Did you know that Merv Griffin not only created the game show Jeopardy! He also wrote the theme song? Apparently Merv Griffin, though best known for his various television hosting  gigs, including his own talk show, came after his songwriting, singing and work on Broadway. Who knew? Well. Local music legend Todd Burge did, and he shared that fascinating nugget of information with all of those in attendance at the Peoples Bank Theater Song Colony Workshop.

What began as a day-long workshop, hosted by Burge at the theater has turned into a monthly meetup of some of the most creative, lesser known talent in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The first Wednesday of each month the group meets, most recently at Jeremiah’s Coffee House, to discuss and share both songs and the stories behind them. Each month participants are challenged with a word, or a theme, and asked to spend no more than an hour writing on the subject, and bring it in to share. The group for this meetup was comprised of regulars, though anyone is welcome, even if you have never written or performed before. Burge stressed that “you do not have to be a writer to attend the workshops, but you might just leave as one. The goal is to just keep writing.”

Dr. Robert Chase started playing guitar in 1969. “I played with a group in Marietta for 20-plus years, but we split up about six or seven years ago and I got away from writing,” said Chase. “The Song Colony has reinvigorated me and has challenged me to tap back into my creativity. Most of all, it’s just plain fun getting together with some great folks.”

It helps others by encouraging them to present their song writing efforts in the presence of peers who are receptive.

In the three years since the partnership with the Peoples Bank Theater was formed, Burge estimates that hundreds of songs have been written out the collaborations and peer feedback fostered by this workshop. When I asked Todd what inspired him to take on something like this, he said his inspiration for conducting workshops actually came from about ten years ago when he was asked to serve as workshop coordinator for the Mountain Stage New Song Festival. “I sat through so many workshops by established writers like Tim O’Brien, Gretchen Peters and Darrel Scott,” said Burge. “It changed my professional life.”

“I enjoy listening to others’ original songs and their stories,” said Marcus “Doc” Mooney, a member The Song Colony. “I also like to get input from others regarding my own songs. Participation has given me other methods to use to write songs and motivation to write. It helps others by encouraging them to present their song writing efforts in the presence of peers who are receptive.”

There is so much musical talent in our area, as demonstrated by the attendees at this month’s workshop. I will be the first to admit, I have no musical talent whatsoever, but as a writer, I walked away from this session so inspired to create new work. The theme/word for this month to focus on was to write about someone who has passed (fact or fiction), and though it is a difficult subject for some to get through, these amazing songwriters did not disappoint. One specific presentation that stood out to me was a song called “Talking to a Stone.” The songwriter told us that is was written about a friend and the widow he left behind with his passing. What was so interesting to me, especially with a group like this, is that everyone writes from his or her own experience, often much different from our own, so each of the rest of us have the benefit of learning from a point of view we may not have ever considered before.

If you are interested, and I highly recommend giving it a try, follow The Song Colony on Facebook for information on upcoming meetings. The next meeting will take place this evening, April 4th, at 6:30 p.m. at Jeremiah’s Coffee House, focused on the theme of “Thankful.” 

Photography from the first workshop, at the Peoples Bank Theatre, by Michelle Waters