A Song is Born at LASA: Songwriting Class Learns the Ins and Outs of Music Production

Marin Bachschmid, Club Contributor

Now that school is back in session, so are electives. Songwriting, an elective taught by junior English teacher Corey Snyder, is taught in the spring, and is behind Coffeehouse every year. 

The class is meant for students to develop performing skills in front of a live audience, but students are expected to already have some basic writing skills beforehand. Senior Elizabeth Smith took songwriting this year. 

“Having creative writing skills before you go in is pretty much necessary,” Smith said. “He really can’t teach you just creative writing skills, so you kind of have to be able to write.”

Instead of focusing on how to write creatively, the writing time provided to students during the beginning of class is centered around developing lyrics. The main aspect of songwriting class is the performance, Snyder says. 

“Instead of the teacher, or a video, or something telling them how to write a song, it’s more about doing it by experimentation,” Snyder said. “Every three weeks, you get up in front of a group of people, you play a song, and you see what happens.” 

Former LASA student Matt Dalgleish took the songwriting class his senior year, and recommends it because of Snyder’s teaching style. He agrees that the performance aspect allows students to improve their performance and songwriting skills.

“I could consistently finish songs, which was always a really satisfying experience,” Dalgleish said. “Songwriting also helped me develop more confidence around performing.”

After students perform a new song, they receive feedback and critiques from their classmates. According to Dalgleish, this type of performance creates a positive space for the students to share their songs and experiment with different styles of music throughout the semester. 

“You got to perform your work in a safe, non-judgemental space, and then get notes on how to improve your song,” Dalgleish said. “For me it at least made performance songs exciting.”

Songwriting class is primarily student-run. Students create their own music and performances rather than learning through specific lessons taught by the teacher. According to Snyder, all of the students have different interests, and the class is about developing those interests. 

“I just sort of make mental notes, like I wonder where this one is going, and I wonder what she’s going to do in a few months, and I wonder what this guy’s all about,” Snyder said. “They always surprise me.” 

Even Coffeehouse, a performance set up by the songwriting class that normally premieres around late May, is completely student-run. Snyder views his job as being one of support for students and their visions. 

“I see growth individually,” Snyder said. “I see it in their songs, I hear it in their songs collectively, and I see it in the production of Coffeehouse.” 

Coffeehouse allows students to perform in front of a larger audience instead of just performing in class. It helps to combine all the students’ development into one performance. 

”People learn how to put their own stuff aside, how to work with a group, and do something big,” Snyder said. “Coffeehouse is big. It’s a lot of people, a big venue, and there’s a lot to worry about. Every year, Coffeehouse comes through and is a successful thing.”

Students also get the opportunity to participate in smaller group activities, which Snyder believes allows students to create music they did not believe themselves to be capable of doing. According to Smith, this experience is also really important to the students because it allows them to adapt and evolve their music style and learn from their experience. 

“When I thought that I had done something amazing, I could see their faces light up, like when certain things would happen in the song,” Smith said. “It would validate that I’d done a good job, and it was one of the best feelings I think I’ve ever felt.”