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  • 11/11/2014 5:46 PM | Deleted user

         Dave Mallen is an inspired man.  Ideas about the music business seem to inspire him the most.  It’s this zeal for new ideas that led Mallen to start Innovation Station Music while working towards a degree at the Berklee College of Music online.  For one of his classes he was assigned to create a business plan that addressed the future of the music industry.  Not wanting to just do the minimum, Mallen decided to see his business plan all the way through development.  The result was Innovation Station Music, a one stop shop for local musicians located in Arlington, Virginia.  

         Mallen has been making music for many years, first as a folksy guitar-playing singer-songwriter and eventually as a keyboardist, backing musician and producer extraordinaire.  He grew up in New Jersey in between Springsteen and Bon Jovi’s old stomping grounds.  That hometown vibe is something Mallen brought with him to D.C. when he moved here to attend American University nearly twenty years ago.  At it’s heart, Innovation Station Music is a strong proponent of hometown culture -- a concept that Mallen does not want to see lost among the highly transient and “fickle fans” in the D.C. crowd.  Innovation Station Music is a connecting entity that seeks to to create a strong music scene right here in the D.C. area.  Mallen wants to encourage musicians to stay in D.C. instead of moving to New York, Nashville, etc. to pursue their music career.  It’s this bold vision that begs the question, “Why not here?”.  As songwriters and music-lovers residing in the D.C. metro area, we couldn’t agree more!        

         Mallen started Innovation Station Music in 2006 while still at his day job as a Project Manager at a large corporation.  In 2008 he took the leap to work at his new business on a full-time basis.  When you meet Dave Mallen, it doesn’t take long to realize that Innovation Station Music truly is his passion project.  One of the signature products he offers as part of his Music Business Strategy consulting is the “Strategic Plan,” a 60+ page document catered to individual artists.  Dave loves to consult with musicians and share with them the knowledge and skills he’s learned from his extensive training and experience.  Mallen’s vision for Innovation Station Music is to comprehensively develop artists’ potential using four steps: Connect, Educate, Inspire and Stay.  To support this vision, Mallen involves himself in several local music groups and causes.  He started a  monthly music industry meet up called Metro Music Source which encourages musicians to network with one another while discussing topics ranging from finding gigs to promoting their music.  Additionally, Mallen is very active in D.C.’s Fair Trade Music movement, a “grassroots community organizing initiative with the goal of developing local, community standards for equitable relationships in live musical performance.”

         In addition to music business strategy services, Innovation Station Music offers a full service recording studio.  From large full band sounds to more intimate singer/songwriter records, Mallen seems to have done it all. So just what might Innovation Station Music have to offer you?  Perhaps you’re looking for someone to record a demo with or to produce an album of your songs?  Maybe you’re unsure of what the next step might be to help advance your music career?  Innovation Station Music can help with all of these ideas from album production to album release and beyond.  

         Mallen and Innovation Station Music have partnered with SAW in the past at workshops and other events.  It’s a relationship that Mallen sees as a good fit.  He and some of the artists he has produced have won multiple MASC awards and, in 2013, Mallen was nominated for the “Most Supportive of Washington Music” Wammie.  

         When asked, Mallen expressed that his wish would be to “educate every artist in the D.C. metro area and give them the tools and confidence they need to take their music to the next level.”  This begs a bold question for us, the songwriters and performing artists living here, “What are we waiting for?” 

    You can find out more about Dave Mallen and Innovation Station Music by visiting www.innovationstationmusic.com      

  • 10/28/2014 12:57 PM | Deleted user

    It’s a “ghoul of a time” these days as we prepare our costumes and homes for another Halloween night of trick-or-treaters.  What songs come to mind as you prepare your Halloween party playlist?  “Werewolves of London”, “Thriller”, “Witchy Woman”, “Spooky”, “Superstition”?  Whatever your idea of Halloween music is, chances are that one of the first songs that will appear on your playlist is the 1962 classic “Monster Mash”   written by Bobby Pickett.  Pickett was an aspiring actor who decided to capitalize on the the mashed potato dance craze and the growing cultural fascination with horror films.  Bobby was performing as a singer to make money and would often imitate other actors and characters during his performances.  It was Pickett’s impersonation of "Frankenstein" star Boris Karloff that inspired him to write an original song in the voice of Karloff.  The rest, as they say, is history.

