October 16, 2017 Showcase

This past Monday, October 16, 2017 the VOCAL group met for another open mic night. There was a great turn out as well! We had a total of eight great performances for the night. Performers included:

  • Norman Roscher performed three of his original songs: “Ghouls on Parade,” “You’re Beautiful,” and “Within Your Eyes.”


  • Andy & Andy Handley (ft. Kelly Kennedy) performed two instrumental numbers that gave the crowd a true pub feel with their fiddles!



  • Kelly Kennedy performed with her accordion, and humored the crowd with a twist on one of her favorite songs. I think the men in the room learned a lesson not to mess with women when returning home from battle!



  • Guy Gorman performed three of his original songs Monday evening. One was inspired by the infamous Norman Roscher which brought smiles and laughs from the audience!



  • Glenda Creamer performed three of her original songs on Monday as well. Songs performed included: “Wherever You Go,” and “The Splendor King Solemn.” Her third song got everyone in the spirit of Halloween with an October theme!



  • Genie Bishop performed two songs for the night! Both of them were incredibly deep love songs. For one song she was assisted by Norman, and another was an acapella version.



  • A returning favorite, Doug Patrick performed as well in the open mic! He performed three of his original songs for the evening, and slowed things down a bit.



  • Last, but certainly not least to perform was Steve Nuckolls! He performed three of his original songs as well. He drew back on his past experiences in Africa, and growing up in a small town that ended the night with a nice sentimental feeling.


O’Tooles had a great turnout this past Monday, and it was a pleasure to have so many artists volunteer their time to perform for those in attendance! Great job to all of the performers, and we hope to see some of you perform in future showcases (the Christmas showcase is right around the corner if you are interested). Stay tuned to the VOCAL newsletter and blog for more information on next month’s meeting and showcase!

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September 2017 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The September 2017 VOCAL Songwriter Showcase took place on Monday, September 18th at O’Toole’s Irish Pub.

Steve Nuckolls opened the show with several acoustic numbers. Everything’s Just Two Good, Gibson Guitar, and Sunrise are some of his signature tunes. He had a new song Siri Alexa-fied Blues, an ode to the current technologies running a lot of people’s lives. Grayson Lady is a bluegrass tune about Grayson County in Southwest Virginia.

John Ellis took the stage as the headline performer, well-equipped with his electric and acoustic/electric guitars, pedals and backing tracks. He opened with Blues # 1, an instrumental that reminded me a bit of the rock band Focus (Hocus Pocus). The instrumental A Time Piece was played on this acoustic/electric, and I thought channeled George Harrison during certain parts. I’ll Be There for You is an optimistic love song, which John admits he doesn’t do too often. Honesty is on the opposite end of the love spectrum, an in-your-face tribute to a relationship gone bad. The Strange is an older “dark love song”, the first song he finished after joining VOCAL. This had hints of Black Sabbath with some searing lead guitar solos. The next tune was an instrumental “combo” of Chimes and Groove Thing, a juxtaposition of tender guitar picking and blistering electric guitar. In My Place is another love-gone-bad song with some stellar electric guitar performance. That was the end of a very rewarding performance from Mr. Ellis.

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August Showcase

August VOCAL Showcase

August 21, 2017

The 313th Consecutive Showcase of Original Songs


Last Monday evening, the VOCAL group met once again at O’Tooles for another night of wonderful performers. Artists for the night included Torch, Steve Effinger, and Martin McNeil. Torch led off the night, followed by Steve, and then presenting the stage to the night’s headliner, Martin McNeil.


