You’ve Got the Music In You: 15th Annual Songwriting Workshop

By Elan Carson
WriteGirl Volunteer

Songs have a way of connecting us, and making us feel something that wasn’t there with only the written word. By adding musicality, playing with repetition, adding soft rhymes that can create an earworm, or taking into account syllabic word structure, we can learn to wield a unique auditory experience and create words that resonate through lyrics and melody. That’s what 99 girls, and an accompanying 88 mentors, did at the 15th annual WriteGirl Songwriting Workshop, sponsored by the ASCAP Foundation.

Where did the songwriting process for our girls begin? It started in a familiar space: The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Guided by 19 expert guest artists and singer-songwriters, including Lisa Loeb, Janice Robinson, Holly Palmer, and our very own Keren Taylor, each mentee was encouraged to find and follow the song within. What started with a questionnaire warm-up to uncover songs stirring inside of us, evolved into an afternoon of games and writing to get everyone accustomed to various songwriting techniques. The most memorable being the “Song Structure and Dance Party.”

Attendees were divided into three sections with each group getting a designated dance move that correlated with part of a song, such as the verse, pre- chorus, and chorus. When that song section played, mentors and mentees were encouraged to bust a move, turning the event into a dance party. The goal was to learn the anatomy of the song, and then test that newfound knowledge in an upbeat way. We grooved along to tunes including Avril Lavigne’s “Ska8Boi,” written by Lauren Christy who was a guest singer/songwriter.

Mentees then headed over to the serene Chinese Garden to pen some new tunes. Bridges, architecture, flowing water, rocks, and other elements in nature helped us start this songwriting journey. Even if girls didn’t write a full song, jotting down a verse, coming up with a chorus, or simply finding a way to tell a story was key. Guest artists were later available one on one to help mentees further develop their lyrics.

Not surprisingly, the afternoon ended on a high note. Guest songwriters selected lyrics written by mentees to add music to. They then performed the lyrics in a show-stopping showcase. In this moment, mentors, mentees, guest artists, and parents were all connected through the power of song written by WriteGirl mentees, proving that our girls had the music in them when the written word was simply not enough.

Did you catch us on NPR? KPCC covered our songwriting workshop! CLICK HERE for the story!