Deborah Collins performing

Swallow Hill Instructor and songwriter Deborah Collins performs in Tuft Theatre at One Epic Night in 2018. Photo by John Leyba

“Students are bound to learn something new about themselves and feel encouraged to keep writing songs!” Swallow Hill Instructor and songwriter Deborah Collins says.

Deborah is talking about the launch of the Young Songwriters Showcase, which takes place at Swallow Hill Music on Saturday, June 1 from 3-9 p.m.

“We hope to foster a sense of community among the students and create a very positive environment where they could potentially start lasting friendships with other songwriters,” she says.

The Showcase is for songwriters ages 13-18 to workshop, present, and then perform their songs.

Participants must have one to two songs they are working on before the workshop. Students must send a recording (voice memo is fine) via email of the song to Swallow Hill School Director Tyler Breuer before registering. These must be original songs the students can play live with an accompanying instrument of any kind.  All musical genres are welcome. Tyler’s contact information can be found on the Young Songwriters Showcase registration page

“We felt a workshop and showcase would be the perfect format to give students time to think, learn, listen, collaborate, connect,” Deborah adds. “And still have a chance to go up on a real stage with professional sound, lights, and an audience to have a real performance experience too.”

Speaking to both elements of the Showcase – workshop and performance – Tyler adds, “I hope they celebrate any changes that have been made to their original piece, but know that the next time they play the song, they will want to keep working on it.”

Swallow Hill plans to offer the Young Songwriters Showcase quarterly.

Three instructors with experience coaching middle and high school students in songwriting will lead the Showcase.  

“We’ll play music related ice-breaker games,” Deborah continues. “Teachers will perform for students, and talk about our experiences as young songwriters.”

Learn about Swallow Hill Music Summer Camps for students ages 6-18 years old!

Workshop attendees will be broken up into smaller groups so they can play their songs and get feedback from instructors and their peers. These breakout sessions might also include opportunities to journal and collaborate with other attendees.

Tyler adds that he wants students to “be vulnerable, and be ready to destroy the art that you love… and build it into something greater.”

After dinner, the focus of the Showcase will shift from workshopping to performance.

“Students will sit in the audience as they each go up on stage to perform their most polished piece,” Deborah says. “Students are bound to learn something new about themselves and feel encouraged to keep writing!”

A songwriter since she was very young, Deborah reflects on her own experiences as a burgeoning songwriter and how those helped her develop the Showcase. “I would have loved to have this opportunity when I was younger!”

“When I was learning guitar at age 16,” she says, “I found it was easier for me to create a new song than to practice a cover song. I’d sit down to practice a cover song, forget the chords or words and just start writing something new. But I wrote songs since I was a very little kid, long before I learned guitar, always singing to myself. It is almost involuntary at this point.”

With all of that in mind, she acknowledges the first steps on the path for a young songwriter might seem daunting. To encourage them, she offers the following advice, gained from first-hand knowledge:

“It will be a journey, so it’s OK to grow. Be gentle with yourself! if someone is making you feel bad about your art it’s OK to tune them out. You will hear no’s, but please try to focus on the yeses!”

To this she adds to any would-be attendees who might still be on the fence: “Be brave! Sign up! You are ready!”

Get details on the Young Songwriters Showcase here.