Teachers & Classes

SummerSongs 25-Year Anniversary

July 20–26, 2024

SummerSongs 2024 Flyer


Steve Seskin
Steve Seskin


Melody and Phrasing
On day one, we will talk about some principles that make for an interesting journey musically so that the listener is happy to give you three to five minutes of their time in a world where many people shut off a song in 30 seconds or less. We’ll look at range, contrast, chords and many other facets of the musical side of things. The rest of the week, we’ll be looking at your songs, identifying these principles and how well they’re working. We’ll be paying special attention to phrasing and making sure the melody and what beat you’re coming in on is emphasizing the important words in our sentences. I’d like to think everyone who listens to my songs, hangs on my every word but I fear that’s not the case.
Songwork – Writing versus Rewriting
Zeroing in on what’s working and what needs work to make your song work even better. In this class, we’ll take a look at the journey of a song or two from each participant delving in to the lyric content, story development, musical prosody, understanding level for the listener, grammar, sentence structure, chord substitution etc. I’ll also use a few songs of mine where I’ve taken the time to document what I had, what I changed and why. Please bring two songs to this class. We will definitely get to one for each attendee but most likely two. Try to bring something where there are parts you are happy with but other parts where you feel like the song could be better but you’r not sure how to make that happen.

Steve Seskin Bio
Steve Seskin is a singer songwriter born and raised in NYC who has written seven number one songs, including Grammy-nominated “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” recorded by Tim McGraw, and “Don’t Laugh at Me,” winner of NSAI Song of the Year and Music Row Magazine Song of the Year in 1999. In 2014, 2018 and 2020, Steve was nominated to the NSAI Hall of Fame and while he is best known for writing hits, he is also a successful performer and recording artist whose 20th album, Some Sunsets is filled with inspiring, hopeful songs. “Don’t Laugh at Me” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and became the impetus for the Operation Respect/Don’t Laugh at Me project, a curriculum designed to teach tolerance in schools. The song is now available as a children’s book, Don’t Laugh At Me, which was featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow in September 2002. Steve is also an active keynote speaker and songwriting teacher for the West Coast Songwriters Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Swannanoa Gathering, and the Song School at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, and several NETN events. He has also been the director of the Kerrville Songwriter’s School since 2012. steveseskin.com

Susan Cattaneo


Mixing Magic: Cowriting and Collaboration
When you write a song all by yourself, you are in control of all aspects of the song process from music to words to melody. But what happens when you team up with someone to create something together? Sometimes you can make musical magic!! Welcome to the cowriting process! This course will explore all the tools and techniques that songwriters use to write songs together. Learn the do’s and donts of becoming a successful co-writer. Each day, we will focus on a specific aspect of co-writing and then break off into teams to write songs. Come prepared to be inspired and to write!

The Master Toolkit: Overcoming Creative Paralysis in Your Songwriting.
Struck by an unstoppable urge to write a song? Maybe you have a melody, chord progression, or a snippet of lyric, but then something happens, and you just can’t write past it? And your inner critic is whispering to give up and try something much more fun like…accounting? Don’t lose hope. Help is on the way. This master class focuses on practical tools and tips that will help writers get and stay inspired. Great song ideas are all around you. Let me help you find and finish them! Come prepared to write.

Susan Cattaneo Bio
Susan Cattaneo is one of Boston’s most respected singer-songwriters, combining vivid storytelling with a modern songwriter’s spin. Call it New England Americana with a twang. Susan won the CT Folk Festival and was nominated for Singer Songwriter of the Year at the 2022 Boston Music Awards. She has been a finalist or winner in the country’s most prestigious songwriting and music contests. An in-demand collaborator for a wide range of local and national artists, she is a three-time Kerrville New Folk finalist. Her double album The Hammer and The Heart charted #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and yielded a folk radio #1 single and top 10 album. Her latest work, All is Quiet was a top 25 Album of 2022. In her 20 years teaching Songwriting at Berklee College of Music, Susan helped students work on over 15,000 songs in all musical genres and styles and mentored over 2,000 artists. She’s taught master clinics at the International Folk Conference and at regional Folk conferences (NERFA, SWRFA and SERFA). She’s written for American Songwriter and Guitar Magazine and her lyric writing has been featured in Pat Pattison’s award-winning books Writing Better Lyrics and Writing Beyond Boundaries. susancattaneo.com

