Calling all Songmakers!
The Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival is happening this Sunday, May 21, 2023 !
Songmakers will have a designated area to sing and play with the purpose of showing festival attendees what we do: Make music and have fun doing it!
Songmaker’s slots to lead are 1 hour long, beginning at 9:00 AM, and ending at 4:00 PM.
(See “hootleaders” below)
It is a place and time to showcase the inclusive, inviting nature of our club. What has been suggested are: Sing-a-longs, familiar songs, inclusive songs for as many people as possible to join in singing!
Ideally, you, a Songmaker, will be able to join in the fun by singing along, playing along, or just hanging out. We will have designated hootleaders who will be open to allowing Songmakers, and passers-by (!) to sing a song, play, or join in however they wish !
We also encourage passers-by to join in and play! This is what Songmakers has always been about at this festival. It helps us build our membership and leads people to get music back in to their lives. Often, as much as they enjoy all the jamming going on, ours is the stage where they find music they can sing along with!
IF YOU HAVE CHAIRS TO SHARE FOR THE DAY PLEASE BRING THEM! WE WANT TO GIVE OUR SITE’S VISITORS A NICE PLACE TO SIT !! ALSO, IF YOU WANT TO HANG OUT IN THE SONGMAKERS’ AREA, PLEASE BRING A CHAIR FOR YOURSELF!
Here are the slots and the “hootleaders:”
I am soooo grateful to all you who agreed to lead an hour slot….
9-10 Louise Dobbs and friends (Sally and Dana Charette, Linda Szitkar and Doug Kerr)
10-11 Bill Dempsey
11-12 Linnea Richards
12-1 Robert Fisher
1-2 David Steinhart
2-3 Gemini (Bruce Farwell and Renata Decher)
3-4 Sympatico Music (Pat Cronin and Bob Bueling)
Thanks, be well, and let’s sing!
2023 Kenney Grove Campouts
Kenney Grove Campout Information
Songmaker Live Hoot & Circle Guidelines
Songmakers Gear for sale
Songmakers apparel and gear are now available for purchase and home delivery at our new online store. Check it out!
Prez Sez 4/4/2020
I’ve been exploring ways for us to play music together virtually. The bad news is that all the platforms designed for this seem to need specific hardware or have other limitations that make them inappropriate for Songmaker Virtual Song Circles during this crisis (Amazon said that an Ethernet cable could not be delivered for a month). Ninjam with Reaper is a free download that may be useful for small groups by using one of their public servers. It delays signal by the number of bars the song repeats, in order to synchronize audio streams from all players. If you are tech minded, and especially if you have experience and maybe equipment for sound editing, I’d be very obliged, if you want to try to get that going. After download you can join a user forum, which will instruct you, including utube videos. Hey – we’ve got lots of time on our hands now – right? : )
The good news is that AV conferencing software works better. In general, it is best for participants to keep themselves muted if they are not leading a song, or making a statement during the time between songs. Then they should mute themselves again. You can explore staying unmuted between songs but be ready to mute if needed. With small groups not very far apart geographically, it may occasionally be possible to have two computers unmuted during music, but generally this will not work.
The best conferencing software I’ve found is Zoom. You can enter Zoom meetings on most Macs, PCs, smartphones, tablets and even use telephone log in (but without video). Several internet browsers are supported, although some will have more features. I’ve found Google Chrome to be best so far.
On Hosting Zoom meetings for music (from a total newbie)
Zoom recently announced that they are giving all free accounts unlimited duration sessions during this crisis. I suggest jumping on this fast if you are interested in hosting. First download and register the free Zoom Client for Meetings at:
You can find many sources of instruction about hosting Zoom music sessions. The u-tube videos I found helpful can be found at:
Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned so far:
Have as little as possible running on your system while hosting, maybe just Zoom, your email and whatever text files you might want to screen-share with lyrics and chords of songs you plan to play. Use a hardwired (Ethernet) connection to your router. You can put speedtest.net in a browser and check your download and upload speed through Ethernet vs WiFi, and with different applications running. My download speed more than doubled with Ethernet and little else running.
Use an external microphone and speakers if available. Built in computer audio input/output should work (that’s all I have), but not as well.
