The Songwriting Hall of Fame is Coming to Stuyvesant

Stuyvesant to host the Songwriting Hall of Fame on Tuesday, May 22, to provide aspiring songwriters the opportunity to have their works reviewed by those established in the industry.

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Stuyvesant High School will host the Songwriting Hall of Fame, an event open to all high school students in New York City, on Tuesday, May 22. The Songwriting Hall of Fame is a unique opportunity for artists to learn about songwriting, music production, and the music business from professionals in the field. The event will be structured like a traditional masterclass, where students perform for seasoned musicians and those familiar with the music industry and receive feedback on their performance.

Students across the city can submit songs through an online submission form, and the selected songwriters will receive the opportunity for their songs to be critiqued. Submissions are being accepted until Thursday, April 26, 2018.

The confirmed panelists will be Mike Campbell, the Grammy-award winning co-writer of “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, and “Still, Still, Look Pretty” by Daya; Gregg Wattenberg, the co-writer and producer of “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips, and co-producer of Train’s #1 hit single “Hey, Soul Sister”; and Billy Mann, who has worked with P!nk and is the founder and CEO of independent music publishing company Green & Bloom/Topline.

“The idea is to center it [the event] around the songwriting process, but at the same time to show some of what happens after a song is created: how does the song get from the creative stage to the ears of the public through the vast machine that exists?” said music teacher Howard Stephan, who organized the event. The Songwriting Hall of Fame’s ultimate goal is to make the music industry more accessible and less rigid for new songwriters. “We’ve wanted to put a human face on this process,” he said.

Organizing the event alongside Stephan is April Anderson, the Communications and Marketing Director of the Songwriters Hall of Fame on 58th Street. She also believes that the music industry should be accessible and that the Songwriting Hall of Fame will help achieve that. “Interacting with panelists and really listening to their advice and experiences might help focus the energy of the young songwriter on some of the things that will help to get a career going,” Anderson said in an e-mail interview.

Input from students interested in the Songwriting Hall of Fame has been very positive, and several aspiring songwriters are already collaborating on new music. Sophomore Max Mah and freshman Liam Kronman are one songwriting duo, and are looking forward to presenting their work to a panel of experienced musicians.

Though Mah performed in a cover band in middle school, he felt that he first met someone with similar music tastes at Stuyvesant. Upon meeting a collaborator, he began to get more involved in songwriting itself.

“I started trying to hash out a few lyrics earlier this year and last year. I had never really written a song before, so writing with Liam [gave] me a chance to show my strengths as a guitar player and a musician instead of just a lyricist. With the Songwriting Hall of Fame,” Mah said, “people have the chance to come forward with what they might not be encouraged to express in other schools.”

Songwriters at Stuyvesant find building their skill important for a variety of reasons. Sophomore Grace Goldstein, an aspiring screenwriter for musical theater, said that songwriting is the best way to prepare her for her dream career. On the other hand, she said, “Songwriting also helps relieve stress for me, and at Stuyvesant you need something besides academics to focus on. Some people do [other clubs], but songwriting is what works for me.”

From a larger perspective, many see the Songwriting Hall of Fame as an opportunity that is new to Stuyvesant. Offering a variety of choruses and bands, as well as events like concerts and Open Mic, Stuyvesant’s arts community is surprisingly strong. However, students still find it difficult to directly present themselves to adults in the music industry, and the Songwriting Hall of Fame aims to change that.

Anderson also said that “interacting with panelists and really listening to their advice and experiences might help focus the energy of the young songwriter on some of the things that will help to get a career going,” describing the benefits of the Songwriting Hall of Fame. Anderson emphasized that an open mind was key to benefitting from the event. Songwriting is a “highly personal art,” he said, and students should “really listen to all of the nuances of what is being said.”

Stuyvesant’s songwriters certainly agree. If there was one thing they reached a consensus on, it was that communication is essential to building skill in music. “I don't get a lot of chances to hear what other people are doing, and I think the most important part of songwriting is that you're in a community,” Goldstein said. “Working with others is the best way to improve your songwriting.”

Similarly, sophomore Chris Brown thinks that getting his music out there is essential to his success as a songwriter. “I'm really interested in seeing if my music has any merit. Everybody starts somewhere, and I'm starting at a fairly low point, so I really want to get my voice out there. The only way to do that is to just be around greater people,” Brown said.

Though Brown is excited to present his music, he understands the effort he has to put into his music in order to excel. “Songwriting is like a struggle,” Brown said. “There are so many people out there who are just like you, and if you really want to get out there you have to know your stuff. It's kind of discouraging, but at the same time, it encourages me to work hard.”

“Hearing from those who are already established can only help those who are just starting out by encouraging and relating how they began their upward climb,” Anderson said. “As with any business, beginning it is many times the hardest part, and maybe students will get a sense of the road ahead of them.”