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  • 04/26/2016 9:47 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Last Saturday morning, about 20 SAW members gathered for a fascinating grammar lesson in songwriting, by Matt Holsen.

    "This was a brilliant session, titled "Chord Grammar." Matt began by saying that just like the English grammar we grew up with, there's a musical chord grammar that we've internalized as well. It's different from that in other cultures, but ingrained in us - we don't need theory to know what's right for our ears. And then he did an overview of the theory about what's inside us - circle of fifths, relative minor substitution, tritone substitution - with examples that brought it in focus and a thoroughly engaging conversational style. I helped run these sessions 10 years ago, and this was among the best I've seen. Jay Keating and Paige Powell, great job organizing!" - Dan Grove

    Handouts from Matt's session:
    SAW Toolbox1 Examples.pdf

    SAW's Songwriters Toolbox meets the 4th Saturday of the month, at The Surge in McLean, at 10am. Don't miss May's Toolbox, hosted by Mike Ryan!
  • 02/11/2016 8:34 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Our recent membership survey showed an active interest in many existing SAW programs. With a scale of 1 (not interested) to 5 (very interested), here are the weighted averages:

    Open Mics & Showcases 3.93
    Workshops & Critiques: 3.44
    SAW Buzz (weekly email): 3.86
    Mid-Atlantic Song Contest: 3.78
    SAW Serves: 3.22
    Opportunities to promote my music through Member Notes and networking
    : 3.80

    To address a couple of questions that were submitted along with this question:

    How can I promote my music and upcoming gigs?
    We encourage all members to post in the Member Notes section of the website and on the SAW Facebook group page. These are for blatant self-promotion, and also a great place to post articles, resources, or other items that would be of interest to the local songwriting community.

    These are not to be confused with the SAW Notes page of the website and the Official SAW Facebook page, which are both maintained by board members and are for SAW-sponsored events and news.  Our online events calendar likewise is intended for SAW events, and not gigs that are specific to one member.  If you would like your event to be considered for the calendar, please contact us.

    What is SAW Serves?
    SAW Serves
    is a community service program in which members offer free music concerts for people with limited access to the arts or to raise money for a worthy cause. See the SAW Serves webpage for more information and upcoming events.

    And thanks for your positive feedback that you included when filling out the survey: “Thanks for all the good work that you are doing!” and "doing a good job for the members"
  • 02/09/2016 11:35 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)

    Ok, so we know that you want to network with other musicians: in our recent membership survey, 80% of you listed it as one of the reasons you joined SAW.  Yet, only 18% of members attend SAW events (a.k.a. great networking opportunities) frequently or fairly often, while 26% did not attend an event all year.

    So what would encourage you to get out more? Aside from time and health, (legitimate) excuses given by many for not going to more events, here are some suggestions from the survey:

    - ability for advance sign-ups
    - different locations (requests for VA, MD, Baltimore, and DC)
    - more opportunities to get feedback at events
    - feature performer showcase opportunities
    - more co-writing workshops, more song publishing/placement workshops
    - more diverse styles than typical SAW event
    - safe, encouraging open mic
    - more ways to network and connect online
    having a good way to sit in with performers who don't know me

    All good ideas! As the SAW board and event coordinators continue to encourage songwriting and performances, we invite all members to get involved as well. How?
    Talk to our fabulous event coordinators (contact info is listed on event pages of SAW website) with your ideas and suggestions. They are there to answer your questions and give you the support you need. (And many allow for advance sign-ups)
    Want to see another open mic opportunity in your area? Help to start one! You don’t have to do it alone – other SAW members can support you by offering advice, a venue, equipment, sharing hosting duties, or in other ways.
    Connect and network – online (through SAW Notes on the website, facebook page) or in person – to share your songs and ideas with the SAW community.
    Get out there! See you at an open mic or showcase soon!
  • 01/20/2016 8:58 AM | Kelly Diamond (Administrator)
    On Sunday January 17, the  32nd MASC Awards Gala brought together the DC area’s finest musicians and songwriters to a packed house at Jammin’ Java.  This special night included presentations to winning songwriters in 12 different categories, performances by many of our Gold and Silver winners, and announcements of the Grand Prize, 2nd Place Overall, 3rd Place Overall winners, and other Special Awards (see list of MASC winners

    Beyond the talented winners listed in the link above, there are so many people who labored to make the contest and the gala such a success; let’s start with two special thank you mentions:

    -   To all the talented songwriters who submitted songs, and especially to those who did not win. While the winners are certainly to be congratulated, the backbone of the SAW community is made up of all songwriters who write for all the right reasons, share their talents with others and spotlight the area’s creative community in doing so. By connecting with others at open mics, sharing talents and ideas, and encouraging and working with fellow musicians, you all help create a vibrant and supportive community. 

