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  • 01/20/2015 1:02 PM | Deleted user

    Here at SAW, part of our mission is providing ongoing educational and learning opportunities for our members.  The monthly Songwriter’s Toolbox event is an excellent opportunity for all our members to learn, grow, be challenged, inspired and encouraged.  

    We are very excited to introduce the new facilitator for the Songwriter’s Toolbox, Karl Straub!  Karl has an extensive musical background and a degree in Music Education.  He is also a performing songwriter with a variety of groups and teaches private music lessons.  With his former band, The Graverobbers, he recorded 5 albums of his original songs.  Several local groups including Last Train Home, Little Pink, and The Grandsons have also recorded Karl’s songs.  In 2013, he co-wrote a musical called “Hangtown Dancehall” with Eric Brace.  The soundtrack to the musical was released in 2013 and is available from Red Beet Records, Eric Brace's Nashville-based label.  The musical was inspired by the California Gold Rush.  It debuted in Nashville and has been performed at the Birchmere in Alexandria.

    Straub’s vision for the Songwriter’s Toolbox is to provide practical instruction (with a new theme each month) mixed with song critique.  The song critique will be framed in the context of what was talked about in the first part of the workshop.  Straub believes that the process of evaluating your own songs is something that each of us should be doing in our own homes.  Learning some of the “how” of critique can be a big help in achieving that goal.  “Everyone who shows up (to the Toolbox) should feel like they got something out of it”, Straub explained during a phone interview.  

    Future emphases for the Songwriter’s Toolbox will include topics such as melody, chord structure, and putting lyrics to music.  Straub believes it’s sometimes much easier to talk about lyrics than music.  However, if lyrics aren’t supported by a compelling and rich melodic structure, the words don’t get communicated effectively.  “If you’re writing a song, you have more than one job.”  Songwriters have to not only write words but write an equally compelling and complimentary melody.  “If you just want to write great words, go and write a story,” Straub commented.   If you want to write a song, to use Straub’s guiding philosophy, you must be equally compelled to write good music.  

    Straub also hopes to teach on the topic of being a productive songwriter.  “You don’t have to just sit around and wait for inspiration,” he says.  There are exercises and techniques songwriters can use to be productive, even under crushing deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise.  

    Straub’s first Songwriter’s Toolbox workshop will be Saturday, January 24th, at the Surge, 1988 Kirby Road, McLean, VA 22101, from 10am-12:30pm.  The Songwriter’s Toolbox will continue each 4th Saturday of the month throughout the year.  The events are free and represent just one of the many member benefits that SAW offers.  Donations will be accepted at the workshops to support the musician.  

    Get directions at the Songwriter’s Toolbox event page on the SAW website at: http://saw.org/event-1785051.   

    Catch Karl and his current band, the Karl Straub Combo at The Deej house concert in Washington DC on Saturday, January 31st, 8pm.  http://www.thedeej.org/


    Guitar lesson videos at www.youtube.com/user/karltstraub

    Read about/Buy/Listen to new/old Straubinical music, inc. 

    recent singles (Barbie Doll Apocalypse) and 

    new/old albums (Harlem Hayride, Soul Parking, etc.) 


    Chat with Karl's sassy intern at


    Karl posts music clips and talks about music at instagram.com/karlstraub


    The Open Stage is back! On this edition of the online radio show The Open Stage, SAW Board Member Michelle Murray will interview the new facilitator for the SAW Songwriter’s Toolbox, Karl Straub. Karl is a performing songwriter with a variety of groups and teaches private music lessons. In this interview, Michelle will talk to Karl about about his musical background and his vision for the Songwriter’s Toolbox. You can also hear some of Karl's music. Listen live on Friday, January 23 at 11 a.m. or anytime after that by visiting the Open Stage show page: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/the-open-stage

  • 01/19/2015 12:04 PM | Deleted user

    There’s always much to celebrate at the end of a year....families come together to share meals and laughter, stories are told and music is sung, played and listened to from supermarket aisles to Doctor’s offices.  Whatever people’s traditions are for the end of the year, it seems they always involve music.  Music brings us together, creates a mood and brings a little spirit to our otherwise busy schedules.  