reggie harris photo
Reggie Harris


We know from the historical record, from life experience and from years of research that human beings are hard-wired for song and story. Singing together has changed lives and shifted the course of human events around the world. Singing together is a proven force for finding balance, changing mood and building trust and community. So why have we as a nation and society allowed ourselves to become more often consumers of music done by “professionals?” In this workshop, SINGING FOR OUR LIVES we will make a joyful noise and celebrate the legacy and the power of song, lifting our voices to the remind us of how marvelous, courageous and resilient we are. We’ll use our time together to explore aspects of song that heal, teach, release, and inspire joy and creativity. We will also outline and practice the essential ingredients of successful song leadership to step in and step up, becoming song-leaders equipped with confidence and skills.
Performance 101 and Beyond
The act of delivering authentic, creative and fulfilling performances involves cultivating and maintaining a wide range of approaches, skills, and adaptive behavior. By exploring some basic parameters, and applying them to what you already know, we’ll work to become more vibrant and confident presenters of the music we love.  In this hands-on workshop, we’ll examine issues and challenges of performance that can help us find our groove and establish a structure that provides more effective and satisfying results for ourselves and our audiences. In our time together, we will consider how a deeper sense of self knowledge, critical skill assessment and awareness and of course, practice, can lead us to be more consistently what we hope to be. Whether you’re a working professional or an infrequent performer, this process can give you the confidence needed to understand who you are and help you to reach you goals with joy.

Reggie Harris Bio
Reggie Harris is a passionate songwriter, storyteller, activist, recording artist and song leader, who travels worldwide using music and stories to bring hope, inclusion and empowerment to audiences of all backgrounds. For over 45 years, Reggie has been hosted, performed and lectured at arts centers, universities, schools, music festivals and diverse places of worship throughout the U.S, Canada, and Europe. His repertoire of traditional and contemporary songs and stories empowered by his engaging stage presence, help him to create concerts and events that educate, inspire and entertain. A 2021 FAI Spirit of Folk and W.E.B Du Bois Legacy Award winner, Reggie’s recordings are chart topping examples of the power of song. reggieharrismusic.com

abbie gardner photo
Abbie Gardner


Melody Writing
We work so hard on our lyrics, yet it’s the MELODY that gets stuck in your head! In this class we’ll pay special attention to writing melodies that support your lyric. Major, minor, chromatic, static, or with steps and jumps, we’ll play with range and walk away with a melodic toolbox to take home. You don’t need to know music theory for this class, but you might end up with some! 😉

Songwriting Games
Let’s bring back the FUN of writing! Each day we’ll do different exercises and prompts designed to draw out your stories, your ideas, your feelings, your metaphors, all that good stuff inside you that’s just waiting to become a song. Feel free to come for just one day of this class, or come on the regular and end up with more song ideas than you’ll know what to do with!

Abbie Gardner Bio
Best known as a founding member of Americana harmony trio Red Molly, Abbie Gardner is a joyful dobro player and singer/songwriter with an infectious smile. As an award-winning songwriter, captivating vocalist, and a world-class lap style dobro player, she has an unmistakable sound all her own. This sound of vocals and dobro unaccompanied is masterfully captured on her latest recording “DobroSinger” which landed at #11 on the Billboard Charts. She’s won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and American Songwriter Magazine’s Grand Prize. She’s written songs with Chris Stapleton, Ellis Paul, Will Kimbrough and Mark Erelli. But what really thrills her is helping her songwriting and dobro students along in their own journey. Whether during her online Zoom classes or at a music camp like New England Songwriters Retreat, RockyGrass Academy, ResoSummit, Colorado Roots Camp, The Swannanoa Gathering or right here at SummerSongs; Abbie gets really excited to fan the flames other people’s creativity.  abbiegardner.com

harold payne photo
Harold Payne


Improv & Custom Songwriting
The art of writing songs “on the spot” or creating personalized songs in advance from information provided you.  Use improv in your performances to wow your audience or to “jumpstart” new songs.  Learn how to get “fearless’—to dive in and trust that something will come out–using “blues circles” & other prompts to get the confidence to trust that you can do it. Also, how to create & use custom and recap songs for special events or add improvised intros tailored to specific occasions.  This class will not be cumulative, so you could drop in one day and out the next.

Harold Payne Bio
Although a major part of Harold Payne’s career has involved songwriting, with credits that extend from Rod Stewart & Patti LaBelle to long time collaborator Bobby Womack—literally from Peter Paul & Mary to Snoop Dogg, he has maintained a performance schedule over several decades that averages 200 plus dates per year. He is known for his notorious improv ability and “custom” song work. He did a TEDx talk entitled “Preparing for Spontaneity” and is currently touring his one man show  “Under the Radar Over the Moon”. Harold has created hundreds of custom songs, including ones for Regis Philbin, & Disney music head Bob Cavallo and events for Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul), and Kyle Cease.  haroldpaynemusic.com

Sloan Wainwright
Sloan Wainwright



Singing is fun! Inside each of us lives a beautiful and unique instrument! In this workshop, we will move our bodies, soften our hearts, open our mouths, and let our voices out to play! With an emphasis on vocal health and self-care, we will use a combination of vocal warm-ups and workouts, to help relax and strengthen the voice – making it more flexible and reliable. I’ll provide individual attention and support to each person in class and to the group as a whole.

