Feb. 24 2016 12:17 AM

February 26-27

Jonathan Kingham (shown), who plays keyboard and steel guitar with Toad the Wet Sprocket, leads a workshop in the Red Cedar Songwriting Festival along with Michigan artists Jamie-Sue Seal and John Latini.
Courtesy Photo

Attention aspiring songwriters: The Ten Pound Fiddle kicks off the first ever Red Cedar Songwriting Festival this weekend. It hopes the two-day event will be an annual fixture in the Ten Pound Fiddle calendar.

The idea behind the festival is to promote songwriting in Greater Lansing, as well as to create a space for networking and artistic support. While many songwriting retreats take place during warmer months, festival staff member Jamie-Sue Seal said coordinator Sally Potter wanted to do the festival in February “for our cabin-fever songwriters who can't wait until summer."

The festival starts Friday night with a concert from the three songwriters who will host workshops the next day: Michigan artists Jamie-Sue Seal and John Latini and Nashville's Jonathan Kingham. A seasoned solo artist, Kingham also plays keyboard and steel guitar for alternative rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Saturday boasts a full slate of educational workshops, including topics like creating melodic hooks, writing songs with others and developing song ideas. Though the panels are hosted by the festival’s staff, they are designed to be collaborative in nature.

"I never like to approach this as if we're the experts and attendees are rookies," Seal said. "It's really more like we're facilitators of conversations."

The first panel of the day, "Gone Fishin'," is hosted by Seal. It centers on one very important moment in a song: the first few bars. The participants focus on crafting a successful hook that will capture listeners' attention.

Kingham plans to discuss the benefits of co-writing in his workshop, "Vacuum Cleaner Ideas." The class is for writers who struggle with finishing songs.

"When writing on your own, you get to the point where you feel like you've said everything," said Kingham. "Someone else can bring in another point of view to help you deal with the second verse slump."

Latini's workshop, "Take the Long View," focuses on visualizing the songwriting process. Attendees draw out their song in an eight-panel storybook.

"It's about taking a larger view of things and then getting right down into the details," Latini said. "It's a little easier than just working from scratch."

Participants can also sign up for one-on-one conversations with Seal, Latini or Kingham. The three are available to address musical works-in-progress or technical questions, as well as business matters.

"I often have people who want to get to the next level in terms of branding themselves," said Seal.

The festival culminates in a concert put on by workshop attendees, which is open to the public.

"We'll be there rooting everyone on," said Seal. "It's going to be all about the festival participants and getting to see the harvest of their efforts."

Red Cedar Songwriting

Festival Friday, Feb. 26-27 Festival staff concert 8 p.m. Friday; workshops 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; participant concert 8 p.m. Saturday $90 weekend package/$75 Saturday only Staff concert only:

$18/$15 members/$5 students Participant concert only:

$15/$12 members/$5 students MSU Community Music School 4930 S. Hagadorn Road, East Lansing tenpoundfiddle.org

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