CT Songwriters Assoc
Three Rivers

CONFERENCE REVIEW   (See Below) ================================================

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The Connecticut Songwriting and Performance Conference: A REVIEW

by Bonnie Lee Panda

For a quarter of a century, the Connecticut Songwriters’ Association has been providing services to songwriters throughout the State, as well as to people nationwide. C.S.A. has become one of the oldest and best-known songwriters’ associations in the country because of their continued commitment and support to songwriters. On Saturday, April 17th 2004, C.S.A. outdid itself again, with the “Connecticut Songwriting and Performance Conference” held in honor of their twenty-fifth anniversary. This all-day event took place at Three River Community College in Norwich, Connecticut.

At the Conference, new and long-time members, as well as interested educators, students, songwriters, and exhibitors from as far away as San Francisco, enjoyed the fruits of the labor of many C.S.A. volunteers. These volunteers, along with helpers from Three Rivers College, insured the smooth flow of the conference, which was organized by CSA Executive Director Bill Pere. There was a wide assortment of activities to choose from throughout the day including songwriting workshops, song critique sessions, and featured discussion sessions given by singer-songwriters Alex Forbes and Jen Chapin. The night ended with a high energy performance from artists Marcy Geller, Nancy Tucker, Alex Forbes, Jen Chapin, Scott Sivakoff, Kaye Pere, Bill Pere and the L.U.N.C.H. ensemble (Local United Network to Combat Hunger), with all proceeds benefiting local social service agencies.

People began to arrive at the conference between 9 and 10 am, where they registered, got name tags and tote bags (courtesy of C.S.A.), enjoyed drinks and snacks and conversed with presenters, members and attendees. Some attendees who registered for the conference also reserved vendor spots to sell and promote their CD’s and other products. At 10:00 a.m., everyone settled down in the auditorium where Bill Pere gave an overview of the day, the presenters introduced themselves, and CSA member’s Tom Callinan and Les Julian gave a dynamic performance, singing a few of their original tunes to kick off the activities.

Throughout the conference, you could participate in three or four different activities each hour. There was always either an open mic or a set schedule of performances by singer-songwriters, who had signed up prior to the Conference. In addition, there were designated critique sessions, where seasoned C.S.A. members, Joe Manning, Tom Callinan, Les Julian and Don Donegan volunteered their time to critique people’s original songs.

As with all good Conferences, the biggest problem comes when you have to choose between two or three great workshops! Kay Pere gave a vocal instruction workshop, where she offered helpful tips on how to keep your voice healthy and get the most out of your vocal instrument. Bill Pere gave a songwriting and curriculum integration session. He talked about, when writing songs, how it’s important to use concrete images concurrently with abstract ideas. He also gave a workshop on how to publish and copyright your original songs. Nancy Tucker gave a workshop on the creative process and how to keep your imagination active. Marci Geller gave a workshop on the ups and downs of being an Indie Artist.

There were two feature sessions held in the auditorium, one given by Jen Chapin and the other by Alex Forbes, both accomplished performing songwriters. Jen Chapin’s discussion was on the positive impact that songs can have on society. She used songs by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and George Ornwell to show that the power of one song can create a wave in society, and ignite an awareness of social problems. She challenged us to find our own cause when writing and performing. The other speaker Alex Forbes gave a workshop on “The Business and Craft of Songwriting.” Alex offered numerous techniques to help the audience in their writing. For example, she said, “don’t close your options of whom you can collaborate with. I collaborated with my 6 year old niece.” “Write with a different instrument than you usually play, or with no instrument at all.” “Go infuse yourself with another form of art and become inspired!”

Both, lunch and dinner were served in the cafeteria. It was great to relax and informally meet different artists and presenters. You can learn a lot over a soda and a sandwich! David Christensen, a new C.S.A. member commented, “Being new to C.S.A. and this being my first conference, I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m very pleased. The conference is going by way too fast!”

And finally, just when you thought the day couldn’t get any better, there was a dynamic concert to close the Conference. Marcy Geller, Nancy Tucker, Alex Forbes, Jen Chapin, Scott Sivakoff, Kay Pere, Bill Pere and the L.U.N.C.H. ensemble (Local United Network to Combat Hunger), all performed in the main auditorium, with an extensive professional sound stage, courtesy of Jason Dermer, who drove up from New Jersey to help out.

Marci Geller entertained the audience first with her heartfelt original tunes. She accompanied her beautiful voice on keyboard. Nancy Tucker astonished the audience with her creative lyrics, great sense of humor and flawless guitar. Nancy’s impeccable ability to interact with the audience became evident when her guitar string broke. She made what could have been a disaster a fun part of the show. You could see that Alex Forbes put her own advice about songwriting, which she gave earlier during her workshop, into action, because her original tunes were well-crafted and well-delivered. Jen Chapin and her band captivated the audience, as she sang her original tunes with conviction. She sang songs promoting social awareness, just as her father Harry Chapin did. Harry’s service in society included founding W.H.Y, World Hunger Year, of which Jen is now the Chairperson. Scott Sivakoff, an award-winning singer-songwriter and active member of L.U.N.C.H., entertained us with his rendition of "Cat's in the Cradle", and backed Bill and Kay Pere on bass. Bill and Kay gave a powerful performance with the students from L.U.N.C.H. What a wonderful message they are giving to youth by showing them they can make a difference and promote positive social change and awareness.

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and performers, the Conference was an amazing success and a great experience! It’s a good thing we won’t have to wait another 25 years for such an awesome opportunity. C.S.A. hopes to do it again sometime soon, so please find out how you can get involved. The benefits you’ll receive are unimaginable!

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For information on Service Learning and School programs, go to www.lunchensemble.com.

For information on the CT Songwriters Association, go to www.ctsongs.com.

If you have specific questions, contact us at info@ctsongwriters.com