"I have done two art projects with Rob Lutes. He is an amazing Teaching Artist."
Deidre Potash, ArtWill Studio, Vaudreuil, QC
Songwriting and Storytelling
I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules for songwriting. Having practiced and explored the craft for many years, and having known and read interviews with literally dozens of excellent songwriters, I have learned that everyone has an individual approach that works for them. That said, there are some very interesting ways to explore the craft and learn by doing. That's what these workshops are all about.
For the past several years, I have been one of the featured artists in the Quebec Ministry of Education's Cultural Education Repertoire and in the English Language Arts Network's Artists Inspire program. Both of these groups offer funding for school workshops (see below).
I have also been working through a YMCA program to provide The Stories behind the Songs workshops for seniors, where we explore the history of popular music and the great stories behind many well-known songs from the past.
My workshops are available in person where Covid restrictions allow or digitally through Zoom or similar digital communications platform.
FUNDING: For Quebec educators, there is funding available for Rob's workshops through the government repertoire or through the English Language Arts Network's Arts Inspire grants.
Visit either page here:
Learn more / contact Rob: firstname.lastname@example.org or 514.515.4413
The Stories behind the Songs (for seniors)
The primary goals of this initiative are to entertain, inspire, break isolation, and bring enjoyment to seniors through sharing musical memories and learning some of the fascinating stories behind the songs they know and love. Consisting of between 1 and 10 sessions, this program will lead listeners on a chronological tour of popular music, from its earliest iterations in America in the 18th century, through the early folk, spiritual and civic music of the 19th century and into 20th century and the flowering of genres like blues, ragtime and jazz, the emergence of Tin Pan Alley and the birth of Rock and Roll, among other major musical movements.
Each 50-minute session features the stories behind the creation and recording of a series of well-known songs, and interpretations of each one, followed by feedback or questions from participants. The program is conversational and highly engaging. Rob encourages participants to respond, share memories and knowledge and in certain cases to sing or clap along.
Keys to Creativity Workshop
For songwriters of all levels, from complete beginner to seasoned pro, laying out my general approach to songwriting and creativity with some tips and tricks to getting the best out of your writing time, and with an engaging individual songwriting activity that truly opens the doors to creativity.
Writing a Protest Song
An important strain in songwriting history, protest songs have been with us since at least the 19th century in Britain when they were used to decry unfair labour practices. Illustrating this rich tradition with some stunning examples from more recent history, this workshop uses prompts to help participants create a new protest song.
Songs of Perspective
One of richest sources of inspiration in songwriting and creativity comes from reaching into the perspective of another. In this workshop, we discuss the differences between point-of-view and perspective and the vast possibilities that come into play when writing from a perspective other than your own. We then use prompts and subject constraints to write individual songs of perspective.
When they asked songwriter Sammy Kahn which came first, lyrics or music, the legendary tunesmith who wrote 87 songs for Frank Sinatra answered "Neither. The phone call comes first." Kahn was a working writer who didn't understand the idea of writing for himself. His songwriting was assignment based. A task.
In the history of songwriting, countless memorable songs were written this way, not from pure creativity or for personal expression, but rather with a specific purpose in mind. Songs for films; songs for musicals; songs for certain artists in certain styles and with specific subject matter; songs to serve a national function such as an anthem or march; or songs that tell an important historical story. Using text prompts, we explore the idea of writing songs that fulfill these kinds of needs, and we experience the creativity that comes when songwriting is a task.
Blues History and Songwriting Workshop
With a brief, fun and informative introduction to the fascinating history of the blues as well as a interactive songwriting exercise and performance afterwards, Rob Lutes’ Blues Songwriting Workshop is an enjoyable, inspiring participatory activity where students learn about the blues and collectively write a song in the blues tradition.
Four Melodies, Four Moments - A Selective History of American Popular Music
Over four sessions, Rob introduces four important songs in popular music history, providing background on the songwriters/composers and the context from which they emerged and their influence on the culture. Beginning with Oh Susannah, and progressing through Maple Leaf Rag, St Louis Blues and Blue Skies, the four sessions provides a fascinating introduction to the history of American popular music. Each session can serve as a launching point for further instruction by the teacher.
For more info, visit the course outline HERE.
Workshop Lengths: 45 minutes to one hour, with possibility of extended songwriting workshops for students with a special interest in music or doing a series of workshops with these and other themes.
"Rob Lutes has offered deeply engaging Blues History and Songwriting workshops in partnership with ORA Loss & Living Program to create space for expressing grief, loss and hope. Highly recommended!"
Judy Coffin, Program Coordinator
“For 90 minutes our students were totally engaged in the presentation. To learn of the origins of the Blues as well as experience the principles of song-writing was a great opportunity. It is not everyday that students get to meet, learn from, and play with such a talented musician. This is the type of enrichment activity that any school would benefit from. Students are already asking, ‘Are they coming back next year?’ We can only hope so.”
Counselor, St Stephen High School
“In our blues education efforts, we have had the finest Blues in the Schools educators from the U.S. Fruteland Jackson, Guy Davis, Keith Brown and Michael Hawkeye Herman are those first-class specialists who, during the years of our festival, have made musical presentations and lectures at our schools.
Our experience at the latest edition of our festival in November was that Rob Lutes is one of those top specialists. He has an excellent way of relating with the kids. In his one-hour presentation, he succeeded in getting the kids involved in creating a song, from finding the subject, deciding between ideas, finding the words and finally interpreting the brand new song with them. He showed great know-how on how to relate with the students and excite their creativity.”
Jean Guillermo,Vice président, Festival Blues sur Seine, Mantes la Jolie, France
"I think Rob does a great job of laying down the history of the blues by tracing its roots back to the American south - through slavery and its origins in West Africa. Informative and engaging for students of all ages - with a stimulating exercise in songwriting!"
Don Barclay, Community Learning Centre Coordinator, Gaspé, Quebec
"Rob Lutes has the blues running through his veins resulting in a constant celebration of music in all its forms. Wrapped around his guitar, he delivers a songwriting workshop and a blues history lesson that captures the attention and interest of his audience, resulting in a great workshop of the blues and leaving all with an appreciation for this and other genres of music."
Mable Hastings, Director, Missisquoi North Volunteer Centre