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  • 03/04/2020 11:03 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Make Music Day DMV seeks venues, voices, volunteers with vision and musicians of every kind for the June 21st celebration.

    An outbreak of music has been predicted for Sunday, June 21st throughout the DC, MD, VA area and the only cure is to listen and enjoy.

    Make Music Day, the annual global celebration of music occurring on the summer solstice, is a daylong musical free-for-all that brings musicians of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels together to make, enjoy, perform, teach and learn music. The Songwriters’ Association of Washington (SAW, has picked up the gauntlet for Make Music Day celebrations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia and will be spearheading the 2020 festival, and we are now recruiting key volunteers and partners.

    We have already started to organize Make Music Day DMV into a truly unique celebration that honors the diversity of our local music scene and showcases how music can bring us all together, and are now recruiting key volunteers. If you have a passion for live music of every kind, the space, the time, we need you. Won’t you join our team and help us celebrate the universal language that speaks to us all…music?

    We have several events in the works already, and we encourage you to suggest and offer all ideas that are in the spirit of the celebration. This is a free day of music so venues, musicians and organizers may not be charged or ask for money to perform or manage a venue. Typically, Make Music Day events fall into one of these categories:
    - Live performances
    - Open Jam sessions
    - Events that focus on a single instrument, theme, or group performance of a well-known piece
    - Participatory workshops

    Keep reading to find out about past Make Music Day events in the DMV and throughout the world. Last year, more than 1,000 cities in 120 countries participated, for a total of over 5,000 free outdoor concerts, music lessons, jam sessions and other magnificent music-making events.

    Our local efforts are supported and coordinated by the national nonprofit Make Music Alliance, including access to an online matchmaking software that connects performers to venues, publicity, general consulting and other assistance. The Make Music Day website is not quite ready to go but will be soon. Please contact us at for more information and to get involved.

    About Make Music Day

    Completely different from a typical music festival, Make Music Day celebrates and promotes the natural music maker in all of us, regardless of ability. Reimagining their cities and towns as stages, every kind of musician – young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion – pours onto streets, parks, plazas, porches, rooftops, gardens and other public spaces to celebrate, create and share their music with friends, neighbors, and strangers.

    Launched in France in 1982 as the Fête de la Musique, Make Music Day is presented in the U.S. by The NAMM Foundation and coordinated by the nonprofit Make Music Alliance. In addition to massive citywide celebrations, Make Music Day will also include smaller festivities in other communities nationwide.

    Highlights of past Make Music Day events in the U.S. include:

    • Thousands of free, live performances, many held outside. Past DMV venues include the National Mall, Clarendon Central Park (an all-day festival with 2 stages of continuous music), Dupont Circle, Tenleytown Main Street, and parks, restaurants, retail establishments and other venues throughout the area.
    • Street Studios, where world-class DJs and producers set up their gear on sidewalks and engage passersby and musicians to join in an entirely improvised music creation session; 
    • Sousapaloozas bring together brass and wind musicians to play the music of "March King" John Philip Sousa;
    • Mass Appeals that gather large groups of musicians to participate in impromptu performances using single instruments such as guitars, harmonicas, accordions, ukuleles, bucket drumming, double basses, kazoos, choral singers, and pBuzzes.
    • Bands Undercover, where bands take to the streets to cover each other's music, and live stream their performances to each other in a unique musical exchange.
    • Drum Set Duos, organized by local drum shops, who place full drum sets on the sidewalk or parking lot in front of their store. A facilitator sits at one of the sets and invites passersby to join in a spontaneous drum set duo.
    • Heart Chant, where people come together to perform a type of meditation that involves vocalization and listening. The Heart Chant was written by Pauline Oliveros in response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

    All Make Music Day events are free and open to the public. Once the Make Make Music Day website is ready (sometime in March), participants who wish to perform may register. A full schedule of events will be posted on the website in early June.

    To get involved and for more information, please contact us at or

    Follow Make Music Day DMV on social media:
    Twitter: @MakeMusicDayDC
    Instagram: @makemusicdaydc

    Contact: or

  • 04/05/2019 10:41 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Curious about how SAW got started? Jim Johnson and Don Bridges were recently reminiscing about SAW's 25th anniversary celebration held in 2004. Read Jim's talk about SAW's origin and history from that event: 

    Remarks by Jim Johnson at SAW 25th Anniversary:

    Thank you Don

    As Don mentioned, He had asked me some weeks ago to research the SAW archives and interview the past SAW Presidents to try and put together a brief history of the organization to present tonight.

