Prez Says

A visionary year is here (20/20, get it!), so here’s to a grateful New Year for we Songmakers, and may our sight be clear!

Looking ahead to Camp De Benneville Pines, I’m always thankful for any time we get to spend in Angelus Oaks. Starting on Thursday March 5 through – Sunday March 8 we will enjoy an intimate free-form Music In the Mountains (Lite) for the 3rd year since we started that tradition in 2018. It’s too expensive to heat the lodge, but we rent Craigs Cabin and Cabin 6, which have full kitchens, and share food expenses and preparation.  Our bargain price will be around $100/person (plus the cost of whatever food you sign up to bring) for Thursday-Sunday. You can’t pay less if you want to come Friday because we pay by the cabin, not by the bed, but $100 is a good price even if you only stay 2 nights. Those who want to play after 10 use the coffee house, which has no coffee, but year-round heat and a piano. We have a few spots still open in Cabin 6, and if there is enough demand, it may be possible to open a 3rd cabin, so call or email me ASAP if you are interested.  You do need chains, since there could be snow. The rangers will not let you drive up without them if it’s snowing.

Our club is high on the list of things I give thanks for, and at our December board meeting, your Songmakers board voted to express our communal gratitude and fulfil our nonprofit goal of donating to other worthy music nonprofits by contributing $500 to the Playing for Change  (PFC) Foundation.

PFC started when founder Mark Johnson heard Santa Monica street musician Roger Ridley powerfully singing “Stand By Me” and was inspired to film more than 1,000 musicians from over 50 countries as part of a multimedia project to connect the world through music. Just as our club both believes and practices, Mark felt music had the power to create joy and break down boundaries between people.

Sadly, Roger Ridley passed away in 2005, but his performance inspired PFC to create the award-winning documentary, “A Cinematic Discovery of Street Musicians”, and later to unite many of those musicians in the PFC Band, now touring the world to spread love and hope through music. A few years ago, they established the Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit that builds music and art schools around the world.

This is the foundation Songmakers is donating to. Every week more than 2,000 young people attend free PFC classes in dance, instruments, languages and musical theory, taught by qualified local teachers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Argentina and Thailand. Projects also help meet community needs including provision of food, clean water, medicine, clothes, books, school supplies, computers, and other modern technology. Over 15,000 people have been helped by PFC Foundation’s community development efforts.

If you want to personally support PFC, you can become an individual member for as little as $5/month. Members get unlimited downloads and streaming of their award-winning videos, access to unreleased materials, backstage footage and documentaries, and 25% OFF everything in the entire PFC online merchandise store. Check them out at:

Playing for Change now joins the list of local musical charities your Songmakers club has supported over the last 8 years including: Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest (one of the best annual folk music institutions in our state), Folkworks (support for music, dance and related folk arts in SoCal), Mr. Hollands Opus (instruments for low income school music programs), Help Group (instruments for special needs children in SF Valley, formerly taught by our own Barbara Greenspan of blessed memory), Boys & Girls Club of Ventura (Alan Ferentz founded a ukulele club), Music Mends Minds Foundation (musical/educational support groups for patients with neurological disorders and PTSD), and Urban Voices Choir (bringing the healing power of music to individuals marginalized by homelessness, mental health issues, and unemployment in the Greater LA area). So, thanks Songmakers for making the world a better place through music!

Grateful for your music and friendship,

Steve Berman Ph.D,   Songmakers President

2020 Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest

May 17 Sunday 9am-6pm: Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest and Songmakers Stage –– Despite losing the town to fire, the Board of Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest will continue the annual tradition and celebrate it’s 60th year!  This year will introduce the Carl Gage Songwriting Contest and Songmakers will be a sponsor.   If you would like to volunteer at Songmaker’s Corner,  contact Simon Lucas at:

Quite a few of our songmaker mambers volunteer annually at the festival. Please consider volunteering this year if you haven’t done so already. If you would like to volunteer at Songmaker’s Corner,  contact Simon Lucas at:

Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Volunteer Information

The Carl Gage Songwriting Contest

The 2020 Carl Gage Songwriting Contest registration has been open for one week and the registration is filling up quickly.
I will recommend to send a message to your group about filling up the online registration ASAP.

So far we have the Songmakers’ pledge of $300 for the first place as well as a free recording of the winning entry at Rum & Humble Studios in Los Angeles, a live performance on the Wildwood Flower Radio Hour on KXLU.

I am also actively looking for more pledges for the second and third place.

Let me know if somebody in your organization can help me in the fundraising for the Carl Gage Songwriting Contest.
I am aiming to a second place prize around $200 and a third place $100. All 3 winners will get exposure with a live performance at the KXLU radio show.

