Songwriting Workshops in Your Classroom

"It made me feel like a professional song writer!" — 9th Grade Student

Praise from Teachers and Students

“Putnam Smith has an engaging presence and immediately makes remarkable headway with his students…The amount of energy and delight he brought to our combined art and English class was magical…and the collaborative product outcomes amazing!”
Karen Ogg, Teacher at Franklin Alternative School, Auburn, ME

“Mr. Smith's ability to collaborate and innovate with students was nothing short of magical...The students left the room feeling and acting like artists. Highly recommend!”
Jen Onken, 11th Grade English Teacher, Berwick Academy

“I fully endorse this artist! I had a great time in the songwriting workshop with him!”
Nicole Favreau, 4th grade teacher, Portland Friends School

“Hearing our lyrics come together with music...I felt accomplished.”
11th Grade Student

“This was truly wonderful!…The students were all completely engaged and touched by your work with them.  I am thrilled to have this recording.  I will use it in class on Thursday and next week to sing our song again and again! Great job!”
Nancy Fox, ESL Teacher, Portland Adult Ed

“It was a fun way to explore the reading.”
9th Grade Student

“Dear Putnam, thank you for spreading joy throughout level 4. You are both an EXCELLENT TEACHER, and wonderful musician.  We all want you back.”
Arline Saturdayborn, Portland Adult Ed EL Teacher

“Interesting way to raise awareness for social justice topics!”
11th Grade Student

The Workshops

Adaptable to the novel, nonfiction text or unit that you are teaching

History of American Roots Music

Through slides, storytelling, and live performance, take a trip through the history of America through its various forms of folk music: blues, Cajun, old-time, and bluegrass. With vintage instruments, including his great-grandfather’s banjo, Putnam will engage as well as edify, exploring the rich multicultural legacy of folk music traditions, which informs popular music right up to modern day.
Grade range: Adaptable for any age
Workshop length: 45 minute
Group size: Large group or Assembly

The Art of Songwriting

Working in small groups, students will learn professional songwriting techniques to CREATE their own songs. With student choice of banjo, guitar, or mandolin, Putnam will compose music on-the-spot for each song. Also adaptable to fit into your ELA curriculum unit on poetry, literature, or creative writing. Listen to a song written by students in an Art of Songwriting workshop!
Grade range: 2-12
Workshop length: 80 minute, multi-day or week-long residencies
Maximum Group Size: 25

Social Justice Songwriting

How can art serve as a response to issues of prejudice and social injustice? Why is narrative an effective tool for understanding social justice issues? In this multi-day residency, students use songwriting as a means of raising awareness on issues of race, ethnicity, socio-economics/poverty, sexual orientation, and the environment. In small groups, students will write the lyrics to their own protest song, which will then be set to music, created on-the-spot by Putnam. Listen to a song written by students in a Social Justice Songwriting workshop!
Grade range: 7-12
Workshop length: 80 minute, multi-day or week-long residencies
Maximum Group Size: 25

Songwriting for English Language Learners

Drawing on his experience as an ESL teacher in NYC, Putnam incorporates the grammar lessons and vocabulary currently being studied in your class, guiding students to write lyrics to a song of their own making.  A creative and engaging way for students to practice their grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation — all through writing and singing!  Themes and vocabulary from fiction or non/fiction texts can also be incorporated.  The class will be left with a recording of their song. Listen to this song created by students in a workshop at Portland Adult Ed!
Workshop length: 80 minutes, multi-day, or week-long residencies
Maximum group size: 25

Arts Integration that Enhances your Curriculum

Help Meet Your ELA and Music Standards in a Way You and Your Students Will Love!

Common Core ELA standards met:


Maine Standards met (performing arts):

  • C.1 Application ofCreative Process
  • D. Aesthetics and Criticism
  • E. The Arts and History and World Cultures

Lesson Plans

Basic Artist in Residency

Social Justice Songwriting

About the Artist

With guitar, mandolin, and his great-grandfather’s banjo, Putnam Smith has performed for audiences of all ages, in 40 states across the country. A critically acclaimed songwriter, his 2011 release, “We Could Be Beekeepers” went to #2 on the national Folk DJ Charts.

Also passionate about educating youth, he is a graduate of Bowdoin College, and holds a master’s degree in education from Lesley University. He has led music and theater workshops in schools all across the state of Maine.

To discuss budget, and a workshop tailored to your classroom needs, contact Putnam at