The Board

Board Meetings:

The board plans to meet quarterly on the 2nd Sunday in March, June, September and December.  However, sometimes this date has been changed.  Consult the calendar for more details.

Current Board Members:

President/Meetup –  Steve Berman
Term expires February 2023

I picked up the harmonica while hitching back to Detroit from Woodstock. After being ejected from many classy joints over the next 38 years, I met the wonderful Sandy Lessner, who actually liked it. We volunteered at the 2007 Solstice Festival, and were invited to join the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club, and then Songmakers. I’m a retired UCLA neuroscientist with two grown daughters, and plan to spend the rest of the time I’m given making music whenever possible. I sing in synagogue choirs, and with the greater confidence derived from regular “Songmaking” have played harmonica at religious services for a few years. I never took a lesson and can’t read music, but I practice to the radio while commuting, and always find it magical when the right notes come out. Sandy and I began hosting the Agoura Hills song circle after our marriage in 2010. I’m honored to join the 2011 board because my grandfather taught me the value of giving back. As a Peace Corps volunteer in the 70s, I learned the African Thumb Piano. I sometimes teach for Hollywood Seido Karate, and am VP of our non-profit dojo. Besides Sandy, I also love dark chocolate, science-fiction, and camping at Rainbow Gatherings and Kenney Grove!

 

1st Vice President  –  Paul Jenkins
Term expires February 2023

Music has always been a part of my life.  I started singing in church choirs when I was five, and continued through high school.  When I was eight, I began playing cello, and when I was twelve by mother gave me a guitar (hoping I would learn Flamenco, which didn’t happen!)  I loved The Kingston Trio, and idolized John Stewart, their banjo player.  Soon I was playing banjo, and a year later mandolin.  I joined the folksingers club in high school and formed my own folk trio.

My parents would not allow me to take my instruments with me to college since they felt they would distract me from my studies.  Well, I attended California Western College in San Diego, and my first college weekend included a trip to Tijuana to purchase a $25 guitar.  It lasted until I earned permission to bring my instruments to college, and soon I formed a psychedelic bluegrass band (hey, it was the ‘60’s), The Sot Weed Factor.  We were on The Mr. Benjamin Show twice (KOGO-TV using another name we made up), played various schools, shopping centers, and other locations in San Diego, and were hired as the house band at a hippie bar in Chula Vista called The Western Front.  Life was good!

I left college with degrees in Mathematics and Music.  I started teaching elementary school but soon bought another guitar to keep in my classroom.  Over my 38 years in education (all elementary and middle school grades, assistant principal, principal, and district race and human relations specialist) I always had guitar in my classroom or office.  My current band, The Best of Friends, has been together 45 years.  The title speaks for itself.  When we began in the 70’s we were “kids,” then parents, and now grandparents.  My family includes my wife, Andrea, our four kids, and our four grandchildren.

SongMakers is a great place to make friends, learn new songs, sing old songs, and kick back to enjoy life.  By the way, I did get to meet my hero, John Stewart, and became a casual friend.  I even sang Daydream Believer with him on a stage in Phoenix.

 

2nd Vice President/Membership Chair  –  Doug Kerr
Term expires February 2023

 

Doug Kerr would like to write about himself in the third person, but he thinks it just feels too darn weird. I think first person feels a little egocentric. And you just can’t make second person work any-which-way. What’s left? List format!

