Student Songwriting Workshop

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Chicago Voices Student Songwriting Workshop

The Chicago Voices Student Songwriting Workshop offered a selective group of nine high school students an incredible opportunity to hone their songwriting skills and strengthen their performance artistry. In only 12 hours (over the course of one week), these talented songwriters crafted a new original song, collaborated with each other, and recorded their work in a professional studio.

We invite you to sit back, relax, watch the documentary video about the process and listen to these future Chicago Voices below.

Student Songwriters

Shannon Baker

Oak Lawn, IL

Age: 17

Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School

Musical Influences:
All genres and artists have shaped and inspired me as a writer and performer: Amy Winehouse, Elvis Presley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hozier, Ed Sheeran, Jason Maraz and Colbie Callait.

Alleh Gee

Ashburn, Chicago, IL

Age: 18

School: Whitney M Young Magnet High School

Musical Influences:
My vocal inspirations are Sia, Jessie J and Ariana Grande.


Rogers Park, Chicago, IL

Age: 16

School: Sullivan High School

Musical Influences: Two primary music artists that influences are Miley Cyrus and Vic Fuentes. My main music interest is rock, alternative rock, soft metal etc.

Emma Rose

Bolingbrook, IL

Age: 18

School: Mother of Divine Grace School

Musical Influences: Jazz/crooner, pop, musical theatre, Zee Avi, Grace VanderWaal, Christina Perri, Regina Spektor


Monee, IL

Age: 16 

School: Morgan Park Academy

Musical Influences: There are a number artists who influence me: Adele, Florence and the Machine, Fka Twigs, and Amy Winehouse.


Adam Nimer

Franklin Park, IL

Age: 14

School: East Leyden High School

Musical Influences: My musical influences include Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, and Shawn Mendes. 



Norridge, IL

Age: 16

School: Guerin Prep High School

Musical Influences: My biggest musical influence has to be Whitney Houston. Ever since I was little I used to listen to her with my mom. Other artists who have influenced me a ton are Michael Jackson and the Queen B herself, Beyoncé.

Kalman Strauss

Lake View, Chicago, IL

Age: 15

School: Homeschool

Musical Influences: My influences include (in no particular order) Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, Bob Wills, Billy Joel, Duke Ellington, Joe Venuti, Randy Sabien, Sara Bareilles, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Les Yeux Noirs, Alicia Keys, The Klezmer Conservatory Band, John Williams, Errol Garner, and Carole King.

Armoni Taffe

South Shore, Chicago, IL

Age: 15 

School: Lindblom Math and Science Academy 

Musical Influences: My musical genre I would say is alternative rock. My musical influences include Alabama Shakes, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Kanye West.

Program Details

Expert Guidance Brings Success

By all accounts, the Chicago Voices Student Songwriting Workshop was a huge success. In only 12 hours (three hours a day for four days), the talented songwriters crafted a new original song, collaborated with each other, and made a professional recording! 

From 62 applicants, we selected 12 high school students representing neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. Three students had last-minute conflicts, so we were able to focus our attention on nine talented young songwriters. Through classes, collaboration, and one-on-one instruction from professional teaching artists Megan Elk and Mike Przygoda, participants honed their songwriting skills while strengthening their vocal technique and performance artistry. The workshop culminated in a visit to Mix Kitchen Recording Studio, where each student received one hour to record her/his song. Each track was professionally produced and mixed by Mix Kitchen's Sam Fishkin.

New Skills and Knowledge

The diverse mix of participants brought imaginative, cross-genre compositions into the backstage rehearsal rooms at the Lyric Opera House. Teaching artists Megan Elk and Mike Przygoda held classes on identifying a creative process, song structures, chord progressions, lyric writing and word play, and how to collaborate with other musicians. Rising star and recording artist Akenya gave a guest presentation on her creative process and working in the music industry. (Akenya also took part in the Expert Panels and Masterclasses last February.) Through this unique blend of experiences, participants acquired a wealth of new skills and knowledge that will help them progress as artists and as songwriters.


As the student songwriter's compositions began to take shape, many participants invited their peers to perform with them in the recording studio, adding layers of depth and complexity to their songs with a variety of instruments, including guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, violin, and voice. Since many participants self-identified as the only songwriter in their school, the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians their age who share the same passion for music was empowering.

Costs and Expenses

The Chicago Voices Student Songwriting program was offered completely free of charge to all participants through the generous support of Lyric Opera’s philanthropic community. Participants were required to provide their own instruments (except pianos, which were provided by Lyric) and all personal materials needed for note taking or sketching ideas (notepads, mobile phones, personal computers, etc.).

Participants were responsible for travel to and from the workshop.


The workshop was led by two Chicago-based songwriters who each have a wealth of experience creating music in a variety of styles and genres: Mike Przygoda and Megan Elk. You can learn more about Mike and Megan here.


All classes were held at:
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60606

Recording session time was held at:
Mix Kitchen Recording Studio
610 N Fairbanks Ct
Chicago, IL 60611


Monday, June 26, 9:00 AM -12:00 PM
Tuesday, June 27, 9:00 AM -12:00 PM
Wednesday, June 28, 9:00 AM -12:00 PM
Thursday, June 29, 9:00 AM -2:00 PM – afternoon includes tour of recording studio
Friday, June 30, 9:00 AM -5:00PM – individual recording sessions

Additional questions or technical issues?

If you are experiencing technical issues with the website or if you have additional questions about this program, please contact Chicago Voices via email at

Teaching Artists

Megan Elk

Megan Elk is a performer, composer, and vocal coach from Pittsburgh, PA. Following a BA in Theatre at The University of Akron, Ms. Elk joined the internationally acclaimed New World Performance Laboratory. As ensemble member and resident composer of the group, she toured devised performances and facilitated voice and movement workshops throughout Europe and the United States. Most recently Ms. Elk was commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago to compose music for the Chicago Voices Community Created Performance Project in collaboration with Tellin' Tales Theatre. Her 2014 album of original cabaret songs, Miss Alexandra Huntingdon: LIVE at Survival Kit, garnered much critical acclaim and earned her the distinction of Best Singer and Best Musician 2015 (Cleveland Scene Magazine). She is a recipient of the Kennedy Center ACTF Award for Meritorious Achievement in Music Composition, The Gene Kelly Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre, and well as numerous awards from the National Association of Teachers of Singing. For more information, please visit:


Mike Przygoda

Mike Przygoda is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from Chicago. He has written music for live theatre, dance, films, and pop bands as well as the occasional chamber work and orchestral or big band jazz arrangement. Composing and arranging credits include Lyric Opera's Chicago Voices, The Lira Ensemble, and Ailey Camp. Music direction credits include Goodman Theatre, The Second City Touring Company, and Strawdog Theatre. By day, he works in the dance department at the Chicago High School for The Arts. By night he produces recording sessions for local artists and performs with bands in a variety of styles across the city, as well as occasionally touring.  He earned a Jeff Award for Artistic Specialization in Percussion. For more information, please visit:


Chicago Voices is made possible by major support from J. Thomas Hurvis and Parent Power Chicago, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. This project is partially supported by The Chicago Community Trust, an IncentOvate Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, and the Eisen Family Foundation.

Lyric Unlimited was launched with major catalyst funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and receives major support from the Caerus Foundation, Inc.