Once in a Lifetime Songwriting Masterclass!

Once in a Lifetime Songwriting Masterclass!
Once in a Lifetime Songwriting Masterclass!

During the term break, Songwork International and the TTS Foundation presented a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to work with a leading group of songwriters and producers from around the world. The TTS Foundation kindly provided a generous subsidy of $500 per Tanglin student.

The four-day Masterclass took place in the Senior School Music department, with an evening showcase on the fifth day at the Centre Stage School of the Arts. It offered a full immersion into the world of songwriting from a concept to studio mixed track, and catered to every level of songwriter, while boosting basic musicianship skills.

Over the week, students had the opportunity to work with five incredible mentors who shared their tricks of the trade and vast knowledge and insight into the music industry. The mentors are responsible for multiple hit songs and number 1's globally, millions of Spotify plays and I-tunes downloads, and are key to the success of artists including EXO, The Kooks, Frenna, Sum 41, Nickleback, Snow Patrol, The Arctic Monkeys, Miley Cyrus, and many more.

They include:

  • Roo Pigott - Director of Songwork International, producer, songwriter, and music industry veteran and innovator of 20+ years.
  • Brandon Frieson - Renowned and award-winning record producer, songwriter, musician, record label owner. Owns a record label with Billy Ray Cyrus, a recording studio with Matt from Gun's n Roses, and just wrote and produced The Kooks latest album!
  • Richard Huxley - Multi-instrumentalist and performer with over 25 years of songwriting and performance experience. Creator of "A band that anyone can join", leader of multiple rockschool and Uke groups.
  • Laura Kidd - Also known as "She Makes War" - leading DIY artiste and songwriter with a stunning back catalogue, self-produced, self-released, self-made, showing us all how to make a mark.
  • Michael-Dann Joseph - A UK based music publishing giant with many high charting artistes in his roster including Fenna who is seeing 2.5 million Spotify plays per month and EXO who recently had a global number 1!Students learnt top tips on songwriting techniques and composition, as well as experience in performance and technical studio production skills.

By the end of the week, they had professionally recorded, mixed, produced and mastered a release ready MP3 of their main song. Here's what some who took part had to say:

What have you enjoyed most about working with big names within the music world?

It was incredibly inspiring, not only to write more music but to also work with others. At every moment something new and exciting would present itself and that is what made the week such an invaluable experience.

Tamsin: Each mentor has a unique way of working and getting a deeper understanding about the music industry was a great experience.

Alastair: Getting real insight about how the music industry works. What's even better is how varied in philosophy and production the mentors all were. They were able to demonstrate our place in the world of music, and that just makes your dream of being a songwriter more tantalisingly achievable.

Where do you hope your music will take you? Is it a hobby or you hoping for a career?

Cian: Music to me is extremely important. It is something I want to pursue later in life not only as a hobby but also as a career. I would like my music to be heard all around the world and for it to be an influence on others and I hope that with hard work and effort, I can reach this goal.

Tamsin: I hope my music will give me a full-time career where I'll be songwriting and performing.

Paris: I would love to pursue a career as a songwriter and artist, so this was a great opportunity for me to experience.

Alastair: I would like to make my music to tell stories, whether it be a film or a street performance, or something fun and cool like that. I guess I want my music to help me tell stories. I hope to make it a part of my career, at some point.

What did it feel like to perform your new song at Centre Stage?

Cian: When I performed my new songs at Centre Stage, it was a very moving moment for me. Seeing people react positively towards your music is very fulfilling. It was also great to perform with people that I have never performed with before and to create new relationships with them.

Tamsin: It felt rewarding to perform in front of the mentors and my peers. It was a great bonding experience for all of us.

Alastair: Four songs, actually! The process of turning songs from experimental or electronic pieces into acoustic ones was another enjoyable creative task. It was interesting to see how the audience reacted to pieces we'd only made in a single day! Our ideas were put on full display, whether they were good, bad or weird. Even though some of our pieces were a little unpolished, that somehow made me even prouder.

How did you find the process of writing a song with a mentor?

