Song School

emPower Music & Art's
Totally Cool Song School

February 27, 2017
All Day!

The Beautiful Tampa Westshore Marriott


6th Annual Totally Cool Song School!

Beginning or seasoned songwriters will have the opportunity to take their skills to the next level. Small classes and award winning hit songwriters make this this ultimate learning and fun experience.  This year’s faculty includes: Sloan Wainwright, David Roth, Glen Roethel, JD Martin, Jan Garrett,  Tom Kimmel, Richard Mekdeci, and Sue Riley.

$199 (2 meals included)

Classes are small, allowing lots of “one on one” time with the instructors.  Most classes are 8 people or less.  Each class is two hours long and you have 2 to choose from in two time slots, along with optional classes, song circles, and mentoring (extra charge)




First Period: 10:00 AM-Noon

Sloan Wainwright  "Singing with your Heart, Soul, and Body" Vocal Immersion all day class for both morning and afternoon slots.

Inside each of us lives a beautiful and unique instrument, so let's sing together with joy and freedom!  In this workshop we will move our bodies, soften our hearts, open our mouths and let our voices out to play.  With an emphasis on vocal health and self-care, we’ll use a combination of vocal warm-ups and workouts - traditional and non-traditional - to help relax, release and strengthen the voice, making it more flexible and reliable.  Individual attention is offered as well as to the group as a whole, and each student will be supported in developing their own personal vocal practice.  This class is for singers AND non-singers alike.

David Roth:  "Songwriting for Personal and Global Change"
What’s going on that’s gotten your attention of late?  It’s good timing for a class like this in full swing of all that’s going on in the world right now.  Today we’ll redefine the connection between what is deeply personal and what paints with a broader brush in the realm of the human condition.  Can a song make a difference?  We’ll use writing prompts, spirited conversation, current events, and everything else you bring into our lightening session and come away with the seeds for songs worth singing (if not the very songs themselves).  Nuts and bolts of songwriting will also be addressed, and by day’s end we’ll see how music can inspire, engage, stimulate, and reach out in the spirit of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and so many more.

Jan Garrett:  "MUSICAL Building Blocks of Great Songwriting: Learning from the Masters  (The Art & Science of Creative Borrowing)"
"Great songs don't arise out of a vacuum. We are always surrounded by inspiring influences. This class will will zero in on musical elements from brilliant songs (all genres) that knock us out. Together we will then analyze why and how they are so compelling so we can use them in our own original songs.
(Each student is invited to bring 2 or 3 examples of all-time favorite songs on their phone or computer so we can all listen to specific examples together in class.)
Music: Chord changes can’t be copyrighted. Neither can bass lines, rhythmic hooks, or song structures. This means we can legally lift the best of these ideas from genius songs, patterning our emerging creations on already-existing musical bones. And by the time we finish our song it will inevitably have morphed into something quite different from the original.
Learning how to borrow creatively from the masters is a fun and fool-proof way for each of us to develop our own brilliant authentic voice, one inspiration at a time.

JD Martin:  "The Song Doctor Is in"
Have you written a song that you love, but there's a little something that nags at you about it?   You might feel that it's missing something….or too long….or too short….or not enough something.   Bring it to the song doc.   We'll gently take a look/listen.

Tom Kimmel:  "The Melody in Words—The “Sound” of Music"
We may have heard it said that the Irish have a musical way of speaking. Certainly when we visit the Emerald Isle we notice right away the dancing lilt in conversation. And yet there’s music in all of Spoken Word-dom, wherever we’re from. In our 2 hours together we’ll work and play with the sound of music in words. We’ll get an in-class assignment—so we’ll all get a song going—and hopefully we’ll further develop the knack for finding the gift of melody in words and phrases. All writers and aspiring writers are welcome. Bring pen, paper and a recorder.

