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 – Steve Berman
Term expires 2021
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 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 2022
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 2021
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 2022
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 2022
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.
Publicity Chair – Annie Reeves
Term expires 2022
Grew up in West LA. Parents both enjoyed music, including folk (Weavers, Marais & Miranda, Odetta), which I took to early. We also had a piano, where our weekly cleaner (pianist & choir leader at her Baptist church) pounded out rocking gospel numbers – music I still find irresistible. Started to learn guitar at age 19 with lessons from my first honey, who also instilled a lifelong love of authentic old blues. Hung around at the original McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Ash Grove, Troubadour, Lighthouse, etc. Music continued as a major passion thru many relocations & years; wrote a couple dozen songs; several friends became regular music partners. Finally settled down & took job as corporate communicator; there followed a period of hardly playing/singing at all – always longed to get back to it.
Since moving to Ojai 20 years ago, I have. Early on met another Ojai musician and we’ve been playing & singing weekly ever since, most genres except rap & jazz. Now semiretired; no kids. Significant other, Ed, lives in Lompoc, not musical but enjoys it. Found Songmakers via Meetup in fall 2015 & felt right at home. DeBeneville was a dream vacation & Bell Arts Hoots have been outstanding. So I’m in to stay.
Hoot Liason/Assistant Bard Chord Editor – Sandy Lessner
Term expires 2022
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 2022
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 2022
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/Sunshine and Showers – Linda Szitkar
Term expires 2022
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 join the board of Songmakers and to be able to give back to a group that has welcomed us with open arms
Director & Archivist/Historian – Linnea Richards
Term expires 2022
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 – Percy Hicks-Severn
Term expires 2021
I was born in Baltimore but lived my first 25 years in a house my father built on the North River in Gloucester, Virginia (across the York River from Yorktown where the Brits were defeated by Washington). After earning a B.A.
at William and Mary and working for Colonial Williamsburg as a tour guide and hostess I drove across country in a 1939 Chevy and lived for 2 years in San Francisco. After marrying I lived the next 52 in Newbury Park (in the same house!) We had a daughter, Catherine and son, Cliffy. After we sold our business, I did a workshop in 2 California men’s prisons “Alternatives to Violence Project” for several years before becoming a caretaker for my husband who died after 46 years of marriage. I also was the treasurer and chief fundraiser for an Afghan Girls School for refugee girls in a U.N. camp in Peshawer, Pakistan. This was a Quaker project that lasted 18 years. I am continuing the work under the auspices of the Sun Foundation, which took over the project after, Orange Grove Meeting, my Quaker Meeting in Pasadena, decided to lay the project down. For 5 years I have been volunteering at “Food Rescue” in the Conejo Valley where I live. I started guitar lessons just before my 76th
birthday and found out I could sing so joined Songmakers.
Director – Sam Gross
Term expires 2022
One of my earliest memories is when I was 2 years old in Philadelphia and my dad, freshly back from France in World War II, would tuck me into bed at night and sing beautiful songs of the west by the Sons of the Pioneers and others and take me to western movies of the cowboy stars of the time. The memory of those tunes and images have stayed with me to this very day.
In college at Penn State and the University of Maryland I was fascinated by the folk singers of the time. My brother and I formed a small folk group and played fraternity parties and coffee houses.
I moved to Thousand Oaks, California in 1969 and became busy with my career of department store visual merchandising. I eventually moved on to motion picture set decoration and art direction for 30 years, 10 years of which I specialized in western movies and TV shows such as Gunsmoke and Geronimo.
For 30 years I owned horses and rode for the State and National Park Service, wild west shows and parades such as the Rose Parade and Conejo Valley Days. I am an illustrator and sculptor.
I was introduced to Songmakers in 2010 by Jan Sherman who invited me to her Newbury Park Song Circle. I relearned to play the guitar singing mainly folk, period songs and ballads and many beautiful songs by Ian Tyson, Willie Nelson, Stan Rogers, John Stuart and of course the Sons of the Pioneers and others.
Director – Chris Harrott
Term expires 2022
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.
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!”
Webmaster – Mary Zangerle
I am a retired computer programmer and I took over the webmaster position from Carl Gage, when he passed away in March, 2017. I am looking forward to being able to contribute my time to Songmakers, which I have enjoyed being a part of these last few years.
I was born in South Bend, Indiana. I studied piano throughout childhood and started playing guitar when I was 13. I met my husband Mike when we were teenagers and we both began playing guitar in the local church guitar mass. After college, we were both busy with careers and the activities of our two children so playing went on the back burner. When we moved from Ohio to Moorpark, CA in 2008 and sent our youngest off to college, we began getting interested in playing our guitars again. We began attending bluegrass jams and along the way found Songmakers. We truly enjoy being members of this group and the numerous opportunities it offers to meet fellow musicians, make many new friends and play with others who also share the love of acoustic music. We are both now retired and always have a running list of Songmaker or other music events to attend in the LA area.
Mike loves the blues and I am passionate about bluegrass. I began playing the mandolin 3 years ago and I now play regularly with the Old Country Grass Band. Mike and I also play together as a duo at open mics and songmaker events as well as the numerous hoot and songcircle opportunities that Songmakers offers each month. We are so fortunate to live not only in an area with great weather, but also an area with such a rich and supportive musical community.
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|