    Here at SAW, we spent a little time making music over the holidays as well.  Our Holiday Party on December 13 held at the Surge in McLean was a roaring success!  We enjoyed a potluck supper together, had a good time talking and networking, heard some corny jokes from our dedicated Emcee Paige Powell, and participated in a holiday-themed open mic!  Thanks to everyone for coming out and participating in this fun event!

    Also, on December 12, SAW member Stevie Wade Potter hosted a holiday-themed open mic at his “Acoustic Listening Room” event at Deja Brew in Haymarket, VA.  Several SAW members performed and were in attendance.  If you live west of DC, Steve’s monthly acoustic shows are a wonderful performance opportunity in a very supportive environment.  Steve schedules performers in advance.  If you are interested in performing at Deja Brew, please email Steve at steviewade@yahoo.com.      

  • 12/29/2014 11:16 PM | Steve Coffee

    Ricardo is pictured here preparing a meal as a part of the SAW Serves program.

    SAW members are saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Richard "Ricardo" White on Christmas day. Ricardo was a unique individual with a huge heart and a music all his own. As a SAW board member, he organized events feeding and entertaining hundreds of homeless through the SAW Serves program. Ricardo's family suggests that, in memoriam, people donate to SAW in support of that program. Please include “SAW Serves, in memory of Ricardo” in the comment section.

    There will be a memorial service for Ricardo on Wednesday, December 31st at 2:00pm at Bennett Funeral Home in Mechanicsville, VA. The address of the funeral home is 8014 Lee Davis Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23111.

    The SAW board also hopes to organize a special "Tribute Concert" with food, music and photos at some point in January or February 2015. More information about this event forthcoming.

    You may read Richard's obituary on the Richmond Times Dispatch website here. There is an online guestbook where you may enter comments on the Times Dispatch obituary page about Richard and his life.

  • 12/04/2014 12:16 PM | Deleted user

    Written by Michelle Murray, SAW Board Member

    I have known about TAXI for years, but until I attended my first TAXI rally, I never understood how helpful it could be in reaching my songwriting goals. I’ve been a songwriter for many years and I’m actively involved in the Songwriters’ Association of Washington. I’ve always wanted to get my songs used in film/television, etc., but never quite knew how to go about it, and it just seemed like a pipe dream that not many could really achieve. I didn’t know many people who had actually done this successfully. But then, through a SAW open mic that I host, I met SAW member and MASC award-winning songwriter Michelle Lockey, who has been a successful TAXI member for six years.

    In case you don’t know, TAXI is an Independent A&R company that was founded in 1992 by Michael Laskow to help songwriters, artists, bands and composers get their music heard by record labels, music publishers, and supervisors of film/TV projects. Record companies, publishers, and music supervisors call TAXI directly to find new artists and bands to sign and to find songs, instrumentals and tracks for TV and film placements.

    Before last year’s rally, Michelle invited me to a Skype song critique session with TAXI founder Michael Laskow. He listened to one of my songs and liked it, and said that he could hear it being used in a movie about the South, being played in jukebox in a diner. It was very specific and I had never thought about my song being used in that way, but it was very encouraging! After that session, Michelle told me about the rally and encouraged me to go. I’m so glad I took her advice. It was there that I first realized that there were thousands of songwriters doing what I wanted to do, and that it was entirely possible for me to do so too. No longer did this seem like a pipe dream, but a dream that was in reach, if I learned all I could and worked hard at reaching my goals. This was quite the eye opener since I never realized how many people just like me (that is, not celebrities) were doing this successfully.

