Our Mission

To educate, inspire and create opportunities to experience the life-changing power of music
In-School Programs

We believe strongly in the power of education to transform lives, and so we dedicate ourselves to the task of working in partnership with Minnesota schools to teach students how to mange their emotions and express themselves through song. Our Songwriting programs have been a success for 7 years and counting.

Keep it Local

It is our commitment to work exclusively with active Minnesota artists. the impact of donated dollars is compounded because in addition to bringing more music to young people, it’s creating day jobs for musicians which allow them to continue pursuing their art. Every gift helps artists today and the artists of the future.

Focus on Wellness

It is our sincere hope that songwriting programs can contribute to lowering the rates of teen suicide, depression, anxiety, addiction, criminal behavior, as well as give a voice to those who feel discriminated against or feel otherwise socially outcast. Music can be a refuge and a source of healing. It can help them learn about their inner world and the human condition. It’s something we can do, right now, to help young people learn to help themselves.

Our School Programs

Music education for healthy mind, body and spirit.

The Discover Music songwriting program consists of 12 modular sessions. Each session covers an important aspect of the songwriting process, and can be delivered over varied lengths of time to suit the needs of the partner organization and their students/clients. A program may be completed in 12 sessions or can be extended to span an entire academic year. If the course is taught in a school during the day for credit, it follows a curriculum built around the state standards framework.

Session 1: Basic Music Theory - notes, rhythms, counting, scales, musical terminology
Session 2: Song Structure - function of sections, popular formulas, building energy, identification
Session 3: Chordal harmony - Roman numeral analysis, chord progressions, 4 part writing
Session 4: Storytelling - Structure, methods, making meaning, perspective, audience, sequence
Session 5: Writing with Purpose - harnessing inspiration, writing for self and others
Session 6: Poetic Devices - rhythm, rhyme, meter, descriptive writing, purposeful rule breaking
Session 7: Critique - sharing, lyrical effectiveness, giving and receiving criticism, audience perception
Session 8: Production - putting it all together, adding instruments, musical feeling
Session 9: Recording - How to sing, how to record with available tech, basic audio engineering
Session 10: Music Business - interview professionals, articulate purpose and artistic intent
Session 11: Final Project - overcoming fear, performing in front of others, career exploration
Session 12: Writing for Wellness - writing as daily practice, exercises, affirmation, expression

  • Holistic Approach

    Songwriting has had a profound and positive impact on students that lasts years after they leave the classroom. It’s beneficial that during their formative years they learn the values, skills, and tools that will help them become responsible, caring, authentic, well-rounded human beings.

  • High Student Engagement

    There is a high degree of personal choice in how the musical ideas are expressed, which makes it easily accessible to young people. They can write using the rhythms and phrases of the musical styles they most enjoy. High degrees of student choice leads to high engagement, and this is perhaps the most critical window of opportunity to introduce healthy habits of mind.

  • Powerful Studio Experience

    Middle school students get the chance to write a song with some of MN's top music professionals, but that's not all. They get to have those songs recorded in a REAL recording studio, Essential Sessions, with a professional backup band, producer, audio engineer, and get to sing on the class album. There's something powerful about stepping into the dimly lit booth, putting on the headphones, and singing your heart out into that big microphone that sticks with you...it's a one-of-a-kind experience our students never forget.

  • A Tool for behavioral wellness

    Ages 13-18 is an important time in every person’s development where, for good or ill, many of the life-long beliefs and personality traits are formed. It’s a vulnerable time where we first begin to take risks, explore ourselves, and make lasting relationships. For many it is confusing, overwhelming, harsh and isolating. It is also a time when they are open to new ideas and develop the neural pathways that govern how they react to problems and stressors. It’s the ideal time to introduce them to wellness tools like songwriting. Learning this process empowers them to act as their own healers. Songwriting is a mode of self-administered therapy they can apply whenever and however often they need to. Once they learn how to write songs to promote their own wellness, they have a tool they can carry with them their entire lives.

Our Team

Ken Onstad
Chairman of the Board
President of Sam Goody/Musicland UK President of K-Tel International President of New Folk Records
Tim Cheesebrow
Executive Director
Professional Musician and Educator
Brad Matala
Board Member / Studio Director
Owner – Essential Sessions Studios Producer Engineer
JD Steele
Board Member / Guest Artist
Callie Kalogerson
Board Member
Dan Hoverman
Board Member Educational Advisor
Former Superintendent Mounds View Public Schools
Joe Filipovitch
Events Manager Teacher
Professional musician Music Educator
Pooja Goswami Pavan
Advisory Committee
Cormac O’Shea
Advisory Committee
Katia Cardenas
Teacher /Guest Artist
Performer Educator
Joni Buffalohead
Advisory Committee
Adam Levy
Guest Artist – Advisory Committee
Dr. A. Pavan
Advisory Committee
Peter Mayer
Guest Artist
Patsy O’Brien
Teacher/ Advisory Commttee
Guest Artist
Mike Arturi
Guest Artist – Advisory Committee
Ellen Stanley
Advisory Committee
Joe Sullivan
Advisory Committee
Mick Sterling
Advisory Committee

What People are Saying

There are many administrators, teachers, artists and students proud to have been part of Discover Music

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