Torch performed six songs to start off a wonderful evening of music. Some songs included: “We Are Virginia,” “Come to Virginia,” and “Major Daddy.” Her first song one that she has recently finished, and decided that the crowd at O’Tooles would be lucky enough to hear it performed! Lucky we were indeed because it allowed us to get a bit sentimental about our lovely state of Virginia, which people at times can tend to forget what a wonderful place we live in. Torch, using her magnificent musical talents, allowed the audience to recognize many wonderful qualities Virginia holds through song. The next song, “Come to Virginia,” also represented the people and places one could find during a trip to Virginia. This upbeat song spoke highly of the residents of Virginia, and how the southern hospitality is always great! Virginia is a great place to visit for its sights, people, and overall atmosphere. Lastly, “Major Daddy” was a hit with the audience for its representation of the military lifestyle. It should be noted that it is written for her nephew who serves in our great country’s military, and he deserves a big thank you. Anyone who risks their freedom in order to protect ours should most certainly get the respect he or she deserves. Torch, please send a big thank you to your nephew from the audience of O’Tooles!


Second to perform that evening was Steve Effinger! He entertained the audience with six of his original songs. Steve’s songs covered a variety of topics, and hit many emotions throughout the crowd. Some songs pulled at the strings of the heart, while others left listeners feeling cheerful. Everyone comes to these showcases of course to hear what wonderful music artists like Steve have to showcase, but to also have a bit of fun as well. All of Steve’s song throughout the evening contributed to creating a welcoming and fun atmosphere at this month’s showcase!


Lastly, but certainly not least to perform was Martin McNeil! Martin was the night’s headliner, and what a great one he was at that! The crowd was rocked by his songs about life, love, and everything between. Songs of his included: “Is That What You Want,” “Candid Town,” “Apothecary,” and “Save a Prayer,” but that is just to name a few of the songs played for the audience. In total Martin treated the group to eleven of his original songs that evening. Throughout his entire performance Martin was a joy to be around. His songs provided great entertainment, with fantastic beats to get everyone in the mood for a good night. At times he would slow things down, but never dulled the atmosphere that he had created once up on stage! It truly was a wonderful experience to hear him perform after enduring an extremely long day of travel. I believe I can speak for many folks when I say that it would be incredible to have Martin come back and join us once again here in Richmond, Virginia.


Once again, thank you to all of the performers for taking time out of their evening to come perform for another great audience at O’Tooles last Monday. Keep checking in for more details about the upcoming VOCAL meetings and showcase for September. Next month John Ellis will be the showcase’s headliner for the evening! Other performers have yet to be named, but stay tuned for more information through the blog and newsletter.



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good songwriting information


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July 2017 Showcase

July 2017 Songwriter Showcase

Monday July 17, 2017

The 312th Consecutive Show


This past Monday, VOCAL held their monthly showcase at O’Tooles in Richmond, and once again the audience enjoyed every minute of it! Performers for the night included Keely Burn, longtime VOCAL member Matthew Costello, and Dave Pollard as the feature performer.


First to perform was Keely Burn with five of her original songs. Each song was performed wonderfully on the keyboard, and they were a real treat to hear. Some of her songs included “Waltz,” “When I’m Acting,” and “Sky Song.” All of her songs performed on Monday night were sweet in sound and in meaning. Her songs gave audience members the ability to connect to the lyrics, and follow the songs more closely. Whether the song portrayed falling in love or finding one’s personality Keely gave a great performance on Monday. Fantastic job Keely, and we hope to see you again soon at another showcase!


Following Keely was Matthew Costello on the guitar who treated the audience with six of his original songs. Many included songs that the audience had the pleasure of hearing at previous showcases, but that never get old. For example, his song “Digging for Elvis” got the audience in a playful mood by allowing them to participate in the performance. Also, his original song “Train of Thought” brought more joy to the audience with its great rhythm and lyrics. If one looked around the restaurant, they could see many audience members singing along with Matthew. Thank you Matthew for a wonderful night, and we also hope to see you perform at another upcoming showcase.


Lastly, the audience of O’Tooles welcomed Dave Pollard to the stage to perform. Dave treated the crowd to nine of his original songs. Songs that were performed included: “Coming Home to You,” “The Loving Thing to Do,” “Take Me Whole,” and “Reach Out Your Hand.” Many of Dave’s songs spoke of love or loss, which are things that we can all connect to. Whether falling in love, out of love, or losing those that we love to the great beyond, everyone could connect to some aspect of Dave’s songs which is what makes them so great. Not only were the sounds and rhythms of each song great, but the words truly spoke to the crowd. Thank you Dave for a wonderful performance, and we hope to see you at another showcase soon!


