Songwriter Steve Seskin will hold Park City workshops
The Park City Songwriter Group, founded by local musicians Bill McGinnis and Elizabeth Hareza, will celebrate its first anniversary this year and it already has a big event planned.
They’re bringing in songwriter Steve Seskin, who has penned tunes for Tim McGraw, Neal McCoy, Kenny Chesney, Alabama, Peter Frampton and the late Waylon Jennings, to name a few.
Seskin, who will be in town from May 18 to May 23, will host student songwriting sessions at Trailside Elementary and Ecker Hill Middle School as well as a community songwriting session at the Granger School of Music.
The student sessions are part of Seskin’s Kids Write Songs program, which is one of the components of folk music icon Peter Yarrow’s Operation Respect, a program that promotes mutual respect, community building and empathy, according to McGinnis.
"All of those are positive aspects that kids can put into a song," McGinnis told The Park Record. "This is such a multi-disciplinary endeavor that along the way, the kids learn about creative writing, mathematics, research and history."
Seskin’s plan is to go to the schools and divide the students into several groups.
"One group will write the chorus, and another group will write the first verse," McGinnis said. "Another group will write the second verse and the fourth group will write the bridge.
"I’ve done something like this myself when my kids attended McPolin Elementary," McGinnis said. "I would go into the school and we would write songs. I still have kids come up to me years later and they will sing the song."
One of the reasons the concept resonates with the kids is that they can take full ownership of the songs.
"How cool is it to be a student and know that you wrote a song?" McGinnis said.
It’s also something unique for their parents.
"We’re all used to refrigerators that have all those kids’ drawings on them and we all have those shelves that have clay pots that the kids made in school and that’s great," McGinnis said. "But here comes an aspect of art that parents will really pay attention to. They will listen to a song."
Bringing Seskin to town stemmed from an idea that sprouted last autumn.
"I met him here in Park City several years ago when he came to do a workshop and a house concert and I’ve worked with him over the years," McGinnis said. "He was in town doing some private shows up in Promontory in September and we began talking about bringing him back."
McGinnis reached out to the schools, and with funding provided by the Park City Education Foundation and Mountain Town Music, things really started to roll.
It just so happened that Seskin would be in town the same time Peter Yarrow is set to perform at the Egyptian Theatre, which was serendipitous, according to McGinnis.
Seskin, with one of his cowriters, Allen Shamblin, wrote the song "Don’t Laugh at Me," that was recorded by Yarrow and his now late cohorts Paul Stookey and Mary Travers in 1998 for the trio’s 1999 compilation, "Songs of Conscience and Concern: A Retrospective Collection."
"Peter was introduced to the song at the Kerrville Folk Festival, where Steve directs the Kerrville Songwriter’s School," McGinnis said. "It was also recorded by country singer [Mark Willis]."
In addition to the school sessions, Seskin will also host two songwriting classes at the Granger School of Music, 1850 Sidewinder Dr., May 21 and 22, from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Registration is $150 for both days, or $90 for one day. Registration can be made via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can also be mailed to Steve Seskin at 929 36th St., Richmond, California, 94805.
"The Granger School has always been generous with our group, and this will bring the older aspect of the community into this," McGinnis said. "We have everyone from high school to senior citizens — 14 to 75 and older — in the group. So, this project literally is done by the whole community."
This is what McGinnis and Hareza are most excited about.
"We, in Park City, tend to look at the arts passively," he said. "We go to Deer Valley and open the picnics and go to the Egyptian and sit in our seats while people entertain us. But we also have many people in our community who are just dying to create something and they have no opportunity to do this."
McGinnis believes an active songwriting community can only benefit Park City.
"I think about that little town, Lyons, Colorado, that was a dying little town where people stopped to get gas and a hot dog before heading to Estes Park," he said. "Along came Planet Bluegrass that bought a ranch, started the Song School, the RockyGrass Academy and the RockyGrass Festival. Musicians moved to that community and creative arts blossomed in that community."
For more information about the songwriting workshops, contact Bill McGinnis at email@example.com.
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