    Lockey explained how TAXI has helped her songwriting career. “I joined TAXI Independent A&R in the fall of 2009.  Since then I have met hundreds of people in the music industry and formed new co-writing relationships.  I met most of these people through TAXI’s forums and Rally.  TAXI holds many classes at the rally and I began to learn more about songwriting for film & TV.” Over the years Lockey says her catalog of songs and her network grew.  “Connections from TAXI forwards as well as connections through the rally have opened up a whole new world.  My songs are consistently being signed by publishers and placed into Film & TV projects. TAXI was the launching board. I owe TAXI so much for helping me get to where I am today. I am now able to do what I love for a living and it is awesome!”  If you want to hear more of Lockey’s perspective on songwriting, check out her blog at: www.michellelockey.com

    This was my second year at the TAXI Road Rally, but the first year as a member. I had a good time at last year’s rally but this year was even better. To be around so many talented, supportive songwriters was just amazing. I've made so many new friends and collaborators, and made some great contacts too. What struck me about the rally is how supportive and encouraging everyone was to each other, whether it was industry VIPs giving advice or fellow songwriters providing tips and offering to collaborate.   Last year, I came home from the rally with a couple of goals: record a few new songs and try to get placed in a library. Happily, both of those goals were accomplished by this year’s rally.

    One of my goals going into this year’s rally was to find more collaborators. Another was to build on last year’s networking opportunities. I also wanted to learn more from the classes, which was easier to do in the second year.  The first year was a little overwhelming, so I was able to focus more on the classes this time around.  I accomplished all of those goals, and it turned out even better than I expected.  After this year’s rally I’ve set some new goals: write more songs and get started with home recording! So many of my fellow songwriters are more prolific than I, and that has been one of my challenges. I know now that I need to write on a regular basis, without worrying how “great/good” the songs are; what’s important is to just start writing. To that end, I finally decided to join a weekly songwriting challenge Facebook group founded by several TAXI members.

    Through the rally, I found at least five new potential collaborators, and made some important industry contacts. I spent many years as a solitary songwriter, but through the TAXI world, I’ve seen how many songwriters collaborate with each other and the advantages of co-writing with other songwriters. Not only does it increase potential contacts, but it can help you grow as a songwriter to work with others and learn from them. In the collaborations I’ve done so far I’ve learned a great deal, and hope to learn more with my future collaborators, including several songwriters from Canada!  New relationships with songwriters, formed through collaborations, can also lead to contacts with music library owners/publishers, as well as connections made by approaching those people directly.  

    In addition to meeting some wonderful new songwriters, I also learned a great deal from the classes and the music panels. Listening to the industry VIPs critique songs was a great learning experience -- to hear how their minds worked first hand was fascinating. I took many notes during that panel and didn’t even care that my song wasn’t picked. In fact, I was a bit relieved after hearing how tough they could all be! It was also inspiring to see how some people, right on the spot, got potential placements from the panel.  It was also interesting to hear the varying opinions of each panel member undefined in some cases, one member disliked a song, but another one loved it and want to place it.

    All of the classes I took were very helpful, but one in particular that really helped a lot was Casey Hurowtiz’s class on “Simple Song Structures That Sell.”  This class will help immensely as I start to write new songs. It was also nice to hear the perspectives of seasoned songwriters who have substantial success and experience in the field, including Chuck Schlacter’s class, “Building a Catalog is a Marathon, Not a Sprint,” John Mazzei, Matt Hirt and  Dave Walton’s “The 5-year Plan: A Film/TV Music Business Plan,” and Bob Mete’s class “The Pursuit of Excellence: Determining Winners From Others.” All these classes had helpful insights and provided good advice. 

    There is also the benefit of experienced members helping out newer people. One night in the lobby, several of the instructors I had met earlier went out of their way to encourage me in my relatively new journey as an aspiring film/TV songwriter. Their encouragement and support meant a lot. As one of the instructors said in his class, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s all possible because of this special gathering that is known as the TAXI Rally. It’s been a life-changing event for me this year and I can’t wait for next year’s rally for even more wonderful experiences!

    For more information about TAXI, you can visit their website at: www.taxi.com.    

  • 11/11/2014 5:46 PM | Deleted user

         Dave Mallen is an inspired man.  Ideas about the music business seem to inspire him the most.  It’s this zeal for new ideas that led Mallen to start Innovation Station Music while working towards a degree at the Berklee College of Music online.  For one of his classes he was assigned to create a business plan that addressed the future of the music industry.  Not wanting to just do the minimum, Mallen decided to see his business plan all the way through development.  The result was Innovation Station Music, a one stop shop for local musicians located in Arlington, Virginia.  