Once again, thank you to each performer for taking time out of their week to come treat the diners at O’Tooles to a musical treat! Readers should be on the lookout for information on the next August showcase. Same time and place!

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June 2017 Showcase

Monday June 19th, 2017 Showcase

Our 311th Consecutive Show

A Showcase of Original Songs


This past Monday the Virginia Organization of Composers and Lyricist gathered once again for their monthly showcase! Despite the rain, VOCAL had a good crowd on Monday night who were there to eat delicious food and enjoy some great entertainment.

Monday was an open mic night for members and non-members of VOCAL to perform and showcase their original songs. The night’s performers consisted of the one and only Norman Roscher, Steve Righter, and Steve Nuckolls.

Norman opened up the night with three of his original songs including: “Within Your Eyes,” “You’re Beautiful,” and “Holiday.” It was a nice change to hear Norman play a few songs that had a slow, somber pace and rhythm. Each song filled our hearts and minds with thoughts of love and adoration for those we hold dear to our hearts. However, later in the evening Norman brought back a bit of comic relief with his songs “Mr. Johnson’s Sticky Substance,” “Boobs,” and “I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore.” The crowd joined him through the chorus of both “Boobs” and “Mr. Johnson’s Sticky Substance” which left the group feeling cheerful by the end of the night.

Following Norman, the audience of O’Tooles welcomed Steve Righter onto the “stage.” Steve filled our hearts with feelings of love and joy as he performed five of his original songs including: “I Want that Kind of Love,” “What I’m Trying to Say,” and “When I See You in the Dawn.” My personal favorite happened to be “I Want that Kind of Love” simply because he drew inspiration from the famous film (my favorite film) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan…You’ve Got Mail. We all want that movie screen romance! However, I think the crowd favorite could have easily been his song “What I’m Trying to Say,” which he wrote for his wife. That song is a symbol of true love and adoration two people share with one another, and it was a pleasure to hear performed on Monday.

After Steve left the mic standing alone, another Steve came up to play! Steve Nuckolls was the next performer of the night. As Norman said, “It’s the night of Steve’s!” He treated the audience to five of his original songs as well, and one of the favorites being “That Old Road.” In this particular song, Steve claimed to reminisce about his childhood and the small town dirt roads he used to travel down. It was a relaxing and enjoyable song to hear, and allowed the crowd to perhaps even think back on their old stomping grounds as well. Our hometowns are a place we all will hold dear to our hearts no matter where we may be in life, and how old we are. The place that you first call home is always going to be with you no matter what.

Thank you to these three terrific performers for taking time out of their Monday night to treat us all with wonderful music! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future, and that you have a great rest of your week. Please come out to the next Showcase on July 17th at O’Tooles! Again it will be an 8:00 PM start time. Stay tuned to the VOCAL Blog, Newsletter, and Facebook page for more information regarding meetings, membership, and the performers for next month’s showcase!




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Song Design

by James Linderman

As I was writing my newly released Song Forms for Songwriters workbook, I started to draw parallels between the crafting and manufacture of a song and the crafting and manufacture of other artistic and non-artistic consumables.

As I did my research, the two words that kept appearing were “abstraction” (which involves creating a version or illustration of something that only shows a particular part or feature of it) and the word “design”.

I certainly knew about sound design since I had colleagues who worked in that field, but I was not sure I had ever heard the term “song design” and I began to see that this might be the name for the kind of work that would allow those of us who write song to create better songs.

Of course, form is an essential element of any kind of design work and since I had just spent the last ten years analyzing and compiling 500 of the most successful and iconic song forms for my book, I felt like I was practicing and studying the foundations of song design already.