    So why has this silly little hit song from over 50 years ago endured in our cultural landscape for so long?  Perhaps it’s the way Pickett managed to balance the creepy and kitsch in his songwriting.  By tapping into two cultural crazes: the mashed potato dance step and the renaissance of B grade horror flicks, Pickett was able to easily get radio air play with his song and take advantage of its “hit” status, especially since it was released in October just in time for Halloween.  

    So how do holidays and special occasions affect your songwriting?  Have you ever thought about writing a song about a season or a holiday?  Many artists are releasing Christmas albums these days.  Have you thought about doing something similar?  Or, if you have shows around Christmas, Halloween, New Year’s Day, etc., consider learning some of these old classics and adding them to your set list.  Or even write a song of your own!  

    Staying relevant and connecting with the audience is an important aspect of performing.  As songwriters, we have to try to write to as broad an audience as possible so that our words are relatable to more people than just us.  By using holidays such as Halloween as inspiration to write, we might just be surprised by what we come up with.  All of us have stories and emotions about major holidays...why not tap into that and use it in your songwriting?  You may just write the next “Monster Mash!”  

  • 10/01/2014 3:45 PM | Deleted user

    Enjoy our first video Blog entry!  In this video blog, Communications Director Nicole Belanus interviews Ray Naylor, a SAW member and host/producer of "The Performing Songwriter", an online show which features interviews and performances by a variety of songwriters.  It's really worth checking out and watching!  There may even be some opportunities for SAW members to appear via Skype on the show!  To watch other shows of "The Performing Songwriter", visit www.ustream.tv/channel/the-performing-songwriter.  You can email Ray at raysings@gmail.com.

    Interview with Ray Naylor - SAW Blog from Nicole Belanus on Vimeo.

  • 10/01/2014 3:22 PM | Deleted user

    Performers are needed to participate in SAW Serves opportunities at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital in Rockville, MD. Shows are Sunday afternoons once a month, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. The shows are hosted by Jeff Silberberg and he provides the PA. Jeff performs for about an hour and he invites “guest artists” to perform at least 15 minutes and no more than an hour. Performers interested in participating are invited to contact Jeff (jeffrey.silberberg@verizon.net, www.myspace.com/jeffsilberberg, 301-775-6468). The patients, visitors, and staff are very appreciative!


    The current schedule of dates and guest artists is listed below. Note that there are currently openings for guest artists for October and November.


    October 5, 2014           Guest artist needed


    November 9, 2014       Guest artist needed


    December 14, 2014     Alex Parez 

  • 09/13/2014 11:09 AM | Deleted user

    This article was written and submitted by Lou Dominguez

    What’s a NERFA?


    When I first moved to Vienna Virginia in 2010, I began reaching out to some of the DC acoustic music scene movers and shakers.  This, of course, led me to SAW and I began attending some of the various workshops and concerts that the group offers.  From time to time I would hear someone refer to a thing called NERFA (“Are you going to NERFA?”  “Wasn’t she at NERFA last year?”  “Didn’t they have a formal showcase at NERFA last year?”), and I thought to myself (probably what many of you may be thinking right now): “What in the world is a NERFA and what does it have to do with me?”


    I for one am glad I asked the question and, after heading up to my first NERFA conference in November of 2010, I made the claim that I could not see a reason other than poor health why I would ever miss one of these gatherings going forward. I am now one of the SAW members who say “NERFA” (not to be confused with the knights who say ‘Ni’).