    When he first mentioned it, I thought – Well, this won’t be any problem – I can put this together in no time.  And then I started to get into the project and realized that it was a bit more of a challenge than I had realized.

    Going through 25 years of records and newsletters along with interviewing folks, and then trying to boil all of that down, all of that history into something relatively short, concise and interesting turned out to be quite a project.

    Since I have only been a SAW member for a bit over a year, I decided to start by tracking down the answers to some of the questions that I was curious about as a new member, in the hope that others might share that curiosity, and tackle it from that perspective.

    You know it’s sort of normal on milestone birthdays to look back at when you were born and how it went.  So, one of the first of the questions that I had was:  How did SAW get started 25 years ago?  How in the world do you create an organization like this out of the clear blue sky from absolutely nothing.  Who started it and who were the founding members?

    Well, it turns out that SAW was the brainchild of two people.  Their names are Anita Winters and John Lyon.  Anita served as SAW’s first Executive Director for four years.  John was a radio personality for WMAL-AM in Washington.  And they came together fittingly, over the radio.

    Anita wrote an article in a 1992 edition of the SAW Notes in which she talked about the birth of SAW.  They say that good artists borrow, and great artists steal.  So, as I aspire to greatness, I am now going to steal directly from Anita - and read you just a bit from her article:

    “It was 1979.  WMAL-AM.  It was John Lyon’s voice wafting over the airwaves and he was saying something about writing a song.  I was in my kitchen.  I stopped, with mop mid-swab, and thought “Aha! a kindred spirit!”  Perhaps that sounds quaint to today’s SAW membership, but in 1979 I thought I was the only songwriter in metropolitan Washington.”

    “I wrote lyrics, or I thought I did.  But how could I be sure?  I had no one to show them to because, except for my friend Maryellen Lewis, who sang, played guitar, and composed a couple melodies for my words, I didn’t know another soul who did what I did.  John’s revelation was the motivator for what eventually became the Songwriters’ Association of Washington.”

    “An exchange of letters and a flurry of phone calls followed, and finally we agreed to meet at the Writer’s Center, then located in a funky space at Glen Echo Park.  John brought Len Jaffe, I brought Maryellen and Ron Payne joined us.  Later on, Russ Schramm would also become one of the founding members.  The Writer’s Center’s Jane Fox sat in with us that first Fall evening and it was she who told us we wanted to form an association; we hadn’t figured that much out yet!”

    “As I recall (and the memory is blessedly dim), none of us knew much about starting an association, but we had grit.”

    “We met with a songwriters’ group from Philadelphia and when the time came, John peppered WMAL listeners with announcements of the forthcoming meeting.  Nine months after conception, the baby was born.  Approximately 40 people showed up at Glen Echo that Sunday afternoon and they were representative of the type of membership that still comprises SAW today: amateurs, professionals, lyricists, composers, musicians, a couple of poets, and the curious.  It was an exhilarating day.”

    “And the work was just beginning.  We formed a board, developed a newsletter, sponsored concerts (at Glen Echo Park, on WMAL, at Garvin’s on Connecticut Avenue), had meetings (mi-gawd, did we have meetings!), held songswaps, and asked questions.”

    “Who was SAW for?  The commercial songwriter, the dabbler, or both?  What should be the focus?  How could we increase membership?  When should the meetings be held?  Where?  What about the music scene in Washington?  Was there a music scene in Washington?   As with any toddler, there were spills, bruises, misunderstandings and tantrums.  But we always rebounded – the strength of SAW today is testimony to that.”

    “The Mid-Atlantic Song Contest was born in those early years and it underwent several refinements along the way.  WMAL was an early co-sponsor; eventually we would walk alone.  Today it is one of SAW’s most successful undertakings.”

    “What has been gratifying to observe over the years has been the growth in SAW’s professionalism, the seriousness with which it conducts its business, and the stability of the organization.  Despite leadership changes, fluctuations in membership, the ongoing scramble for appropriate meeting places, and the hectic workload of all the volunteers who keep the group rolling, SAW continues to fill the broad needs of those who call it home.

