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PASA In A Nutshell

What is PASA?

PASA is the Philadelphia Area Songwriters' Alliance. Our purpose is to provide a nurturing environment for the craft of songwriting and for honing the skills needed for live performance of original material. We are not a 501(c)3, nor are we a formal organization. PASA was started by songwriters and continues to be run by songwriters. No money is exchanged as an organization and all events are free.

What makes PASA special is that we focus on the craft of songwriting and are equally interested in both the performing and non-performing songwriter, whether or not they view songwriting as a career, a part-time passion, or just an artistic outlet. Many of our fine sister organizations focus more on the career oriented professional. The fact that all our work is done by volunteers, along with the way we have structured PASA, allows us to focus on the craft and to create some innovative, unique, and free songwriter events.

PASA Songwriter Events

(Note that all events, unless otherwise indicated, are normally at members' homes. During the pandemic, these events are on Zoom).
Annual Cover Me Party
The Annual Cover Me Party has been running continuously since 2007, and takes place in December. Songwriters cover each other's songs, as a gift. The songwriter whose song is being covered does not know who is covering it. The surprise is part of the gift. Only members who participate have their songs covered. In the beginning of September, participants register to be included. From there, they undergo a process of selection and receive materials they need to learn their requested song (or songs). All PASA members and their families are invited to attend the Cover Me Performance, which usually consists of approximately 23 performers and 40 songs. This event includes a large potluck feast.
Annual SongWorks
This all-day event, which began in 2004, is held in late winter/early spring each year and provides multiple songwriting workshops in the afternoon and an open stage event in the evening where attendees are encouraged to perform songs they wrote that day. We gather around noon for an informal "bring your own lunch" social hour. Then, we break into several simultaneous small groups (4-10 people each) for three back-to-back sessions, which include both hands-on exercises with writing prompts and instructional education about composition, arranging, instrument technique, and styles of writing. After the workshops and before the open stage, attendees often opt to order food for delivery from a local restaurant for a communal dinner, where we share our experiences of the day. The last several events have been hosted and co-coordinated by member Terry Merriman, whose rural Chester County home provides the perfect layout to accommodate this event, while also surrounding us with peaceful, natural beauty. The open stage has been appropriately held in Terry's professional home studio and dedicated performance space.
Annual Summer Songfest
This event, initially conceived by Rob Lincoln and Tony DeSantis in 2000, allows songwriters to perform their original songs throughout the afternoon in thematic SongCircles, and in the evening we have an open mic performance. Popular themes for the circles over the years have included: Love and Relationships, Ballads and Story Songs, Finger-picking Songs, etc. In addition to four sets of two concurrent SongCircles, a concurrent songwriting workshop was added after the first year of the event. Members can write their own songs in these workshops, each with different prompts, much like the annual SongWorks. The event runs from about noon into late evening and is held in August in a member's home. Attendees often opt to order dinner to be delivered as a group.
Monthly Houseconcerts
One of the longest running house concert series in the Philadelphia Area, for more than 20 years, PASA has presented its members in a true house concert setting. Since its creation by Rob Lincoln in 2000, more than 150 different performers have performed as a co-headliner. One Saturday night a month (and during the pandemic on Zoom twice monthly) the house concert features three co-headliners who are PASA members in good standing. (To be a PASA member in good standing you merely need to show up at least twice a year at an event and be registered on this website.) Performers are selected for their ability to put over their songs to an audience, their involvement in PASA events as well as overall songwriting. In addition, to be booked as a headliner they must have a connection to the Philadelphia area. The house concert also allows for 8-12 "Open Chair" performers. Anyone who wants to play an original song can be an Open Chair performer. These shows are in round robin format, one song at a time and the Open Chair slots not only begin the show but also occur at the end of every round. There are seven rounds and an intermission. Shows begin at 7:30 PM.
Monthly Open Mics
In partnership with the Philadelphia Folksong Society (PFS), on the third Wednesday of every month PASA co-hosts an Open Mic at 7 PM. Songwriters are strongly encouraged to play their original material. Non-songwriters are welcome to perform as well, particularly songs in the folk tradition. The structure, like our house concerts, is designed so no more than one song is played at one time. There are normally 2 rounds, occasionally 3 and sometimes one, depending on the number of performers. Signup is at pfs.org/openmic.
SongShare: Song Critique
This format is for songwriters who are seeking feedback, tips, ideas, and constructive criticism that is freely and openly offered by their fellow PASA members. No more than 5 writers per session participate in this relaxed evening event in a member's home. We utilize a well-worn process for how the songs are presented and how feedback is expressed, which allows for everyone to be heard and avoids any discomfort of both givers and receivers of the comments made. Following this format assures the effectiveness of the session for all. Any member whose home can accommodate 5 people and instruments, is quiet and private, and has reasonable parking options, can be a Song Critique host. These are held on an irregular basis, usually on a Friday evening, approximately every 2-3 months throughout the year. Watch our calendar for upcoming event dates.
SongShare: Safe Song Circle
This quarterly event is for presenting live original material in an informal song circle, with no audience, and up to 8 participants. Each songwriter has the opportunity to play 4-5 songs as we go around the circle. After each song, praise and encouragement are offered, but not critique. This is a perfect opportunity for songwriters to present new material. This is held in a member's home in the evening. Watch our calendar for upcoming event dates.
Showcases
A few times a year PASA offers showcase opportunities at local venues. Typically 6-12 PASA member performers will play short sets of 2-4 songs at these events. Previous recent showcases have taken place at Malelani Cafe in Philadelphia, the War3house in Swarthmore, and outdoors as part of Twilight on the River in Bridgeport, PA. A themed showcase that we have coordinated in past years has been for the songwriters who participated in an international event called FAWM (February Album Writing Month), held a few months after FAWM, in a member's home. Booking for all of our showcases is done by a PASA coordinator on a first come, first served basis and they tend to fill up very quickly. We usually get a good, enthusiastic audience attendance at these events.
Please note that with the exception of the Open Mic where original songs are strongly encouraged, but not expected for non songwriters, all other PASA events do not allow cover songs unless they are written by another PASA member. This is a critical way in which the organization has remained true to its purpose.

