A lesson in song crafting at Gold Coast Arts Center

Between the genesis of a song idea and the recording of a track, there can be a lot of confusion as to how a young musician can compose a piece. 

That is why the Gold Coast Arts Center is offering their help. 

The arts center is sponsoring a songwriting and video production class called “Future Idol,” where students ages eight through 18 can try to find their voice through their own music, Gold Coast school director Ellen Schiff said. 

Schiff said the idea came from Robert Hoffman, an instructor at the center, who teaches the kids how to compose their own music as well as enhance their songwriting ability. 

“This was his dream,” Schiff said. “He wanted to combine vocal talent with performance skills with multimedia and bring it to a contemporary field.” 

Hoffman said the idea to start the program came out of his own recording experience. 

He has recorded about 350 songs since he was 18 years old, he said. 

Hoffman said he wants to give students something to look back at years later, which you can’t have with a simple live performance. 

“I get such satisfaction out of recording songs and I wanted to bring that same satisfaction to students,” he said. “When you create something like that you can go back and listen to it and critique it.” 

Hoffman said he tries to help refine the students’ ideas of what they might think is a song, into an actual song. Her said he also gives the students a theme every semester, this semester being “if you could do anything, real or fantasy, what would it be?”

“That gets them thinking and brainstorming,” he said. “They always want to write sentences right away, but I always say ‘just start writing out ideas.’”

Hoffman said he continues to work with the kids through the process, and that when they get stuck on an idea, he might have them listen to another song, or a cover of an older song to show them a comparison. 

Once the song lyrics and music are written, the kids record their creation, and only after that they can help create a music video that is put on the Gold Coast website and on Youtube. 

Schiff said much of the instrumentation is provided by Hoffman, who plays many instruments.

Schiff said this semester – which began in January – there are only about four or five kids involved in the program. The class is $330 for non-members of the center and $280 for members. The classes consist of 15, one-hour sessions a semester. 

Hoffman is hoping to expand the program in the future, he said. A class of this magnitude would typically cost thousands of dollars between the studio time and paying a producer, he added.

Hoffman said some of the students are very serious about songwriting and may want to continue it in the future. 

He said it is frustrating for kids who have something to say, but don’t have the outlet to create something from it. 

Many of the students don’t feel like it is possible at the outset of the songwriting process to finalize a creation, but Hoffman said their confidence grows after they see the finalized product. 

He said he doesn’t let the kids see the entire project until the video is shot and everything is finalized, so they can really be surprised. 

“I’m hoping to get a lot of people involved and inspire these kids to go to the next level,” Hoffman said. 

About the author

Adam Lidgett

Share this Article