    It’s still a place for both the beginner and the professional; more importantly, it brings all songwriters together in the spirit of camaraderie that was the basis of its inception.  SAW members cheer each other’s successes and mourn the disappointments.  Indeed, who else knows exactly how it feels?”

    That was an excerpt from Anita’s Winter’s article on the birth of SAW.  And, if her songwriting as anywhere near as good as her article writing, it must be excellent.

    And so, SAW was born.  Another of the questions and curiosities that I had was?  What was the initial goal or purpose of the association?

    What I learned from interviews with some of SAW’s founding members was that the organization was created initially for the purpose of making contacts with fellow songwriters and networking.  Which is, of course, one of the main benefits that has continued through its 25 year history.  And, our membership has grown from those modest beginnings to our current count of 392.

    Educational workshops on songwriting were also an early area of focus, which, of course, continue to this day.

    The Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest was created around four years after the birth of SAW.  I was surprised to learn that there was some controversy regarding the contest when it was initially discussed.

    There were some folks who felt that a contest was not part of the SAW’s mission, and might shift the organization’s focus away from its objectives.  Obviously, that view didn’t prevail and the songwriting contest has been an enormous artistic and financial success for 21 years.

    Another of the surprises I learned while researching SAW’s history was that - it was certainly not a given that we would see this 25 year anniversary.  This is a real achievement.  There were times when it almost folded due to lack of volunteer support.  There were times when SAW was nearly insolvent, and couldn’t pay its bills.

    But, through the dedication of scores of volunteers and the leadership of its officers and directors, it not only survived, but thrived.  Through 25 years, were have seen a succession of 13 Presidents, or interim Presidents of SAW.  I know some of them are with us tonight.  Some have gone on to other things.  And sadly, some have passed on.  But they are all leaders who have been instrumental in the success of SAW and were critical to achieving its 25 year anniversary.

    So, if you will indulge me, I would like to read their names, have them stand if they are here, and join me in recognizing them for their leadership, tireless work and dedication to SAW.

    They are:

    Anita Winters

    Tom Hinton

    Alvin Walker

    Bill Dillon

    Marcy Freiberg

    Meg Dinger

    Jordan Musen

    Tami Lack

    Eric Eckl

    Betty Morrell

    Michael Sheppard

    Steven Cutts

    Don Bridges

    Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation for these folks and all they have done for the Songwriters Association of Washington.

    And so, after I was able to satisfy my curiosity about how and why SAW came to be, I was off into finding out about the rest of what happened over the its 25 years of existence.  

    I’m here to tell you, there is just too much.

    Through all the 25 years of workshops and seminars to further our knowledge of the art and craft of songwriting.

    And, all the songwriter exchanges, receiving critiques and feedback on our work

    All the open mic’s, and the song circles, and the pitch-a-thons, the evolution of the newsletters, the financial areas, the volunteer initiatives, the partnerships and joint ventures, the web page, the publicity initiatives, the membership surveys

    And the song contests, and the friendships and fellowship that we have all experienced through our membership in SAW

    There is just too much history for one brief talk.

    SAW has a past far beyond the surface that I am able to scratch here.

    So I will close tonight with the offer to any of our members with an interest to know more about the details of SAW’s past, that the archives are open and available for your research and perusal.

    As with anything, there is as much to know about this subject as you have an interest to know and find out.

    So, thank you very much for listening, and keep writing!

  • 03/19/2019 10:59 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    SAW Serves is one of the great parts of SAW. We are blessed as an organization to be able to give back in many meaningful ways. As the newest president of SAW, I have been searching for more and better things to do in serving the community.

    A few months ago, I was contacted by Cathie Lechareas of CAMMO (Center for American Military Music Opportunities). Mike Jaworek of the Birchmere had recommended me to be a songwriting instructor for their outreach to military families, especially those in extended stay or long term treatment situations.

    I was proud to volunteer and also happy that most of SAW’s AV club -- Steve Pendlebury, Kelly Diamond, AJ Janitschek, Jim Davis, Brian Foster, Jeff Gormley -- agreed to videotape the story of this day. SAW luminary, Bill Mulroney, gave a talk on the legal aspect of the music business and Jim Thorne participated in the workshop.