Before anyone enters the meeting
L When you see your face upon starting the meeting, click up arrow to the right of the microphone (audio) icon in the lower left of your screen, and go down to Audio Setting
2. Test sound to be sure it passes. I was advised that you should then turn off both“automatically adjust volume”, and use the sliders to set them high, which you can continue to adjust throughout the meeting. However, I have not experimented with this yet in a meeting so you may want to do so.
3. Click advanced at the bottom right and check the REALLY important parameters for music: Check “Show in-meeting option to Enable Original Sound” at top. Make sure original sound is enabled during the meeting. DISABLE suppression of the 2 forms of background noise. Leave echo suppression on auto. Your music quality will thank you : )
I think these are good tips even when you’re not hosting, if they can be applied, to make your individual audio optimal.
After starting a session, you can assign anyone who joins to be the host instead of you. This can help if they have a better system than you do, especially audio input/output devices, speed/bandwidth. However, I’m only a couple days into learning about Zoom. So experiment, and pass on your own wisdom to your fellow Songmakers via me, TJ at the weekly Echord, and/or website posts that comprise the new Bard Chord.
I hope to see you soon on my Zoom channel, 637717652. I’ll host the Virtual Agoura Hills Song Circle from 7-10 pm each Sunday until we can play in the same room again. May that day come soon. You may be required to provide the password, 008615, because hackers disrupting Zoom meetings have recently mandated increased security. The invitation is below.
The famous Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” seems particularly appropriate now. Stay home, stay safe, keep playing music, and we’ll get through these “interesting times” together. Remember to give thanks for all our blessings every single day! They didn’t have the internet in the 1918 pandemic! Songmakers will always be high on my gratitude list!
Virtual Agoura Hills Song Circle
Sunday, April 5⋅7:00 – 10:15pm
Weekly on Sunday
1 yes, 36 awaiting
Description:Steven Mark Berman is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/637717652?pwd=ZW92MDYwN3NYUGtyWHJtQW1BRXlQQT09 Meeting ID: 637 717 652 Password: 008615
The Bardchord editor apologizes for the following omissions from the Bardchord distributed yesterday.
CORRECTION TO BELL ARTS HOOT PROFILE: WE START AT 7 PM
Mea culpa. In my profile of our hoot, I gave two different starting times: I wrote 7 to 10 p.m. in the second paragraph (“When”), which is correct; but then farther down under “Format,” I wrote that Mike starts the hoot “promptly at 6,” which is wrong. I and a couple of others proofread the piece at least six times, so I don’t know how this was missed. But there it is and now you know: we start promptly at 7 p.m. every fourth (not last) Friday of the month. Please join us sometime! –Annie Reeves
Roundup Board Election 2020
With the Roundup not far away in the early part of 2020, we look for volunteers to join the Songmakers’ Board.
The Board runs the club and all significant decisions are made at Board Meetings. Do not be afraid, there are only 4 Meetings a year, and Meetings only last 3 hours. That’s 12 hours out of your otherwise busy life to devote to running your Club, per year! Isn’t it time to put a little back into this Club for what you take out of it? (I have been a Board Member for well over 30 years and I’m still going).
Volunteers, please send a reply to this address.
Simon Lucas (Election Chair).
In this issue: Prez Sez, by Steve Berman
Woody Guthrie, Songmakers Patriarch, by Annie Reeves
Milestones, by Linda Szitkar
Calendar, by TJ Zeiler
Prez Sez, 12/9/2019 by Steve Berman
A visionary year is almost here (20/20, get it!), so grateful New Year Songmakers, and may your sight be clear! Fire season seems scarier every Fall, but to my knowledge, all our homes survived for Thanksgiving. There was a lower than usual turnout for Music in the Mountains at Camp De Benneville Pines due to fire anxiety. Sandy and I were among those who came a day later than planned because fires were blazing all around us, but we had a great time once we arrived, and enjoyed the stellar playing of this years’ headliner, Mike Mullins. We can now give thanks for the start of a healthy rainy season – whew!
Speaking of Camp De Benneville Pines, I’m always thankful for any time we get to spend in Angelus Oaks. Thursday March 5 – 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 fulfill 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: https://playingforchange.com/
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, established by our own Barbara Greenspan of blessed memory), Boys & Girls Club of Ventura (Songmaker 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
PS – Yesterday past Prez Kay Conroy sent me via Iris Edinger a box of VHS Tapes for our Songmakers archives and I spend this morning watching the 1987 RoundUp, the 2002 RoundUp, and Songmaker Bob Krolls fabulous 2000 Fireside Concert benefit for Willard Smith. What an enormous amount of talent has passed through our club! I am both humbled and proud to be one of those who is helping to “Pass the Music On”! May the circle never be broken!