Glen Roethel: "Guitar Strumming Immersion – A Flat Pick Approach"
Ever wanted to be a more fluid, dynamic and creative strummer? Wondered how to hold the pick? Which pick to use; how to find sweet spots and vary tones from your strings? We will cover that.
Want to strum more evenly, mute strings and add percussion, vary rhythms to avoid "one strum all the time" syndrome, and use a pick without overpowering your vocal?
Yes, you can!
In this participatory guitar class we will address those crucial skills. Then, using familiar songs to illustrate we will experiment with strums and "feels"  in various rhythms and meters. We'll also create a wider landscape of sound by learning to play "bass," "rhythm" and "percussion" parts simultaneously.
We will examine a troublesome song or two – written by you, the class participants – applying Glen’s "WHAT IF?" chart to see if we might jog your creativity and help you get unstuck. Then we will team up to help each other experiment with our new skills and use the "WHAT IF?” chart to spark inspiration.
*** This is a jumpstart for all levels, but basic chord skills would be helpful. Bring your guitar, tuner, notebook, pen, flat picks, audio and video recorders. The pace will be quick! ***

Lunch with Teachers 12:15-1:30 (included)

Second Period: 1:45-3:45

Part Two of Sloan Waingwrights "Singing with your Heart, Soul, and Body"

Jan Garrett:  "Writing Great LYRICS: The Art of Daily Practice; and How to Borrow from the Masters"
Lyrics & Imagery: Words carry the meaning, the message, and the feeling of a song.  How can we get the essence of our ideas across powerfully and succinctly---in everyday language---without being vague, trite, or overly obvious?  How do we make our original lyrics fit seamlessly and powerfully with the music?
The lyrics of great songs don't arise out of a vacuum. We are always surrounded by inspiring influences. (Each student is invited to bring 2 or 3 examples of all-time favorite songs on their phone or computer so we can all listen to specific examples together in class.)
    1. Soaking ourselves in the sensory imagery of master poets like Rumi and Mary Oliver can sharpen immediacy and emotional intensity in our own work.
    2. We can also learn clarity and wit by borrowing specific lyrical tricks from hit songwriters of all musical genres….from The Great American Songbook and The Beatles to the best of Country and Pop.
    3. The art of great lyric writing is a muscle we can all develop over time by WRITING every day. We will use Natalie Goldberg’s “writing practice” to open the door to great original lyrics, and develop our own brilliant authentic voice in music and beyond.

Glen Roethel: "Accelerated Guitar Lesson for Rapid Advancement"
Do you already know basic guitar chords? Wish you felt more ease on the fretboard? Song feels flat? Want to add more movement, color and style to it? Normally this kind of learning could take years, but in this 2-hour session we will move forward quickly using exercises specially selected by your facilitator – guitar-guy, Glen Roethel – to make your fingers feel more at home on the fretboard today.  
You will…
•    Apply a little bit of basic theory;
•    Learn to dig in for dynamics, power, tone and to create the momentum you'll need for flourishes like hammer-ons and pull-offs;
•    Encounter slides, pull-offs and hammer-ons as part of your new toolkit for grace notes, passing tones and inner movement;
•    Play Chord Scales to enhance your understanding of how chords interact with one another as well as improve your finger dexterity;
•    Develop muscle memory to help your fingers learn to play these things without so much thought;
•    Deconstruct the picking pattern for "Home" by Phil Phillips, and apply it in different ways;
•    Play musical lines and bass lines within a chord;
•    Pair up with a partner to create a new musical idea and - time allowing - play it for the class.
 *** This is a jumpstart for all levels, but basic chord skills would be helpful. Bring your guitar, tuner, notebook, pen, flat picks, audio and video recorders. The pace will be quick! ***

David Roth: "Story Songs"
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, perhaps a song can tell a whole story. Join us as we examine musical narrative and how to extract key elements – plot, character, conflict, theme, and setting – from stories that move us, and blend them together with melody, rhythm, and chord progression into compelling songs that do the same. I’ve been inspired over the years by a rather wide range of observation – ordinary people doing extraordinary things, flatulent canines underneath massage tables, an elderly couple adopting an HIV+ baby that no one else wanted, the closing of a local bakery, a 100-yard dash race, fifty men shaving their heads to welcome one of their own returning home bald from chemo treatments at the hospital, a nun who profoundly changed the lives of many of the kids she taught in school with a simple action – the list goes on. Bring a story that moves you and we’ll see what we can do in two hours to focus, condense, describe, stimulate, and “songify” it.

