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Bradley University launches first songwriting course that is open to the public

Lynnsey and Carl
Jody Holtz
Carl Anderson, director of music industry programs, and Dr. Lynnsey Lambrecht, assistant professor of music theory and composition.

Many musicians dream of having their own song one day, but it can be difficult to know how to start that process.

That’s why Bradley University has decided to launch a new songwriting course titled The Craft of Songwriting. This virtual, certificate-based, self-paced course allows anyone in the community to learn the process behind songwriting without being a Bradley University student.

Carl Anderson, director of the music industry programs at Bradley and one of the professors of the course, says the option to make the course open to the public is a bit of an experiment aimed at breaking the Bradley bubble and expanding their outreach.

“It also allows students, maybe in a high school setting, to get a taste of what it's like to take a college class without the initial commitment of being on a college campus,” Anderson said.

Dr. Lynnsey Lambrecht, assistant professor of music theory and composition and also a professor of the course, adds that many people in pop culture today didn’t have a traditional four-year college education in music.

“This gives people who are interested in doing the songwriting, to being those performers, a chance to learn more to hone their craft without doing that traditional education,” Lambrecht explains.

This course is separated into four modules that each covers a different topic. The first covers music theory which Lambrecht will lead. This includes items such as chords, progressions, rhythms, meters, and scales that serve as the basis of writing a song. The second module covers the process of songwriting, and features touring singer and songwriter Barry Cloyd, who Anderson describes as a bit of a legend in the Peoria community, having already released 5 albums.

“He was the perfect person to tap, even a little bit outside of academia, for more of the artistic and inspirational part of the craft of songwriting,” said Anderson.

The third module will cover all songwriters need to know about recording and editing technology that will allow students to create a polished finished product, and is led by Dr. Mark De Zwaan. Finally, Carl Anderson will jump in and lead the final module, which focuses on how to bring the song forth in the market.

“Once you’ve created the song and recorded that, how do you make money with that? How do you take it into a commercial aspect?” Anderson said.

After completion of the course, students will earn an official certificate from Bradley University. Anderson said this could be useful for a variety of reasons.

“This could be something that could be included on a resume. It could be something that a student that is applying to go to a university … could put as part of their transcript information … it does show that this is a university-sponsored program which brings along with it the credibility that Bradley University has,” said Anderson.

With the course being self-paced, there are no deadlines to meet, and it also doesn’t fall in line with the traditional academic calendar, meaning anybody at any point may sign up. Lambrecht and Anderson say this format allows students to breeze through material they may already know, while also allowing more time for things to seep in.

“And you certainly have no pressure of a professor grading you, and pressure of final exams and all the things that you might associate with the university,” said Anderson.

Since the course is open to the entire public, the ideal candidate can be quite versatile, but ultimately will probably share a common characteristic.

“I think the ideal candidate is someone who has a passion in learning about songwriting and has a love of music,” Lambrecht said.

In fact, this course is even suitable for students within the traditional K-12 classroom. A special program, as well as a special price, is available for educators who wish to use this material as part of curriculum in their own classrooms.

After almost two years of online learning due to the pandemic, many people may be tired of looking at screens and taking courses online. However, Anderson and Dr. Lambrecht does not foresee that as being an issue with this course.

“I don’t believe students will miss out on anything by doing this virtually. In fact, I think they’re seeing us at the top of our game as far as virtual learning goes,” said Dr. Lambrecht.

Anderson adds that by this point, students are used to this sort of format, and virtual learning is already ingrained within our daily lives as well.

“That’s where we all turn right, we turn to our phones to watch a video on how to repair an appliance or fix your car. It’s not any different than turning to watch a video to learn how to write a song,” Anderson notes.

And in terms of how to measure success in such a creative course with no formal grading scale:

“We’re building the toolbox, then it's up to the creator…and of course exactly how do you measure success? Success is up to the individual and the individual artist,” said Anderson.

Anyone can register for the course and find more information online. The total length of the course is 8 hours, and there are no prerequisites.

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Jody Holtz is the host of WCBU's newsmagazine All Things Peoria and WCBU's morning news podcast On Deck.