    NERFA is an acronym for Northeast Regional Folk Alliance.  NERFA is the northeast faction of the larger Folk Alliance International (FAI).  Other factions include Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA), Folk Alliance Regional Midwest (FARM), Southwest Regional

    Folk Alliance (SWERFA) and Folk Alliance Regional West (FAR).  Each of these sub-groups of Folk Alliance International hold their own annual conference. But these other regions are not important for our purpose here today. Our purpose is to introduce you to NERFA.


    The Northeast Regional Folk Alliance holds a 4-day music and fun-filled folk festival/convention/conference in November every year.  This year will mark the 20th and will take place on November 13th – 16th


    NERFA guests include singers, players, performers, DJ’s, concert promoters (from large clubs to small house concerts) all the way to die-hard music fans who all converge on the Hudson Valley Resort Hotel in Kerhonkson New York in order to share music, information, laughs, and sleepless days and nights which seem to blend into one another.


    The schedules, performers and workshops offered change every year but can be found on NERFA’s website at www.nerfa.org


    The basic schedule, however, is usually the same.  Folks arrive on Thursday afternoon and early Thursday evening. Old friends greet and new introductions are made as people informally break out into song and/or find their hotel rooms.  Thursday night starts with the Suzie Wollenberg DJ Showcase, where a Northeast based folk DJ selects an artist to play in front of the other regional DJ’s in order to expose that audience to more folk radio opportunities.  Thursday evening is also the start of the Guerilla Showcases (these are literally concerts in Hotel Rooms that usually take place after 11:30 pm and go on until 3 in the morning).


    Friday and Saturday are always filled with nonstop activity including breakfast, workshops and seminars, a cocktail hour, an open mic, dinner, then the Formal Showcases, followed by the juried Quadcentric show cases (four showcases going on simultaneously in the hotel) and then followed finally by the late night guerilla showcases.


    This year’s official showcase main stage lineup includes:

    Burning Bridget Cleary
    The Don Juans
    Tim Grimm Band
    Dave Gunning
    Harpeth Rising
    David Jacobs-Strain
    Cassie and Maggie MacDonald
    Guy Mendilow Ensemble
    Modern Man
    Jory Nash
    No Fuss and Feathers Road Show
    Claudia Schmidt
    Shtreiml & Ismail Fencioglu


    If this sounds like a lot of things going on at once, it is!  But in the end you decide where and when to spend your time.  Some folks spend most of the weekend in the lobby jamming, while some hop from guerilla showcase room to guerilla showcase room and stay up singing until the dawn. 


    Want to learn more?  I hope you do, because this will be my 5th year in a row, and I have SAW to thank for introducing me to the NERFA world.  Now it is strange and difficult to imagine my life without NERFA!


    Lou Dominguez

    Aka Brother Lou

    SAW member since 2010


  • 09/09/2014 3:25 PM | Deleted user

    The NERFA/SERFA jointly-organized conference (endearingly referred to as “SNERFA”) was held in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, September 6.  The conference offered a day of networking, helpful workshops and some stand-out performances in the artist showcase.  An added bonus was the close driving distance to most of us in the DC metro area.  Although attendance may not have been what some organizers were hoping for (the turnout was about 65 people), the program was well planned and organized.

    I had the opportunity to attend the conference and thoroughly enjoyed meeting some new people and gaining new insights about promotion, using social media and submitting materials for contests and reviews.  The “On the Griddle” workshop was a highlight.  The workshop consisted of a panel of music industry experts who would listen to the first 60 seconds of a song submitted by various conference attendees.  The group would then discuss the song’s potential to draw in the listener and potentially get played on local and national radio syndicates.  The organizers chose their panelists well: folk DJs Peter Jones (WTJU-FM), Anne Williams (WNRN-FM), along with Michael Jaworek (The Birchmere) and Scott Moore (Focus Music) deftly moved from praise to constructive criticism, ensuring an objective stance on each song.  

