The Dr. Tommy Comeaux Chair for Traditional Music held its first-ever songwriting class at UL Lafayette and the results can be heard free of charge Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at the Comeaux Chair Songwriter Showcase in Burke Theatre in Burke-Hawthorne Hall, 211 Hebrard Blvd.
As part of the course, Professor Mark DeWitt invited accomplished local songwriters — Sam Broussard, David Egan, Yvette Landry and Nathan Williams — to share their experience and knowledge with the class of budding songwriters.
Broussard says material from the Berkley School of Music in use for the songwriting class can only take a student so far.
"It has information in it that if you didn't know this already, you don't have much of a chance of learning it," says Broussard. "Even though the book is telling you what to do."
In other words, Broussard says: "If you don't have a knack for this information already, like how to phrase a melody or what's a dumb thing to say, or what's not, then you either have a very long way to go, or you'll never get there."
The guest artists helped students with their songs in progress as well as presented lessons on lyrics, phrasing, composing and creativity.
"It's impossible to do this objectively," says Broussard. "Subjectivity is very important. A lot of people like things that many other people would think is in bad taste. It's difficult to be objective about this as it is to be objective about taste."
And that means it all comes down to opinion, he says.
"So much about what is good songwriting and what is bad can only be opinion," says Broussard. "Human beings often have incoherent thoughts and a song that accurately reflects that cannot be unacceptable."
So Broussard says he takes a look at a student's intent and makes judgments on how well they accomplished it.
"I think the major part of talent is recognizing a good thing from among a pile of bad things," says Broussard. "It's like life — making the right decision among all of the decisions lined up before you.
"So if you do something good in a song, I try to point out the places where a writer didn't live up to that [later in the song]," he says. "You have to kick yourself up to your highest level at all times. And then continue to get better."
Broussard elaborates: "If a writer has a clear intent, we look for anything unclear. If they prefer obscurity, I encourage elegance. If they tell me to my face what they meant, it's often better than what they wrote. If they try poetry, I recommend they read some and I discourage rhyming blame with game.
"Lofty intentions with low skills might mean you suck. Songs can be life-changing, so I'm serious. The market will accept crap, but I have more respect for myself than the market."
The showcase is sponsored by The Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music and The UL Lafayette Concert Committee.