         Mallen has been making music for many years, first as a folksy guitar-playing singer-songwriter and eventually as a keyboardist, backing musician and producer extraordinaire.  He grew up in New Jersey in between Springsteen and Bon Jovi’s old stomping grounds.  That hometown vibe is something Mallen brought with him to D.C. when he moved here to attend American University nearly twenty years ago.  At it’s heart, Innovation Station Music is a strong proponent of hometown culture -- a concept that Mallen does not want to see lost among the highly transient and “fickle fans” in the D.C. crowd.  Innovation Station Music is a connecting entity that seeks to to create a strong music scene right here in the D.C. area.  Mallen wants to encourage musicians to stay in D.C. instead of moving to New York, Nashville, etc. to pursue their music career.  It’s this bold vision that begs the question, “Why not here?”.  As songwriters and music-lovers residing in the D.C. metro area, we couldn’t agree more!        

         Mallen started Innovation Station Music in 2006 while still at his day job as a Project Manager at a large corporation.  In 2008 he took the leap to work at his new business on a full-time basis.  When you meet Dave Mallen, it doesn’t take long to realize that Innovation Station Music truly is his passion project.  One of the signature products he offers as part of his Music Business Strategy consulting is the “Strategic Plan,” a 60+ page document catered to individual artists.  Dave loves to consult with musicians and share with them the knowledge and skills he’s learned from his extensive training and experience.  Mallen’s vision for Innovation Station Music is to comprehensively develop artists’ potential using four steps: Connect, Educate, Inspire and Stay.  To support this vision, Mallen involves himself in several local music groups and causes.  He started a  monthly music industry meet up called Metro Music Source which encourages musicians to network with one another while discussing topics ranging from finding gigs to promoting their music.  Additionally, Mallen is very active in D.C.’s Fair Trade Music movement, a “grassroots community organizing initiative with the goal of developing local, community standards for equitable relationships in live musical performance.”

         In addition to music business strategy services, Innovation Station Music offers a full service recording studio.  From large full band sounds to more intimate singer/songwriter records, Mallen seems to have done it all. So just what might Innovation Station Music have to offer you?  Perhaps you’re looking for someone to record a demo with or to produce an album of your songs?  Maybe you’re unsure of what the next step might be to help advance your music career?  Innovation Station Music can help with all of these ideas from album production to album release and beyond.  

         Mallen and Innovation Station Music have partnered with SAW in the past at workshops and other events.  It’s a relationship that Mallen sees as a good fit.  He and some of the artists he has produced have won multiple MASC awards and, in 2013, Mallen was nominated for the “Most Supportive of Washington Music” Wammie.  

         When asked, Mallen expressed that his wish would be to “educate every artist in the D.C. metro area and give them the tools and confidence they need to take their music to the next level.”  This begs a bold question for us, the songwriters and performing artists living here, “What are we waiting for?” 

    You can find out more about Dave Mallen and Innovation Station Music by visiting www.innovationstationmusic.com      

  • 10/28/2014 12:57 PM | Deleted user

    It’s a “ghoul of a time” these days as we prepare our costumes and homes for another Halloween night of trick-or-treaters.  What songs come to mind as you prepare your Halloween party playlist?  “Werewolves of London”, “Thriller”, “Witchy Woman”, “Spooky”, “Superstition”?  Whatever your idea of Halloween music is, chances are that one of the first songs that will appear on your playlist is the 1962 classic “Monster Mash”   written by Bobby Pickett.  Pickett was an aspiring actor who decided to capitalize on the the mashed potato dance craze and the growing cultural fascination with horror films.  Bobby was performing as a singer to make money and would often imitate other actors and characters during his performances.  It was Pickett’s impersonation of "Frankenstein" star Boris Karloff that inspired him to write an original song in the voice of Karloff.  The rest, as they say, is history.