Duilio Cascio

Vice-president and Judge Coordinator of the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest & Folk Festival


Feb 22 Saturday 1:30-9:30pm: SONGMAKERS ROUNDUP, POTLUCK & ELECTIONS at the Somis Community Church, 3300 West Street, Somis 93066 / 805-386-3175. Please, no alcohol permitted at this facility. From the 101, go north on Lewis Rd, turn left on Bell. From the 118 (Los Angeles Ave), turn south on Lewis Rd, turn right on Bell. This event will be a Board Member Election, Performance, Award Ceremony, Potluck Dinner and Song Circle festivity that cannot be missed! The board members will provide dessert so please make your potluck contribution a main or side dish.

Music in the Mountains – March 5 – 8, 2020

Camp De Benneville Pines Music in the Mountains (Lite) in the San Bernardino Mountains. Twenty Songmakers rented the two cabins with cooking facilities in March of the last two years and we’re doing it again in 2020. Contact Steve Berman or Sandy Lessner for information about the weekend. Only a few spots open, especially if willing to sleep in a top bunk. Must have chains for your car in case of snow. For information about the camp facilities (not specifically this event), please visit: .

Kenney Grove 2019 – Sally Charette

Here are the dates for our Kenney Grove campouts for 2019. We recommend that you go ahead and make reservations for all the dates you think you might attend.  You can cancel with a full refund up to 45 days in advance. If you make all your reservations for the year at the same time, you pay only one $3.00 reservation fee.

County of Ventura Camping & RV Reservations

April 11-14, 2019 – Spring Break

May 23-27, 2019 – Memorial Day Weekend

July, the 25th-28th, 2019 – Summer Camp

August 29-Sept 2, 2019 – Labor Day Weekend

October 3-6, 2019 – Fall Out

When you make a reservation, if you have a Facebook account, please let us know via the Songmakers Camping News and Discussion group. This link should take you directly there.  Please ask to join by clicking on the appropriate button there. There are Events set up for each KG camp out. Please let us know that you are coming and which site you’ll be in, if you’re comfortable with that. The contents of this Facebook group are not visible to the general public, only to those who are fellow members.

Those of us who continued to camp in 2018 after the County of Ventura took over management found it still a very worthwhile experience. We braved the temporary lack of showers and the changes to our schedule due to park quiet hours requirements. We spoke with rangers and the camp hosts and have been assured that the showers will be ready for use by the time we’re back in April.  They have not made us shut down the music at 9 p.m., and we have continued to play quietly even though others share the campground with us.  So far, so good!

We also learned that Ventura County parks budget is based only on the parks’ and campgrounds’ income. They do not receive county, state or federal funds. So let’s be as happy as possible about sharing our lovely spot with new people…they’ll be helping keep the lights on.  You know, when the lights actually work!

Thanks to everyone who camped in 2018 and to those of you who are making plans for 2019!  Onward!

Sally Charette

Kenny Grove Campground is in the middle of this photo to the right of the pine trees near the base of the mountains

Kenney Grove Update


Here are the reserved and available sites as of 10-8-18:

We hear that campers have signed up for the sites around the old campfire area for Labor Day Weekend  (August 30-Sept 3) and the Fall Out camp-out October 11-14, and there should be plenty more sites available. RV sites 17 to 26 are those on either side of the creek. Tent sites start with #34 and above. 

We are also beginning to reserve for Memorial Day Weekend (May 23-27, 2019) since more people may be aware of our hidden gem by next year.  The fee for cancelling 45 days or more in advance is minimal. 

There is a map and there are instructions for making reservation at the Ventura County Parks reservation site.

When you do reserve, please post on the Kenney Grove Campout Discussion page at Some people have emailed me, that they are coming, but I haven’t been able to keep good track. You may email this address for the discussion page password.

As we did last time, we plan to continue our ice cream social and potluck tradition, and share music in the evenings wherever we can best gather. The coffee pot will be there, too! 

Remember, if you want to arrive a day early or stay a day later to pack up, you can do that. It used to be that the camp was only open to groups and only on certain days of the month.  If you want to take more time to explore the area, you can do that!  The ranger I spoke with let me know that many people reserve the night of the day they want to leave, so they don’t have to pack up by 11 a.m.

Sally Charette

Songmakers Stage a Hit at the TBFC

First of all, congratulations to Mary Zangerle who took 2nd place in the contest in Intermediate Mandolin and to Tim Holtwick, who took 1st place in the Intermediate-Other category playing in the Hawaiian Slack Key guitar instrumental style!

Dana and Sally Charette opened the Songmaker stage with a blast of fun!  Dana is always amusing, talented and knows how to involve the crowd. Sally is a singer par excellence and got down with her cool repertoire on her rockin’ resonator Uke.