    The task before us was to break into small groups based on previous musical experience and write a complete song in one day and then perform it at the event culminating show that evening. If that idea doesn’t scare you, you never wrote a song.

    There were two things that made this task possible. First, the support and assistance of an amazing group of musical military folks who give their time and considerable talent to this effort. Need a piano player to tease out the chords on piano to the song you are just humming? They had just the man in Ron Demetrius Henry.  Need to develop some harmony layers to flesh out a chorus? Done! A group of retired and active military musicians with incredible voices were there and incredible layered harmonies were yours.

    We met and worked all morning, took a break and got back to it. The AV club was there interviewing the subjects and recording the process so we will share a few links here to give you an idea. 

    By the end of a rewarding and exhausting day, we had done more than I thought possible and created some truly inspirational songs. The ones that were finished enough were presented at the show that night and the result has change the lives of everyone involved. Especially me.

    But enough talk about what we did. Thanks to the AV club you can see much of it. Steve Pendlebury is still editing parts but here are some samples.

    If you are interested in getting involved in the AV club, contact me at

    Jay Keating

  • 10/23/2018 11:14 AM | Deleted user

    Longtime SAW member and past board member Lynn Revo-Cohen wrote “Start By Believing” after her company conducted a training for Army First Responders. The main message of this training was to teach First Responders that 95% of the sexual violence calls that come in to them are true. It was led by the head of the sex crimes unit from the Austin, TX police department.

    She says...

    Hi SAW Members, I produced this music video to give courage to sexual assault victims to tell their story and to encourage those who listen to “Start By Believing”. You will know some of the powerful singers and musicians in this video - Cecily Bumbray, Nina Lane, Leah Anderson, Jamie Boyd, Eric Scott, James Britton, and Dave Mallen who is also my music producer. I worked with Filmsters, an Annapolis film company, to produce the video. I hope you like it and PLEASE SHARE it with anyone you know who feels the same way. Best Regards, Lynne

  • 09/11/2018 10:45 PM | Jay Keating (Administrator)

    Summer is gone, and autumn brings the annual anxiety over…

    “What songs will I enter in the MASC?”

    Well, your best ones, of course. But beyond that sage piece of advice, I can’t tell you what to enter but I can tell you why. YOU will be heard by people that matter and who listen to your song, not how much money you dropped at the studio. We are doubling down on our commitment to judge the song and not the production because at SAW, it’s all about the song.

    Three Grammy winning judges along with a bevy of respected writers, producers, bookers and recording luminaries, local and beyond mean your song will get a workout and exposure to music industry people.

    This year, there are many notables including:
    Shelby Lynne (Best New Artist Grammy 2001)
    Jon Carroll (Best New Artist Grammy and Best Arrangement on a record, 1976) 
    Jodi Marr (numerous well placed co-writes, three Latin Grammys, the title cut on Kristine Chenowith’s recent album and two cuts on Carol King’s last Christmas Album)
    Ben Peeler founding member of the Mavericks and sideman to the stars (Shakira, The Wallflowers, and many other groups use Ben as their secret musical weapon)
    Brett Simons (current bassist for Chicago and renowned LA music arranger and teacher)

    There are more like this as well as local judges of talent, and your song needs to be heard by them.

    The Songwriters’ Association of Washington has been running its international contest for longer than almost anyone else. Many of our winners go on to accolades at festivals and song contests all over the country. ALL of our contestants are winners because they wrote the song, recorded it and sent it in.

    Most of our winners are people who send in songs regardless of what they win. They realize that sharing their music process is the real reward and that makes them winners. Often, they win awards too but a good chance and a commitment to what you love is the real prize.

    The deadline is fast approaching.  (Sept 30) If you have any questions, write to me at and thank you for making SAW and The MASC the great success it is.

  • 08/21/2018 5:46 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    We received a couple of questions recently, answered below:

    Does this contest focus narrowly on the songs themselves, or are entries also judged on the quality and sophistication of the recordings that are produced?

