Songwriter founds guild, nurtures talent in others

January 07, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

John Christenbury makes time for music. A published songwriter, he helps other musicians sharpen their talent and put their notes together.

A water-quality analyst in Westminster and a songwriter in his spare hours, the New Windsor resident founded the Western Maryland Songwriters Guild about 18 months ago.

He started the guild, which has 53 members, to encourage songwriters and "to give them a venue to play."

Mr. Christenbury and the rest of the guild are planning a spring concert to show their talent and originality. No date has been set.

Proceeds from the show will benefit the organization's projects, which include free performances at area hospitals and nursing homes. They also hope to entertain at detention facilities.

"There are a lot of people starved for entertainment, and we try to give it to them," Mr. Christenbury said.

As he plans the 1994 concert, he is not at a loss for performers.

"There is a lot of local talent, especially in Carroll County," he said. "We need to cultivate that talent."

He points to "a fair amount of success among guild members." Joanne and Monty Hall have performed on the Nashville Network's "You Can Be a Star" show and Kevin Michaels is taking his Elvis revue to Las Vegas. Mr. Christenbury would like to help others along the road to a measure of fame.

"We have opportunities for bands in the county but not for singers and songwriters," he said. Guild members also participate in monthly workshops.

"A lot of people want to learn to put songs down into words," he said. "We show them how to condense and make a statement. They get the words down, and we help them come up with a melody."

The guild offers a place to play from 9 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays at Champs Restaurant in Westminster.

"It helps players financially and gives them the incentive to keeping working at what they are doing," he said. "With a little recognition, they won't give up."

Members also cut an album that is expected to be out in June. While many people have talent, they are frustrated when they try to go public with their material, he said.

"If you are going to do your music commercially, you have to do it right. Unsolicited material usually ends up in the trash," he said. "We show them how to make promo packages and to pitch their songs to publishing companies."

Mr. Christenbury speaks from experience. He worked in Nashville, as a performer and a writer, until he tired of the &L "dog-eat-dog rat race."

"I would rather live here," he said. "I make enough money to survive and I like helping others do what they do."

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