Songwriting mom given big-time boost in Nashville


July 09, 2002|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT MAY not be too long before you hear the songs of Eileen Bernstein on the radio. The busy mother of two young children recently got the kind of encouragement many people dream about.

In May, Bernstein, who lives in Kings Contrivance, attended Song Camp, a songwriting workshop in Nashville, Tenn., sponsored by Nashville Songwriters Association International.

There she enjoyed one-on-one critiques with professional, well-known country songwriters such as Hugh Prestwood, who has written for Crystal Gayle, and Rory Lee, whose song "The Chain of Love" was featured in the movie Space Cowboys.

Bernstein was told that one of her songs, "Sign Here, Please," could be a hit, or at least "commercially viable" with a few small changes.

"This really was an amazing and energizing opportunity," Bernstein said. "We worked from 9 a.m. to midnight for three days. Professional writers who had hits on national radio, who really understand music and the business, made you feel like family. They were warm and friendly, they made you feel like they really want you to succeed."

The three days of work included understanding melody and lyrics, and making sure it all fits together and works, Bernstein said.

She has been writing country songs for seven years, and has performed at the Columbia lakefront and other local venues. But Bernstein put performing on hold and turned to writing after the birth of her children -- Matthew, 5, and Joel, 19 months.

"My family always comes first," Bernstein said. "But my dream is to have one of my songs become well known, and reach out and touch someone."

Bernstein's songs tell the stories of people she knows; they are personal stories that have meaning for everyone.

"I like the idea of putting things that I've gone through in life into music," she said. "I like the idea of people singing along and the music making them feel good."

Bernstein, 39, has been a musician since she was a child. She studied classical piano, flute and string bass. "I like country music because it's a nice fusion of musical styles," she said.

She works while her children are sleeping, after 10 p.m., or before they wake up, about 6 a.m. She has completed her rewrites of "Sign Here, Please." She is working on a full-production demo with Garrick Alden, owner of Garrick Alden Studios in Laurel.

Alden has performed as a studio musician for many country artists and works for Nashville artists who send work to him. "Eileen's music is well written," Alden said. "She understands structure. She has good, interesting melodies. I think she's got what it takes."

"It's one thing if your friends think you are the greatest," Song Camp director Claudia Young said. "When you get to Nashville, you see where the bar is set. Eileen has one of the best attitudes I've ever seen."

Bernstein's full-production demo compact disc of "Sign Here, Please" will be finished in the next few weeks. Then she will start shopping it around to music publishers.

Information about Song Camp:

Art of the holy book

The deadline for getting work into a juried art exhibition, Art of the Torah, is Aug. 30. The exhibit, which will open in the fall, is sponsored by Columbia Art Center and Columbia Jewish Congregation.

The competition is open to artists ages 21 and older. Two- and three-dimensional works -- sculpture, paintings, jewelry, glass, prints and photographs -- are eligible. The works must relate to the Torah -- the five books of Moses that constitute the Pentateuch.

Proceeds will go to the Ed Padow Cultural Arts Fund, named in memory of a former member of the Columbia Jewish Congregation.

The show will run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 17 at the art center. First prize is $1,000; second prize is $500; third prize is $250.

The Columbia Art Center is at 6100 Foreland Garth.

Information: 410-730-0075.

Photography contest

Have you ever taken great photos of Howard County's farmland -- and left them in the dresser drawer? Well, here's your chance to have them seen and appreciated.

The "2002 People, Places and Products of Howard County Agriculture" photo contest is looking for entries. Winning photos will be displayed at the Howard County Fair, to be held Aug. 3-10.

The contest -- sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit Union and coordinated by the Agricultural Marketing Program of the Howard County Economic Development Authority -- is open to Howard County residents. The photos should give a vivid, strong impression of the working landscape, the farmers who work the land and the products of their labor. Photographers may enter a maximum of three photos.

"This really gives people the opportunity to get out and look around," contest coordinator Ginger S. Myers said. "It gives people a chance to reconnect with the cycles of the seasons and to reconnect with where food comes from."

Winners will be chosen from three age categories. First-place winners will receive $50. The photos will be judged by July 19. There is no entry fee.

Information: 410-313-6500.

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