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Connecting Songwriters Throughout Northeast Ohio

News And Updates

Volume 3 Issue 11

November 2019

“Rough Boards and No Plan”

Ken Moody-Arndt, President
It had been a rough Board meeting—one of the worse.

This would have been about 15 years ago, probably longer than that.

What got me thinking about that almost-two-decades-ago Board meeting?

One of my favorite—if not my absolute favorite—singer/songwriters: Bruce Cockburn. Did he write a song about a rough Board meeting? No…not that I know of anyway. I don’t think he has had to deal too much with Boards, in his long and brilliant career. Probably some equivalent or other, but a Board, a Staff Relations Committee responsible for overseeing his work, that just couldn’t understand why he was called to do the work he was doing, that was laying requirements on him that had no bearing whatsoever on his passion, nothing to do with the fire that drove him to do what he did? Probably not.

So is there a connection, here?

Yes, a couple of them. The obvious one: “singer/songwriter”—Cockburn is one. I am one. We (Songwriters Summit) are many.

The other one is perhaps not so obvious, perhaps non-existent except in my own fevered brain: Bruce Cockburn never had a plan. That’s what he says, in his autobiography,
Rumours of Glory, and in at least one interview. “I never had a plan,” he said—that was his answer to a question concerning which business plans or models he had followed in his path from Berklee drop-out to where he was at the time of the interview: fifty years along in a career with no end in sight, discussing his next album release. I never had a plan. He just took it one gig at a time: organ player in a band, guitar player in a band, resident songwriter/poet in the same band, solo career, first album, next album…one day, one gig, one project at a time.

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Bruce Cockburn plays"Wondering Where The Lions Are"
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I never had a plan, either—I didn’t plan to become a singer/songwriter. I played electric guitar, as a hobby and in a band. Okay, so maybe I had an inchoate plan: become the best guitarist I could be. But that was it. It was scales on an electric guitar, copying leads, coming up with original leads.

I must have had an acoustic guitar in a closet somewhere, because that is what I dragged out at that crucial moment which brings me back around to my first sentence: that rough board meeting. Before that Board meeting I had never understood how a man could just chuck it all and leave—leave his family, and his life, and just go, depart, desert the ones he loved and the life that had defined him—never could understand it until that Board meeting that left me hollowed out, misunderstood and devastated, and the urge came over me to write a song about it, just to see if I could write a song (I’d never done it before), and to deal with what was eating at me still, days after that rough Board meeting. So I dragged out that old Seagull, and I did it…Let’s see, theory tells me I need that old I-IV-V…hmmm! Couple of not-bad verses; now don’t I need one of those, whatever you call it ‘Bridge’ things, now how does that work…. And eventually it all came together. I had written my first song, “When the Train Left the Station.” It’s on my first CD, copies of which I have on sale tonight if anybody’s interested….

It was the song I would present several years later, when I came to my first meeting of what was then called Summit County Songwriters Circle, now Songwriters Summit, of which I am the President.

I never had a plan. Fantasies of rivaling Clapton have fallen by the wayside and I have come to see myself as a songwriter who can play guitar just well enough to accompany himself, and that is fine. I am still feeling my way into this new role as President of this great Songwriters’ group.

I hasten to say I made my peace with that rough Board, so long ago. I got to understand them and their goals and agendas, and they got to understand me.

And…I got a good song out of it.

How about you? Did you have a plan, about this fascinating and challenging thing that we do, writing songs, troubadoring the world with news of lost love, loneliness, injustice, passion, rough Board meetings? Or did it just kind of happen? Whatever the case, bring us some of the results, November 4th, at the Elks Lodge in Cuyahoga Falls. Write a song with the word, ‘inchoate’ in it—hey, Cockburn did it with ‘petroglyph’!

Join Us For Our Next General Meeting
November 4th at 7:00 PM
Elk's Lodge
2555 State Rd, Cuyahoga Falls

Tell Us Your Story

A while back we asked for input from you, our members, about what you liked about Songwriter Summit. Here's an example of one of the comments we received.