    - To the all those inside and outside the SAW membership who worked - behind the scenes and on stage - to make MASC possible, Thank you. There were judges, sponsors, volunteers, too many to list here who made the entire contest work so well.  But to name a few, we owe special thanks to Loralyn Coles (Director), Ron Goad & Diana Quinn (hosts), and Caren Dale (backstage manager). The work of keeping a show as full and busy as ours, moving smoothly between the many acts and presenters and to finish on time.  You all deserve your own award category.

  • 05/18/2015 5:42 PM | Deleted user

    Written by Larry Holzman

    The Gazebo Jam is an open song circle jam that takes place every Sunday at Lake Needwood, which is the northern terminus of the Rock Creek Park pathway.  It takes place every week from 2 until somewhere around 5.  As long as it’s not too cold, the Gazebo Jam goes on.  Since the Gazebo is under cover, rainy days can be fun too – but in the fall when it gets too cold we stop for the winter.


    It all began a few summers ago, when Greg Dillon and I (Larry Holzman) decided to go up there on a Sunday afternoon and play some guitars.  For years I had thought that the Gazebo would be an awesome place to play and sing acoustic music.  The setting is beautiful overlooking the lake, and the Gazebo itself is a large stone floor over which hangs a giant wooden dome – and I pictured that it would be acoustically magical – like playing inside of a speaker or something.   So one sunny Sunday I got Greg to join me along with my longtime musical partner Bob Guthrie and we ventured up.   It was a lot of fun!

    The following week we created a FB group called the Gazebo Jam and since then, every Sunday at 2pm the Gazebo jam rolls on.   It’s turned into such a wonderful organic thing.  You never know who’s going to turn up on any given day – the regulars from our MoCo SAW group of course (Greg Dillon, Greg Marsh, Dalton Potter, Michelle Murray, Tom Blood, Dr. Ross, Jeff Jones, Jeremy Schumann, Hardman & Jay, etc.) – but others from just the music scene around town – including some of the very best players and songwriters in town – but also more than a few folks who are just starting out at playing and/or singing.   It’s a beautiful, warm and inviting place to play music – and of course, since it’s just out there in the park, there are folks who just come to listen too – and folks stopping by on the way of their visit to the park.

    Last year we had the First Annual Gazebo Jam picnic and it was a terrific success.  A date will be announced this year soon.  So – everyone is invited to come on out and enjoy the setting, the music and the vibe.


    QUICK GAZEBO ETIQUETTE COMMENT:  If you visit the Gazebo Jam – take note that the Gazebo itself is pretty sensitive acoustically.  It really IS like sitting inside of a speaker – so we’ve tried to make it be the culture of the jam that talking (even quietly) is taken outside of the Gazebo so that it doesn’t interrupt the music.    


    Hope to see you there!

    Larry Holzman

    To find out more about the Gazebo Jam, visit the Facebook page:

  • 02/11/2015 5:23 PM | Deleted user

    Mary Shapiro’s name is probably familiar to many in the SAW community.  And for good reason.  For more than a decade, Mary has been championing the cause of local musicians getting together and creating “peace through music” in the Washington, DC area.  After moving to Washington in 2000, Shapiro quickly helped create a community of musicians sharing songs and stories at Potter’s House, a coffeehouse and café located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.  

    But when Shapiro met Jeff Wolf, a fellow musician and public school teacher, the vision  of peacemaking really started to take shape.  Before too long, the two fell in love and married, settling down on Jeff’s sprawling piece of beautiful land within miles of route 66 in Marshall, Virginia.  And the opportunities the two have created are truly impressive.  When Jeff retired, he decided that his biggest passion was to support local musicians.  So, he did what any “gear nerd” would do: he decided to invest in some recording equipment and build a small but impressively outfitted recording studio in his home.  