    So why has this silly little hit song from over 50 years ago endured in our cultural landscape for so long?  Perhaps it’s the way Pickett managed to balance the creepy and kitsch in his songwriting.  By tapping into two cultural crazes: the mashed potato dance step and the renaissance of B grade horror flicks, Pickett was able to easily get radio air play with his song and take advantage of its “hit” status, especially since it was released in October just in time for Halloween.  

    So how do holidays and special occasions affect your songwriting?  Have you ever thought about writing a song about a season or a holiday?  Many artists are releasing Christmas albums these days.  Have you thought about doing something similar?  Or, if you have shows around Christmas, Halloween, New Year’s Day, etc., consider learning some of these old classics and adding them to your set list.  Or even write a song of your own!  

    Staying relevant and connecting with the audience is an important aspect of performing.  As songwriters, we have to try to write to as broad an audience as possible so that our words are relatable to more people than just us.  By using holidays such as Halloween as inspiration to write, we might just be surprised by what we come up with.  All of us have stories and emotions about major holidays...why not tap into that and use it in your songwriting?  You may just write the next “Monster Mash!”  

  • 10/01/2014 3:45 PM | Deleted user

    Enjoy our first video Blog entry!  In this video blog, Communications Director Nicole Belanus interviews Ray Naylor, a SAW member and host/producer of "The Performing Songwriter", an online show which features interviews and performances by a variety of songwriters.  It's really worth checking out and watching!  There may even be some opportunities for SAW members to appear via Skype on the show!  To watch other shows of "The Performing Songwriter", visit www.ustream.tv/channel/the-performing-songwriter.  You can email Ray at raysings@gmail.com.

    Interview with Ray Naylor - SAW Blog from Nicole Belanus on Vimeo.

  • 10/01/2014 3:22 PM | Deleted user

    Performers are needed to participate in SAW Serves opportunities at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital in Rockville, MD. Shows are Sunday afternoons once a month, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. The shows are hosted by Jeff Silberberg and he provides the PA. Jeff performs for about an hour and he invites “guest artists” to perform at least 15 minutes and no more than an hour. Performers interested in participating are invited to contact Jeff (jeffrey.silberberg@verizon.net, www.myspace.com/jeffsilberberg, 301-775-6468). The patients, visitors, and staff are very appreciative!


    The current schedule of dates and guest artists is listed below. Note that there are currently openings for guest artists for October and November.


    October 5, 2014           Guest artist needed


    November 9, 2014       Guest artist needed


    December 14, 2014     Alex Parez 

  • 09/13/2014 11:09 AM | Deleted user

    This article was written and submitted by Lou Dominguez

    What’s a NERFA?


    When I first moved to Vienna Virginia in 2010, I began reaching out to some of the DC acoustic music scene movers and shakers.  This, of course, led me to SAW and I began attending some of the various workshops and concerts that the group offers.  From time to time I would hear someone refer to a thing called NERFA (“Are you going to NERFA?”  “Wasn’t she at NERFA last year?”  “Didn’t they have a formal showcase at NERFA last year?”), and I thought to myself (probably what many of you may be thinking right now): “What in the world is a NERFA and what does it have to do with me?”


    I for one am glad I asked the question and, after heading up to my first NERFA conference in November of 2010, I made the claim that I could not see a reason other than poor health why I would ever miss one of these gatherings going forward. I am now one of the SAW members who say “NERFA” (not to be confused with the knights who say ‘Ni’).


    NERFA is an acronym for Northeast Regional Folk Alliance.  NERFA is the northeast faction of the larger Folk Alliance International (FAI).  Other factions include Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA), Folk Alliance Regional Midwest (FARM), Southwest Regional

    Folk Alliance (SWERFA) and Folk Alliance Regional West (FAR).  Each of these sub-groups of Folk Alliance International hold their own annual conference. But these other regions are not important for our purpose here today. Our purpose is to introduce you to NERFA.


    The Northeast Regional Folk Alliance holds a 4-day music and fun-filled folk festival/convention/conference in November every year.  This year will mark the 20th and will take place on November 13th – 16th


    NERFA guests include singers, players, performers, DJ’s, concert promoters (from large clubs to small house concerts) all the way to die-hard music fans who all converge on the Hudson Valley Resort Hotel in Kerhonkson New York in order to share music, information, laughs, and sleepless days and nights which seem to blend into one another.