Tom Kimmel:  "Songwriting Hearts & Crafts—Recognizing and Serving the Muse"
A Grammy-winning friend once told me that the writer’s true job is two-fold: to stay on high alert for the juicy, deeply felt idea… and then, when it comes along, to apply all his or her skill in shaping that burst of inspiration into a song that does its inspiration justice. Easier said than done? Maybe—but isn’t that what we shoot for?—You know it is! So in “Hearts & Crafts” we’ll take a good look both the heart—that inspired, spring-loaded, pithy idea… and the craft—the shape and flow in song structure. Everybody’s welcome. Bring pen, paper and a recorder.

JD Martin:  "The Song Doctor is In"
Have you written a song that you love, but there's a little something that nags at you about it?   You might feel that it's missing something….or too long….or too short….or not enough something.   Bring it to the song doc.   We'll gently take a look/listen.

Third Period: 4:00-5:30 PM

Optional Mentoring Sessions
$30 for 25 minutes
“Songs Held in Mind” with Richard Mekdeci

Dinner: 6:00-7:30 PM (included)

Night School: 7:45 PM

Song Circles: Share a song in a small, intimate setting
Sue Riley:  "Imaginative Imagery: Writing from Prompts"
A mental picture is worth a thousand words.  How can we draw the listener into our song with imagery and details, and get them to connect with our story?  When we perform our songs live we have the opportunity to connect with folks through our music.  What makes our songs stand out from others and makes them something that the listener will remember and want to hear again?  A song rich in imagery can paint a picture in the listeners’ head which they can adapt to their own memories.  Ahhhh, the possibilities are endless!  Be poetic!  Combine your lyrics in new and magical ways!
This creative process workshop will focus on adding more imagery to your writing and you will be writing from prompts.  Please bring pen and paper and prepare to capture the songwriting ideas that this class can generate.

Teacher Bios

David Roth has been leading workshops on songwriting, singing, and performance for more than two decades and is honored to be a part of the Posi Music Festival once more.  Now in his 27th year of full-time music-making, David’s songs have found their way to Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Kennedy Center, the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary concerts, NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis (his song, “Rocket Science” circled the earth in 2009), the “Rise Up Singing” Songbook, more than 300 New Thought Centers throughout North America, countless coffeehouses, conferences, concert halls, festivals, and 13 CDs on the Wind River and Stockfisch (Germany) labels. The former artist-in-residence at New York’s Omega Institute won his 4th consecutive Posi Award last year (among 10 nominations since we began) and joyfully returns to our gathering from his home on Cape Cod where for the past 8 years he’s hosted the Full Moon Open Mic, providing a forum for local musicians to connect and be heard while at the same time collecting donations for local non-profit organizations. (

JD Martin has been a professional songwriter for over 20 years, writing for artists such as Reba McEntire, Terri Clark, Jennifer Paige, Peter Cetera and B.J. Thomas.  JD Martin is an award winning songwriter of 5 Number One and 10 Top Ten hit singles, along with multiple empower Posi Awards.  After 20 years of writing for other artists in Nashville and Los Angeles, he released his first solo CD, “One Heart,” an inspired collection of original songs featuring his soulful voice and a musical style ranging somewhere between the best of Marc Cohen and Michael McDonald.  He has also released three CD’s with his wife and musical partner, Jan Garrett, entitled “I Dreamed of Rain”  and “Already Home.”

Jan Garrett is a multi award winning songwriter, jazz singer, and master creativity coach who believes that “The chance of a lifetime is to be yourself.”   A lifelong professional musician and wild-ass visionary, she has toured with Steve Martin, John Denver, and the Dirt Band, and has appeared on the Tonight Show and in Rolling Stone Magazine.

