September has been a month to remember and I can’t believe that it’s coming to an end. A big part of what has made it so memorable has been the role of host and moderator that I’ve taken on during the Sony Music and Music Forward presented “Beyond the Instrument” weekly programming.
“Beyond the Instrument” is a four-week series of music industry education workshops with students from Antioch High School in Nashville, TN where we help educate about careers in the music industry with a focus on the art of songwriting. Industry professionals are invited into the workshops to share how they’ve turned their passions into their dream careers, sharing some of the tips and insights that they acquired as they’ve established themselves professionally.
These students are learning various tools of the trade from songwriting basics to the art of storytelling along with more technical elements. Some of the kids are interested in music and songwriting and others are not, that is where I can come in and unify them, by showing them that even if this isn’t something that they want to pursue as a career, it is another way that they can be creative. Their school also received a J Dilla Music Tech Grant from Save the Music Foundation that will allow them to apply their songwriting skills with new creation tools, instruments, and software to bring the experience full-circle.
As a working artist in Nashville, I get to also share some of my own journey with the students. It’s cool being able to talk to them about what I do, and share the world of music with them. It is especially awesome with these students living in a place where music is so alive and thriving, that it’s even more special to witness them learning about a different side of music for the first time.
One of the great industry experts that recently paid us a visit was Argentine composer, producer, and singer/songwriter, Claudia Brant. She got a chance to talk with the students and about her journey, which was fascinating. Claudia has had over 1,200 of her songs recorded by different artists in diverse languages (English, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, French) and was appointed Senior Vice President of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as serving as a Trustee of NARAS (National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences).
The best part of what the Sony team and experts like Claudia bring when they are speaking with the students is that it makes music and songwriting as a career real for them. It shows them that it doesn’t have to be something that they just do privately in their rooms or just for family and friends. They can actually make a living doing this.
Next week we have another special guest, Theron Thomas. He’s written songs for Usher (“I Don’t Mind”), Lizzo (“Juice”), Justin Bieber (“Runaway Love”), and even Rihanna and Beyoncé. I can’t wait to see what everyone takes away in that session!
Looking back to where I was in high school, getting into songwriting thinking “Wow, this is really cool!” I remember feeling like how some of these students might be feeling, “Can I really write a song? That seems kind of hard.”
Part of the fun of writing is just being able to sit down and do whatever, there are no rules to it and that is what I hope that these students are taking away, One of the things that I am trying to get across to the students is that there is no right or wrong answer to what you’re doing. You can follow a set of rules and have structure but there isn’t such a thing as a bad song, because it’s a personal choice. Your songs can make people happy or sad, either way, the listener will feel something and knowing that you did that is unlike any other feeling.
It’s inspiring to experience this program from a facilitator role I do wish that I had someone teaching me back then like we are doing in these programs encouraging me, saying “you can do this” or “you can write a song” like Music Forward and the Sony team are doing for these high school students.
As with anything, you need people to encourage you and to show you that there is no failure as long as you try and that is exactly what is happening so beautifully in these programs. It is showing these students that music truly is a universal language.
Camden West is a Nashville-based artist and Music Forward alum who participated in our Bringing Down the House program in Las Vegas while still in high school. We enlisted Camden to help us host the Sony Music Group “Beyond the Instrument” programming in Nashville this month.