By DAVID FITCH
Students sang about everything from losing their keys to wanting to get away from Michigan in the year-end performance for a songwriting course at Washtenaw Community College last semester.
The performance, which took place in the Student Center Community Room, while not a comfortable task for some performers, showcased students’ prowess as artists.
Local singer-songwriter Spencer Michaud has been teaching a songwriting course at WCC for the past several years and has been bringing students the opportunity to express themselves and to hone their skills.
Michaud, who plans to soon release his own EP, gives students practical information related to being a musician from his own experiences.
“There’s kind of a different flavor (each semester) based on my creative endeavors,” said Michaud.
And for some, the class is an oasis where they can develop their dreams and hear from others on the same paths.
“Sometimes our class can be a bit like group therapy, too, because we are talking out issues that may have prevented us from expressing ourselves fully,” Michaud said. “(People) like being able to see that they are not alone in that process.”
Thomas Harris, a 20-year-old music production student from Ypsilanti, had been producing music for years when he took Michaud’s course, but he still found the class helpful.
“It allowed me to connect my thoughts with my emotions,” said Harris. “It’s a way to vent. You can just take the class to learn how to write your feelings down on paper.”
Lindsey Klebba, 19, of Hartland, who already writes music and performs extensively, said that the course was helpful. And she spoke highly of Michaud.
“He’s very knowledgeable and a lot of fun,” she said.
And Michaud has a different message for his students than they may hear outside the classroom.
“That’s another cool part of the class is people get to talk about, well, maybe a parent wasn’t as supportive of this and said that they couldn’t do it, or maybe they said that they had to quote-unquote ‘get a real job’ or something like that,” said Michaud.
“I try to be balanced, I say that being a musician is hard work. It’s not an easy job… if they put their mind to it, and they keep at it and keep working at their craft, that there are ways to make a living being a musician and doing creative things,” he said. “That’s not something that everyone is telling them all the time.”
And besides helping students hone their skills individually, the class gives the chance to make connections and to work with others. Often instrumentalists and songwriters from the class teamed up for a project.
“We kind of turn into a creative family by the end of the year,” said Michaud.
While he cannot take credit for his students’ successes, Michaud acknowledged that it is exciting to see where students go from his class. Former students include Jetty Rae, Dan Henig, and Joshua Simmons.
Rae has been a featured artist in multiple festivals and events including being picked by Sarah McLachlan and Terry McBride as a local artist to perform at Lilith Fair in 2010. She has released several albums. Henig is an Ann Arbor-based singer/songwriter who achieved Internet fame when his cover of “Get Low” by Lil Jon and The East Side Boyz went viral.