Leadership

PASA's Volunteer Leadership in recent years has been:
  • Christine Winchester -- Co-Chair, Administration/Membership, Song Critiques, SongWorks
  • Heidi Wolfson -- Co-Chair, Cover Me Party, Safe Song Circle, House Concert Host
  • Rob Lincoln -- Co-Chair, Houseconcerts, Open Mic, Outreach/Partnerships, SongFest
  • Wes Powers -- Co-Chair, Webmaster, Membership
  • David C. Perry -- Advertising, Graphics, Communications
  • Tony DeSantis -- House Concert Host
  • Jennings Durand -- House Concert Host
  • Terry Merriman -- Annual SongWorks Host

Some History

Late 1980's -- Philadelphia Area Songwriters Alliance (PASA) was formed by singer/songwriters Dan Hart and Tom and Marianne Tucker. Early members included songwriter/photographer Robert Corwin and award winning singer/songwriter Jackie Tice.
Early on in PASA, the "SongShare" was established. It was a critique session that allowed songwriters to get feedback about their unfinished works in progress by a small number of songwriting peers. This activity has continued to the present day.

By the early 1990's, some of PASA's current leadership had joined: Christine Winchester, David Perry, and Rob Lincoln. Christine was Chair of the organization for many of these years. Throughout the 1990's, under Christine's leadership, PASA hosted regular songwriter showcases around the Philadelphia area and further improved upon the PASA SongShare format. For many years a regular printed newsletter was produced and mailed to members. In those days a small annual membership of $5 was charged and that went solely for printing, postage and a few snacks.

1999 -- PASA CD -- A small committee of PASA folks led by Christine, including graphic artist/songwriter David C. Perry, as well as Tony DeSantis and Rob Lincoln, coordinated and produced PASA's compilation album Declaration! All the music was recorded, engineered, and mixed by Joe Hammer. Everyone who worked on it volunteered their time and talents, while any hard costs were covered by the organization's small treasury at the time and donations from the artists, in exchange for receiving tapes and CDs once they were manufactured. The CD, with 15 original cuts written and performed by PASA members, is available online here: www.amazon.com/Declaration-Various-Artists/dp/B00004TTKZ.

Around 2000, the Philadelphia Songwriters' Association, (PSA) led by Erik Balkey, proposed a merger between PSA and PASA. The two organizations merged to become the Philadelphia Songwriters' Alliance (PSA). After the two organizations merged, Christine stepped down and Erik became coordinator for the newly expanded organization. A few weeks later, Rob proposed to Erik two ideas that he had been thinking about for quite a while: the establishment of two new songwriter events -- a regular house concert series and a day-long songwriters' festival.

In 2000-2001, Rob began running two new events -- The Houseconcert and the Summer Songfest. The first house concert hosts included Jon Sagle, Janet Sclaroff, Tom Chirip, and Tony. David Kleiner hosted for over a decade as well. Janet was a long-time host of most of the Summer Songfests.

In 2002, Erik Balkey stepped down as PSA coordinator to concentrate on a full-time career as a touring singer-songwriter. Rob asked Christine to become the PSA coordinator. She would agree only if there was a co-chair. PSA was very fortunate to have Sharon Abbott take on the role of PSA co-chair with Christine. Sharon provided most PSA communication for a number of years, including the monthly newsletters, which in time were emailed out.

In 2003, due to an interest in having songwriting activity at the Summer Songfest, a songwriting workshop component was added, and at the suggestion of PASA member Tom Cooney, a whole new day-long event was created in 2004 called the Winter SongWorks.

In 2006, partly because of the popularity of the "Prostate Specific Antigen" test, also called "PSA", this organization reverted back to its previous name "The Philadelphia Area Songwriters' Alliance" (PASA). Plus, many of our members are from New Jersey, Delaware, and the Philly suburbs, so the "area" part of the name is an important and accurate element.

In 2007, the most popular PASA event to date, the "Cover Me Party", was conceived, organized, and hosted by Heidi Wolfson. She created it as a "Pollyanna" holiday party, where each participant gives the gift of learning and singing another member's original song, as a surprise performance at the party in December.

In 2018, Rob approached the Philadelphia Folk Song Society's Executive Director, Justin Nordell, with an idea to partner once a month with an Open Mic focused on original music. This has now become a monthly mid-week event for both organizations. The PASA/PFS open mics are held at the PFS venue in Roxboro (Philadelphia, PA).

In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, PASA went "virtual" and actually increased the frequency of their events, holding house concerts twice monthly and maintaining the Cover Me Party, online showcases, and even a day-long online SongFest.

In 2021, PASA was featured on a segment of "You Oughta Know" on WHYY Channel 12, Wilmington DE.