    The MASC is identified and we run it as "song first" contest. We believe in the quality of the song and the ability of our judges to look past the facade of production and performance to the song itself. We can't deny that the "listenability" of an entry gives it an edge with some judges because a song that is well played and sung well and on pitch always helps to encourage further exploration. I would assure you that it is the MASC's intent to find the best songs and that we try very hard to pay attention to the underlying songs in all our judging.

    Are the entries for the "Lyrics Only" category all lumped together or are they divided by genre?

    The new "Lyrics Only" submissions are not separated by genre.

    If you have any other questions about the MASC that are not answered on the website, please email
  • 08/08/2018 9:31 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    A few members have let us know that they were disappointed to hear that our newest open mic, Root Studio Open Mic on August 10, is a ticketed event. While this format differs from that of other SAW open mics, it is a viable and professional model that reflects the realities of running a live music event. The organizers of Root Studio open mic explain why they charge admission fees below:

    - Tickets help fund the cost of producing the open mic and cover the stipend we pay featured performers. We provide food and drink probono (donations accepted but not required!)
    - Most audience members are comprised of performers; performer ticket prices are reduced and include two complimentary tickets so that performers can bring a couple friends/family for free.
    - Performers are live streamed by professional social media managers over FB and Instagram and benefit from our expanding reach on social media.
    - Performers are also invited to be video interviewed by our social media team during intermission. The video can be downloaded for free for press kits or other self-promotion purposes.
    - Our venue is an active and supportive listening audience with pro sound and lighting. A $10-$15 cover charge for admission is an amazing value for a night of food, drink, an attentive audience and musical fellowship.

    Let us know what you think. Write to with your opinion.

  • 07/03/2018 5:59 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    While 8 SAW acts played as part of the anchor Make Music DC event, board member John Trupp participated in this worldwide celebration where it all started...Paris. He shares his experience below...

    I was very excited to learn that my family trip to Paris would coincide with Make Music Day, or as it is known in France, Fête de la Musique. It started in Paris in 1982 and has grown into a worldwide music celebration for amateurs and pros alike. A day before the event, I asked the concierge where the best places were to go to take in the music. She said that there would be music being played all over the place. Just walk and follow your ears. With visions of a music wonderland spinning in my head, I went to sleep dreaming of strolling accordion players and killer bands sending beautiful music throughout the cobblestone streets of Paris. Then reality set in.

    The next evening, the weather was perfect and my wife Kathy and I eagerly set out to find some great music. I did not have an instrument with me and it was going to take a little convincing to join in with an act. My French is not good but I know the basic pleasantries. Luckily, if you ask, parlez-vous anglais, the answer among Parisiens is almost always “a leetle.” The first live act we found was a group of middle-aged Parisens hammering out American and British classic rock standards. As John Lennon famously quipped, “French rock is like British wine” - and these guys were cranking out some serious British wine. I figured I’ll have these guys on standby but was hoping to find something more euro and authentic. It took a while.

    We strolled the streets and came across many DJs pounding out current euro dance hits. The DJs were actually quite accomplished and were doing some fancy mixing and crossfades. But we were looking for live musicians. I was astonished and a bit disappointed to find so little live music on the streets of Paris. Finally, we came across a fun punky female fronted French band playing at Au Taquet, a lively spot on rue bleue. They were squeezed into the back and the crowd was pushing into the band drawing them to drive harder into their upbeat repertoire. I would have liked to play with them but I didn’t ask as they had their crowd in the palm of their hands.

    We then found an instrumental trio called Earth Vibes performing a unique style of euro jam on a lovely side street between two cafe bars. This is my kind of scene. We ordered a bouteille de vin rouge and settled in for some truly French music. They used unusual instruments to paint their musical landscape. After a little bit of liquid courage, I asked the guitar player if I could sit in on a tune. I defensively rattled off a list of credentials. The answer was oui and I had the honor of playing drums on a very enjoyable song. The jam wrapped up and I said merci. I was about to leave but then the guitarist held his guitar out to me with an outstretched arm. “One more?” Well, don’t mind if I do. Coming from a jam band background, throwing down a groove these French cats would lock onto was a piece of cake. These were accomplished musicians that worked right along with me and we had a blast. The vibrant crowd danced and cheered us on and made me feel right at home. It was a dream come true.

