August is a very special time of year for me. For several years now, I have been thrilled to be one of the Emcees of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. and, since I retired, I have been going out a week or so early to help with the run up to the festival. Immediately afterwards I hop on the Amtrak and hightail it out to Colorado to teach at the Planet Bluegrass Song School where I have been an instructor for over two decades.
It’s hard to explain Song School to someone who has never attended. It’s relatively small, with around 200 students and 50 or 60 instructors, covering not only the creative process of songwriting, but a wide variety of associated topics ranging from booking and marketing, guitar and vocal techniques, to showmanship and mind/body awareness. Having taught at many similar events over the years, I can say with confidence that the Song School is by far the best program of its type that I have ever seen, though there continue to be many similar programs out there, all of which serve a valid purpose. A testament to the effectiveness of Song School is that, despite the expense and remote location, many of the students come back year after year after year. These are professional musicians, often with an impressive set of albums already in release. Many of them should be teaching classes themselves. In fact quite a few of the instructors first came to the event as students. I’m gushing, but you get the idea. Every year, I come back from this event, reenergized and wishing I could do this 50 weeks a year.
Like many Song School instructors, I also do quite a bit of one-on-one mentoring with attendees. Though my classes often speak directly to certain aspects of career development like Creating an Internet Identity, Using Social Media, Niche Marketing, or Surviving in the Post-CD Economy; the mentorings can be much more wide ranging and custom tailored. I find them challenging and thought provoking. Instead of talking about what has worked for other musicians, we get to dig deep into very specific strategies that they can try.
I first started doing this sort of thing at a couple of Chistine Lavin’s Singer Songwriter retreats back in the 1990s and I continue to mentor at both The International conference of The Folk Alliance and many of their regional conferences. By now, I have done several hundred of these one on one interactions. No two are ever alike. I find it fascinating to see what we come up with in these brainstorming sessions. Feedback tells me that many are very useful to the artists I get together with.
My biggest frustration is that these flurries of extreme productivity and punctuated by long periods of relative inactivity between events. Yes, I do telephone consults with close friends and get to put my thinking cap on several times a week, but I know I can do more, and I want to. Now that I am retired, I have more time to.
So, I have resolved to try to do some blogging, some remote mentoring, and am looking towards doing some podcasting in the future. I know what I contribute has value, and I would love to generate a bit of income that I could put towards travel to more events, more tools, and logistical expenses, but I recognize that many of the people who most need my help are financially challenged as well, so I hope to decouple any income I might derive from this from the specific projects I take on. So, for now at least, I will take on the projects that most interest me for free, but soon hope to add a button to this site where people can donate as they feel able, if they are motivated to help me continue this work.
My finances are quite constrained at the moment, but I do travel around the U.S. and Canada from time to time and will consider face to face sessions as well as email and phone consults, FaceTime, etc. So, if you have something you would like to discuss with me, feel free to send me an email at BigOrangeTarp@gmail.com and please watch this blog for information on a wide variety of topics and future events. For listeners, I may also do some artist spotlights here, showcasing talent I feel is under exposed.
Thanks for coming to visit. I hope we can hang out in the future.
P.S. My next event is the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance conference (NERFA) in Kerhonkson, NY November 13-16, 2014. I will be mentoring there as well as presenting three excellent showcases with my good friend and longtime Showcase Partner Sally Johnson. I will post the showcase lineups here soon.