Cian: Writing music is not always an easy task but when I was in a room with two to three people and a mentor, songwriting became second nature. I found the process to be completely different to what I normally do. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every second spent writing music and it was great to learn new approaches.

Tamsin: The process was extremely fun for me! Everyone's ideas eventually worked together and having a mentor to help in this process kept the energy levels high and everyone on the same page.

Paris: It was an amazing week being able to work with different mentors and other young musicians. I have never done anything like this before, and I found that it was easier to write songs with other people as we were bouncing ideas off each other and had an input of different opinions. I learnt many ways that different musicians create a song and am now able to use these techniques when I am writing my own.

Alastair: Incredibly stimulating and liberating. They introduced me to new ways of songwriting, new processes and techniques. With one mentor, we made little musical pieces and fit them together like a jigsaw. With another it was the simple matter of putting chords together, coming up with a melody and seeing if anyone got caught on the hook, before moving on to the next song. Throughout, the mentors were all supportive of our ideas, suggested their own and showed us new tips and tricks on how to achieve what we wanted with our songs. It was a holistic process that gave us tons of new insights about how to write a song.

What one key takeaway do you have from the Masterclass?

Cian: To never hesitate to do something whether that may be singing in public for the first time or releasing a song onto the internet. It is always better to take risks rather than doing nothing.

Tamsin: The contacts I've made throughout the week. The Masterclass is only the beginning of so many opportunities in the industry.

Alastair: Splits. When everyone's happy, do the splits. When everyone's laughing about how amazing the track you all wrote together is, do the splits.

On the week, mentors, Michael, Richard and Laura commented:

"Working with the students was very much like working with my own artists/writers and producers. I loved helping them to think outside the box and to experiment. I pushed their limits and they over delivered every time! Having spent a long time plagued by the rise in digital and decline in physical and not adapting fast enough, the music industry is back and booming. It's gratifying to see songwriters having very successful careers both professionally and financially. Young people should just go for it!" Michael

"I was genuinely surprised and impressed with the level of engagement from each student I worked with. I didn't expect to get such a kick out of creating a supportive, inspiring atmosphere in my classroom to enable the young people to really fly with their ideas, and I certainly wasn't expecting their ideas to be so thoughtful, honest and developed. This is a tribute to Tanglin and to Roo. It was a truly memorable week, and I'm so grateful for being invited to be part of it." Laura

"The Masterclass is a fantastic opportunity for young writers and musicians to work in such a supportive environment. The school is clearly amazing, fostering an environment of mutual respect and openness, an environment which clearly values and cherishes the arts. The goal each day was to make a song, and the willingness of all the students to actively participate in the making of a piece of art was inspiring. For the students, the Masterclass offers a comprehensive and wide-ranging programme. They get to work with music industry professionals from across the globe, from different sectors, in different areas of the music industries, who have a breadth and depth to their knowledge that I would have loved to have been introduced to at their age. I started my music career by only doing what I could afford to do, working other jobs which allowed me to develop my practice as a musician. I built sustainably. In a way where I could keep doing the things I love, and only the things I love, in music. Through the years, I've been able to become pickier, and choosier over the work I take. It's been 100% music for me for a good 15 years now... and it's my living. And the only thing that's made that so, is keeping going. That's my advice to students wanting to make it into the music industry. Take what you know, keep working on it, keep trying things, be innovative. Keep going. Take the lessons from the failures. Take stock of the successes. Go again. Keep honing your own sense of what it is that you want to make. Reflect. Connect with fans. Give them a REASON to buy. Talk to people. Be nice. Work hard. Try something new. Assess if it's making you happy, and if it's paying for itself, or maybe it's starting to pay the mortgage. Keep learning. Do something you've already done but do it better. Or change it up. Maybe that's the lesson. Learn... but keep going." Richard

Following the Masterclass, three students are progressing into management, publishing and record deals internationally, whilst others are continuing to receive support and mentoring from Songwork International.

Roo said: "This first Masterclass has allowed us to work with students at young ages, see them through their school years and developing their songwriting and music industry skills, and now opening up real career paths into reliable and lucrative parts of the industry. It was a huge success and I'm so proud of all involved. A big thank you to the TTS Foundation who gave some families a helping hand towards the costs."