A group of Gainesville High School students got the chance to sit down and create music with local songwriters and performers Monday as part of the John Jarrard Foundation’s First Verse program.
Songwriters Bruce Burch, Nate Currin, Ted Tuck, Allen Nivens, Wynn Jackson and Alex Hall shared their songwriting methods and experiences with about 30 students before splitting off into smaller groups to work on new songs.
One of the groups worked on a senior song that will be performed at the baccalaureate service at the end of the year.
First Verse was founded as a way to bring the art of songwriting into schools, said Nivens, one of the songwriters at the inaugural First Verse class.
“The John Jarrard Foundation has always supported other charities,” Nivens said. “We’ve never had our own. This isn’t a charity, but it’s a project that will support the main things John Jarrard stood for — music, song writing, community and youth.”
The songwriters told the students a little bit about how they create songs and offered tips.
“When the inspiration comes to you, you have to be ready,” Tuck said.
“I like to play the music and write the words at the same time,” Hall said.
Each year, the foundation hosts a concert that spotlights songwriters in memory of John Jarrard. The money that is raised is donated to area nonprofit organizations that were meaningful to Jarrard, including Good News at Noon and the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Jarrard was a Gainesville native who went on to become a successful songwriter in Nashville, Tenn., penning 11 No. 1 country hits before he died at the age of 47 from complications of diabetes.
Bruce Burch, a friend and classmate of Jarrard’s at Gainesville High, said one of his first experiences with songwriting happened at the school.
“I had an English teacher who played us some Bob Dylan songs to show us that lyrics are like poetry,” said Burch, one of the concert’s founders.
Gainesville High School Chorus Director Julia Lackey said the students were very excited about the opportunity.
“I found lots of students had already started writing (music),” Lackey said. “I was finding notebooks full of lyrics in the chorus room.”
Most of the students at the class Monday night are involved in chorus or musical theater, though a few are not in any musical programs at the school.
Burch said he thinks students can get a lot out of the exposure to the craft of song writing.
“They don’t teach it in schools much,” Burch said. “(Songwriting) has been such a gift to me, we want to take that craft and teach it.”
The class at Gainesville High School is the first of what the foundation hopes will be many more.
“We’re actually trying to build this in Hall County and eventually around the state is our goal,” said Jody Jackson, executive director of the John Jarrard Foundation. “We’re putting kids and music and ideas with experienced songwriters.”