    I feel very fortunate to have had this wonderful experience in Paris. If there’s one thing I can take away from this adventure, music is truly the universal language.

    - by John Trupp

  • 05/22/2018 5:24 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
    From Jay Keating: Earlier this year at a SAW Serves event, I got to meet Doug Gilbert. Doug played some songs and helped out at our event and told me about “Doors of Change” a non-profit effort in California that he and his wife, Susan are part of. I asked them to write a story about this as inspiration for our SAW Serves effort. Below is the article and some pics. I hope it inspires a few ideas in SAW. Thanks to Doug and Susan, for the service they do and for thinking of SAW.    

    “Doors of Change”

     By Susan Pace Gilbert

    In her book, The Monastery of the Heart Author Joan Chittister states “We must give ourselves to the task of bringing about God’s peaceable kingdom, wherever we are, in whatever we do.”  She continues on to say we have a responsibility to see the needs of the world around us, hear the cry of the poor and act to help those who cannot help themselves.

    Jeffrey Sitcov, President and Founder the charity “Doors of Change” has been working to assist homeless youth in the Greater San Diego, California area for 17 years.  Our family attended the gala dinner and auction held in Carlsbad, California on Cinco de Mayo. It was a festive benefit, with a sunny outdoor patio featuring mariachi musicians during the cocktail hour (see scanned photo for story insert).   Indoors, guests placed auction bids in a light-filled corridor.  Auction items included 12 musical instruments signed by stars, such as: a Rolling Stone signed Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, an Elton John signed “With Love” Kurzweil KME 61 keyboard and two Steve Martin signed Deering Goodtime banjos.  There were also excursions and other items in the auction selection.  Jewelry, art and art cards created by homeless youth were available for purchase.

    (Photo by Susan Gilbert)

    Originally known as Photocharity, “Doors of Change” declares its mission to be “breaking the cycle of youth homelessness through empowerment and self-sufficiency”.  Their outreach programs are geared towards homeless and disadvantaged youth aged 12-24.  Their award-winning outreach program “Taking Music and Arts to the Streets” has been having a positive impact upon young lives.  We witnessed this outreach firsthand on Sunday afternoon, when we walked Ocean Beach areas with Program Director Joanne Newgard, placing colorful program literature at strategic locations like small markets and public restrooms.  We spoke with members of the youth homeless gathered for music and art lessons in a cheerful community room, at the Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach. The church has donated space for the music and arts program for five years, serving hundreds of homeless youth in the community.  The music lessons can be for many different instruments, including: guitar, ukulele, keyboard, drums, violin, mandolin and harmonica.  Participants can earn instruments or art supplies after attending six lessons.

    There is also a related Thursday outreach program, “Taking Art to the Streets”.  This program features expressive arts, yoga and computer training.  These creative programs empower homeless youth through their art, music and jewelry projects.  The goal is for them to become more self-sufficient, by earning money from their productive output.  The overall hope is to lessen the number of homeless youth.  There are over 2,000 in San Diego alone and the national figure is estimated to be around two million, according to Jeffrey Sitcov.  These figures are staggering and a prosperous nation like America should be doing better to help its own people.  The recent benefit raised $161,000 after expenses, thanks to patrons of the “Doors of Change” arts and music programs, as well as good donations from professional musicians.    

  • 05/22/2018 4:10 PM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    One of SAW’s most accomplished members is just 17 years old. In the last 15 months, Calista Garcia has been named “Outstanding Teenage Artist, Vocals Singer Songwriter” by the national YoungArts Foundation, was named a Strathmore Artist in Residence, won the Berklee Performing Songwriter Showcase, and was named the Bernard/Ebb 2017 Young Songwriter of the Year. Most recently, Calista wrote and music-directed a full-length musical—book, lyrics, and music—called Crystal Skies, which recently premiered at H.B. Woodlawn HS in Arlington, where she is a junior. 

    As an aspiring musical writer myself, I had to check out Crystal Skies and its preternaturally talented writer, so I scored a ticket to opening night. I found the writing to be remarkably mature and the play completely entertaining. A few days later, I found Ms. Garcia, relaxed, voluble, and confident, at an Arlington coffee shop.

    SRC: So you’ve written a musical. How cool is that?

