Glendale Main Library hosted the 26th Annual Arizona Songwriters Gathering this month, where Valley songwriters and music lovers came together to perform and participate in music workshops.
Attendees gathered inside and out across three stages, the auditorium, and Andy’s Ballad Tree, where a song-sharing circle hosted by Arizona Live Music Cooperative allowed artists to have fun jam sessions.
“I encourage everyone to talk to the people here,” Lon Austin, 78, Arizona Songwriters Gathering cofounder, said. “Everyone down here today writes songs from different perspectives. Some people are here because they want to be commercially successful but what’s important to me is the songs come from their own perspective.”
Austin is a folk singer who worked as a parks and recreation recreational coordinator in Phoenix. He approached Jon Iger, one of the heads of the Arizona Songwriters Association, with the idea of hosting an event every year, and together they created the Annual Arizona Songwriters Gathering in 1996.
“I think this a really unique thing,” Austin said. “You don’t see much of something like this going on in the rest of the country.”
After losing the ability to host the gathering at Encanto Park in 2009, Austin asked the previous adult program coordinator for Glendale and a regular attendee at the gatherings, Anne Owens, if the library could become the event’s new home.
“If anyone spends some time here and listens to the music then they’ll get why we’re doing this,” said Ivy Jarvis, the Glendale Main Library’s adult program coordinator.
Jarvis has been working for the library since she was a teenager and has helped host the event since 2010.
“It gathers all sorts of people together to share music and builds a community for musicians,” said Mark Fogelson, 75, who’s been writing songs since the early 90s and found out about the event through Austin, who he met after moving to Arizona from Minnesota. “Most of us aren’t looking to make money, we’re singing stuff from the heart that seems to work for us.”
A friend told Fogelson that if he wanted to play music in Arizona he should call Austin, and they’ve been close ever since.
The Annual Arizona Songwriters Gathering not only allowed for the meeting of local musicians but also the collaboration between artists and music organizations like On Stage Now Entertainment, a nonprofit LLC that uses donations to book local musicians, and gives songwriters the opportunity to perform on stage. They also provide free recording assistance through a signup program that allows artists to use their recording studio.
The nonprofit covers all expenses and typically works with younger generation and lower-income musicians.
The free event hosted more than 50 songwriters in 10-minute blocks. Music workshops were broken down from 50-minute to one-hour sessions, and included topics like music copyright, Q&As with accomplished songwriters and producers, and a song critique session. A green room provided coffee, water and snacks.
Editor's Note: Devin Harrell is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.