and a very special group of 6 lady singers he affectionately calls “The RollAides” (referenced from his song, “She Rolls”, for which they sang beautiful backup harmonies).
The new CD “Dreaming Again” was a 10 year effort, containing 12 songs previously unreleased! This album starts out with Bill’s newest instrumental “Night Ascent”, then cycles through favorites “Come Home, “When I Was in Love”, “Mirror Deep”, and many others. This CD was 10 years in the making due to Bill’s physical limitations, money issues, and then Tom Prasada Rao came along and said “Let’s finish this!”, and so it was! Also joining Bill on this CD were Pat Wictor (dobro), Chris Gage (guitar and accordian), TPR on a bunch of instruments, and Cary Cooper on background harmonies. These songs are among the best Bill has ever written, and it is sure to become a classic in the indie/folk music arena!
Bill has been invited to sing background harmony on mainstage at the Kerrville Folk Festival many times, with fine musicians from Anne Hills to Michael McNevin to Tom Prasada-Rao to Jana Stanfield to Albert & Gage to Josh White Jr to Jon Vezner to the Rhythm Angels, and was 1 of 4 invited singer/songwriters at the Dallas Campfire show hosted by Emilie Aronson on the Threadgill Theater stage at Kerrville in 1996.
Justin Roth is a nationally touring singer/songwriter, fingerstyle guitarist, and recording engineer/producer for independent artists at his home studio in Fort Collins, CO. His path to acoustic music was solidified at 17 when he heard innovative guitarist, Michael Hedges, and saw how the acoustic guitar was capable of creating such a huge sonic palette, much more than he had ever heard before. From that moment on, he knew it would be the root of his musical world. His use of alternate tunings, partial capos and his innovative two-hand tapping technique has been described as, ‘more than just an instrument, but an extension of himself.’ “Fans of Leo Kottke or Michael Hedges will find themselves right at home with [Roth’s] intricate guitar work…beautifully written lyrics.” - San Francisco Art Magazine
Justin has toured with John Gorka and David Wilcox, as well as opened for some of the finest singer/songwriters on the acoustic music scene, including Shawn Colvin, Martin Sexton, and Darrell Scott. Equally, his guitar playing has earned him shared stages with some of the greatest fingerstyle players of today, such as Tommy Emmanuel, Andy McKee and Pat Donohue.
Justin’s self-produced and fan-funded album, Now You Know, was voted as one of the Top 100 Folk Albums of 2011. Two songs from Now You Know have also been featured on the soap operas, The Young & The Restless and General Hospital. In late 2013, Justin wrote and released the single “Rise,” inspired by the Colorado floods, and donated 100% of the proceeds to flood relief.
Justin has attended Song School every year since 1997 and taught each year since 2003, as well as teaching at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, International Folk Alliance Conference. He is also available for individual online lessons or you can view his courses on www.JamPlay.com.
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.
“Amy Speace has one of the richest and loveliest voices in the singer/songwriter genre and her songs are luxuriously smart…she’s profoundly personal yet also a bit mythic. The imagery and the careful use of language is stunning and more evocative of classical poetry than most contemporary Americana peers” – Craig Havighurst, author & host of Nashville’s “Music City Roots”. Baltimore born, NYC bred and Nashville based, Amy Speace has been making critical waves since Judy Collins discovered her in 2006, releasing “Songs For Bright Street” on Collins’ own Wildflower Records. A logical protégé to classic singers like Collins and Baez, Amy’s brand of folk comes with a bit of grit and soul.
Each release since her debut more personal, more crafted, her voice deepening with intimacy and authority. The critics followed with increasing notice. 2009’s “The Killer In Me” had NPR likening her to a younger Lucinda. 2013’s “How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat,” a song cycle conversation with Shakespeare’s characters, brought her national recognition with a feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and acclaim from famed rock critic Dave Marsh.
Her most recent release, 2015’s “That Kind Of Girl,” was lauded by The New York Times’s Jon Pareles and marked her 4th appearance on “Mountain Stage”. Judy Collins has recorded her songs, as well as the late Memphis Hall of Fame member Sid Selvidge and other folk and jazz artists. Just recently she released a trio record with Amber Rubarth and UK-based Emily Barker called Applewood Road, which got 5 star reviews in England including The Sunday London Times writing “a flawless set that has to be the most haunting release of the past year”.
But all this is not what she had planned. After graduating from Amherst College with a dual degree in English and Theater, she moved to NYC to study acting at The National Shakespeare Conservatory, fully intending on a career as a playwright, director and actress. She spent a few years doing just that: a member of a few classical repertory companies, a founding Artistic Director of Off-Off Broadway’s Five Points Theater Company – until a borrowed guitar and a spectacular break up led to her penning her first few songs. It was only a few years later that a demo of hers was brought to the attention of Judy Collins who was in search of talent for a fledgling record label.
Amy has taught performance and songwriting at Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Song School for over a decade and been on staff at The Kerrville Folk Festival Song School, Swannanoa Gathering, Sister’s Folk Festival & Americana Academy, Berklee College of Music (Summer Session), her own Songs From The Well Writing Retreats and is honored to work with Songwriting With Soldiers.
Do you have writer’s block? Need more energy during Song School? Want clarity on which workshops to choose from the many wonderful ones? Or just need some time to relax and re-group? Come experience Reiki and other energy modalities provided by Judith Wade.
Judith is a gentle intuitive channel for a variety of nurturing hands-on healing techniques including Reiki that balance the body, mind, and spirit. She is committed to integrity, creative expression, and authenticity and assisting you in freely expressing yourself.
What might you experience? If you are feeling overwhelmed, you will find a greater sense of peace. If you are working through emotions, you will move through them gentler and with support. If you are blocked, you will access what wants to surface. If you are tired, you will have a greater sense of renewal. If you don’t know what you need, you will find more clarity. If you want more prosperity, you will receive guidance for receiving. These changes can be accompanied by physical changes such as easier breathing, lower heart rate, and relief from pain.
Judith 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. Her newest healing modality provides assistance with letting go of limiting beliefs in all aspects of your life joined with empowering questions such as “What would it take to create greater possibilities today?”
Several more elective instructors still to be announced…