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Musicians offer advice ahead of Songs of Susquehanna deadline

The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s second annual Songs of the Susquehanna program is accepting original songs inspired by the river, its tributaries and the aquatic resources that depend on them through Jan. 31.

“This songwriting event is the perfect motivation to breathe life into your songwriting ideas that may be sitting on the shelf, waiting for the right moment to shine,” said Johanna Kodlick, who submitted the song “Return to Blue” in last year’s program.

“The sense of community surrounding this project is warm and embracing, so it is a safe place to allow your talents to unfold. You never know what residual benefits you may experience by just taking the leap.”

Don Shappelle, who had two songs make the Songs of the Susquehanna Volume 1 album, shared that writing music, for him, can look different with each song.

“Sometimes for me, the lyrics come first, then a melody and chord structure. Other times, it can be the other way around with a melody and chord riff in my head, and then a storyline,” he said. “I would suggest that you follow your heart and write about something near and dear to you and then try to come up with an interesting melody to pair with those inspired words.”

That inspiration can come from a variety of places, suggested Hannah Bingman, whose song “Susquehanna & River” is on the Songs of the Susquehanna Volume 1 album.

“Read, read, read and get inspired,” she said. “Create a story from one you’ve read or tell your own. Everything is valid.”

When you have an idea, it is important to let it breathe, so to speak, suggested Van Wagner, whose submission “New Song for an Old River” is on Songs of the Susquehanna Volume 1.

“I’ve learned not to force it. If a song is flowing I write it down fast,” he said. “If I don’t, it’s gone and I lose it.”

Shappelle agreed: “Usually a song that is forced will tend to sound stiff. It is the soul and conviction behind a song that sets it apart. The beauty of songwriting, though, is that anyone can try it and possibly come up with a winner.”

It is important, Wagner added, that during the process of songwriting, to do it for yourself and not worry about what others may think.

“Never care if it is good enough – it’s never about what other people think,” he said. “Create songs because they are you. If other people like them, great, but it’s never about that.”

Kodlick urged everyone to get involved, admitting that her participation last year offered unexpected benefits to her personally and can have a similarly profound impact on others this year.

“Submitting my song in the 2021 event offered me one of the greatest cathartic benefits of processing the grief of my father’s death,” she said. “The outpouring of love and support in response to my song through this channel was overwhelmingly positive.

The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association serves an 11,000-square-mile watershed of the Susquehanna River, including Sullivan, Lycoming, Clinton, Union and Northumberland counties. Read more at www.middlesusquehannariverkeeper.org

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