    CG: Actually I also wrote the music for another musical, but that was in middle school.

    SRC: Middle school?!

    CG: Yeah, actually the drama teacher asked me to come up with some music in between scenes or something, but it was like a disconnect and I thought he wanted me to write songs for the show. And so I just did it, and he was like “oh what?!” and he made it a musical. I’ve written a few songs for other shows.

    SRC: But this show was your idea?

    CG: Yeah it was all me.

    SRC: I know a lot of people in SAW who have said “I’d like to write a musical someday,” but few have actually done it. And just for the record, you’re how old?

    CG: I’m 17. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. I think in the future I wouldn’t try to music-direct it because it’s really hard to direct your own content. I was like organizing harmonies and teaching it to the band—

    SRC: And leading the band

    CG: And leading the band. It’s a crazy process. I was honestly really involved in the entire process. I was like “they have to be 70s clothes, they have to be bell bottoms.”

    SRC: What is your connection to the 70s? That was a very successful element of the show. It wasn’t just the look and the story, it was the theatrical style itself, the types of songs, and the group scenes especially had very 70s feel.

    CG: That’s what I was going for. I was kind of raised on that stuff, the Beatles and everything. My dad was a big classic rock fan. In sixth grade I was Janis Joplin for Halloween. In seventh grade I was Stevie Nicks.

    SRC: Did anyone know who you were?

    CG: Not really. I told people I was a witch. But I was in a band that did covers—and it’s really more late 60 and early 70s rock. It’s just something I connect with, and even the “artist” stuff that I write and play out is kind of 70s inspired. So I figured, if I’m going to write a show with 17 songs, the way I’m going to connect it all, as a design concept, that seemed like the way to go.

    SRC: So what’s the capsule description for Crystal Skies?

    CG: Oh God! I‘ve had a hard time with this. I guess… “a 1970s supernatural love story centered in a hippie witch coven.” We’ll go with that. “Supernatural” because the whole invisibility element is hard to explain.

    SRC: Yeah, you do kind of have to make that leap right at the beginning. So what was it like to actually see it happen? Or were you too busy to even pay attention?

    CG: No, I was paying a lot of attention. I was facing the cast I was facing the band. I saw it all. I even gave the cast some cues. It was honestly amazing. It was so worth all the struggle. 

    SRC: What do you think is the key to finishing something big like this?

    CG: You know I think the reason people don’t finish a musical or something like that is because of all the choices. You think “I guess I could do that, maybe” and then you chicken out. It’s sort of like committing to it—and then letting go of it. So I’d make a choice, like “in the first number they’re going to say ‘Jimmy’ a lot of times in the chorus, okay that sounds cool, okay let’s just record it for now,” and then I sent it in. I tried to stop myself from thinking too much about it. And suddenly this song I wrote in my room, I’m seeing this huge cast doing it, and the whole thing that was “I think I could do this” becomes kind of real, and it actually kind of works.

    SRC: So you were satisfied with it in the end?

    CG: Yeah, well there are definitely things I would change. But it turned out well, I believe.

    SRC: What was your relationship like with the directors? Was it hard to give up control? Did they run with it?

    CG: At first they were skeptical, because the show wasn’t written when I pitched it. They were like “okay, what is this? It’s gonna be about this invisible guy, and what?” But we went with it together. There’s a lot of respect between all of us.

    SRC: So is it a done project now? Are you ready to move onto the next big achievement?

    CG: Well, I’m not writing a new one any time soon. Right now I’m recording the soundtrack, working with some session vocalists. Then I can release it and put it out on Spotify and people can hear it. And if someone wants to do it…

    SRC: So you’d like to see another production someday.

    CG: Yeah! With rock vocalists, and a band led by better guitar players than me.

    SRC: So how long did it take to write, start to finish?

    CG: Well, I said I was going to start in June, but I went to Berklee over the summer and didn’t really start working on it in August. I had a complete draft by about October first.

    SRC: Wow! The first draft of the songs or the whole thing?

    CG: The whole thing. 

    SRC: Wow!

    CG: Of course there were rewrites, and some songs came in later. I changed the ending. It’s really completely different from the first draft. But it was done by December, and we started auditions.

