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Music professor honors the craft of songwriting with students

Music+Industry+Professor+Jim+McCormick+examines+the+work+of+his+students+in+his+class+The+Business+and+Craft+of+Songwriting.
Music Industry Professor Jim McCormick examines the work of his students in his class The Business and Craft of Songwriting.

Music Industry Professor Jim McCormick examines the work of his students in his class The Business and Craft of Songwriting.

Music Industry Professor Jim McCormick examines the work of his students in his class The Business and Craft of Songwriting.

Davis Walden

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Jim McCormick was five years old when he started to write songs, and now he has multiple number one hits on Billboard Country charts and songs on Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan albums that were released last month.

“Country music favors narrative and imagery and a sort of literalness to the lyric, where something is being said directly and clearly,” McCormick, a part-time instructor for music industry studies, said. “It’s a tradition. It goes back to honoring the craft of great songwriting.”

McCormick teaches songwriting at Loyola. The workshop styled class has students write 15 songs over a 15 week period, collaborating with each other to write and record a song within one week.

“It’s a place where people can take risks and really strive for excellence and benefit from the critique and feedback of their peers,” McCormick said. “Hopefully we can get a sense of what that writer is trying to do and maybe we can help them get there easier, faster, better.”

Alexes Aiken, music industries junior, was enthusiastic to have the opportunity to talk about songs with McCormick when she took the songwriting class last semester.

“It was insanely cool to work with Jim,” Aiken said. “Getting hands-on advice from someone who is currently successful in an industry and specifically the genre you want to work in was really helpful and opened my mind creatively to different ways of writing.”

McCormick wants his students to be the best workers that they can possibly be, having the ability to hone their skills by supporting one another along the way. The process works by giving the class a song and then discussing the song’s strengths and weaknesses. From there, the class discusses if the techniques of the song succeed in what the song is trying to do.

“That all sounds very craftsmanlike for what is supposed to be an artistic pursuit,” McCormick said, “but it doesn’t snuff out the art, it enhances it. Some nights we have a song brought in by somebody that just makes everyone take a breath, and we kind of put the shop talk aside, and we might listen to it again because it’s just a beautiful work
of art.”

McCormick said young writers need to keep writing and to carry around a “hook book,” a notebook to jot down inspirations and spur of the moment ideas.

“It doesn’t matter how many [songs] you write in the end; it matters how good the great ones are that you write,” McCormick said. “You don’t get to the great ones until you’ve scores of bad ones. I don’t want to hear anything you’ve done until you’ve written 100 songs. Bring me your 101st song.”

McCormick shares his own experiences with the music industry and with songwriting to help students better understand how it works.

“We would talk about how well his song would be doing on country radio since I work for iHeartRadio,” Aiken said. “I’d get to hear his songs played on our nationally recognized country station which is a huge win for Louisiana songwriters.”

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Music professor honors the craft of songwriting with students