SVSA Vision, 2015

I have been voted in as the president of the Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association (SVSA) for 2015.  I'm excited about it.

Here's the article I wrote for the first 2015 newsletter:

SVSA Vision, 2015

Hello everyone. 

It's a brand new year, and the SVSA has a brand new rookie president -- ME!  I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself, since not all of you know me.
My name is Mike Franke. I've been an active member of the SVSA since about 2007, and have served as a board member for the past couple of years.
I live in a 129-year-old house in Salem with my wife of 19 years, my two internationally-adopted 13-year-old children, my two dogs, three cats, two chinchillas, and (counting now…) currently about 5-6 guitars.  I perform around the area as a solo singer-songwriter act, doing a mix of originals and covers in a finger-picking, blues-biased style.  (check me out at

I’ve had some time to talk with SVSA leaders in the past few weeks, and have formed a vision of some things I would like to accomplish this year.  I have several pages of notes, a really daunting mind map, but it all boils down to two themes: Improving our Craft, and Socializing,  Let’s talk about each of them.

Improving our craft

This is what we’re all about at the SVSA.  Nothing revolutionary there.  Since I’ve been a member, the primary means by which we do this are
  1. song critiques
  2. internal workshops (where the presenter is an SVSA member), and
  3. outside workshops (where the presenter is from outside the SVSA)
We’re always experimenting with each of these, and even in the relatively short time I’ve been a member, I’ve seen some changes.
With respect to song critiques, we’ve experimented with time limits, round-robin answers, several formats of written responses, and allowing live performances or not – just to name a few variations.

Larry Sakayama (our president for the past few years) has done a great job of “recruiting” SVSA members to share their knowledge in workshops.  We’ve also had several awesome outside workshops, including Darryl Brown, and Sally Barris with Don Henry. After discussion with our current SVSA leaders, I would like us to make the following tweaks…

First, I will personally be taking on the task of facilitating the discussion during song critiques to draw people into the conversation who don’t usually say much.  My mission would be to create a safe environment where people feel (rightfully so) that their opinion is valued.  I will try to help people get over any shyness or reluctance they might have, while still allowing plenty of time to hear from our revered regulars.   I hope that, in the end, this is a way to diversify our learning, and eventually our music.
We’ll also be continuously restating and reinforcing guidelines we’ve long had, which include basic courtesy (which has really never been a problem), and the importance of written comments.

Second, I will be asking for ideas on how to take our workshops to a next level.  Without taking the fun out of them, I’d like to give both “hobbyist” and “serious student” a more goal-oriented vehicle for advancement.  Some ideas that have been discussed is to expand upon the “song challenge” idea (remember February’s challenge?), and some new ideas like a regular “why does this song work?” feature.  Perhaps we’ll use the web site to reward members who really show improvement.  Publicity is good, right?

Thirdly, we’ll continue to seek outside workshops.  This year, I hope to expand beyond the obvious singer-songwriter workshops, to other ways of getting out of our own way.  More on that later.


Let’s face it.  A very important part of what we offer at the SVSA is a venue for songwriters (musicians and lyrical artists, performers and non-performers) to hang around like-minded people.  This year, though, I’d like to offer a few new spices to the usual dish.

First, I will try to have a regular monthly meeting for SVSA officers and board members to get together and enjoy each other’s company, talk about what’s working and what’s not, and hear more of David’s stories.  (ha!).  So, for those of you contemplating serving someday, keep in mind that scratch-made blueberry oatmeal pancakes might be a perk.

I will encourage, and help organize, events outside of songwriting.  Hiking is one of my favorites, and I’ll start with that.  I’d also like to make a habit of attending local performances as a group – both touring artists coming through the area, and our own up-and-coming artists.  We will attempt to reach out to other songwriter groups nearby with all of this.

Finally, and perhaps most ambitiously, I think it’s time for the SVSA to get into the modern world and use the best of social media to reach out to a new, vibrant pool of talent and ideas.  Thanks to Larry, we have had a really awesome web site ( for some time now, and I hope to leverage that even more: more dynamic content (pics, blogs, recordings), more links, more engagement. 

We have had a Facebook page for some time, too, though I think we could make better use of it.  We’ll dig into that and see if ReverbNation is something we could leverage.  We now have a Twitter account (@SvsaSongs) as well, and we’ll be experimenting with how to use it. Other ideas include live internet shows via tools like, and an organized and SVSA-sanctioned YouTube channel.

I’m convinced that, if Mozart were alive today, he would have a room full of equipment, a fast internet connection, a GoPro, and a zillion Twitter followers.

Tag, out

(whew) I’m tired already.  OK, so I know that, as the new guy, I have lots of energy right now, and that this is the honeymoon phase.  But if you keep nagging me (Twitter!), I’ll keep pushing the envelope.

If you’re a serious songwriter, I want to continue to improve SVSA as an asset and a resource for you. If you’re a hobbyist, I want to create an environment in which you feel supported, valued, and encouraged to improve – and have the tools to do it.

Which are you? 

@mikefrankemusic @SvsaSongs #WriteOn

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