Tom Kimmel loves sharing the craft of songwriting and encouraging the creative spirit in everyone. He’s released seven albums, published a book of poems, and his songs have been featured in films and television shows... and recorded by dozens of artists from Johnny Cash to Linda Ronstadt. As a teacher he’s shared his passion for writing and personal expression in workshops across the US and in and Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany. (Plus, he swears, he’s a lot of fun!)

Glen Roethel’s songs and music have been heard on nationally syndicated commercial radio, college and international radio, as well as on TV. He has performed his energizing music at events across the U.S. and folks here, in Europe, in China and Japan have all enjoyed his engaging performances which are often commissioned for retreats, benefits, concerts and conferences. He is a multiple Posi Nominee, the house band leader for the Posi Fest, and an energizing, amazing guitarist who loves to share ideas to help your guitar playing.

Sloan Wainwright  

Sloan Wainwright is a singer and a songwriter of rare power and subtlety, serving up doses of the real and the mysterious in a soaring, soulful contralto that sends critics scrambling for metaphors equal to the thrill: “the aural equivalent of smoky, tantalizing aromas emanating from a soul kitchen;” “[her] thick as molasses voice gets under your skin in all the right ways;” a powerful, earth-mother voice that she pours into unexpectedly sensitive blends of folk, jazz, blues and funk.” Singing with the extended McGarrigle-Wainwright family, Sloan has rocked the house at Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall, and has released seven memorable records since her self-titled debut in 1994. She brings the same energy to her work as a solo artist, melding the best of pop, folk, jazz, and blues to create a unique, soulful hybrid. Sloan has been playing clubs, concerts and festivals coast to coast for two decades, triggering tears, hoots and hollers with deeply personal lyrics that connect life’s mysterious dots. A born storyteller and poet, Sloan started writing songs when she was 10. “Sitting at the piano and making up songs was my playground— a very safe place, magical and mystical. I surprised myself with what was in my head and how it all fit together.” For the last 16 years, she has been sharing that process with students, spreading the gospel of personal expression and lyrical reinvention. Sloan’s open-hearted approach to singing, songwriting and letting loose has made her a treasured presence at a host of prestigious workshops, including The Swannanoa Gathering, Summersongs, Wintersongs, Moab Folk Camp and Richard Thompson’s Frets and Refrains.  

Sue Riley is one of the co-founders of empower Music and Arts, dedicated to promoting positive music.  Sue is an award winning songwriter with 8 CDs, multiple songbooks, and other resources.  She tours the country performing in PosiPalooza concerts with other great Posi Music artists.Sue is the Music Director for empower Posi radio, and part of the team that hosts the yearly Posi Festival and various songwriting retreats during the year.  In addition, Sue serves on the board of directors for Summersongs, a songwriting camp held yearly in upstate NY. Sue is passionate about the power of positive music to change lives.

Richard Mekdeci (mek-dee’-see) is one of the co-founders of empower Music and Arts, dedicated to promoting positive music.  Richard’s experience as speaker, singer and award winning songwriter spans a wide range, from performing with the Florida Symphony Orchestra as a trumpet player, to over 20 years of writing, producing and performing in Nashville Tennessee with artists like Kathy Mattea, Susie Boggus, Patty Loveless, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Nelson, and others. He has produced or co-produced eighteen albums of Posi Music including six projects of his own. During his 10 years at Unity Worldwide Ministries as Sacred Music Resources Coordinator he produced songbooks, the Sound Connections music conference and newsletter and provided music resources to churches around the world.


Looking for the Posi Fest?

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Last year's emPower Posi Music Festival,  was a jam packed weekend of music, workshops, and fun.  Here's what some of the attendees are saying about the experience.

"Just want to send you a big hug of appreciation for the Posi gathering. It was really amazing. What a thrill to see so many remarkable artists working together to make such meaningful music. We loved it."  (Flossie Ernzen, Licensed Unity Teacher)

"I am SO enriched by the Posi Festival.. thank you so much!"  (Linda Chubbuck, performing artist)

"You organize a really amazing event—I met so many terrific folks whom I can't wait to see again."  (Jeff Brown)

"I feel so blessed to be in this tribe of amazingly gifted, generous, funny, and inspiring people."  (Karen Drucker, Posi artist)