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Carrboro ArtsCenter hosts musicians for Songwriters' Circle

Though the musicians at the Carrboro ArtsCenter’s Songwriters’ Circle may not sit around and sing Kumbaya, they are still offered a relaxed, supportive and collaborative vibe at the meetings every other Monday.

The group has seen a steady following and a diverse array of genres represented, said Kirk Ridge, one of the group’s coordinators.

The Songwriters’ Circle is sponsored by the North Carolina Songwriters Co-op, a nonprofit of over 200 songwriters whose main focus is to give support to other songwriters throughout the state.

Art Menius, executive director of the ArtsCenter, asked Ridge and Jay Ladd, the group’s other coordinator, to lead the circle as part of the center’s community outreach, Ridge said.

Both Ridge and Ladd are also members of the songwriters co-op.

“Some people just want to play their song, but other people want feedback on their lyrics or their music or their arrangement.” Ridge said.

“But we don’t volunteer feedback. It’s not where you’re going to get criticized or anything. Some of us have been doing this for a long time and have been somewhat successful, and we can share what we’ve learned about putting a song together.”

Durham resident Dave Strausfeld, who attends the open meetings almost every week, said the most interesting thing about the group is the diversity of the songs produced.

“If you wrote a song, it would be completely different from a song that I would write,” Strausfeld said. “Everybody’s songs come out so distinctive and revealing.”

Ridge also cites the diversity of genres — everything from rock to folk to hip-hop — as a main contributor to the group’s success.

The format of the meetings is left up to the participants for the most part, Ridge said.

People are invited to come with instruments or recordings to share. But the circle is also open to people who may only want to listen and observe.

Anita Harding, another regular attendee, said she started attending meetings in February after moving to Chapel Hill from New Jersey.

She said she also participated in a similar songwriting group prior to moving, and she appreciates the support and camaraderie the ArtsCenter’s circle offers.

“It works two ways. You get encouragement, plus you can encourage other people,” Harding said.

“It’s good to perform in front of other people and to be around other people who are doing the same thing that you’re doing.”

One of her favorite parts of the Songwriters’ Circle is the surprise that follows whenever she hears new participants perform their songs.

“You think, ‘Whoa! You need to get these things out there!’ It’s really cool when that happens.”

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