"Anything Goes": Lyrics writing workshop


Joan Baez singing and Bob Dylan playing guitarOverview:
“Good authors too who once knew better words / Now only use four-letter words / Writing prose. / Anything goes.” – Cole Porter

This interactive workshop combines appreciation of great musical storytellers with practical exercises to develop and strengthen your own lyric-writing skills. Over six weeks you will take part in group discussions about song lyrics from different musical genres; focusing on form, theme, content, and imagery from artists such as Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. You will also hone your story-telling abilities through guided exercises each week. By writing lyrics in different genres you will discover your preferences, allowing you to create your own lyrics to the music of your choice.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone who enjoys a wide range of musical genres and wants to develop a greater ability to appreciate good lyrics. It is suitable for both the aficionado and the keen novice in lyrics writing.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will have:

  • Learnt to appreciate and critique song lyrics;
  • Explored what makes great lyricists great;
  • Discovered your own preferences for lyrics and lyricists;
  • Gained an appreciation of the marriage of music and lyrics;
  • Started writing your own lyrics.

Course outline:
Each session includes one-hour devoted to the discussion and analysis of the lyrics by one or two songwriters. The second hour will involve practical song writing exercises.

  • Session 1: Cole Perter and Irving Berlin
  • Session 2: Johnny Mercer and Dorothy Fields
  • Session 3: Stephen Sondheim and Oscar Hammerstein
  • Session 4: John Lennon and Paul Simon
  • Session 5: Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen
  • Session 6: Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen

There is a short break half-way through each session, and tea/coffee is provided. You are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Class limit:
This course is limited to a maximum of 12 participants, so please enrol early.

Bruce Brown is originally from Los Angles, where he established himself as a highly regarded pianist, singer and songwriter performing at all the major jazz clubs in southern California, United States. He is currently an artist teacher at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington. Bruce’s creative portfolio includes a musical and three albums of original compositions, with another album currently in production.

“I felt like I was sitting in a living room with a friend who was introducing me to music they were absolutely passionate about and that made me want to learn about it.”, "The Art of the Song": The Great American Songbook (2019)

“Bruce's commitment to the Songbook was an essential element in keeping the course going.”, "The Art of the Song": The Great American Songbook (2019)

“Bruce Brown was an engaging and enthusiastic teacher, who has an exhaustive knowledge of his subject matter, and a great menu of interesting stories. His positive style helped stimulate class participation”, A History of Vocal Jazz: Female icons (2018)

Relevant links:
New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkī 

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email: conted@vuw.ac.nz

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.