Woody Guthry, Songmakers Patriarch
by Annie Reeves
Did you know that Woody Guthrie helped to engender the organization we now know as Songmakers? Here’s a condensed version of his life story.
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912, in the small farm town of Okemah, Oklahoma. He was the second son of Mary and Charles Guthrie. His father–a cowboy, real estate speculator, and local politico–taught Woody Western songs, Native American songs, and Scottish folk tunes. His musical mother influenced Woody deeply as well, as did some of his musically inclined neighbors.
During his early years, Woody went through devastating losses: the accidental death of his older sister, the ruin of his family’s fortunes, and the institutionalization and eventual death of his mother from Huntington’s Disease. (Later his first two daughters and Woody himself would also succumb to the malady.) These dark early experiences helped Woody to develop his acerbic take on life.
In 1920, oil transformed Okemah into a boomtown, attracting thousands of workers, hustlers, and gamblers. A few years later, the oil stopped gushing and Okemah went bust. After that, Woody took to rambling around the country.
He married for the first time at 19, but during the Dust Bowl era, he left his wife and three children to join the countless other Okies who were migrating to California looking for work. At the Los Angeles radio station KFVD, he gained some notice playing hillbilly music.
Woody wrote songs all his life, many of them politically charged. Some of his best known are “This Land Is Your Land,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore,” ”Pastures of Plenty,” “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh,” and “This Train Is Bound for Glory.” Musicians who list him as a major inspiration include Pete Seeger, Odetta, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Jerry Garcia, Judy Collins, and John Mellencamp, among too many others to name.
He often performed with the words “This machine kills fascists” on his guitar. (Guthrie was frequently associated with U.S. Communist groups, though he did not seem to be a member of any.) A collection of his “Dust Bowl Ballads” has been named one of the 100 Records That Changed the World.
Woody was married three times and fathered eight children. During his later years, though ill, Guthrie served as a father figure to the American Folk Revival of the 1960s and ’70s, providing encouragement to a generation of new folk musicians and acting as mentor to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan. His son Arlo became a famous folk-revival musician in his own right.
Here’s how Woody was involved with the origins of Songmakers: When Woody and Pete Seeger formed the Almanac Singers in the early 1940s, Woody became fast and permanent friends with fellow Almanac Singer Bess Lomax-Hawes. Ten years later Bess moved to Los Angeles and began teaching guitar to groups of students at local colleges. To practice their homework, some of her students formed the West Valley Guitar Group, and—along with a group called People’s Songs West that played folk music in LA parks—this soon morphed into the Songmakers of California. Woody’s address in the New Jersey hospital where he lived from 1956 to1961 was penciled into a roster of the West Valley Guitar Group in the Songmakers’ archives. The exact date he joined is not known, but we do know that Woody and his music have continued to inspire Songmakers in every decade since.
Woody said, “I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. . . No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world. . . I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.”
On October 3, 1967, Woody died in Brooklyn State Hospital, New York, from complications of Huntington’s Disease. His spirit, so well embodied in his music, will always live in our hearts.
[To read about other former Songmakers, see the “In Memoriam” page of Songmakers.org]
Milestones by Linda Szitkar
We are pleased to announce that Peter Friedman is home and doing well. He had a successful bladder reconstruction earlier this week. He is looking forward to resuming playing music with all of his friends soon.
On July 27 longtime Songmaker David Borger fell and suffered a broken hip. Complications following surgery kept him in the hospital for a month, most of it in Intensive Care. He died peacefully in his sleep on September 1. According to his wishes there is to be no memorial service or burial. He asked to have a big party with food, beverages, music and laughter. We will remember him with a David Borger Memorial Hoot and Potluck on Saturday, March 14, 2020 from 10am to midnight. The date was chosen because it is just after his birthday and just before his and Ann’s wedding anniversary. She hopes you will come laugh, tell stories, play music and celebrate his extraordinary life. Watch the Bardchord for details.