    Other workshops offered were “Blues, Banjos and Ballads: A Musical Conversation on Regional Folk Traditions”, “Online Communications and Promotion”, “Why Free Pays”, and a presenter’s open forum.  

    The conference ended with the ten selected performers and groups performing 3 songs each in a three and a half hour showcase.  The performance styles ranged from upbeat traditional bluegrass to beautiful, haunting folk ballads to contemporary guitar virtuosos.  The ten finalists were Beggar’s Ride, Rj Cowdery, Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins, Friction Farm, Susan Greenbaum, Jacob Johnson, Lulu’s Fate, Kipyn Martin (an MASC 2014 winner), Grant Peeples and Simple Gifts.    

    All in all, the day was well planned and executed and those in attendance all seemed to enjoy the day.  The “SNERFA” team hopes to host more one-day conferences in the future.  Until then, check out the SERFA and NERFA websites for their upcoming conferences at www.nerfa.org and www.serfa.org.  

  • 09/09/2014 1:57 PM | Deleted user

    This article was written and submitted by Skip Chaples.

    Eight years ago a young man studying music at NOVA was tragically shot to death. His parents wanted something positive to come from it. Three neighbors who knew their son stepped forward and established the Aaron Brown Chapter of Guitars not Guns in northern Virginia. Over the years the chapter incorporated as GnG NCA, enhanced the program format and curriculum, and branched out to include DC and the neighboring counties in Maryland.

    GnG NCA’s affiliation with Guitars not Guns ended in early 2013 and a new organization, Music for Life, took form. The three neighbors, Skip Chaples, Betsy Stone and Gloria Dawson began their music program journey in 2006 serving 24 students at three northern Virginia locations. They integrated their work with others serving the community and adjusted their program and curriculum as necessary to best address current needs. Their new organization, Music for Life, served 579 students at 38 metropolitan DC area locations in 2013. They’re on track to exceed 700 students in 2014.

    Music for Life helps those burdened with adverse circumstances become successful.  The program provides skills and guidance necessary for students to overcome their circumstances and become contributing, self-sufficient adults. Their focus is on improving lives; music education is the vehicle they use. While their students may enjoy a lifetime of guitar playing, most will not pursue a career in music. The discipline, confidence and social skills students learn in Music for Life will serve them well regardless of the career path they choose.

    Music for Life expanded their original offering of acoustic guitar lessons to youth to include drumming instruction and classes for underserved adult populations, and soon will offer electric and bass guitar lessons. The organization also donates to other music organizations committed to the inclusion of low-income students in their classes. Other significant accomplishments during 2014 include music instruction to 17 adults coping with mental illness in a job training facility, an “Introduction to Music “class for teens in foster care, supporting NAMM with guitars, drums and teachers to provide a music learning experience to over 100 youth at an underperforming DC school, operating a guitar summer camp in a low-income housing project, and providing drums for therapy sessions at a girl’s juvenile detention center.

    Music for Life operates, in their student’s communities, a music program that stimulates their educational interests and builds their confidence so they can overcome the barriers and deal with the stresses inherent to their situation.  Studies show that bringing programs into neighborhoods is the most effective way to reach those who are not engaged,  improve their attitude and reduce crime and gang activity. Research also shows a strong correlation between music education and a person’s success in life. Those involved in a quality music program tend to do better in school, score higher on standardized tests, are less likely to engage in risky behavior, and more likely to take advantage of positive opportunities made available to them.  In addition to its educational value, learning music also releases stressful emotions that can’t otherwise be expressed. Music is particularly powerful because it appeals to people of any age, gender, race, religion or cultural background.

    Despite the proven, positive effects on a person’s well-being and success, financial pressures on both government and families are making music programs less accessible and/or affordable to an increasing number of people. You can help Music for Life fill this void by volunteering to teach one hour each week. Beginner classes address the basics and prior teaching experience is not required. There are immediate needs in Arlington, Chantilly, DC, Fairfax County, Herndon, Leesburg, Manassas and Sterling.  Music for Life hopes to also start new classes in Montgomery and Prince George Counties. If you’d like to learn more or can help, please contact Skip Chaples at skip.chaples@musicforlife.org or visit the website www.musicforlife.org.

