Singer/Songwriter Festival offers campus-community collaboration

(Photo Source: William Pollett) Caleb Cross a WSU student performing at one of the past festivals.
(Source: William Pollett) WSU student Caleb Cross performs at a past Singer/Songwriter Festival.

The Singer/Songwriter Festival has pulled students from a current course taught for about five years at Weber State University by William Pollett, a WSU English Department faculty member, but before that, he was teaching people in the community to get them writing and singing their own songs.

“You can write a song, but it’s not a song until someone sings it,” said Pollett, professor of composition and creative writing courses at WSU and facilitator of the Singer/Songwriter Festival.

The festival is about people coming together and performing in front of an audience and showing off their talent by performing their original pieces. This semester, the festival is being held twice for the benefit of students who were unable to attend and/or perform at the previous one.

Pollett facilitates the festival as an avenue for individuals to express themselves and share their talent. Members of the Free Academy for Creative Expression, who meet Wednesday nights at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for Northern Utah, also attend the festival.

“It’s not a competition — it’s an exhibition,” Pollett said. “It’s something to spotlight the students and members of the local community.”

Pollett also said his goal is to connect people with their own ideas, goals and emotions through composition and music.

“I’m always surprised when a student from the business department or from the hard sciences comes down and says, ‘Well, this is what I do; this is what I love. In addition to my science and my business work, I still write songs,'” Pollett said. “So when someone from another discipline comes in to really wow us, it is incredible.”

Pollett said he utilizes music in his composition and creative writing courses and that students respond extremely well.

“It was obvious to me that it was very popular from the very beginning,” said Vicki Ramirez, director of the creative writing program at WSU. “. .  . Any students that have him (Pollett) for class, he draws them in. He has really boosted this thing (the festival).”

Ramirez, who will perform at the festival as well, passed the torch and support for the campus contribution of the Singer/Songwriter Festival to Pollett, and he has run with it.

“It’s a really unique class,” said Ariel Olson, a student in Pollett’s class. “We get to have a lot class discussion and (the) chance to perform. . . . My favorite part is to listen to other people’s music. You get to learn about them. It’s been hard for me. I’m kind of shy, (but) it’s brought me out of my shell.”

Olson said Pollett, from whom she’d previously had a fiction course, assigns different genres of songs each week. She said her personal favorites were folk and punk.

The class doesn’t require students to perform every piece they’re required to write, and those who don’t play an instrument can either ask for accompaniment or sing it a capella if they do choose to perform.

Pollett said his goal is to see people apply music to their daily lives — to not only rely on the radio or the iPod, but to create music as well. He said human beings should not only be considered consumers, but also creators.

“The greatest talent you can find is in your neighborhood,” Pollett said. “It’s great to see the university connect with the community, and the community connect with the university, and everyone having an opportunity to share their talents — whether they’re schooled in it, or just utilizing it as a hobby, or doing it in their spare time, or as something they’ve just been introduced to.”

Ramirez and Pollett said they have high hopes of seeing people both on and outside of campus come and attend, even perform at the festival.

“It’s interesting to see someone who is 18 and someone who is 63 on the same stage and doing the same stuff,” Ramirez said.

The festival will be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow in Elizabeth Hall, Room 229, where students can come and listen to music ranging from rap to country and everything in between. The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, interested parties can contact [email protected].