 

 

  • Childhood piano lessons
  • Elementary school orchestra – bass viol
  • First guitar at 15, garage band with a repertoire of 5 songs and no gigs
  • Marching band – sousaphone, bass viol in the UCLA third string student orchestra
  • Beginning guitar teacher for L.A. Recreation and Parks at Silverlake Park
  • MARRIED LINDA!!!
  • Used guitar off and on throughout teaching career
  • At age 19 promised Linda to write her a song, at age 61 actually wrote it
  • First encountered Songmakers in approximately 2001 at Leo Carrillo
  • Built our house
  • Joined Songmakers upon retirement 3 years ago
  • Hosts a monthly jam through Meetup.com
  • Accepted Songmakers Board’s invitation to join the Board before they had a chance to re-consider

 

Treasurer  –   “Weezie” Dobbs
Term expires February 2023

Louise Dobbs was born in east L.A. (Boyle Heights) and has lived in Venice/Santa Monica for the last 30 years. Louise loves singing and many kinds of music including Folk, Old Country, Old-Timey, Cowboy, Bluegrass, Classic Rock and Roll, and last, but definitely not least, African pop. She loves a cappella singing too and is a member of The Harmonistas, a 4-woman a cappella group.

She loves Songmakers and has been a devoted member since 1992. Since 1996 she has served as Songmakers’ Treasurer and she regularly leads the West LA Hoot. Her hobbies include walking and fitness, spirituality, reading and movies.

 

Recording Secretary  – Janice Gelencser
Term expires February 2024

I grew up singing alto in school and church choirs which I believe gave me the ability to hear and sing harmonies so easily. I loved the sounds of the 60’s folk groups and got my first guitar when I was 14. Using the Mel Bay instruction books, I taught myself chords and began singing and playing with friends who had the same musical interests. Playing music with others has been one of my greatest joys in life and led me to play in various acoustic bands.

In 2007, my husband, Andy and I began the Gelencser House Concert series, gelencserhouseconcerts.com. We host talented singer/songwriters and acoustic bands from near and far.

Andy and I joined Songmakers in 1986. We love the music activities and the lasting friendships we made through the years.

 

 

Corresponding Secretary/Social Media  –  Sally Charette
Term expires February 2024

Sally first sang harmony as a little kid while her dad drove the family through Indiana farmland in search of cool air and ice cream. Though she was in plays and musicals in high school and college, she switched from Theater major to English/Creative Writing when she moved to L.A. She’s been a member of one writing group or another for almost twenty years, and was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow. She’s had stories, poetry, articles and photography published along the way and has kept a blog at www.anygivensundry.com since 2005. She also loves hiking, reading, gardening, cooking, yoga, Zumba, most of her job as a TV/film script researcher, and hanging out at coffee houses and all-night diners.

She and her favorite (and only) husband, Dana, joined the organization in 1998. They both know that the support and experience gained through Songmakers has helped them become more confident singers (and player in Dana’s case). Sally is also the campout coordinator for Kenney Grove.

After years of singing around Songmakers’ campfires and hoots, Sally became part of an impromptu wall of harmonic sound at Roundup 2011. Was it the first time she, Louise Dobbs, Janice Gelencser and Launice Walker had all been in the same room at the same time? Maybe, since none of them live closer than an hour to any of the rest. They decided they needed to explore their mutual affinity for harmony, and The Harmonistas were born. In just under two years, they gave their first concert, they continue to have a blast at their rehearsal/pajama parties and typically will perform at the drop of a hat.

 

Hoot Liason/Sunshine and Showers  –  Sandy Lessner
Term expires February 2024

Sandy Lessner is a newly semi-retired social worker and special education teacher who loves music and has played violin since the 4th grade. She played in the Beverly Hills HS orchestra and later at UCLA, where she studied with Mehli Mehta and Andre Oskay (one time first chair of the London Philharmonic). Sandy has played in the Palisades Symphony and other community orchestras

Since joining Songmakers, her challenge has been learning to play by ear, an enjoyable work-in-progress. Sandy also sings in her synagogue choir, and has been honored to play Kol Nidre on the violin for several years at High Holiday services. She loves Songmakers campouts, and is glad to join the 2014 board to give something back to this enriching organization (and to keep a retirement promise to her husband : ).

