Songwriting

Photo Credit: Brandon Dickerson

Program Directors: Kelley McRae and Matt Castelein

Kelley McRae called New York City home for many years, cut­ting her teeth in the vaunt­ed singer/​songwriter scene and hon­ing her craft at leg­endary clubs like The Living Room, The Rockwood Music Hall and the Bowery Ballroom.

In 2011, McRae teamed up with gui­tarist Matt Castelein, and the duo trad­ed in their Brooklyn apart­ment for a VW camper van and hit the road full time. The duo has played hun­dreds of shows across America and Europe, tak­en the stage with sold-out shows at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, per­formed at major fes­ti­vals, and were named New Folk Finalists at the Kerrville Folk Festival. They’ve been fea­tured on NPR, Billboard, and Paste Magazine. Their lat­est album, The Wayside, debuted at #7 on the Euro-Americana charts and hit #4 on the Roots Music Reports Top 50 Contemporary Folk chart.

Kelley McRae is the Music Program Director for the School of Creative and Performing Arts in New York City, where she helped found the pro­gram in 2013. She spear­head­ed the addi­tion of a Los Angeles pro­gram in 2015, and her song­writ­ing cur­ricu­lum was approved for col­lege cred­it in 2017. Matt Castelein joined the teach­ing staff in 2016, and togeth­er they worked to cre­ate an inspir­ing space for their stu­dents to hone their craft.

Kelley’s abil­i­ty to break down and com­mu­ni­cate the core ele­ments of song­writ­ing com­bined with Matt’s musi­cal dex­ter­i­ty make them an extra­or­di­nary team, able to con­nect with and inspire stu­dents of all skill lev­els, across gen­res. Kelley and Matt cre­ate a safe and fun envi­ron­ment where stu­dents are encour­aged and chal­lenged.

-Rebecca Jordan, Teacher & Recording Artist | Written for Kelly Clarkson and Prince

Working with Kelley was one of my most inspir­ing expe­ri­ences as a young song­writer. As opposed to just lec­tur­ing us on how she writes, Kelley took the time to under­stand and enhance each student’s cre­ative process. She was able to teach the craft of song­writ­ing, while hon­or­ing and pre­serv­ing our unique voic­es.

-Annika Bennet | Sony Records Recording Artist

Curriculum

This is a pro­gram ded­i­cat­ed to the craft of song­writ­ing. Students are giv­en new lyri­cal and musi­cal tools in morn­ing lec­tures and are encour­aged in the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion of those tools through song­writ­ing assign­ments each after­noon.

Our days are gen­er­al­ly split in two: The morn­ings are for the dis­cus­sion of cre­ativ­i­ty, inspi­ra­tion, song struc­ture, the ele­ments of a song, lyrics, the­o­ry, music busi­ness, etc. The after­noons are for in-class time to work on song­writ­ing assign­ments and for the explo­ration of music his­to­ry.

The after­noon time spent on song­writ­ing gives us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work one-on-one with stu­dents and to bet­ter meet indi­vid­ual needs. We also use the after­noon for the pre­sen­ta­tion of and feed­back on student’s orig­i­nal songs.

In the evening, stu­dents work on addi­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tive projects, enjoy per­for­mances and Q+A ses­sions with local Austin musi­cians, and are giv­en addi­tion­al time to work on their indi­vid­ual songs.

In the sec­ond week of the pro­gram, each stu­dent will record one orig­i­nal song in a pro­fes­sion­al record­ing stu­dio.

Our time togeth­er cul­mi­nates in a pub­lic show­case where each stu­dent per­forms an orig­i­nal song for their peers and fam­i­ly.

Philosophy

  1. CREATIVE FREEDOM: Establish a safe cre­ative envi­ron­ment so you can break through blocks and write with courage.
  2. CRAFT: Explore the ele­ments of song­writ­ing and apply new ideas to your cre­ative prac­tice imme­di­ate­ly.
  3. DO THE WORK: We can talk all day, but the real work hap­pens when you sit down and do the work of turn­ing your ideas, expe­ri­ences and pas­sions into songs. We will give you writ­ing assign­ments and song prompts and encour­age you to do the work.
  4. HAVE FUN: If we’re not hav­ing fun, we’re miss­ing the point! We want you to meet oth­er campers who share your love of music and for you to write togeth­er, play togeth­er and learn from each oth­er.

Requirements

Although it is help­ful to come with some expe­ri­ence on an instru­ment, it is not nec­es­sary.

We will have some class­room instru­ments avail­able, but we high­ly encour­age our stu­dents with easy-to-trans­port instru­ments (gui­tars, ukule­les, elec­tric key­boards) to bring them.