Jim Friery and friends, back on the SM stage (actually in front of the stage getting down!) for their second year representing our awesome club, are talented guys who brought fun and harmony and got the audience very involved and singing with gusto.

The ever-popular Gemini (Bruce Farewell and Renata Decher) took the 11:00 a.m. slot with wit, and talent. They love to involve the crowd, and young people get their taste for performing because Renata hands them her rhythm instrument!

Doug Kerr & Linda Szitkar, first timers to our stage, have an amazingly popular and sing-along-able repertoire!  Very well done you two!

TJ Zeiler and Steve Linsky and all of HorsePlay band is always a big hit at Topanga. They really draw a crowd with their prodigious talents.

Ever the walking juke box, Dean Donin wowed the crowd. Dean has an eclectic repertoire and has a very entertaining performance style!

Gary and Kathy Lynch, what can one say? They are excitement and fun personified!

Karen Hart and Jennifer Leitham presented a Joni Mitchell Sing-along with professional savvy and deep and wide talent. Thanks for bringing Joni to us with such beauty, skill and charisma!

Thank you Steve and Sandie, our President and First Lady who promoted Songmakers throughout the day, and made sure our Banner was mounted!  Thanks to all the other Songmakers, unnamed here, who participated, supported and showed the crowd how to have fun!

Louise Dobbs

Songmakers Stage at Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest

May 20, Sunday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Stop by the  Songmakers Stage at Topanga and spend some time playing with your fellow Songmakers! 

Here is the stage leadership line up:

Dana Charette and friends
Jim Friery and friends
Gemini (Bruce and Renata)
Doug Kerr & Linda Szitkar
TJ & Charletta Horse Playing w/friends
Dean Donin
Gary and Kathy Lynch
Karen Hart and Jennifer Leitham present a Joni Mitchell Sing-along

Additional information about the festival is available at  2018 Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Festival


Kenney Grove Memorial Day Campout 2018

Hi all! As most of you are probably aware, Rona LeDoux, who has managed Kenney Grove Park camp ground for 37 years, will retire at the end of June, 2018. She transformed the park into the garden spot it is today while maintaining all the campsites and amenities we so enjoy.

As a token of our appreciation, Sally and Dana Charette will provide a guest book you are encouraged to sign at the Memorial Day camp out. If you would like to donate a cash contribution to Rona’s “retirement fund,” Sally will collect funds in advance and we will present them to Rona on Memorial Day Weekend. Rona will be relocating from the park, so like a lot of us, she’s downsizing!

Lynn Furnis has written a song for Rona called Rona’s Paradise.  It will be sung at the Memorial Day Campout.  The chords and lyrics are available here: Rona’s Paradise – chords and lyrics Here is a recording of the song by Lynn and Bill Johnson:

Inevitably, Rona’s retirement will bring changes to the way the camp is run. Ventura County Parks is still in the process of re-mapping the campground. I am in touch with VCP regarding group reservations for future Songmakers camping weekends and will let you know how to make reservations as soon as I can.  If you’d like to pencil in dates, we are aiming for July 19-22, September 20-24 (Labor Day Weekend), and October 11-15, 2018. 

Camping at Kenney Grove has brought Songmakers together for nearly 20 years. It helped us form friendships from all reaches of Southern California, strengthening our club. We’ve learned about music and public performance through workshops and concerts held at KG. I hope you all will join me in honoring this long and rich tradition.

The Memorial Day Campout at Kenney Grove will be held May 24 – 28, 2018. Reservations must be received by Saturday, May 19, so mail them by Wed. May 16. You will receive confirmation by return email by Monday, May 21.
2018 Memorial Day Registration Form

The schedule is:

Thursday-Friday May 24-25- Informal jamming and evening campfire song circles

Saturday, May 26 – Informal jamming throughout the day

10 a.m. – Songwriting Workshop with Don Truby
11:30 a.m. – Performance Workshop with John McFadgen
1:30 p.m. – Ice Cream Social & Concert Sign-Ups – bring a bowl and spoon
5:30 p.m. – Potluck – Bring a dish to share, a plate, flatware and napkin
7:00 p.m. – Evening concert
Post concert campfire song circle and informal jamming

Sunday, May 27
10-12 noon – Songs of Meaning & Band Scramble assignments
1 p.m.-4 p.m. – Ukulele Jam with Alan Ferentz – drop in and play!
4:00 p.m. – Meet with your Band Scramble group to create magic!
7:00 p.m. – Band Scramble performance followed by campfire song circle and informal jamming

Monday, May 28

12:00 Noon – Check out time

Sally Charette