 

 

Director  –  Dana Charette
Term expires February 2024

Born and raised in the Detroit area, my first involvement in the performing arts was as a competitive figure skater during the years of 1960-1966. After four years at Wayne State University I spent two years in the U.S. Army which included an all-expense-paid trip to scenic South Vietnam in 1968.
In Vietnam I flew missions as a scout observer in helicopters, where we flew ‘low and slow’ and earned the nick name “Magnet Ass.” I later transferred as a liaison sergeant into our flight operations office (actually a tent in the field).Upon returning to the States, I attended Michigan State University in the Theater Department. I helped form a political theater company called
“The Streetcorner Society.” During the summers of 1970-75 we performed in the parks of Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, and Baltimore, passing the hat to pay the rent. It is with this group that I began learning a few chords on the guitar in order to sing some of the folk songs of the era, such as “The Great Mandala,” “Blowing in the Wind,” etc.After acting in regional theater and teaching theater at Lansing Community College I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana to be the Assistant Manager of the Fort Wayne Performing Arts Center. It was here that I met my wife Sally.In the summer of 1985 I moved to California where I began work in the Aerospace industry. From 1996-1998 I provided computer support to the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. Later, I worked at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, & Television to recruit graduate and undergraduate students for the Theater Department.In 2003 I returned to work in the Aerospace Industry as a contracts administrator for a company manufacturing titanium and aluminum aircraft parts for various military and civilian aircraft.Sally and I fell into the Songmakers sphere after meeting the group at the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle contest in 1998. After our first campout with them, we were hooked and became members.I retired from the aerospace industry in 2010 and spend my time hiking, camping and playing music.I’m a member of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

 

Director  –  Andy Gelencser
Term expires February 2024

When I was growing up, my parents were members of a Hungarian folkloric choir and dance group. As a result, my weekends were filled with Hungarian music and people accompanied by cimbaloms, violins, accordions and lots of wine.

As a young adult I found the Claremont Folk Music Society, a group of people that got together once a month to sing and play. The people were warm and
friendly, and encouraged me to play the guitar and learn new songs. I began listening to the John Davis Saturday morning radio show, “Heartfelt Music” which helped me to appreciate folk musicians. In the mid ’80’s two friends and I started the Folk Music Coffeehouse, a concert series in a Unitarian church in Montclair, which ran for 5 years. The most significant outcome of this concert series was the wooing of a certain woman whom I had booked to open for Steve Gillette. She became my bride and is now my best friend. For many years, I volunteered for the Claremont Folk Festival serving on the board and acting as stage manager for the annual event.

Janice and I found Songmakers in 1986. The people and the music activities have enriched our lives in many ways. Today it seems as nothing has changed
from my early days of music exposure. Janice and I continue to host music parties and house concerts just as my parents hosted music events when I was growing up.

It is an honor to serve on the board of Songmakers Inc.

 

Director & Archivist/Historian  –  Linnea Richards
Term expires February 2024

I heard Irene Goodnight, loved it, and have been singing ever since. I played with a duo and bluegrass group while living in San Diego. In Ojai I taught music in several private schools. During those early years I always enjoyed teaching guitar as well.

I was active in Song Makers in the ‘90s and like the prodigal child returned. Children’s music has always been a strong strand in my offering. I share a parent/toddler pre-literacy program, Music in Motion, at the Agoura Hills Library on Friday mornings, 9:30 am, singing children’s folk songs in support of young families. I also help with music for a Sufi inspired Universal Worship Service in Malibu Canyon using Songs for Earthlings, (a song book for the folks of our planet).

Folk music (all music and art) helps us ‘remember who we are, and why we are here’. The songs, the tunes, express our human experience in all its wonder and mystery, share our roots and values guiding our journey. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and so many more, are our heroes because they do such a fine job capturing our stories.

I am happy to be helping Song Makers spread the joy that music brings to our community.

 

Director  –  Chris Harrott
Term expires February 2023

I had piano lessons as a kid. Growing up in the South Bay, I became interested in playing guitar and surf music. I got my first electric guitar at age 15. At 16, I became involved in the Unitarian Church and Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). LRY had a camp at Camp de Benneville Pines every year. This is where I became interested in current and traditional folk music. Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan.

