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'You've got to accentuate the positive': Campers learn to write songs

'You've got to accentuate the positive': Campers learn to write songs

August 9, 2019 at 12:00pm

Panther music campers learned how to write songs this summer.

Led by Miami educators and FIU alumni, more than 130 campers —in grades four through 12—practiced melody writing, harmony, chord theory, modal tonalities and complex rhythms. They were introduced to the songs of the Great American Songbook through The Johnny Mercer Foundation's lyric writing program. Mercer is known for songs like "Accentuate the Positive", "Blues in the Night" and "Hooray for Hollywood." 

"I'm having so much fun! I'm learning to make my own pop music!" said Evelyn, one of the younger campers who participated in the program, which ran July 22 through Aug. 2.

At the heart of the program is Accentuate the Positive, a student activity guide that explains how a song is born; how music and lyrics are conceived and written; and how these songs reflect our passions and ideals. In addition to FIU School of Music's Panther Summer Music Camp, Accentuate the Positive is being used throughout the country in Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Miami schools. 

An iconic songwriter and lyricist, Johnny Mercer’s work provides an exemplary framework for deepening cultural awareness of the great American song tradition while providing cross-cultural connections to the rich diversity found in South Florida. Mercer’s own history of collaboration with more than 300 artists serves as a model leading to curricular innovation where students develop critical skills and learn in cooperative ways. 

Songwriting programs link music to literacy development, aiding students’ artistic growth and enriching second language acquisition.

Besnik Hashani leads students in a brainstorming session to come up with a subject for their songs.
Students experience a sense of accomplishment, meaning and engagement in creating and performing their own songs.
Jeepers creepers! Students explore slang from the past and compare it with their own.
Campers practice melody and rhythms.
Put to paper what you know!


Students explore their creativity on various Johnny Mercer songs.