    SRC: So are your friends totally amazed by this, or is Woodlawn just so full of amazing people that you don’t really stand out?

    CG: I don’t know. I’m not a very outgoing person. My friends that I spend a lot of time with have known me from the very beginning when I was just learning guitar, so they’ve seen the growth as a slow process.

    SRC: You clearly have talent, but you also have clearly had support over the years. So let’s ask the question we always ask songwriters: How and when did you begin?

    CG: I started taking piano when I was six. I started learning guitar when I was eight, with my dad teaching me. I began taking lessons when I was ten when I had sort of exhausted what he knew. I took lessons at Bach to Rock, I was in a band there, an all-girl cover band, we won the battle of the bands a couple of times. I started writing when I was ten or eleven. Started playing out when I was ten.

    SRC: At that time, early on, who were the people in your universe that you thought of as ‘songwriters’?

    CG: Songwriters? When I first started playing guitar, I was a big fan of Taylor Swift, to be honest. I lived in Texas. She was the only one I was enough of a fan of to look at her biography and see how she came up. And she was saying “I’m a songwriter. I write songs” and I didn’t understand that was something unique about her, that all those other pop girls didn’t write. But other than that I was listening to rock, and it was like, if you want to be in the business, you have to write songs. 

    SRC: So when people ask who were your major influences…

    CG: It’s interesting to think of my influences, because there are things I didn’t realize influenced me that I just listened to all the time and I hear in my writing so much now. Like I grew up listening to the “Once” soundtrack, the musical by Glen Hansard, and if I listen to my writing now, it’s very inspired by that. And classic rock, Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, what my dad listened to basically.

    SRC: What instruments are you most comfortable on?

    CG: Guitar, and kinda keys. I play ukulele, I play harmonica, but guitar is my main thing.

    SRC: Has the school music program been important for you, or has most of your development been outside of school?

    CG: Chorus experience helped me music-direct my show, because I had to learn how to teach choirs to sing harmonies. That was a big thing I would not have gotten outside of school. Also getting started with classical voice before doing rock stuff, so you can stay healthy, so I’m not doing the Joplin thing and shredding my vocal chords.

    SRC: So how do you see music fitting into your life as you become an “adult”? Do you see it as a sideline or is it the thing?

    CG: It’s the forefront now. It’s going to continue being the forefront. I mean there are so many things I want to do with it. 

    SRC: Do you see yourself being a singer-songwriter? Do you want to be in a band, do you want to do more shows?

    CG: I want to do all those things. I think it’s a misconception that you have to do one thing with your life. I love writing. I love performing. I did this show and could do more stuff like that. I like doing the artist stuff right now the best. I already have a borderline professional musician thing, with paid gigs and session singing.

    SRC: So what is this benefit you’re doing in California?

    CG: Oh yeah, that’s this weekend! My dad is former Navy, and he is involved with this organization that helps wounded warriors and veterans with PTSD through surf therapy. So they’re having a benefit, and they’re friends with the guy from Third Eye Blind, so I’m technically doing a show with Stephan Jenkins. It’s kind of a crazy month for me. I’m recording an EP, and I’m working on recording the Crystal Skies soundtrack.

    SRC: So is that going to keep you busy all summer?

    CG: All that will have to be put on hold because I’m going to Berklee again. 

    SRC: What’s that all about?

    CG: I’m studying voice and I’ll audition for the songwriting showcase, which I was in last year. But it’s more about meeting people, because the high school students who are going to Berklee now and are serious about music are going to be the ones in the business later. And they’re from all over the world, so it’s not like just going to open mics in DC.

    SRC: Speaking of DC, do you have anything nice to say about SAW?

    CG: SAW’s great! I’ve been to a lot of SAW events; I know a lot of people from SAW. Every city needs an organization like SAW.

    SRC: Is there anything SAW could do better to reach out to a younger crowd?

    CG: I think you need younger people to do the reaching out. I think you have to find out where high schoolers go naturally. At my school there’s a songwriting club that was started by a history teacher. So there is interest out there. And open mics are important for them.

    SRC: Are you getting a lot of people saying “you know you can’t make a career out of music”?

    CG: No. People haven’t given me too much of a hard time about it.

    SRC: I think that’s a sign.

Songwriters' Association of Washington is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


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