Norwich, CT- Baseball ballads that play at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Tunes that waft across the decks of “The Love Boat.” Background music behind
the continuous drama of the daily soaps.
You may not even know when you are hearing the work of a member of the
Connecticut Songwriters Association, but chances are you have.
Over the last 25 years, CSA has grown in membership to more than 2,000
songwriters and performers from more than 12 states and five different
countries, and the organization doesn't show any sign of letting up. This
weekend, CSA will be holding a conference for songwriters and performers
that promises to be a conglomeration of creativity.
The Songwriting and Performance Conference at Three Rivers Community
College in Norwich on Saturday is in celebration of CSA's 25th birthday.
“The best thing we do at Connecticut Songwriters Association is probably
the song critique sessions,” says Don Donegan, a CSA co-founder who lives in
“Not only do we provide the only place where a 50-year-old librarian who
writes lyrics and a 25-year-old who writes guitar riffs can meet each
other,” says Donegan, who declined to give his age, “but we also create a
supportive community where people can perform their music in a club setting
and receive constructive, positive feedback on their creations. That is an
emotional benefit for these people, and it helps them decide if they want to
take it to the next level.”
Donegan and Will Ewing founded CSA in 1979, and for many years, the
organization sponsored weekly showcases of local musicians in New London at
Rudy's Pier One. Since then, the live music scene in Connecticut has
suffered some, but the organization still holds two showcases each month,
rotating among venues in Old Saybrook, Mystic, East Hartford, Danbury, and
Donegan says that CSA was one of the first organizations of its kind,
using some of the same strategies as groups like the Songwriters Guild in
New York City and a group that sprang up in Arizona around 1976.
CSA serves songwriters in Connecticut by providing showcases as well as
interactive workshops, song critique sessions, and guest lectures from
nationally recognized artists, producers, and other big names in the music
As with the tradition of songwriting in which it was born, CSA is an
organization that often attracts those committed to a cause.
This year's conference will feature Jen Chapin, the late Harry Chapin's
daughter, who is on a national tour promoting her new CD, “Linger.” Chapin
is also the chairperson of World Hunger Year, an organization founded by her
father that in many ways was the inspiration for Local United Network to
Combat Hunger, a Connecticut-based group founded by Bill Pere that uses
arts, education, and community outreach to tackle poverty and hunger
Pere, who declined to give his age, is a Mystic resident. He has been
with CSA since its beginnings and acknowledges that the climate for socially
conscious music has changed over the years.
“When I first came to CSA in 1979, protest music was all over the place,”
Pere recalls. “Over the years, I have seen mainstream music change. The
voice of social conscience is no longer there. The need continues to exist.
In fact, I think the need has increased over the years, but the means and
channels have changed. We've had to get creative.”
Creativity is rampant among the 200 to 250 active members of CSA.
According to Pere, the one constant over the past 25 years has been CSA's
commitment to the craft of good songwriting. What makes good songwriting?
“The essence of good songwriting is clear and universal communication,”
says Pere. “You take an idea that can be widely understood, and put together
a good presentation of that idea.”
Donegan agrees with Pere, and he says that “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
is a good example of this kind of songwriting.
“This song is about a gambler on a train. It's a simple story, and they
made a whole movie about it. That's the kind of songwriting that works,”
Pere has seen some big names take part in CSA through the years.
Nationally recognized folk artists such as Pete Seeger and Dar Williams, and
famous songwriters such as George David Weiss (songwriter for Louis
Armstrong and Elvis Presley) have all been guest speakers at CSA events.
For Pere, this Saturday's conference will provide excellent elbow-rubbing
“The conference is designed for the attendees to have personal contact
with the presenters. Having an opportunity to have so many creative people
in one place at one time is great. Every time you turn around, you'll have a
good interaction with someone different,” Pere says.
Saturday's gathering will provide many venues for artist interaction.
From vendor tables, to open mic performances, to song critiques, to
workshops on songwriting, licensing and copyright, new and experienced
artists alike will find useful information. The conference also provides
continuing education unit credits for professional educators.
The Connecticut Songwriters Association Songwriting and Performance
Conference will run from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Three Rivers
Community College Mohegan Campus in Norwich. A full schedule, list of
presenters and performers, and registration information can be found online
at www.ctsongs.com or by calling 572-9285. “Music Only” passes are available
for $10, and conference rates run from $30 to $50, depending on the package.