    But it didn’t stop there.  Mary’s passion for creating community through music, along with the couple’s impressive amount of space and waterside view from their backyard, led to the creation of “Stillwaters Supper and Songs”, a monthly house-concert venture attracting some of the best local and regional talent.  The format is simple: the evening starts with a potluck supper followed by an open mic where all are encouraged to participate and (arguably more important) those in the audience encouraged to listen to each performer.  The environment is supportive, friendly and relaxed.  Following the open mic, the concert begins on the outdoor stage, or, in colder months, inside on a small living room stage.  Jeff’s technology and engineering skills really get to shine as he offers professional sound for the performers.  

    In addition to the recording studio and Stillwaters Supper and Songs concert series, Mary and Jeff have organized arts festivals on their property, inviting local artists and artisans to show and sell their work.  Another new venture was a one-day workshop for working musicians called “A Day in the Studio, A Night on the Stage” where experts in songwriting, musical performance, album production and graphic design facilitated sessions that walked attendees through each aspect of the music business.  “That’s something I’d like to do more of”, Mary commented when I asked what her vision was for the next five years.  Teaching is a common passion of both Mary and Jeff, and their commitment to creating community and supporting local artists is as admirable as it is obvious.  

    “Really, I just want harmony (here at Stillwaters),” Jeff reflected.  Mary and Jeff’s tagline for their concert series is “Building community and creating peace through music”, and it seems to be an ideology they not only believe, but a value that they try to live out every day.          

    To contact Mary Shapiro and inquire about Stillwaters, email  

    For more information about the recording studio, upcoming concert series and other events at Stillwaters, check out their website at  To purchase tickets for upcoming shows at Stillwaters, visit 

  • 02/08/2015 11:24 PM | Anonymous

    Followed by a Wyatt Easterling Concert w/guest Tony Denikos

    Saturday, March 28th, 2pm-4pm Workshop, Break with Chili, Snacks, beverages provided-bring a dish/dessert to share if you like! 4:45pm Concert

    The Surge (The Barn)
    1988 Kirby Rd,
    McLean, VA


    Register now:

    $30 Workshop only
    $20 Concert only

    Workshop and Concert - $40 to $50

    20% off of both events for SAW Members
    10% off of both events for BSA, NSAI and WAMA Members

    Bring your songs, bring your questions-this is a not to be missed event! What could be better? How’s about a Wyatt Easterling Concert? There will be a brief intermission after the workshop, beverages and light fare will be provided. The concert will follow with 2014 MASC Winner Tony Denikos opening the show.


    What makes a successful song?
    Structure of a song
    The Etiquette of Co-writing (Splits, demos, expectations)
    Demos/production, how to prepare for the studio (Full vs. guitar, piano/vocal)
    Music for Film and Television

    It is rare that we have a chance to work with one as successful and knowledgeable of so many facets of the music industry as Wyatt Easterling. Wyatt’s career has been full of chart-topping hits including cuts with Dierks Bentley, Joe Diffie, Billy Joe Royal, Paul Thorn, Neal McCoy, Sons of the Desert, Robbie Hecht, as well as writing and singing on "This Time I'm Takin' My Time" for Neal McCoy's album At This Moment. This collaboration launched more than 2 decades of gold and platinum winning releases with Easterling acting as songwriter, producer, executive and/or session player.

    Wyatt was also the A&R Director for Atlantic Records and later partnered with Miles Copeland (The Police & Sting) Bugle Publishing Group and Firstars Management

    You can learn more about Wyatt and his incredible life, as well as hear his music at:

    “….I was delighted to hear that he'd stepped back over to the other side of the microphone after years of success as a writer and producer in Nashville! Even as a youngster I loved his songwriting and smooth vocal style but now he has matured into a legitimate triple threat - producer, writer and (this "and" should be in italics for emphasis) performer. Goodbye Hello, is a peerless collection of songs sung with quiet conviction and effortless style." Don Dixon

  • 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:   

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


    Guitar lesson videos at

    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


    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:

  • 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      

  • 12/29/2014 11:16 PM | Anonymous

    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.

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


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