Of course, classical composers completely understood the importance of compositional form. They wrote menuettos, sonatas and fugues and poured their creative choices into these pre-designed frames. Writing to a form like a menuetto comes with some rules and stipulations but it is surprisingly liberating since the writer can then focus on the expressive elements and the structural decisions look after themselves since they are pre-determined.

First and foremost, to be considered a menuetto, the composition must sound like a menuetto. How the composer innovates their own creative elements into it, cannot be so vast that the listener can no longer identify the form. For instance, it must be in 3/4 time and historically people had to be able to dance to it, in a dance that involved a series of small steps. A traditional menuetto is 32 bars long with an AABB form. See Menuetto in C Major by Mozart.

Within the restrictions that come with writing to a form, it is then essential for the music creator to make a brand new work and not have their music just mimic the examples that preceded it. Everyone who writes music has a responsibility to move the art form forward. It is what separates those who paint, from those who paint by numbers.

In our day and age you would get the impression that form is not an essential part of the songwriting process. To create a commercially successful song you do not need to understand, or even pay any attention to song form. I meet songwriters all the time who cannot distinguish their verses from choruses and they did not write their song with an awareness that they were creating their own song form as they went along. The downside to this kind of writing is that, songs that do not have a strong reliable form, no matter how instantly popular or immediately successful they are commercially, always die as quickly as they rise.

The urban dictionary refers to these kinds of songs as disposable music. Music that listeners find instantly appealing, but will abandon for their next musical infatuation, sometimes within days of the first listen. How commercially successful or popular these songs get before they disappear obviously varies greatly, and the study of that trend is not the focus here. Perhaps I will write on that topic another time but for now lets get back to song design and have a look at the difference between a well designed and a poorly designed element of a song.

Since my new book could be considered a design catalogue for chord progressions lets look at a small section of the template featured on page two. It is in the key of G and it is in 3/4 time.

The templates in the book display the sections of a song; the intro, verse, chorus, etc. with boxes representing bar lines like this…

Linderman Chord Choice Box

The chords displayed in this eight bar intro are options so the songwriter can choose one chord from each bar and determine if, within this very stable and reliable form, they can find a pattern that they might want to write a song with.

That song might look like this…

Linderman Chord Choice 1

Another version could look like this….

Linderman Chord Choice 2

If you listen closely you will hear that there is a distinct similarity in these two introductions because they have the same form and the chords in each bar do the same kind of job, but there is also a significant difference in these two intros as well. They each convey a different mood and therefore represent the artistic choices of their particular songwriter.

Play through both of these examples a number of times and the elements that make them similar and the elements that make them unique, will both become clearer as you get your ear accustomed to this analysis. Also try singing or playing a melody to this song part and see how easy it is to set a melody on a progression that has a reliable form. Many songwriters even go as far as referring to an element of a song as being trustworthy as it relates to the other song elements.

If you have enjoyed taking a look at these inner workings of song design, please visit my website at jameslinderman.com and find more information on my new book Song Forms for Songwriters as well as information on my Skype teaching and song coaching.

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May 2017 Showcase

May 2017 VOCAL Singer/Songwriter Showcase

(310th Consecutive Show)


This past Monday, May 15th, the VOCAL organization gathered for another round of fun and music! It was a “short night” in terms of how long the showcase lasted. However, it was not short in terms of the enjoyment everyone felt during the course of the evening.  Performers included John Ellis, Matthew Costello, and Norman Roscher! Each member performed a short set of songs to get the crowd at O’Tooles going.

John Ellis performed four songs during his set on Monday some including: “I’ll Be There For You,” “The Stranger,” “Winter Solstice,” and “In My Place.” All of John’s songs showcased his magnificent talent for writing tunes that everyone will love. His beats treated the crowd with a variety of tunes, rock and roll, peaceful instrumentals, and slow and somber. I believe I can speak for the crowd, and other members of VOCAL who attended the showcase when I give a big “thank you” to John for his wonderful performance!

