Major songwriters festival planned for June

Here’s a chance for local songwriters to network with some of the biggest names in the business, and perhaps get asked to record a demo while polishing their musical skills.

The first-ever Kauai Music Festival is scheduled for June 1 – 4 at the Hyatt Regency Kauai at Po’ipu, and promoters hope it will become as notable as the annual Maui Writers Conference, which draws writers from all over the country and the world to a resort retreat.

Songwriting workshops, panel discussions, demo recordings, a songwriting competition, open mic sessions and concerts are planned.

The $300,000 it will take to stage the festival will be paid for with registration fees and corporate contributions, Rich McSheehy said.

McSheey is the main promoter of the event.

Help in promoting the event is coming from a $10,000 grant from the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau earmarked for advertising, and a $5,000 grant from the County’s Office of Economic Development for scholarships for worthy individuals who can’t otherwise afford to attend.

Most of the corporate sponsors of the festival have given in-kind donations, including American Airlines, Avis car rental, BMI, Gibson Guitars, the Hyatt Regency Kauai, and Performing Songwriter magazine. Other sponsors include Hawaiian Airlines, the Kaua’i County office of Economic Development and the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.

McSheehy is deputy technical director, Office of Naval Research Greater Mid-Pacific Branch, and is serving as the music festival’s head coordinator. People he met at the Maui Writers Conference in 2001 wanted to do something similar on Kaua’i, he said, inspiring the event.

At the conference on Maui, McSheey said he met a woman whose husband worked for Broadcast Music, Inc., the international music rights licensing organization. At the time, he didn’t know that his new acquaintance’s husband was Del Bryant, executive vice president of BMI.

BMI represents about 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, and collects license fees for public performances of any of its repertoire of about 4.5 million musical compositions. The fees are distributed as royalties to writers, composers and copyright holders.

McSheehy also met with Jerry Gibson, General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Kauai, who decided that the hotel would play host to the festival.

J.W. Johnson, BMI writer-publisher relations director, was appointed last June to help organize the event.

“Events like this exist, but we’re trying to incorporate a lot of things that work from other festivals,” Johnson said in a recent interview on Kaua’i.

“A lot of the bang of the event is that you’ll be able to stay in the environment,” Johnson said.

BMI songwriters and professional staff who have confirmed their attendance include:

– Jeff Cohen, who has written theme songs for several shows on the Warner Bros. network;

– Kara DioGuardi, songwriter and producer for pop singers such as Enrique Iglesias, Celine Dion and Jessica Simpson;

– Lamont Dozier, famed Motown songwriter and traditional R & B composer and producer of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame;

– Nicholas C. Ferrara, entertainment attorney;

– Dennis Kamakahi, Hawaiian slack key guitarist, one-time member of the group “Sons of Hawaii”;

– Lisa Loeb, the first unsigned artist to have a No. 1 pop single;

– Hugh Prestwood, country music songwriter;

– David Tickle, studio musician and producer;

– Russ Titelman, producer and songwriter; and

– Dweezil Zappa, guitarist, songwriter and composer and son of the late rock star Frank Zappa.

The Hyatt is offering a special room rate for Hawai’i residents who are attending the festival, and a limited number of rooms are available. The festival also needs volunteers.

For more information, visit or call the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa at 742-1234. Ask for Claire Morris-Dobie, Director of Public Relations, Marisa Hurley, executive director of catering, or Katy Britzmann, executive director of sales and marketing. Or contact Rich McSheehy at 332-9421 or at P.O. Box 456 Kalaheo 96741.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 252).


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