    The schedules, performers and workshops offered change every year but can be found on NERFA’s website at www.nerfa.org


    The basic schedule, however, is usually the same.  Folks arrive on Thursday afternoon and early Thursday evening. Old friends greet and new introductions are made as people informally break out into song and/or find their hotel rooms.  Thursday night starts with the Suzie Wollenberg DJ Showcase, where a Northeast based folk DJ selects an artist to play in front of the other regional DJ’s in order to expose that audience to more folk radio opportunities.  Thursday evening is also the start of the Guerilla Showcases (these are literally concerts in Hotel Rooms that usually take place after 11:30 pm and go on until 3 in the morning).


    Friday and Saturday are always filled with nonstop activity including breakfast, workshops and seminars, a cocktail hour, an open mic, dinner, then the Formal Showcases, followed by the juried Quadcentric show cases (four showcases going on simultaneously in the hotel) and then followed finally by the late night guerilla showcases.


    This year’s official showcase main stage lineup includes:

    Burning Bridget Cleary
    The Don Juans
    Tim Grimm Band
    Dave Gunning
    Harpeth Rising
    David Jacobs-Strain
    Cassie and Maggie MacDonald
    Guy Mendilow Ensemble
    Modern Man
    Jory Nash
    No Fuss and Feathers Road Show
    Claudia Schmidt
    Shtreiml & Ismail Fencioglu


    If this sounds like a lot of things going on at once, it is!  But in the end you decide where and when to spend your time.  Some folks spend most of the weekend in the lobby jamming, while some hop from guerilla showcase room to guerilla showcase room and stay up singing until the dawn. 


    Want to learn more?  I hope you do, because this will be my 5th year in a row, and I have SAW to thank for introducing me to the NERFA world.  Now it is strange and difficult to imagine my life without NERFA!


    Lou Dominguez

    Aka Brother Lou

    SAW member since 2010


  • 09/09/2014 3:25 PM | Deleted user

    The NERFA/SERFA jointly-organized conference (endearingly referred to as “SNERFA”) was held in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, September 6.  The conference offered a day of networking, helpful workshops and some stand-out performances in the artist showcase.  An added bonus was the close driving distance to most of us in the DC metro area.  Although attendance may not have been what some organizers were hoping for (the turnout was about 65 people), the program was well planned and organized.

    I had the opportunity to attend the conference and thoroughly enjoyed meeting some new people and gaining new insights about promotion, using social media and submitting materials for contests and reviews.  The “On the Griddle” workshop was a highlight.  The workshop consisted of a panel of music industry experts who would listen to the first 60 seconds of a song submitted by various conference attendees.  The group would then discuss the song’s potential to draw in the listener and potentially get played on local and national radio syndicates.  The organizers chose their panelists well: folk DJs Peter Jones (WTJU-FM), Anne Williams (WNRN-FM), along with Michael Jaworek (The Birchmere) and Scott Moore (Focus Music) deftly moved from praise to constructive criticism, ensuring an objective stance on each song.  

    Other workshops offered were “Blues, Banjos and Ballads: A Musical Conversation on Regional Folk Traditions”, “Online Communications and Promotion”, “Why Free Pays”, and a presenter’s open forum.  

    The conference ended with the ten selected performers and groups performing 3 songs each in a three and a half hour showcase.  The performance styles ranged from upbeat traditional bluegrass to beautiful, haunting folk ballads to contemporary guitar virtuosos.  The ten finalists were Beggar’s Ride, Rj Cowdery, Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins, Friction Farm, Susan Greenbaum, Jacob Johnson, Lulu’s Fate, Kipyn Martin (an MASC 2014 winner), Grant Peeples and Simple Gifts.    

    All in all, the day was well planned and executed and those in attendance all seemed to enjoy the day.  The “SNERFA” team hopes to host more one-day conferences in the future.  Until then, check out the SERFA and NERFA websites for their upcoming conferences at www.nerfa.org and www.serfa.org.  

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