Folk Roots Radio Episode 441: Hillside Festival Girls & Guitars Songwriting Course 2019

Folk Roots Radio Episode 441: Hillside Festival Girls & Guitars Songwriting Course 2019

We’re giving over the whole of Episode 441 of Folk Roots Radio to interviews with the participants and facilitators of the 2019 Hillside Festival Girls & Guitars Songwriting Course that took place in Guelph during the winter. The songwriting workshop is specifically designed to help aspiring female songwriters develop effective songwriting skills and strategies while gaining confidence in their own ability, and all within a supportive learning environment. As you will hear during these interviews, the music industry is currently skewed 70:30 in favour of men – not just in terms of performers, but also behind the scenes – in management, booking agents, tech crews, artistic directors, and critics. During the four-week course, participants worked on an original song that was eventually recorded by Nick Zubeck at Arthur North Studios in Guelph. The students also played their song live at a special event during the Hillside Inside winter festival this past February. It’s our privilege to share those songs with you again today. Check out the full playlist below.


Since 2011, the Hillside Festival has been running the Girls & Guitars project in three streams: (1) in the schools with female singer-songwriters teaching kids to write songs; (2) public performances as part of Hillside Inside, the winter festival; and (3) songwriting courses. The purpose of the project is to gradually change the face of the music industry, which is currently skewed toward males who are the booking agents, artistic directors, technical production crew, reviewers and critics, artist managers, and presenters. (Recent estimates suggest the ratio is 70:30, male to female.)

Hillside Festival started a songwriting course for women in 2016. The course is taught by Guelph based singer-songwriter Doris Folkens and Hillside’s executive director, Marie Zimmerman, and runs on four consecutive Friday evenings during January and early February. The songwriting course isn’t just for girls, but has included female songwriters of all ages. The most recent course included Julie Tripp, Sember Wood, Michelle Munroe and Alaina Sampson, who share their experiences here.

According to facilitator Doris Folkens, “female-identified musicians often write songs that are quite different from their male counterparts. Case-in-point: this winter, the four students who signed up for the course wrote songs about discovering themselves falling short of an expectation, helping a friend through mental health problems, grieving the loss of fertility, and expressing gratitude to a partner.”

For most of these students in the course, this was the first time they had written a song, let alone recorded it. As one of the students commented, “You are doing great things and have impacted all of us in the best way by telling us that the stories we have to tell, are stories that deserve to be heard. I think that this course is one of those things that has altered me a bit for the better. It gave me … the confidence in my own voice and a new openness.”

About the Hillside Festival

The Hillside Festival has been running since 1984, staging a summer three-day, multi-stage event with a broad artistic vision that emphasizes diversity: of culture, of musical heritage and style, of age, geography and influence. Set in a beautiful, accessible conservation area with campgrounds on Guelph Lake, Hillside’s summer festival is world-renowned as one of Canada’s most progressive, environmentally conscious, completely non-commercial community celebrations set within its own island village that is filled with music, dance, drumming, food, crafts, and more. Hillside Inside is the winter version of the Hillside Festival taking place in a variety of venues across downtown Guelph since 2008.

The 2019 Hillside Festival takes place from July 12 – 14 on the beautiful island in the middle of Guelph Lake just out Guelph ON.  Check out the 2019 line-up HERE. Weekend and Single day passes are now available. For more information about the Hillside Festival visit


You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via iTunes, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)

Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)

Doris Folkens
Right Side Of The Tracks
Doris Folkens (2018, Self) CDN

Interview: Doris Folkens, course facilitator.

Interview: Julie Tripp discussing her new song “Happy I Let You In”, which is about finding love in the dullest of places and with the most unnoticeable people.

Julie Tripp
Happy I Let You In
(single) (2019, Self) CDN

Interview: Sember Wood discussing her new song “Thailand”, which is about not being changed by travel experiences that were supposed to change you..

Sember Wood
(single) (2019, Self) CDN

Interview: Michelle Munroe discussing her new song “Lullaby To My Heart”, which is about discovering you can’t have children.

Michelle Munroe
Lullaby To My Heart
(single) (2019, Self) CDN

Interview: Alaina Sampson discussing her new song “Nature of Destruction”, which is about being surrounded by people with mental health and addiction problems, and wanting to help without putting yourself at risk.

Alaina Sampson
Nature Of Destruction
(single) (2019, Self) CDN

Interview: Marie Zimmerman, course facilitator.

Carolyn Ross
Wild Spirit Child
Wild Spirit E.P. (2019, Self) CDN

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

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