"What most impresses me about the Summit County Songwriters circle is the like-ability of it's membership. There are so many high quality people who are appreciative of creativity. I have a lyric in a song that goes 'This is not the road I chose, but somehow I arrived, at a gentle place I need to be, a place of peace and decency, a place where struggling artists meet, a place for old poets like me.' I feel comfortable when I attend the meetings and I enjoy listening to the songs and performances. Not all the members are old like me, but they all have old souls. Thanks Don and the other board members for all that you do."

We're pretty sure there are many of you out there with stories not unlike that one. Or maybe you've got a special memory you'd like to share about how Songwriter Summit helped you get a song started. Or finished.
Drop us a note. We'd love to hear from you and - if you don't mind - we'd like to share it with the other folks who make up this amazing group of very talented people.

Member Profile: Chris Sykora

The Bridge asked Chris Sykora about his background, interest in songwriting and his involvement in Songwriter Summit. This is what he had to say.

I started around 15 years old, seems like yesterday. Loved the bands Rush, Genesis, U2, Pink Floyd and decided to play bass - Geddy Lee was awesome along with Stanley Clark (Return to Forever - Jazz Fusion that will never be topped). So first couple of bands I did covers and it went nowhere. Left for college and ended up at Akron U and met my best friend Little Steve-O in Anthropology class. And that was the start of the band called the Spamp. 90% original most of the lyrics and chords coming from Steve and I just wrote the bass parts and was happy.

After two more generations of bands with Steve, one called Cartoon Freeze Tag and another one called Underneath we ended up going our separate ways. I somehow ended up in a Hip Hop band called Poets of Another Breed and again was called to duty to write and perform bass parts which helped guide our first album Creamed Corn. With some nice connections and an awesome fan base we found ourselves opening locally for national acts such as Kid Rock three times (watched him take off into super stardom), Salt n Pepper, Sugar Hill Gang, 311/Hoobastank, EverLast and played one of the large stages at the Vans Warped Tour. We even won a couple years for Best Local Hip Hop With Scene Magazine and the FreeTimes. After three CD releases the band folded and I ended up alone with no band. Years went by and for some reason I decided to work on my own songs and try to get better at singing (probably a desire to do music, but not be dependent on anyone). One of the first solo songs I wrote was called Valentines Day and I think it came out okay on the recording, but looking back I am pretty sure I sang it way too low. So the songs keep coming and I just have to get motivated to record them all. I currently play in a band tentatively called Xylem with the goal to do mostly originals and I also play a couple of times a month with Little Steve-o as a side kick on bass.
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"Maybe I’m just curious what songs I might come up with from wherever God stored them."

We had some specific questions for Chris.

1.) What keeps you coming back to Songwriter Summit on a regular basis?

I like to hear original music and I want to showcase my songs and get constructive feedback before recording. I also use our meetings as a deadline to get a song completed.

2.) What drives your writing?

Sex and money. I guess I’m a dreamer or little delusional. Maybe I’m just curious what songs I might come up with from wherever God stored them.

3.) How would you describe the music you create?


4.) What advice would you share with other songwriters?

If you get stuck in the middle of writing a song, reach out to a friend that writes songs and see where they might take it. It’s better to share song credits than not complete a song.

5.) What are your thoughts about working with a co-writer?

I would rather write the entire song on my own, but you can’t be synergetic all by yourself.

Finally we asked Chris to note the difference between the best song he'd ever written and the worst?

The best song was easy to write, has depth, meaningful and innovative. The worst song was shallow and generic, but I believe you should just write what comes out so the creative pipe keeps flowing. If you don’t like your output you might want to switch up your experience input.

Thanks For All The Fish

Bob Sammon
As near as I can recall, my first meeting at what was then the Summit County Songwriters Circle was in October of 2014. I had seen YouTube videos of the meetings the group held and had been pretty impressed with the level of talent exhibited by the songwriters. I had met one of the members, Ken Moody-Arndt (now the president of what has become Songwriter Summit), at some open mics in the Cleveland area and on that Fall evening we drove to the Quirk Cultural Center together.

