SongFest offers Broward musicians a priceless platform to spotlight original music.
A bevy of musicians filed into Heritage House in Fort Lauderdale Aug. 13 loaded with MacBooks and guitars. Not even the torrential South Florida rainstorms could keep them from the opening night seminar of SongFest, a newly launched music creation and production program presented by Destination Sistrunk.
The free series of workshops allows 12 selected participants to work with industry professionals to carefully hone their songwriting skills over the course of six sessions. The final seminar culminates September 25 with a live performance at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center and includes a moderated music industry panel and performances by seminar attendees.
Two-time Grammy nominee, Elsten Torres, who has worked with Julio Iglesias Jr, John Rich and Ricky Martin is leading the workshop.
SongFest covers “different songwriting formats, explores different styles and genres of music and allows musicians to master the use of creative tools that enhance the musical process,” Torres said. The program’s four guest speakers iilluminate what it means to be an artist in South Florida and aspects of the business of music.
Tryouts for SongFest took place in July. There were 38 applicants. Just 12 made the final cut.
Grace Kewl-Durfey, an arts administrator with the Broward Cultural Division, who also leads Destination Sistrunk, is working to make SongFest an annual event. “SongFest is an opportunity to provide local artists with songwriting and music production experience they wouldn’t normally have access to,” said Kewl-Durfey, who connected with Torres while he was doing a Wounded Warriors songwriting workshop. “There is so much talent here in Broward and I hope SongFest serves as a catalyst for musicians here, she added. “It’s so expensive to produce your own work and perform own work with all-star musicians.”
Kewl-Durfey’s goal is to build and cultivate local talent. “SongFest is also an opportunity to really look at what Broward Cultural Division can do to support Broward’s music industry development,” Kewl-Durfey notes. “We have recording studios here that many people still don’t know about.”
Lizzy DeBolt, a native Floridian singer/songwriter who made the cut for SongFest is very excited to have been selected for this debut program. “I love making people happy and I feel I can achieve that through my songs,” said DeBolt, who describes her style as a little Jimmy Buffett with a touch of Jack Johnson. “I tend to write a lot of music about the beach.”
Eric Muniz, who is inspired by Damien Rice, Dave Matthews and Eddie Vedder, has been performing music since he was a kid at church. He’s hoping SongFest allows his music to get more exposure. “I want to share my music with the world and make some contacts here,” Muniz said. “I want to learn as much as I can about music publishing. SongFest will definitely give all of us more knowledge about the music business. My goal is to be a songwriter.”
Angelica-Joy Dumervil and Malcolm Cardona-Spence, who make up the hip-hop group Pro Now, were immediately interested in SongFest when they had first heard about it. “I saw someone post online about it and it seemed like something we definitely wanted to be a part of,” Dumervil said. “I’m really excited to work with other South Florida artists and I hope this makes us more well-rounded artists and expands our platform.”
While South Florida as a scene continues to demonstrate a need for local live music, Cardona-Spence said it’s not always easy to get people together down here. “It’s easy to be a little disconnected in Florida,” Cardona-Spence said. “I’m looking forward seeing SongFest bring more artists together and to show the world incredible music talent and music is coming out of this area.”