  • 08/19/2014 11:30 PM | Deleted user

    When first meeting SAW board member Ron Goad one can’t help but be drawn in by some sort of cosmic energy.  His passion and enthusiasm are contagious and his lust for life refreshing.  But there’s more to this man’s story than his jovial remarks, warm smile and insuppressible enthusiasm.  

    I recently sat down with Ron over lunch and asked him to share a bit about himself and his impressive array of experience with SAW.  It was a dizzying conversation at times as Ron tends to quickly shift between thoughts and stories from the past to excitement about one of the several open mic events he sponsors.  And that’s how so many at SAW know Ron....for his unrivaled support of songwriters and passion to get them connected to venues and to one other.  Though Ron describes himself as a “hell raiser, practical joker and juvenile delinquent”, those in the SAW community know him as a loyal supporter, passionate advocate, and a fun guy.  He’s so supportive, in fact, that he is the only person to have received the “Most Supportive” Wammie five times in a row.  (He’s actually been the recipient of that award six times in total.)  

    Mr. Goad is one of the few true natives of northern Virginia.  Born and raised in Front Royal, Ron was attracted to music at an early age.  He made his first public appearance in 1956 on a street corner as he performed an impromptu version of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and a Groucho Marx song.  His eyes grin with delight as he tells me that he received two quarters for his bravado.  It seems a star was born that day.  

    Ron’s energy was well-suited to the drums, and he soon got his start playing in rock and roll bands in the 1960’s.  While attending Madison College in Harrisonburg, VA, Ron organized a concert featuring The Youngbloods which Ron only did “because someone had to do it”.  “The Riot”, his first band, enjoyed local gigs for several years.  Then, in 1983, Ron and four of his friends from those early days formed “Nightmusic”, a band that has survived these 30 years and which Ron estimates has played at over 700 weddings.  An early stroke of genius inspired the band members to dress in full tuxedos borrowed from a local school’s music department...a look that has become their trademark to this day.  

    Ron’s professional background reflects his quick wit and sense of adventure.  Though he was at one time a Realtor, Ron’s greatest achievement was teaching high school 

    English in Fairfax County Virginia for 30 years.  While teaching at Centreville High, he judged a Battle of the Bands contest in which Dave Grohl (who would go on to achieve superstar status as a member of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) participated.  He is still in touch with many of his former students, who undoubtedly have many stories to tell about their former teacher, the quirky lover of word play and bad puns.  Ron’s passion for creative writing helped lead him to songwriting.  His philosophy for songwriters, “To convert songwriters into cover artists and cover artists into songwriters”, sounds like the view of a man passionate about the written and spoken word.  Ron’s view seems to be that we always have a little bit more to learn about writing, and that by studying other’s work we come to a deeper understanding of our own voice.  Some of his favorite “voices”?  Brandi Carlile, Lyle Lovett, John Prine, John Hiatt and Kris Kristofferson, to name a few.     

    Ron has been a SAW board member since 2002 and a SAW open mic host since 2004. He currently hosts three open mic’s: Brewer’s Alley in Frederick on Mondays, the Epicure in Fairfax on Wednesdays, and The Athenaeum once a month in Alexandria.    

    Ron’s philosophy on life is best summed up in his own words: “I love meeting people with potential and doing whatever I can to help them.”  Well put, Mr. Goad.  We are so lucky to have you in Washington.  