I remember being just a little awed at how well the meeting was run, the number of folks presenting music and the thoughtful and constructive comments being offered by the members. Based on that experience, the meeting became a regular notation on my calendar and Ken and I made the trip from the west side of Cleveland more often than not.

On my next visit I presented what was then a fairly new song called
Heads You Win and was a bit surprised when there were no comments until Don Henson said something to the effect of"When a song is that good what else can you say?" I was hooked and felt like I wasn't an outsider.

For reasons I don't recall, the monthly meetings were moved to the Sweet Pea Cafe and we continued to make the drive in all sorts of weather. It was at that point that I started to become more involved in the group. Don had asked me if I would be interested in joining the Board of Directors because of my experience with another 501(c)3 and I decided that might be fun. It was at the Sweet Pea that I started the mostly monthly practice of dragging the video gear down to meetings to record the songs so I could produce a clip reel of the talent this group presented each month. It was a time consuming endeavor but I enjoyed doing it and I felt that it helped boost the overall image of what the group was about since it cast the members in a very favorable light.

One thing led to another and from the Sweet Pea we moved to the Elks Lodge in Cuyahoga Falls. It was there that I broached the idea that the organization's name might be interfering with adding members since"Summit County Songwriters Circle" sounded just a little parochial. It was what had originally kept me away and there seemed to be some consensus on that idea. We looked at branding and settled on Songwriter Summit and that led to finding someone to create a new logo and ID for the group. That worked out pretty nicely.

With the improvements in the video and the new name and identity it was time to work on some of the other image issues we had. I'd spent 18 years in the advertising business and sitting on the Board gave me a chance to apply some of those skills to making Songwriter Summit look good to the public. We worked on things like business cards, banners and the like and tackled the task of creating a newsletter that would communicate news and events to the members and could be used to promote the group to the general public. Now, in its third year,
The Bridge seems to be doing exactly what we envisioned.

Then there was yet another move, this time to 2 Girls Cafe and Bakery in Stow where we settled in rather nicely with lots of space, good food and a welcoming atmosphere. Like many good things, that came to an end a few months back when the cafe closed. There was that one meeting at the library that hinted at a potential new home but that fell through when we couldn't make their availability meet our schedule. So things have come almost full circle and we find ourselves back at the Elks in their newly decorated meeting room.

This group has come a long way since those meetings in the classroom at Quirk (and even further from the original group that gathered in Don's living room so many years ago) and I am very pleased to have played some small role in those positive changes.

It's been a good run. Now, five years after that Fall evening in '14, I'm convinced I have done just about all I can do and it's time to take a break. Someone else is more than welcome to the task of archiving the meetings on video unless it is decided that the YouTube Live session is enough and actually more comprehensive than what I was doing. I will be stepping away from the position of Editor of
The Bridge after the December issue and will gladly advise whomever assumes that duty on the ins and outs of what it takes to put it together on a monthly basis.

Finally, I'll be stepping down from the Board of Directors effective the end of the year in the hopes that one or more of our current members will step up, fill my position - and the other vacancy - and add their unique skills and views to this fine organization. My guess is that I'll still show up for meetings from time to time but it will now be as a member who can listen to the great songs that are presented and one who can participate in the discussion (which is why I joined in the first place) instead of looking for a good camera angle, cutting the clip reel in my head as we go through the evening and trying to guess what would best serve the membership in the next issue of
The Bridge.

So, for the complete quote from Douglas Adams'
Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy I leave you with this:"So long, and thanks for all the fish."

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Grace Notes
Our Next Meeting
Our next meeting will be held on November 4th at The Elks Lodge, 2555 State Rd, Cuyahoga Falls. If you are presenting a song please bring 30 copies for distribution to the other attendees. Copies will be returned to you at the end of the meeting. You do not need to be a member to attend a meeting or bring us a song.
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Officers And Board Members
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Ken Moody-Arndt

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Bob Sammon
Member At Large

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Don Henson

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Mike Urban
Member At Large

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Dave Waldeck
Recording Secretary

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Larry Davis
Member At Large

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David Palomo
Member At Large

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T. B. Announced, Jr.
Member At Large

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