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Chords of Connection:
Highlights from the NACF Songwriting Track

by Simon Gough

Every three years, the five North American territories come together for the North American Composer’s Forum. Some of the giants in Salvation Army band and choral music provide training throughout the weekend and give up their time to invest in the next generation of composers. This year, it was exciting to see a third track offered for songwriters alongside the usual brass and choral tracks. The weekend was hosted by the Central Territory at their territorial headquarters in Chicago.


The songwriting track focused largely on training and equipping the delegates to write for their congregations. Group sessions on melodic writing and harmony were given by Phil Laeger (USA South) and Victor Morales (USA East). Time was also provided for individual coaching sessions on songs that they had already been working on.


On the Saturday, Reggie Brooks (USA Central) led a beautiful time of worship. From that worship time, Reggie and Victor encouraged the group to continue the song we had been singing by writing their own verse at the end as an act of worship. As the chord progression of the song was played, delegates were given time to meditate on what the Lord was saying to them, and then given opportunity to translate that into a form of musical expression. What resulted was a beautiful time of heartfelt worship and songwriting as delegates came to the microphone one by one to bring their offering. Often the entire group would join in and sing along as each new verse was presented. It was an amazing time of unlocking a new way to write for many of the delegates.


Throughout the weekend, many of the delegates were introduced for the first time to co-writing. They were divided into pairs with a faculty facilitator to assist and guide them in the writing process. In three hours, each group was able to write an original song. These songs were presented on Saturday afternoon to the entire group with a panel of experienced songwriters. This panel included Phil Laeger, Erin Wikle (USA West), and special guest Lauren Scott. The variety in style of the songs presented was wonderful, and it was impressive to see the quality of work in such a short amount of time.


Over the course of the weekend, there were several panel presentation style sessions. This gave delegates the chance to bring their song and receive feedback from the panel and from the entire group. It was incredibly valuable as many delegates received the feedback and were able to apply it to their own writing.


Overall, the addition of the songwriting track was a resounding success. Hopefully the fruit of the seeds that were planted here will be seen and heard in congregational singing in the future.

If you would like to be considered as a delegate to attend the next North American Composer’s Forum, please reach out to your territorial music department.


Theo Coleman - “The Composer's Forum was so interesting to me. It was a time of learning and collaboration. It was wonderful to fellowship with so many of the composers that I have only heard about or heard their music. It was nice to meet them in person and hear their passion about Jesus and music.”


Ladarion Jones“This was a magical experience for me. It allowed me to be in a space to be around other creatives and tap into something that I didn’t know that I could. I loved the worship sessions, the one-on-one sessions, the groups, and even the combined group sessions. Everyone was from all different types of music worlds, all different styles of music, and there were so many different writing processes. I just think if you have a whole bunch of different creatives in a room, expect some heat, but this experience was fire.”


Nikki Lopez“The North American Composer’s Forum was a great example of how the Holy Spirit can move through each person and their abilities. I feel honoured that I was asked to be a part of this experience.”

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