So sad to hear Dorna passed away. Such a warm, sweet, kind woman, I will miss her very much. My sympathies to her husband and family and all the Songmakers who knew her.
Methods to reach members, in addition to this Members Only are:
1. The new version of Bard Chord once monthly with Calendar (submit to TJ Zeiler calendar items via EChord@songmakers.org or Calendar@songmakers.org)
2. Facebook members only:
3. Facebook general public (moderated mainly for privacy reasons):
4. Weekly EChord (most often goes out either Sunday or Monday depending on what’s happening): Submit timely articles / urgent announcements to TJ Zeiler as well as calendar items via EChord@songmakers.org or Calendar@songmakers.org
I do send out updated directories ~once a quarter usually just before a board meeting.
For the November Bardchord
From Doug Kerr, Bardchord compiler.
THE BARDCHORD NEEDS YOU!, yes, you.
Songmakers, if you enjoy reading the Bardchord Newsletter then you need to support it by providing the stories. No stories, no Bardchord.
I received a couple of inquiries about the changes to the Bardchord. Here are some of the services that Flash Gordon used to provide as editor; recruiting story writers, writing stories, editing stories, reminding people of publication deadlines, laying out the content into a magazine style publication with logos, photos and graphics, distributing the Bardchord. We are grateful to Flash for his years of service to our club. Flash stepped down and no one responded to our attempts to recruit a replacement so those services are not currently being performed. What we have replaced it with is this opportunity for members to share their stories and ideas. You create the content, we distribute it to members on the 25th of each month. If any of you would like to see the Bardchord be more than it currently is, please contact one of the members of the Board of Directors and let them know that you want to be the new Bardchord editor.
The way to contribute a story is to go to the Songmakers website, http://songmakers.org/ . In the top right corner of our home page click on the button titled, “Members Only”. Your first time there you will have to create your user name and password and wait for verification of your club membership. Then you will be able to click on that same button and find a topic to which you can write a reply, or start a new topic of your own creation. Do not send your story by email. You must post it yourself to the website. On the 25th of each month the content that has been posted will be gathered into a single newsletter and sent to all members as The Bardchord.
Below is a partial list of ideas for content that you could create for the Bardchord.
1. My story, how I joined Songmakers
2. Once a year someone from each hoot/song circle could write a description of that hoot/song circle which could include, how many people typically attend, is there plenty of room or is it a crowded venue? availability of parking, pot luck meal included?, genres of music represented, is it like an open mic event or a participatory jam session?, is an RSVP requested?
3. sharing resources for learning new songs.
4. Club memory, stories about memorable Songmakers events or experiences.
5. Share you expertise: music theory, caring for your instrument, buying an instrument, building harmonies, reviews of brands of instruments or music paraphernalia.
6. Personal anecdotes regarding musical themes.
7. Suggestions for Bardchord story topics.
8. Was there a great sing-a-long at a hoot you attended? What was it?
9. My Musical Roots. Early influences, etc
10. Music Venues – Stores, organizations, open mic reviews, concert venue reviews
Hi Pat, in regards to your question, “Is there any method to reach…” . Yes, we don’t lack methods, we lack volunteers to do the work.
Hi Doug & other Songmakers:
I will miss the BardChord Newsletter as it was done in the past years but I think having an online blog/newsletter/bulletin board would be better than nothing. It helps us stay connected. I have an article I would like to post for Borchard Fireside Concerts (similar to the one I wrote up for Camarillo Cafe). Is this where I would post it? Are we still going to get a directory of members? With the directory, an online bulletin board and Facebook – as well as the E-Chord, we should all be able to stay aware of what’s going on in the club.
One issue I see as a problem, is with those members who are not computer literate or who just do not look on their computers regularly. Is there any method to reach them with Songmaker news?
I am in support of this online bulletin board as long as we keep it respectful and informative. Pat Cronin
Pat – it was determined that only 3 members did not have an email address. The Bard Chord forum that is emailed to the rest of the members is printed and mailed out to them by Sally Charette each month. (Thank you Sally and Doug) Total cost $2.10. The club is saving over $100/month now.
Yes you can post your article here. Directories will still be emailed out as they are now.
Due to privacy concerns, please do not share your access or info contained within with any non-members of Songmakers. Keep our members only sections members only. Musically, TJ Zeiler