Young Songwriters Camp: Kids writing songs and collaborating

Young musicians Ben and Kelly Houk. (Photo Steve Houk)

Alexandria, VA – Do you ever notice your child, or any middle or high school kid for that matter, sometimes singing to themselves? Do you ever think it might be a song they came up with on their own? It very well could be if they have the musical inclination that many kids do. And there is a way to grow that interest if they want and grow their collaboration with others, right here in Northern Virginia.

There are a lot of cool summer camps out there, but few like the local Young Songwriters Camp, molded by a collaboration among the Young Songwriters Craft & Community, created by Arlington VA teacher Dan Paris, and hosted by the Educational Theatre Company.

A few years ago, social studies teacher Paris started conveying his songwriting passion to students in his H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program school in Arlington. “The last two or three days of school we call ‘June Time,’” said Paris, a recent guest on Z-TV’s Living On Music With Steve Houk. “Every staff member or teacher in the building picks something they’re passionate about and teaches an elective. Mine was songwriting, and 12 kids signed up for my club. Today I teach an actual songwriting elective and have eight middle school and 15 high school songwriters. They write a song every two weeks.”

Young Songwriters Camp founder Dan Paris (Photo courtesy of Dan Paris)

Evolving out of his teaching, Paris decided to start the Young Songwriters Camp—which he planned to debut in 2020, but pandemic—giving kids in grades 7-12, who are just beginning their songwriting or have a little bit of experience, a chance to learn about the writing process, collaborating with peers, and more.

“If you want your children to get out there and enhance themselves, it goes beyond songwriting,” said Paris. “It’s about joining forces with others; it’s about doing things together and learning how other kids around your age play and create music.”

Paris treasures the school songwriting experience he has created and the inauguration of Young Songwriters Camp, which will be in Arlington this year. He helps grow the kids’ songwriting interest by making sure they know that they are on their own journey with their collaborators. There’s no pressure to become a superstar.

(Steve Houk)

“First of all, I appreciate this opportunity, kind of like helping to ‘craft the community,’ as is our tagline. I tell kids, don’t compare yourself to other songwriters. The world doesn’t need a million Bruce Springsteens, as amazing as he is. We need one of you, and one of you, and one of you. The idea is to help everybody on their journey. At the end of the five days, you will be further along the songwriting and collaborative path.”

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