Sloan Wainwright Bio
Folk-pop artist Sloan Wainwright belongs to a musical dynasty of impossibly gifted singer-songwriters. Her family tree (brother and folk-music luminary Loudon Wainwright, sister-in-law Kate McGarrigle, nephew Rufus Wainwright, nieces Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche) reads like a who’s who of contemporary folk music. Sloan’s incredible gift is not only her unique songwriting ability but her dramatically voiced rendition of her original songs. Defying standard categorization, Sloan consistently demonstrates her easy command of a variety of American musical styles — pop, folk, jazz, and blues — held together by the melodious tone of her rich contralto. The end result is a unique and soulful hybrid.  With a solid and impressive discography of 11 original CD releases to her credit, Sloan continues to write, sing and perform live.  In addition, Sloan has written numerous musical compositions for theater and dance and teaches at many of the best-known master songwriter series and workshops. Her open spirit and first-hand experience are welcomed year after year in the musical classrooms of such prestigious song camps as Richard Thompsons Frets and Refrains, Moab Folk Camp, The Swannanoa Gathering, SummerSongs, the Cape Cod Songwriters Retreats, WUMB Radio’s Summer Acoustic Music Week (SAMW), and Lamb’s Retreat (MI).  sloanwainwright.com

David Roth


Songs for Personal and Global Change
Personal is global. Actions can have ripple effects that go beyond immediate surroundings. Let’s hit the runway together and take off with a variety of exercises to get new songs off the ground…songs that care-fully cradle our thoughts, our passions, our convictions, our beliefs. If what’s going on in this world seems obvious to you and not others, we’ll explore how to communicate and create our themes in such a way as to build communities, not polarize them. Get ready to be prompted, to write, to engage, bat things around, throw pasta against the wall, arrange words, and let the melodies flow and follow. Where do we find grains of powerful inspiration that aren’t cliche? Let’s get started. Time is precious, so come ready to write. We’ll start with a chorus that soars.

David Roth Bio
David Roth is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and enthusiastic instructor who has taken his songs, experience, and expertise to a wide variety of venues in this and other countries full-time for more than three decades. His work has found its way to Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Kennedy Center, Peter, Paul, & Mary and Kingston Trio CDs, the Kerrville (TX) New Folk Award, NASA’s Goddard Space Center, the Rise Up Singing and Rise Again (sequel) songbooks, 5 Posi Awards (Empower Music and Arts), the 2015 Unity “Grace Note” for Outstanding Contribution to New Thought Music, and 15 CDs on the Wind River and Stockfisch (Germany) labels. David has taught singing, songwriting, and performance at SummerSongs (where he serves as Executive Director), the Augusta Heritage workshops (WV), Common Ground on the Hill (MD), the Woods Dance & Music Camp (Ontario), Moab Folk Camp (UT), the National Wellness Institute (WI), the Swannanoa Gathering (NC), and for many other songwriting groups and associations around the country. David annually leads musical tour groups to Ireland and Scotland and is creator/director of the Cape Cod Songwriters Retreats which began in 2014. He’s also organizer/host of the Cape’s Full Moon Open Mic which since 2005 has provided a forum for musicians to connect/be heard while at the same time collecting donations ($17,000 to date) for local non-profits to help neighbors in need.   davidrothmusic.com

Sue Riley
Sue Riley


Songwriting Basics
Do you feel drawn to songwriting and wish that you understood how to get started?  Are you looking for some guidelines about how to craft your poem into a song? Do you wonder where melody comes from? Are you already writing songs and want some tips on how to better understand the craft of songwriting? Do you have the beginning of a song and wonder how to come up with a catchy chorus? I’ll give you some ideas on how to embark on the wonderful path of songwriting. We’ll go over some basic structure ideas, do some free writes to get to the heart of what we want to write about, and then create our songs. Bring paper and a pen to class. Let the songwriting begin!

