NSAI held their annual Spring Symposium on April 19-20 at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel in Nashville. The two day event featured guest speaker Julia Cameron, author of the best-selling book "The Artist's Way", and a morning session with hit songwriter Skip Ewing ("Rebecca Lynn"), as well as one-on-one meetings with publishers, song critiques by hit songwriters, and a variety of breakout sessions. Most of all, it featured the opportunity to meet and spend time with fellow songwriters.
Julia Cameron's session was inspiring. Through a variety of exercises, she demonstrated to each of us that the attitudes we hold about ourselves and our art are the keys to determining our level of professional songwriting success. She provided us with tools, as simple as writing daily "Morning Pages" or taking ourselves on weekly "artist dates", that can help us overcome our blocks and keep our creative reservoirs from running dry.
Skip Ewing, one of Nashville's most successful writers, spoke about the methods he uses to write his songs, and he presented some ideas on how we can expand our creative boundaries. His emphasis was on looking for new ways to think about commonplace things.
A much anticipated part of the seminar was the one-on-one publisher meeting. Each participant was allowed to sign up for a 10-minute meeting with one of Nashville's most successful publishers, during which the publisher would critique one song. While I had hoped that this meeting would be a way for me to make a contact at a publishing company, I found the publisher I met with was there strictly to give a critique, and not to take songs or set up future meetings. My conversations with other participants revealed that while this was true for many of the publishers who participated, there were some exceptions.
The hit songwriter critique sessions were done in groups, and the writers were assigned randomly. I was fortunate to get Sandy Knox ("She Thinks His Name Was John", "Why Haven't I Heard From You"), who gave me and the other writers in my group honest assessments of our songs, which I felt were pretty accurate for the most part.
For me, the best part of the weekend was being with other songwriters. It was great to spend time with fellow writers from our Los Angeles workshop, and also to meet new friends from around the country. There were writers of all levels from beginner to published writers who've been working at the craft for years, and they all shared one thing in common - a desire to improve their craft and to be successful in the music business.
Unless otherwise noted, workshops are held from 5-8 p.m. at Musician's Institute, 1655 McCadden Place, just off Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood. Admission is free for NSAI members and NAS members, $10 for non-members. For more information, call Bev Nelson at (714)733-2717, or Craig Lackey at (310)439-4069.
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