    --Written by Nicole Belanus, SAW Communications Director

  • 07/22/2014 5:45 PM | Deleted user

    The summer months are the perfect time for the working songwriter to tackle the things that just don’t seem to get done during the “busier” parts of the year.  Much like New Year’s Eve, many of us start to make our “to do” lists when the warmer weather arrives fully expecting that this summer we will make the most of our slightly more relaxed work and family schedules.  Yet how often do those lists go largely untouched?  Did we end up repainting the family room, cleaning out the attic, or catching up on other household chores that we’ve put off for too long -- or did the summer just breeze us by yet again?  As songwriters, we all probably have “to do” lists related to our music.  If we don’t want this summer to pass us by without taking on some of our goals, we’ll have to make the most of our “lazy days” this summer.  

    Here we are in mid-summer and now is the perfect time to re-examine our goals as songwriters.  Some goals might be small: to restring your guitar, for example.  Others, no doubt, will be much larger in scope: to finally start that song collaboration or record that album.  Once we are able to pinpoint what it is we really want to get out of our songwriting (getting more gigs, working on an album, submitting a song to a contest) we should start to be able to break down the seemingly unattainable goal into smaller tasks.  (I know, I know...we musicians don’t tend to be too organized...but a little planning will go a long way!)

    By spending just 20 minutes every day on our chosen top priority (too many and they won’t get done!) we should be able to cross off that long-awaited goal in no time.  For example: want to submit to a contest?  Our Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest is open for submissions through September 15th, so you have plenty of time this summer to work on your song and get it ready for a rough recording before then.  How about starting by going through your repertoire and choosing what you consider to be your top 3 songs?  Then play them for your friends, family, coworkers, other songwriters, strangers, etc. (anyone willing to listen) and have them vote for their favorite.  It’s always a good idea to get outside perspective...we tend to be so close to our art that it’s impossible for us to be objective.  Once you’ve gotten feedback from others, make your final decision(s).  (MASC lets you enter multiple songs!)  If you don’t have a budget for studio time, record your song using Garage Band, Audacity or another program on your computer.  If you have access to a studio or a friend who has better quality recording equipment, see if you can exchange recording time for a favor that you can provide for them.  Then listen to your recording to make sure that it sounds clear and share it with your friends and family.  If others can understand your words and consider the quality as “passable”, then you’re ready to submit!  

    So get out a pen and paper, songwriters!  Start listing all your dreams and goals and choose one to focus on between now and September.  You’ll be amazed at what you can get done by just focusing your time on something that excites you!

    Written by Nicole Belanus

  • 07/22/2014 5:41 PM | Deleted user

    Have you noticed that there’s an awful lot of acronyms these days?  It seems like every organization, business, government office and neighborhood coffee shop has their own share of insider’s lingo.  If you’re like me, you don’t often think about the meaning behind some of these monikers because they’ve been around for so long.  Let’s consider for just a moment what we identify with when we use the name “SAW”.  

    Firstly, we are “songwriters”.  We share a unifying experience, interest, livelihood and passion.  This first word unites us with millions of others who share that passion.  Second, we are an “association”...we are organized into a cooperative whole and have a connection to each other through formal membership.  Lastly, “Washington", is our common ground and local community.  

    These three words communicate some of what we are about, but not all.  We each have been members of SAW for various amounts of time and may have very different connections and experiences of what the association is all about.  For some, it’s a small group of folks to enjoy an open mic with every week.  For others, it’s an online Facebook community for making new connections.  For still others, it’s where we volunteer our time as a board member or support local events.  There are probably as many meanings and experiences of SAW as there are members, and perhaps that’s the beauty.  We come together, united by the three words in our name, but also as persons excited and passionate about community.  Artists can have a difficult time reaching out to others and sharing what they do with the world.  It’s a vulnerable place to be.  But when we unite ourselves with others who share our passion and interests, we find a supportive group that cares about many of the things we care about and that understands our individual need to contribute to something.  And that’s what can’t be communicated in a name -- that connection and contribution.  It‘s something that needs to be experienced and shared.  

    Whatever SAW is for you, we hope it continues to be a meaningful connection where all are encouraged to contribute to the ongoing song of life.

    Written by Nicole Belanus

Songwriters' Association of Washington is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


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