Sue Riley Bio
Sue believes in the power of music to touch hearts and heal lives. As one of the co-founders of emPower Music & Arts, Sue helps host the yearly empower Music Festival and Posi Awards recognizing excellence in songwriting for artists who create songs with messages of peace, interfaith, and joyous living.  A prolific singer-songwriter, Sue has created 8 CDs of original, award winning, uplifting positive music. Her newest CD There Are Moments was produced by Glen Roethel and released in 2020, just in time for the Covid shut down.  Timing is everything (this is an example of looking for humor in everyday life).  Sue is a grateful member of the SummerSongs Board of Directors as well as a board member of Unity Worldwide Ministries  www.sueriley.com

photo of Glen Roethel
Glen Roethel


BIG JAM Workshop
Immerse yourself in sing-along guitar songs with Glen. Taking the wild and spontaneous late-night jam into the lab, we can sing and play some great songs together, stop occasionally to look at some playing techniques and chords, take solos, and harmonize ourselves silly. Make a request, and add to the curriculum. All levels are invited to grab on to as many guitar diamonds as you can catch. Drop-in, drop-out – open doors!

Glen Roethel Bio
Glen Roethel, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/entertainer/producer, helps kindle the energy of the SummerSongs experience. Study Party Guitar, ensemble playing, songwriting, slow jam, harmony, or performance with him; take part in a late-night jam-singalong-dance party after the evening coffeehouses have wrapped up. He is an award-winning songwriter, a jury-selected performer at NERFA and the Singer-Songwriter Cape May festival, and a 2020 Gold prize winner at the Mid Atlantic Songwriting Contest (MASC) with Us! (his socially-minded trio with Summies, Judy Kass & Amy Soucy). He’s a Grace Note Award and Posi Award recipient at the emPower Music & Arts Music Festival. You’ll see or hear his songs in a Presidential Museum and also in New Thought music and Hal Leonard Corp songbooks. To Glen’s credit are multiple self-produced CDs and beautiful compilation CDs, plus instrumentation, vocals, production, and co-writes on gorgeous and award-winning recordings by Penny Nichols, Sue Riley, David Roth, Sloan Wainwright, Jan Garrett & JD Martin, and many others. Oh, and come to Ireland with Glen, Sue Riley, and Sloan in October 2024!  glenroethel.com

Julie Snow photo
Julie Snow

Collaging a Song
Leave behind your instruments and your words and come explore the world of collage. We will be using simple tools and supplies – scissors, glue, paint, paper, images from newspapers and magazines – to see what compositions emerge when we are feeling relaxed and spontaneous. Maybe a story will appear or a design that expresses a feeling, and maybe, towards the end of the week, we will see if any of our creations inspire songs!

Julie Snow Bio
Julie Snow has been coming to SummerSongs since we began in 1999. She is a singer/songwriter with two CDs made later in life following a long career as a clinical social worker. She started taking a mixed media art class over 6 years ago which continues to inspire her ongoing explorations in collage.  Julie’s Music

Vito Petroccitto photo
Vito Petroccitto


Chord Crunching
Here’s a course about chords and how they shift, featuring exercises in chord movement and their relationship to the keys from which they come. This is theory in a nutshell as it applies to the singer songwriter, and in this class we’ll explore chord movement, have plenty of hands-on fun, play our instruments a lot, and go through paces that are sure to get you thinking musically outside the box. Plan to improve your skills and have plenty of fun in the process.

Vito Petroccitto Bio
Singer/songwriter/musician Vito Petroccitto attended the very first SummerSongs and all this time later joins our stellar staff with an impressive resume of musical experience and expertise. Whether on a telecaster or a Taylor, Vito has opened for acts like Robert Plant, Govt. Mule, Railroad Earth, Jefferson Starship, Montgomery Gentry, Lee Bryce, Eddie Money, The Doobie Brothers, and Orleans. He’s also toured or performed with Sloan Wainwright, David Roth, Pete Seeger, Professor Louie and the Cromatix, Frank Gadler (NRBQ), the Willi Amrod Band with the James Brown horns Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, and Maceo Parker. In 2020 he appeared with Mark Ruffalo in the HBO Series “I Know This Much Is True”, performing an “approved by” Paul Simon  version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  His versatility lends depth and staying power to a lifelong career of passion, remarkable and wide-ranging technique, boundless energy, and a genuine soul-smile to every endeavor.  iamvito.com/

Mark Dann
Mark Dann


Your Recording Project from A to Z
Engineering whiz Mark Dann will take you through the whole process – he has the days mapped out, starting with how to prepare for your studio adventure, how to decide whether to play and sing at the same time, to “click track” or not to “click track” (that is the question!), whether or not to use musicians at the session or overdub them, remote considerations and possibilities, workflow for the studio (or at home), what the editing possibilities are AFTER recording is done, and all else that follows in order to share your jewels with the world.

Mark Dann Bio
I got hooked on tape recorders as a young child. Quite a bit later, I started recording songwriter-oriented albums in the Greenwich Village music scene. That led to opening a pro-level recording studio in NYC that I ran for over 31 years. In the midst of countless recording projects of all kinds and scope over all this time, I’ve been constantly playing gigs, and building and repairing guitars.  markdann.com/