By Mike Templeton

The Originary Arts Initiative and the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition have teamed up for n unique event that will bring songwriters, poets, and musicians together for an evening of song and creative workshopping. Spirit of Song is a Lyric Writing Workshop & Community Sing-out designed to evoke freedom and creativity in anyone who is willing to come together to sing and follow the muse where she leads. Spirit of Song will be held at the Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum on Friday, June 28 from 5:45 until 9:00 pm. Registration is at this link:

Spirit of Song promises to be a genuinely exceptional event. On offer is the opportunity get involved with some of the finest songwriters and poets in the urban Appalachian community. Sharing ideas, inspiration, and methods of composition are all on the table for the evening. And the workshopping will culminate in a concert. This is an event that emphasizes both theory and practice. Core member, poet, and songwriter Sherry Cook Stanforth is one of the founders of the Originary Arts Initiative, and one of the people behind Sprit of Song. I asked Sherry what provided the spark for an event such as this. Sherry said: “I’m inspired by the storytelling intensity and detail reflected in the songs of our local musicians. Many of these folks have dedicated themselves to bringing regional heritage into a living, dynamic presence, so that listeners encounter a very real and diverse sense of family and community experience.” As with so many things grounded in the urban Appalachian communities, this event grows out of a strong sense of community—community that functions like family. Sherry is careful to emphasize here that many of the artists who will be taking part in this event have been plying and honing their craft for many years.

Poet and songwriter Roberta Schultz explains that this event is an opportunity “to discuss some of the great craft information I’ve received from studying with poets like Pauletta Hansel, Katerina Stoykova, Richard Hague and Marianne Worthington about where your song or poem might begin.” As we know, UACC Core member Pauletta Hansel is a distinguished and respected poet, and everyone else Schultz mentions here are equally well-regarded as poets and writers. Schultz told me that songs and poems do not always come from sparks of genius or from careful methods: “I already knew that there were two kinds of song-writing inspirations—the bolt from the blue and the prompt.  The first kind of inspiration comes at you and won’t let you go.  The other kind, you have to work for.  I’m convinced that if songwriters hope to be prolific, they must learn to work with prompts and revision as well as ‘bolts from the blue.” Working with experienced writers and poets will help anyone craft their work along both lines of inspiration. And the opportunity to find inspiration and direction from poets and songwriters of the caliber we have at Spirit of Song is truly rare.

Dale Farmer has definitely made his mark as a songwriter and musician. On his own and with his work with Ma Crow, Farmer is something of a local legend in the world of blue grass and old time music. Farmer will be taking part in Spirit of Song as a songwriter with plenty to offer to just about anyone interested in writing songs. But he is also on hand to learn from others. Farmer told me he has lately been focusing on poetry, and he is especially excited to “discuss the lyric writing process with other songwriters now that I have spent significant time writing poetry.”

Part of the basis for Spirit of Song is the idea that we are all still learning, no matter how accomplished we may have become, and we can all learn from other poets and songwriters. Farmer summed things up by telling me that he has “attended similar workshops put on by this group and I’m actually expecting to come away with more inspiration, motivation and knowledge to write some new songs myself.” The experienced and seasoned songwriters will be offering what they have and opening themselves for all that other may bring to the table. 

Everyone involved in Spirit of Song, from the seasoned professionals to those completely new to writing songs will find inspiration and practical ways of proceeding with their art. While workshopping and performances are central to the event, we might consider it more of a community gathering in the spirit of the ways the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition has organized so many other previous events. We love to get people together for a purpose and to simply be together.

Spirit of Song: a Lyric Writing Workshop & Community Sing-out will be held at the Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum on Friday, June 28 from 5:45 until 9:00 pm. The event is a collaboration between the Originary Arts Initiative and the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition as part of UACC’s Arts and Culture Educational Outreach Program developed during UACC’s recent planning process. It helps meet our objective of connecting with education, arts, and cultural leaders to build programs, collaborations and relationships across the region while promoting UACC and building awareness of our mission.

Registration is at this link:

Questions about the event and about how to become involved in UACC’s Arts and Culture Educational Outreach Program can be directed here: [email protected].

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of The Chief of Birds: A Memoir, available from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iff Books. Check out his profile in UACC’s Cultural Directory. He lives in West Milton, Ohio with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city and the country snapping photos. She looks up at the grandeur above, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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