Proud to be part of #SongStudio 2018 @HughsRoomLive

Just some of the <em>Voyageur</em> players at the SongStudio finale night at Hugh's Room The 14th year of SongStudio is now in the history books.
Every year, aspiring songwriters from around the city, across the country and all over the world, gather for a week in Toronto under the mentorship of an extraordinary group of musicians, songwriters, arrangers, producers and guest speakers (this year's faculty included Voyageur veterans Dayna Manning, Andrea Ramolo and Ron Sexsmith!) for a comprehensive immersion in the art, craft and process of songwriting. For some, it's about career development, for others it's simply a personal challenge but each year friendships are made, collaborations are fused and music is born in an atmosphere that is part seminar and part summer camp. The spirit of generosity - both among the participants toward each other and between the budding artists and their more established mentors - is a thing of beauty and it's all there to share when the group hosts their Thursday night showcase at Hugh's Room to road test the material they've been working on all week. With a crack band including musical director Allistair Bradley and guitar hero Rik Emmett working without any rehearsal whatsoever, songwriters hear their pencil sketches come to life in living colour before an audience of friends, family and a bunch of appreciative strangers.

I've been very honoured to have been invited to participate over the years by founders Bill McKetrick and Blair Packham. Bill asked me to be part of the proceedings this year with the announcement that he'll be stepping away from his role over the next year and handing the reigns to the supremely talented Jeff Giles so I was keen not to miss it. My role at these events is pretty easy. After making a brief introduction to the story of the guitar, I get to enjoy dinner and a show in some marvellous company while Voyageur sits on stage for whoever would like to use it during their performance. It's kind of a perfect role, in fact, for this special evening. Voyageur is literally built out of stories and when I'm not telling those stories, it's the job of musicians to bring their own stories to the instrument simply by playing it. During a week in which these artists are exploring their ability to bring their own story into song form, it's a true honour that any of them at all - with lots to think about besides picking up an unfamiliar guitar for the first time - would choose to make Voyageur part of the debut of new material but it's also fitting that these new voices fuse with the voices of all of those who have played the guitar in the past - first-timers and icons alike.

It was an awesome display of talent on stage this year. From among many highlights, I can tell you that you will be hearing a lot more, I'm sure, from a young singer named Amir Brandon and that Tania Joy wrote a song called "Drought" that was rich and complex and moving and new and yet managed to sound like it has existed for all time. I was especially thrilled that so many of the participants picked up Voyageur for their performances, including Cole Fraser (pictured, left) with Tracy McTaggart, Ingrid MacDonald (pictured, second from right), Gibson Himbault with Greg Kelly, Peter van der Maas with Mark Fitzpatrick, Jeff Giles (pictured, second from left) with Michelle Gold, Christie Simmons (pictured, right) with Peter Benes, and Sean Thomas (pictured, centre) both solo and in collaboration with friend-of-the-Nation Henry Lees.

Thanks once again to Bill for his hospitality, to all the SongStudio sponsors, faculty, players and participants and to the Hugh's Room management, crew and staff for hosting this important showcase for the songs of tomorrow.

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