Second to perform was Matthew Costello, and he treated the audience to seven songs on Monday evening. Songs included: “Louise,” “Matters To Me,” “Train of Thought,” “Quarter To Three,” “If You Knew,” “One For The Road,” and “Diggin’ For Elvis.” Some of Matthew’s songs could have been said to take the crowd back to the 1950s and 60s in terms of beat and rhythm, but they all left the crowd feeling energetic and happy! In fact, there was crowd participation during the song “Diggin’ For Elvis” that left everyone with a smile on their face.

Norman Roscher was the final performer of the night, and gave the audience a few good laughs before the evening ended! His songs included: “I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore,” “Waiting For The Moon,” “You, Me, and Baby,” “The Train,” “I Need Your Love,” “Pig’s Party,” and “Boobs.” As many of you know, some of Norman’s songs are a bit risqué to talk about on this blog, but we all find joy and humor from listening to them!

Once again, I want to give a huge “thank you” to all three of these gentleman that took time out of their day to perform for the diners at O’Tooles! Join the VOCAL group again in June for another round of performers! Check the VOCAL blog and webpage for more details on future showcases!


  • Jordan Ellis


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Carol Torricelli

Carol Torricelli’s Blueprints of My Soul


Carol Torricelli, for those of you who are not familiar with her work, is a local singer/songwriter creating wonderful music in the city of Richmond, Virginia. Torch, as she is referred to by her friends, is also an avid member of the Virginia Organization of Composers and Lyricists whose members gather around to showcase their original songs.

Recently, Torch released her first album titled, Blueprints of My Soul, which is filled with original songs! To celebrate her success, I sat down to interview with Torch on Monday May 1st.


Drawing Inspiration

One of the first things that came to mind during the interview was Torch’s inspiration for her songs and album. We all have people that inspire us, superheroes, celebrities, sports starts, political leaders, etc. However, I feel that with music, we can step into another level of inspiration. Artists take from their experiences in life, love, sadness, joy, and everyday people whom they may encounter.


“This album is like a kaleidoscope of my life experiences, or blueprints of my soul. Like my father who worked with blueprints. Having an emotion that came out as a song, I had to make it tangible to put it on an album that someone could hold in their hands.” 


Torch had several inspirations that influenced her to decide to work on her first album. First, there was her father. Mr. Torricelli was an architect back in the day, who came home from a long day’s work only to continue being on the job at home. To keep herself entertained, Torch was able to see the blueprints that her father would work on outside of the office. These blueprints are like maps, they lead to something bigger than just an idea on paper. Similar to those blueprints, Torch’s songs are like the blueprints of her soul. Each song touches Torch in a different way based on her experiences and journeys.

Another inspiration Torch spoke highly of was a musician by the name of Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell is best known for her music during the 1970s, which can be categorized into the folk music genre. Torch describes her musical inspiration on her artist page:


 “Her song and album was a turning point, for I was driven to redirect my passions by combining classical finger picking style with the art of composing storytelling vignettes of personal feelings and experiences through lyrics and emotions of a melody, a catharsis of sorts.”  – https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/CarolTorricelli


During the process of creating this album, Torch took inspiration from many different mediums. All of them, however, hold a special part of her heart that helped create her wonderful music.


Dreams Become Reality

Each and every one of us have dreams that we hope to achieve one day. Mine used to be to become a famous USA softball star, but that dream changed into a new one that I am still trying to reach. For Torch, her dream became a reality.


“Making an album has always been a goal of mine, something I have always had to do.”


It took several years for Torch to be able to produce her first album. With all the writing, recording, editing, and copying songs took a great deal of time, but was worthwhile in the end. When one has a goal to achieve, they must do anything and everything to make it happen, which is exactly what Torch did for her album. Not many people would stick with something for all those years in order to get to the end goal. Many decide to pursue another dream, give up, or simply abandon their goal altogether. However, someone with Torch’s motivation is not going to give up their dream. Torch stuck with it over the course of several years, with many trials and tribulations along the way I am sure. Ranging from recording issues, lyrics, and sound all played a part of the process. Those trials all made the outcome worth more than words can describe!


