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Jan 3, 2017

Peace Center, Edwin McCain team up to boost music scene

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker , [email protected]:01 a.m. EST December 30, 2016

Two decades ago, when singer Edwin McCain was building his career, he found a warm reception in Charleston.

In Charleston, McCain said, “local musicians were held in high regard and were given opportunities to play in lots of different venues, and get exposure and be appreciated for their talents and the work that we were trying to do.”

In those days, he played in local clubs, busked on the streets, and was able to hone his skills as a songwriter and performer.

And now, McCain is hoping to use those experiences to help up-and-coming musicians in Greenville create a solid career foundation.

The first step comes Jan. 7 with a songwriting workshop led by McCain and singer-songwriter Maia Sharp, whose tunes have been recorded by such artists as Cher and the Dixie Chicks.

The workshop, to be held at the Peace Center, will be the launching pad for a series of seminars designed to help musicians hone their craft and, with a little luck, enliven the music scene in Greenville.

The program began to take shape last July, when Peace Center President and CEO Megan Riegel approached McCain about the possibility.

“The Peace Center is always looking at how to get better and how to improve and what can we do next,” Riegel said. “And we’ve done a lot of reflecting on the past 25 years and said, ‘What’s next?’”

Riegel said she’s had the idea in the back of her head for a while, but it “didn’t really feel like the time was right” until recently.

The daylong seminar on Jan. 7 will offer suggestions and coaching on everything from rhythm and rhyme to “navigating the curse of the second verse.”

Later this winter, there will be a drum seminar with McCain’s drummer Taz Sherard, and future installments might include workshops on touring, digital recording and management, led by professionals who work in those areas of the business, McCain said.

“Obviously, this is just a ‘hey, let’s dip our toe in the water and see what people are responding to,” He said.

The ultimate goal, McCain said, is “to promote and foster a local and regional music scene, because it’s important. We seem to have a lot of support for the visual arts in Greenville, but admittedly, music hasn’t been protected as well as I think it could be. So this is sort of the first step.”

The program’s tentative name is the 10,000 Hour Project, based on writer Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient enough at an activity to be able to make a living with it, McCain said.

McCain and Riegel have ideas for what this program can become, but McCain said it will evolve much the same as the Euphoria festival that McCain helped to found.

“I had an idea of what it would be, but it became what it needed to be,” he said of Euphoria. “I would love to tell you that I had a vision that Euphoria would end up being what it is, and that’s not true. We planted a seed, and then it became what it needed to be.”

As Riegel sees it, the program can benefit both the musicians and the community, because those musicians can then go on to perform at the Peace Center and other venues in the Upstate.

At the Peace Center, “we have a lot of spaces, and I’d like to activate those spaces,” Riegel said. “Our bread and butter is always going to be our Concert Hall … but we’ve got a lot of spaces that we’d like to keep busy. And sometimes we keep them busy with weddings, and sometimes we keep them busy with corporate events, but to have these spaces activated with artists will be phenomenal.”

Musicians and music fans who have complained about Greenville’s sometimes-tepid music scene “have a legitimate beef,” McCain said. “But it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just that Greenville as a community can’t be proficient at being a music town when it’s never been that. You can’t just magically be something you’re not; it’s a learning process.”

McCain is the third artist to come in and work with the Peace Center team on an ongoing basis. The other two are poet Glenis Redmond and classical musician Miles Hoffman. And having a rock musician like McCain also makes the program more accessible to potential artists who might not connect with a classical musician, she said.

It’s also an opportunity for the Peace Center to give back to the community that has supported it over the past quarter-century, she said.

McCain is hoping for about 15 participants in the songwriting workshop. Sharp, who coaches an annual songwriting workshop at New York University, hopes that the Greenville event takes off and can grow in the coming years.

“I’d like to expand it into a two-day thing at some point so there is an opportunity to apply what we say when we hear their songs, to maybe apply it to a brand-new song and we can put them into groups, and they can write a song overnight,” Sharp said.

But McCain and Riegel will evaluate the program’s future after they gauge the response to that first workshop.

But eventually, Riegel said, the Peace Center could become a hub not just for performance, but for the creative process.

“Ideally, I would just like for the Peace Center to be a magnet for talent, a place to come and work on their craft and work on their art, collaborate, meet people who inspire them and stimulate ideas for them. And then have a place to perform. Ultimately, I would like to have a place where they can record, and that perhaps we can showcase content,” Riegel said.

McCain, too, sees this as a chance to help other musicians in much the same way he was helped as a young, struggling artist.

“We’re going to plant seeds and see what goes, but I feel like it’s important to have this stewardship component and try to give back and be a part of the stewardship phase of my career,” he said. “I feel like that’s the last box I have to check.”

YOU CAN GO

What: The Songwriter’s Workshop with Edwin McCain and Maia Sharp

When: 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Jan. 7

Where:  Peace Center

How much: $100

For more: www.peaceecenter.org