At 17, some friends and I went to see the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at a small club. I hadn’t heard of them. After hearing Michael Bloomfield on guitar, I was blown away and broke out my electric stuff.

I went to the Strawberry Music Festival near Yosemite twice a year for 13 years. I was a staff member there for most of those years. I camped with Camp Crud; we were known as the swing music camp. Several of the stage acts came to jam with Crud.

I was a member of Angel City Chorale for 20 seasons. We toured Ireland in 2007. I first heard of Songmakers when I attended “Music in the Mountains” at Camp de Benneville Pines in 2003. I really liked the people and the music they played, so I joined Songmakers.

 

Director  –  Alan Stillson
Term expires February 2023

NEW WORKS:

Democratic Values Concert, 2021
Steven Hardy’s Life Matters, 2020

PUBLISHED WORKS:

11word puzzle books
3 musical productions

OTHER PUBLISHED ITEMS:

Mensa puzzle columns 
American Way – American Airlines in-flight magazine – puzzles
California Educator Magazine – puzzles

REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS:

People Magazine 
Television interview – Time Warner Cable, “Good Morning Colorado”
Radio interviews – WCCO, KOW, KKTL, KGNU, Dudley

PROFESSIONAL AND MEMBERSHIPS:

College mathematics professor – 2002 – 2017  
Writer workshops – Greater LA Mensa, Santa Barbara, Lehman Engel
Memberships – Songmakers, Dramatists Guild, Association of Los Angeles Playwrights, National Puzzlers League, Mensa

INSTRUMENTS PLAYED AND MUSICAL GENRE PREFERENCES:

Keyboards and guitar – folk, musical theater, standards, and oldies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s

 

Webmaster  –  Mary Zangerle
Term expires February 2024

I was born in South Bend, Indiana and lived in Ohio and Colorado before moving to Moorpark with my husband Mike in 2008.  We had played together in college, but as our family and careers took up more time, playing was put on hold.  After moving to California, Mike and I found Songmakers, dusted off the guitars and joined the group around 2015.  We still play some of the songs we played together in the early days (I think we finally know them). I also discovered that bluegrass music and jams were  common in the Los Angeles area and it renewed my passion for bluegrass. I took up the mandolin in 2015 and won first place in Mandolin in 2016 at the Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention in Santa Barbara.  I have also placed at Topanga over the years and I played in several bluegrass bands before the pandemic. 

I have a degree in Computer Science from Ohio State (go Bucks!) and jumped in to take over the Songmaker website when Carl Gage passed away unexpectedly in 2017.

Mike and I have enjoyed the campouts at Kenney Grove and all the songcircles and have made many friends along the way.  I am looking forward to contributing what I can to our organization.

 

Director/Public Relations  –  Robert Dingus-Deville
Term expires February 2024

I am a native of Southern California, but a life-long lover of roots music. The love of country and country gospel came from my Texas born father, but my love of folk music was acquired as a teenager in the early sixties when it was popular on the radio. Unfortunately there was not much home-made music in my family, and I didn’t acquire the confidence to play and sing until after I got the support of Songmakers when I joined eight years ago.

I taught in public schools for 22 years. I am the father of an artist and teacher in Philadelphia, and blessed with an equally artistic grandson.

 

 

 

Director  –  Robert Fisher
Term expires February 2024

So happy to be serving on the board preserving the legacy of American Folk music.
I’m a singer songwriter since early 1970’s. My home is in Thousand Oaks and I’m retired from Warner Brother Post Production Sound since Jan 2020 and now building my own library of original tunes for TV/Film sync.
I’ve been performing my whole life either as a solo folk act or in a local musical rock groups. I’m also an LA studio musician that plays piano and guitar. Graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1979 and have been a Songmakers member for about two years. I’m also a professional photographer and cinematogaher and also play Sitar for meditation and sound bath performances in Malibu. I play in Steve Berman’s Songmakers circle and have played at the Stage Coach Inn and been to Kenney Grove. You might find me playing around the Malibu area especially at the Real Coconut on some Saturday nights.

