You can call me strange, but I have always felt a special kinship with trees. This month I draw upon the talent of my poet friend Trisha Knudsen to expand upon this. Please join us in the kitchen. I like honey with my tea. How about you?
Photo: Dan Tappan, taken at Acton Jazz Cafe. Seth Connelly accompanying
I just received word that the American Songwriter magazine contest named my song “To a Songwriter” as an honorable mention in their forthcoming July/August issue. Huzzah!
On Sunday July 13 from 3:00 – 6:00 pm I will facilitate a three hour songwriting workshop. When Amy Conley approached me about doing this, I had two distinct reactions. First, “Of course I will facilitate a songwriting workshop.” I have done this several times in the past, and enjoyed each one immensely. But there was also a hesitation. “Are you sure you don’t want to ask one of these other great folks?” I know so many wonderful songwriters and songwriting teachers. It seemed a little presumptuous of me to take this on.
The hesitation quickly receded and I accepted the challenge, and the more I think about it the more excited I am for the opportunity to refine my thinking about the process of songwriting. After more than 35 years of teaching, I can say with great conviction that the old adage is true – you never truly understand anything until you try to teach it to someone else. This is a great opportunity for me to improve my craft by teaching it.
I believe that anyone can write a song, and anyone who has written a song can write a better one. If you would like to join me and others in Milford, New Hampshire (one hour north of Boston) for a three hour songwriting workshop, please click here for the details.
This Month’s Music
I Am a Tree
By Trisha Knudsen, Music by Tom Smith
Performed at my Jaffrey, NH cabin on a misty May morning in 2014
See the Poem in the comments section below.
When I was a young man growing up in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania, I was often called a “loner”. Some of this was because my family lived in an isolated area. However, I am basically an introvert, so the “loner” moniker was a fare one. I would walk the local woodlands, spending dreamy hours observing the changing sky, the creatures, the peaceful sound of the brook that ran down the edge of our property, and generally becoming part of the beautiful landscape of the northern end of the Allegheny Mountains.
As a ten year old, my favorite tree was an old Macintosh apple tree on the hill overlooking the farmhouse we rented. I stashed a rope in the hollow of a branch about ten feet from the ground. On sunny afternoons, I would uncoil this rope and weave a hammock between two nearly parallel horizontal branches. Lying in that hammock I would spend hours thinking, listening, smelling, and watching.
So I was particularly pleased last month when I was asked to participate in our Earth Day celebration at the school where I work, the theme of which was “trees”. Our students had planted hundreds of trees, some local and some on other continents. Simultaneous with this invitation I heard my friend Trisha Knudsen read her recently written poem “I Am a Tree” at Amazing Things Arts Center. It was destined to become part of our Earth Day celebration. With Trisha’s kind permission, I worked up a simple musical setting and performed this poem for our students the following week.
I love Trisha’s poetry. This one especially spoke to me the first time I heard it. After working with it repeatedly to fit verses to guitar chords and finger patterns, my appreciation has only increased. This is typical of my experience with many of Trisha’s poems – the more I read or hear them, the more they reveal themselves to me.
I am blessed to be part of a wonderful community of artists. I hope that you have or will find the same.
(If so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this page.)
Saturday, July 12, 2014: Dedham, MA
Two full sets at the Saint Susanna’s summer coffeehouse series – from 8:00 – 10:00 pm. Free to all, and refreshments will be served. I am there!
Sunday, July 13, 2014: Milford, NH
Songwriting workshop at Amy Conley Music Studios, from 3:00 – 6:00 PM. I am really looking forward to sharpening my teaching chops, and helping participants to write better songs. Stick around after for optional pizza and song circle. Click for a full description. Space is limited so please contact Amy Conley to reserve a spot.
Friday, July 18, 2014: Groton, MA
I will feature at the Acoustic Cafe Open Mic, joined by Mally Smith. Main Street Cafe, 159 Main Street, Groton, MA. Doors open 6:30. We start at about 8:00. BYO beer or wine when you order a dinner from their great menu. I love this open mic. Great positive energy.
Click to view details for all upcoming shows.
Featured Non-profit: Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
“Founded by a handful of concerned citizens in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is now one of the country’s most effective statewide land conservation organizations. As a non-profit membership organization, the Forest Society is dedicated to protecting the state’s most important landscapes while promoting the wise use of its renewable natural resources.”
The society is instrumental in protecting the forests near my little New Hampshire cabin, and throughout the rest of the state. Please join me in supporting the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.