Craig Cardiff knows how hard it can be for students to tell their stories or express their feelings — let alone during a year like this one.
It’s one of the reasons the veteran singer-songwriter continues to hold his sought-after songwriting workshops, pivoting online to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. He even set up a newly minted record label — Quarantine Collaborations / Workshop — for the students in the process.
“I don’t care who you are — everyone has a song inside,” Cardiff says. “Each one of us has a song that got us through a hard time.” He’d know: He’s released 16 albums over the course of a career that has lasted more than 20 years, earned him Juno and Canadian Folk Music Award nominations, and a Gold single for Dirty Old Town. For more than a decade, he has run workshops hosting hundreds of students in grades 7-12 throughout the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, along with providing similar experiences for students across Canada, the United States, and Hong Kong around his busy tour schedule.
His passionate work with students extends beyond the art of songwriting and helping transform stories into songs; he assists in them learning the nuances of performance and the recording process. And while the workshops may be music-centric, they’re not just for music students. “Students interested in business, graphic design, creative writing, and technology all connect. They learn about all aspects of the process of song creation and distribution. Students see their songs started, completed, delivered and listened to on streaming services — Apple, Spotify, Amazon… They can’t say they don’t know the process works; they own it from beginning to end. It’s their song and album art up on Spotify.”
Which brings us back to Quarantine Collaborations / Workshop label, Cardiff’s student-centric imprint. “We’ve just launched 18 songs to all streaming digital services,” he says. “They’re mostly from the Ottawa schools so far, but other school boards across Ontario and Alberta are coming, with more going up soon. The students deserve all the credit.”
The goes double during he current pandemic, he says. “These workshops … have transitioned and continued into a virtual format. The students really rose to the occasion; they problem-solved, recorded with what was available, encouraged one another all online, on the Google Docs, and during the Google Meets.”