“Your presence in my class has had a major impact on my teaching…”

— Bruce Franzen, Principal Quechee Elem. School

school workshop

Let's make music… together!

Jon Gailmor

Songwriting workshops

This experience is designed both to stimulate and to exploit the innate creativity within us all. It helps the participants discover themselves, their uniqueness and their poetic and musical talents. They will learn to appreciate, and to collaborate with, their fellow-composers. The ability to create something beautiful in a group is a skill they will always carry with them. Hopefully, the exhilaration will translate into a positive impact on other groups in which they live and work: families, communities and society as a whole.

Here’s the plan:

Each group/class picks four possible song topics and votes to decide the final choice (In curriculum-based or thematic residencies, the topics may be chosen prior to Jon’s arrival). The lyric-writing begins with Jon asking pertinent questions. Usually, the first two responses become the initial lines of the piece. Voila! A rhythm is born. Using scatting, clapping and every other rhythmic device known to humankind, Jon reinforces the beat to make sure the fledgling songwriters catch on. Throughout this process, lessons will present themselves (simile, metaphor, meter and rhythm, lyrics versus poetry, etc.) Jon will momentarily stop the creative process to cover these principles, as they occur. Inevitably, group lyric-writing begets theoretical discussions—sometimes controversial, always constructive. Jon will let it happen (keeping a close eye on the clock, of course). This is one way the process can lead to a clear and essential hashing out of issues relevant to the conference, workshop or class-chosen subject.

In a one-time workshop session, Jon will terminate lyric writing about two-thirds of the way through. In a school residency he will, hopefully, meet at least thrice with each group, thus allowing one entire session for the lyrics. In any case, the next phase brings the creation to life, as the lyrics are united, in joyous-if-not-holy matrimony, to their music. Jon will provide a key (which unlocks the song), and will play a chord on the guitar, asking if anyone can sing the first line. Some brave soul will invariably take the initiative, a cohort will give melody to the second line, feeding off the first, and so on, until the entire song is complete, to the utter joy and astonishment of them all.

They will practice the piece, receive copies of the lyrics, record it on a CD and, if logistics and courage allow, perform their composition for the rest of the conference attendees, accompanied by Jon on guitar. In school residencies, a gala, evening performance (or more than one night, depending on the number of compositions created) for the community, families and friends is an integral, culminating event, the joyousness of which cannot be overstated. A CD of the original songs can easily be recorded, duplicated, and sold in the community, with proceeds going back into the arts program or into any other fund deemed appropriate by the school. This also makes for an unforgettable, tangible souvenir of magnificent childish creativity!

These groups of novice songwriters will have given birth to eloquent, elegant, artistic renderings of their themes. They will have built every lyric, every note, with Jon as catalyst. The participants will know the power of collective creativity, and feel consummate ownership of their work. And what songs!

Workshops and residencies can be

A CURRICULUM - BASED workshop or residency is one in which the general topic of all songs is pre-determined by the school , company or whoever is hiring me. For example, in 1991, Vermont’s Bicentennial Year, many schools had me come and help every class create a song on some aspect of Vermont. Then there was another school whose theme was "healthy life styles", and we ended up writing songs about saving the environment, avoiding drugs and alcohol, eating right, etc.
An OPEN-ENDED workshop or residency means that the topics of the original songs are TOTALLY up to the individual groups. Every one is different.


Residency means that I come to live with you. Actually, I come to your school, company or wherever, for more than one day, depending on budgetary considerations, and I help groups create original songs, both words and music. I can meet with every group in a setting, or just a few, depending on time and budget. It’s totally up to you. Every group I’m with will end up with an incredible masterpiece, including teachers, if they are bold enough and want to make their own song (kids LOVE) to see their teachers up there performing. Which reminds me that the culminating activity of any Jon Gailmor residency is a "gala" performance, usually in the evening, attended by families, community, friends and relatives, who are proud and appreciative beyond description. The proudest ones, though, are the composers.

See photos of a Songwriting Residency

Residencies, too can be CURRICULUM-BASED or OPEN-ENDED.

Original songwriting: education residency

This residency emphasizes the "music of lyrics." Every word comes from the students. As catalyst, I soon have the young lyricists dictating verses and chorus, and the finished musical sculpture is a source of great pride. Meter and rhythm, rhyming, and poetry versus lyric writing are some of the concepts covered during brainstorming. The students create the melody and determine the song style as well. This guarantees total ownership, an essential goal of the residency. A grand performance, in which each class showcases its creation, is a festival of self-esteem and joyous accomplishment.

Monkton, VT school residency

Who benefits from a workshop or residency
with Jon Gailmor?

  • Colleges
  • Companies
  • Organizations
  • Conferences Schools
  • Camps Families
  • Individuals Seniors

Where do workshops or residencies
with Jon Gailmor Happen?

  • Retreats
  • Courses
  • Conferences
  • Reunions
  • Bar Mitzvahs
  • Remembrances
  • Tributes
  • Weddings
  • Adulation…
  • and other *life affirming* events!

Book ahead: sign up for a workshop