"The Southern Utah Songwriters Association is a non profit registered 501c-3 located in St. George, Utah. SUSWA is the home and information hub, instructional and improvement network for area songwriters, and is the only organization of this type in southern Utah. SUSWA assists aspiring and journeyman songwriters continue to develop their writing skills, offering workshops, symposiums, and an association with other songwriters. SUSWA also functions as the songwriter's advocate, encouraging collaboration, supporting their live or recorded original music projects, and continues to help strengthen the relationship between songwriters and the community."
SUSWA members come in all varieties, ages, and genre. They include professional musicians and writers as well as hobbiests. SUSWA is an association of volunteers, dedicated to fostering the growth of local artists and original music in southern Utah. ,
The SUSWA Story!
SUSWA came into being in 2002 when two local song writer/ musicians both had an idea brewing in their heads. Sam Payne long time seasoned folk artist and local musician/songwriter Yvonne Wall were both considering putting together some sort of local musicians group. Lisle Crowley, a common friend of both suggested they put their ideas together and "do it" - So they DID.
With a small grant from the City Arts Commission, that summer a half dozen local musicians gathered under the shade of century old trees on the front porch of the Seven Wives Inn. Each month, the breeze of the evening carried new tunes written by members who also took turns sharing lessons learned along the way. Some of those early meetings were attended by Phil Theobald- who had just returned from Nashville, Loni Stookey - a dynamite vocalist from "Loni and the Lawn Darts", Lisle Crowley - professional guitarist with a boatload of credits, Nic Chamberlain, local drummer, guitarist and mandolin player, Ryan Tilby, master of everything (serious), and playing top drawer music everywhere he went and Stacy Lee Neal, who had also just returned from performing at Lilith Fair with the likes of Sara McLachlan.
As summer turned to autumn and temperatures dropped, a new place to meet was suggested. Jerone Weedig, a local blues musician had opened up shop on the Boulevard with "Blue's Barbershop". Not only did he cut hair, but he had a stage for performances with a piano, and sold guitars off the wall. Our new monthly digs were now at Jerone's and we planned our first "show". Lisle, Sam, Loni and Jerone would do an evening of original music all sharing the stage.
Membership started to grow with that first year and the membership count was right around 30. With the help of a mini grant from the City, that following spring SUSWA presented it's first season of concerts at Ancestor Square.
With another idea tucked in his back pocket, Payne suggested SUSWA create "MUSIC FUSION", a summer music camp for kids.
Members of SUSWA and other talented musicians in the area gave workshops of all kinds to the youth. Some of the classes presented were Hand Percussion, Orff Instruments, Fiddling, Show Choir, Voice, Guitar, Home Made Musical Instruments, Stomp Percussion, and Song Writing. SUSWA would spend the next 4 years presenting Music Fusion in most all of the schools in St. George.
Fast Forward to 2006. Eighteen months previous, Sam had moved his family to northern Utah and Yvonne is still running the organization. With the help of Steve Lemmon and Spiral Studios, SUSWA is wrapping up the first CD compilation for SUSWA. Yvonne continues with the traditional monthly meetings, the Ancestor Square Concert Series and had just started up a new Open Mic at the Opera House on Main street. Attending one of those Open Mics was Rich Panessa, a fairly new comer to St. George from New York. He was an excellent song writer and terrific with people. He loved what SUSWA was all about and became a major contributor with his time, assisting Yvonne. That following January, she nominated him as the new president and he jumped in with both feet.
During the next 5 years, with the efforts of Rich and Yvonne SUSWA would produce two more compilation CD's, they would spearhead St. George's most successful Open Mic at Jazzy Java, and produce yet another CD from the winners of the the Open Mic, produce and promote Friday Night Live Concerts, expand the Ancestor Square Concert Series, produce a Song School feature Pat Pattison from Berklee's College of Music, create more workshops, and song circles, produce a benefit concert for the Homeless, create a website, apply for and receive 501c-3 status, create performing opportunities year round and garner a hundred plus members.