The Process

When following a dream in order to make it a reality, there is a lot of work that goes into the process. Torch spoke extensively about the hard work she put into producing this CD.


“…going onto Red Amp Audio to be able to record some songs. Waiting for them to send the copy, and then edit them. Working around my job (Virginia Tourism). Finding the time between work to record, get the copy, and to edit songs. Having 12 songs was a great process. The most enjoyable being with Jody Boyd (master engineer) working with him was awesome. Kind of like family, and it felt so right. I loved being in the studio. It made my life. I was high as a kite.”


Finding time to do things is a struggle we all face in our day to day lives, but Torch made a lot of time for her work. Between travelling for her fulltime job with Virginia Tourism, and making her album there was little time for much else! One thing that amazes me is her resilience to make it all happen for herself. She put her mind to something, and just stuck with it through the very end.

There are hard aspects to producing your own CD as well, and I asked Torch to clarify as to what those trials and tribulations exactly entailed.


“Hardest part was when they sent over the final copies, and hearing the little buzzes. But you can’t fix everything. Those buzzes are real. Everyone being digitally perfect is not real. Little imperfections is what life is all about. Finding a website to get the music out there (Disk Makers). Scary that there weren’t people to work with…turned out okay. Also, signing all the paper work and deeds. Understanding the law and rules of the industry.”


Torch went through a lot of effort and work to get to where she is now after the release of her album. A person earns a bit of respect when he or she accomplishes something as great as releasing a CD all on their own account. Going through both tough and good times makes a person grow stronger in terms of mentality. For Torch, this should be a good sign that once she puts her mind to something anything is possible, and we can all learn a lesson from her hard work.


Advice for Fellow Singer/Songwriters

We all can learn things from one another. For example, we can learn how to be polite, courteous, or respectful. Through Torch, other singer/songwriters can learn how to produce their own album, and understand the amount of work that is necessary to make it all work.


“First, depends on how you are recording (studio or at home). Organize and plan (3 steps). First, recording, all the final audio files, know how to upload everything. Second, be comfortable with Production Company, like the website, but keep self totally organized with your logistics because you have to pay attention to deadlines, read fine print, understand it and agree to it. Third, taking the final production from the company, take it to whoever digitizes it, release it to the world, and then sign more papers you will need to understand. Find a support system, like VOCAL, who is going to be there for support. Reach out to that support group.”


Torch’s three steps are a good guide to follow from someone who has been through the process. I know from personal experience, the best advice to get is from someone that has gone through the same doors you have, or at least similar experiences. For music lovers wishing to make their own dream of releasing an album come true, take Torch’s word. Find the studio in which you would like to produce in. Be comfortable with who you are working with. Become organized in order to keep track of recordings and songs. Be able to understand the legal side of the music business. Finally, find a group of people in which you can draw endless support from. A group like VOCAL, friends, family, or even co-workers are a good place to go to when you are feeling down, or just need someone to say “you got this.”


Where to now…

Now that Torch has finally released the CD of her dreams, what will she do now?


“So glad I did it. Huge sigh of relief, and happiness as well. My next music goal is to start writing again. Sounds like it should be a no brainer, but for me to write something I really need to be inspired. Writing a song is very cathartic. My way of dealing with the issue, the challenge, or the happiness…all emotions. The last song was a Christmas song for the VOCAL showcase two years ago 2015.”


Following an accomplishment like this it is nice to sit back and enjoy the after math. That feeling of “ah, I did it” sinks in, and one can get a high (not the smoking kind of course)! For Torch, all she wants to do is get back to writing more songs, and enjoying her time playing with close friends.


It is safe to say what a wonderful accomplishment this is for Torch! I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors. If anyone would like to listen to Torch’s new album the link will be posted at the bottom of the page.


  • Written by Jordan Ellis



Torch’s website:  https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/caroltorricelli










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video on copyright

Interview with Attorney Mark Berrier

I am posting this for the information contained therein, not as an endorsement of song secure. FYI: song secure charges 9.95 per month to register your songs (No limit) after a $5 initial charge.

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