by LAURA HAYES
Local musician Amanda Hardy, who goes by Amanda “Grace,” has been writing songs since she was a child. Hardy remembered using songwriting to express her emotions, trying her hand in a number of genres from classical to contemporary.
She writes and performs acoustic rock, children’s music, and gospel music and has released three albums — one of which is a children’s CD entitled “Trains, Cars & a Trip to Mars.” Hardy said that each song is its own journey. “Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a title and it will help me put together the theme of what the song is about,” she said.
In mid-August, Hardy will lead Minnesota Conservatory of the Arts’ (MCA) — an affiliate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s theater and dance department — “Summer Songwriting Showcase with Amanda Grace.” The showcase is a four-day summer camp where students from second through eighth grade will be introduced to songwriting and work together to compose a song that will be performed for friends and family at the end of the camp.
MCA Managing Director Jamie Schwaba said that this is the first time that the camp is being offered. “I was really excited about the opportunity for local students to get the opportunity to work with someone in the field,” she said. Schwaba explained that it was the dream of MCA founder Steffanié Valéncia Kierlin to have the school become a full conservatory of the arts. “The songwriting showcase is a change for us to expand our offerings in music a little more,” Schwaba added.
The camp will run from August 15-19 from 9 a.m. to noon. Schwaba said that the first half of the day will be spent with Hardy and throughout the last half of the day, students will have a chance to participate in other art forms, such as visual art and theater. “I think it’s going to be a blast. It’s going to be really fun and it’s an opportunity for kids interested in the arts and music to find a new way to express themselves and a fun way to spend those last couple of days [before school starts],” she said.
She hopes that Hardy will inspire the students. “They’ll probably teach me more than I’ll teach them,” Hardy said.
Depending on the ages of the campers, Hardy said that the students will compose one song. Older students would have the chance to compose songs by themselves. During the camp, Hardy will brainstorm with the kids about what they want to write about — love, heart ache, social issues — and bounce ideas back and forth. They already know how to rhyme, she said. Hardy hopes that the students learn that songwriting can be simple and “collaborating with other people is the key to creativity.”
Her advice for budding songwriters? “When you get an idea for a song, have a songwriting notebook and pen handy,” she said. Don’t write when you have to rush, Hardy added.
Spots are still available for the Summer Songwriting Showcase. There are around 12 to 15 total spots for campers. The camp costs $135, which includes a T-shirt and supplies, and runs from August 15-19. Register online at www.smumn.edu/mca/ or stop by the Valencia Arts Center at 1164 West Howard Street to register in person. For more information about Hardy, visit her website at musicbyamadagrace.com/main.