Lauren Bruns could be nurturing the next John Legend, Kris Kristofferson or Sheryl Crow, for all she knows. The New Orleans-born LA-based musical artist/ songwriter has been teaching children--privately and in her “Sessions: Songwriting for Kids!” classes in LA--how to write music since January of 2009.
LA parents and children approved. Her business expanded beyond teaching in students' homes and she opened a Sessions studio in Santa Monica in 2011. Today she operates group and private classes and throws 'pop star birthday parties' (events in which kids record in a sound booth, learn choreography, do a photo shoot and put on a show).
“You never know,” she says referring to her kids' potential adding that she was “floored” by the content of her students’ resulting tunes--everything from peer alienation to the 911 tragedy.
There is of course always the possibility--and the danger--in an industry town like LA of slave-driving stage parents taking over, but Bruns admits she hasn’t really encountered this in her foray.
Her students--typically aged 9 through 12--seem to be enjoying the experience for what it is without focusing on too many lofty long-term career goals.
Of course, some positive side-effects have come along with that carefree teaching/learning process. “It’s so fulfilling for me,” says the Westside music instructor and studio director, “As a songwriter, I know how songwriting has made a difference in my life so planting the seed in these kids is really wonderful for me.”
For her students it can sometimes be “almost like a therapy session,” she explains, “a new way for them to express themselves.”
A Musician/Nanny’s Song: How Sessions: Songwriting for Kids! Began
Bruns moved to Los Angeles in 2003 with dreams of continuing on the musical path she had started on in college in Austin, Texas. She describes coming from a very musical family--consisting of pianist father--which encouraged her creative expression.
While in the throes of launching her West Coast career, Bruns took work as a nanny, primarily in Brentwood. “I preferred to do that than to wait tables,” she says explaining that she was the eldest of six children, “so I’ve always been around kids and it was an easy transition.”
As far as singing nannies went, she far surpassed “Mary Poppins,” getting picked up by Sony for a recording contract in 2006. Unfortunately, she parted ways with the company less than a year later due to creative differences and budgetary limitations.
In the meantime, nanny’ing was still occupying her time. It wasn’t until 2008 that she got the idea to use her special songwriting skills to teach the kids she took care of (and their friends) about music composition. Her service took off through word of mouth and primarily drew in young students from Crossroads School, as well as a few from Pacific Palisades High School. A few years later she opened the studio.
Songwriting Lesson Structure
Typically, during the first four sessions, Bruns will teach her young students the basics of songwriting. They learn rhyme scheme, rhymes and the structure of verse and chorus. Bruns introduces them to a new song each time--everything from The Beatles to Lenny Kravitz.
After listening to the original tune, she gives her students lyrics sheets and they sing along to it while she strums on guitar. “They get so much more from actually singing the lyrics,” she enthuses.
During later classes, Bruns introduces recording equipment and they lay down the track together. The teacher then edits the song(s) and pieces everything together as completed tracks on CDs for her songwriting proteges to take home.
Songwriting Founder/Teacher Lauren Bruns' Influences
Bruns grew up idolizing the work of singer/songwriter Carol King as well as The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, New Orleans musicians like Dr. John and a lot of old classic rock n’ roll. But she encourages her kids to explore all different types of music from ballads to hip-hop. “We’ll look at Lady Gaga songs and see why we like this song so much, what makes melody catchy, how the title in the chorus helps you remember the chorus.”
Songwriting for Kids: Practice Makes Perfect
Bruns has already garnered a loyal following of repeat students who have fallen in love with songwriting and her classes. She cites two particular young female songwriters who are now on their seventh track. “They told me, ‘When we reach ten we’re putting out an album,” she says adding, “It never gets old. Planting the seed in these kids is really wonderful for me.”
Sessions Songwriting and Music, LA's Only Kids Only Recording Studio
The relatively new Sessions Songwriting and Music studio--an expansion of Bruns' music lessons--boasts a kids-only recording booth, state-of-the art sound, a performance stage, and group classes space.
Sessions Songwriting for Kids! Fact SheetCost of group lessons: $215-$245 (materials fees included)
Cost of private lessons: Call for more information
Class types: Songwriting, guitar, piano, voice, recording in Garageband and 'Mommy and Me'
Sessions Songwriting and Music
1739 Berkeley St.
Santa Monica, CA 90404