Volunteers holding board affiliated positions:

Board Appointed Echord/Calendar Editor  –  TJ Zeiler

TJ Zeiler is the board appointed editor for both the weekly Songmakers EChord EChord@songmakers.org  (an update mechanism for the monthly Bard Chord) and the Songmakers Master Calendar Calendar@songmakers.org (click on the Calendar button to access the visual albeit the Bard and EChord chronological listings have more events listed). TJ joined Songmakers in March of 2001, served on the board for one term but decided his talents would be better used being instrumental in the growth of Hoot and Song Circle venues throughout Ventura Co. He both leads and hosts as situations require. TJ went pro in 2003 and is now an established entertainer under the banner of Music by TJ and a band member of HorsePlay, the Classic Western Band. He says he has been and continues to be inspired by all of our wonderful Songmakers. He credits his personal growth as an entertainer to many of our members too numerous to list but most especially HorsePlay band mate Steve Linsky. TJ suggests: “If you’re not learning and improving from your affiliation with every Songmakers member you’ve met, you’re simply not paying attention!”

Election Chair –  Linda Szitkar

My name is Linda Szitkar and I am not a musician. But I have always loved music. I grew up with Gregorian chants, show tunes, christmas carols, American classics, crooners, and cowboy tunes. As a teenager I loved the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and Gene Pitney. Later I became enamored of folk music and the bands of the British Invasion. My husband, Doug Kerr, introduced me to Classical music, jigs and reels, and Mexican canciones. I sang with records or with my preschool students, but not with adults. After many years of saying no, I finally started singing with my husband a few years back. We now host a monthly meetup for accoustic music at our house. After retirement, we joined Songmakers and started camping at Kenney Grove. When Doug volunteered to join the Music in the Mountains committee, I joined as well. With us, you generally get two for the price of one. I am proud to have been asked to assist the board of Songmakers and to be able to give back to a group that has welcomed us with open arms.

 

 

We would like to honor our past Songmaker presidents:

Former Presidents left to right: Richard Conroy, Willard Smith, Ken Graydon, Phee Sherline Graydon, Jackie Smith, Dean Donin, Kay Conroy and Bruce Farwell.

1964 Hana Moss   1994 Bruce Farwell
1965 Marjorie Morris   1995 Kay Conroy
1966 Frank Drucker   1996 Kay Conroy
1967 Frank Drucker   1997 Kay Conroy
1968 Bob Wimmer   1998 Kay Conroy
1969 Hadley Hendrick   1999 Kay Conroy
1970 Peggy Tobin   2000 Kay Conroy
1971 Mary Droege   2001 Kay Conroy
1972 Mary Droege   2002 Gary Lynch
1973 Phee Sherline   2003 Gary Lynch
1974 Phee Sherline   2004 Cliff Nichols
1975 Phee Sherline   2005 Tom Scott
1976 Phee Sherline   2006 Tom Scott
1977 Peggy Tobin   2007 Tom Scott
1978 Peggy Tobin   2008 Tom Scott
1979 Clark Weissman   2009 Kathy Lynch
1980 Ken Graydon   2010 Kathy Lynch
1981 Ken Graydon   2011 Kathy Lynch
1982 Ken Graydon   2012 Steve Berman
1983 Ken Graydon   2013 Steve Berman
1984 John McFadyen   2014 Steve Berman
1985 Willard Smith   2015 Steve Berman
1986 Willard Smith   2016 Steve Berman
1987 Dean Kenney   2017 Steve Berman
1988 Dean Kenney   2018 Steve Berman
1989 Dean Kenney   2019 Steve Berman
1990 Jackie Smith   2020  
1991 Jackie Smith   2021  
1992 Dean Donin   2022  
1993 Dick Conroy   2023