January 08, 2013

Lester Sill Workshop: Connecting the Dots

ASCAP songwriting workshop gives the next generation of professional songwriters the opportunity of a lifetime

Think of the ASCAP Foundation Lester Sill Songwriters Workshop as an amalgam of an intensive music seminar and a season of The Real World. Renamed in 1995 to honor ASCAP's late Board member and music publishing pioneer Lester Sill, the Workshop offers vital insights and networking opportunities for songwriters with incredible careers ahead of them, plus an unshakeable camaraderie by Workshop's end.

The 2012 Workshop's 14 participants were culled from a pool of nearly 200 applicants. They came to Los Angeles from as far away as New York and Massachusetts, Texas and South Carolina, and an equally diverse range of musical backgrounds.

Led by ASCAP's Brendan Okrent and Etan Rosenbloom, the Workshop convened at the ASCAP offices for eight sessions with professional songwriters and music biz vets from every facet of the music industry. A sampling of the 2012 sessions:

  • "Mind Your Own Business" night: PEN Music Group President Michael Eames gave an overview of music copyright and the streams of income available to songwriters.
  • Film/TV night: Music supervisor Madonna Wade-Reed, Zync Music's Kel Bryant and singer/songwriter Jeremy Silver (a Lester Sill Workshop grad) discussed the ins and outs of getting music into audio/visual projects.
  • A&R night: Pulse Recordings' Randi Razzano, B Major Music's Molly Kaye and hit songwriter Michelle Lewis talked about how A&R execs and songwriters work together to get cuts. They then listened to and critiqued participants' songs live.
  • Marketing night: Publicist Monica Hopman (Think PR), music journalist Kevin Bronson (Buzz Bands LA) and Secret Road's Brian Vinikoor debated how music marketing has changed in the digital age.
  • Jon Platt, President, Creative, North America at Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, led the group in an inspiring Q&A session and stayed on to give feedback to the participants' songs.
  • Hit songwriter Dan Wilson ("Someone Like You," "Not Ready to Make Nice," "Closing Time") kept the Workshop in rapt attention as he talked about his process and songwriting philosophy. He then gave in-depth critiques of a song by each participant.

Workshop participants were paired up and asked to write a song together. Each pair met with a songwriting mentor to help hone the song. This year's mentors were Darrell Brown, David Frank, Savan Kotecha, Ari Levine, Rick Nowels, Shelly Peiken and Priscilla Renea. During the final night of the Workshop, Darrell Brown, publisher Suzan Koc and Silver Side Productions' Mike Locke came in to listen and critique each of the seven co-writes.

As happens every year, the 2012 Lester Sill Workshoppers began as 14 strangers and ended up as friends and collaborators. You could feel the camaraderie at the celebratory Genghis Cohen showcase that capped the whole thing. Many participants wrote songs together without being asked to, and they're all already planning a reunion for late January.

Shortly after the last session, we read this in a blog post by 2012 Lester Sill Workshop participant Luke Cunningham:

"There are opportunities you simply have to take sometimes when they come your way. In truth, I've had to save money and set aside certain things in order to spend a month out here, but the opportunity, creative outcome, networking potential and honor of being a part of this workshop cannot really be assigned a price tag....I can say full heartedly already that this was a risk worth taking and that the benefits have been astounding for me professionally, personally and creatively."

At ASCAP it's our job to help music creators do what they do and assist them in connecting the dots in their music careers. It's so gratifying to hear that we're making an impact.

Read more about the ASCAP Foundation Lester Sill Songwriters Workshop at our Career Development page.