Friday, February 26, 2016

Nashville Film Festival and ScreenCraft to Present First Annual 'Nashville Writers Conference'

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. –The Nashville Film Festival and ScreenCraft will present the first annual Nashville Writers Conference to be held in conjunction with the Nashville Film Festival.  

            The Nashville Writers Conference just announced its slate of A-list Hollywood screenwriters, producers and agents who will anchor the event. They are as follows: Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton, World Trade Center), Max Borenstein (Godzilla, Minority Report) Oscar-Winner Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain), Mark Bomback (Insurgent, The Wolverine, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes (The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2) Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive) Shauna Cross (Bad Santa 2, Whip It, If I Stay, What to Expect When You’re Expecting), Phil Hay (Clash of the Titans, Ride Along, Aeon Flux) and Keya Khayatian, senior agent at Universal Talent Agency (UTA) whose clients wrote Stick It, Dallas Buyers Club, Brokeback Mountain, and Serendipity, among others.

            “We are thrilled to partner with ScreenCraft to create and bring this new event to writers and screenwriting communities worldwide,” said Ted Crockett, Executive Director of the Nashville Film Festival. “We are bringing new content, speakers, panels and opportunities to Nashville on a level that this city has never seen before.”

            The conference will provide expertise on the craft and business of writing for film and television, with many of the entertainment industry’s top professionals.  The conference is open to up-and-coming screenwriters as well as seasoned writers. The conference will be an uncensored, writer-focused deep-dive into the real machinery of Hollywood. It includes, “The Big Pitch” event, offering writers the chance to practice their pitch with top professional screenwriters, then pitch their scripts to producers, executives, agents and managers. In addition to panels, workshops and keynote speakers, the conference also offers live table reads and small group mentorships and private parties. 

            Nashville Writers Conference is the inaugural co-production of two leading film and screenwriting organizations: the Nashville Film Festival, now 47 years old and one of the largest film festivals in the U.S., and ScreenCraft, a platform dedicated to the craft of writing for screenwriters and story-tellers in all industries.  The Nashville Writers Conference is scheduled to occur from Wednesday, April 20 through Friday, April 23, and will take place at the Nashville Film Festival.

            To learn more or register, visit

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

'Tunesmithing' to Celebrate Blues, Country and Americana in Nashville on March 16

     NASHVILLE -- "Tunesmithing" songwriters showcase will spotlight five professional songwriting acts from 7-9:30 p.m. March 16 (Wednesday) at WXYZ Restaurant/Bar at the Aloft Nashville Hotel, 1719 West End Ave. (near Music Row). 

     Attendees will enjoy original songs by Brian Ashley Jones, Michael Laidley & Rachel VanSlyke, Jody Soland, Stacia Watkins, and Shannon Williford. Admission is free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Publicist Chuck Whiting will emcee the show. Songwriter/audio engineer AJ Bigler will handle sound. 

Brian Ashley Jones (Photo provided by Brian Ashley Jones)

     "Tunesmithing" songwriters showcase is sponsored by Music City Arts Network and Whiting Publicity and Promotions. The monthly show was founded in 2003 to spotlight emerging, professional and hit songwriters, as well as artists of all kinds. The event offers mentoring, career growth and networking opportunities for artists at all levels.  

     For more information about "Tunesmithing", call (615) 423-9857, write, or visit

Stacia Watkins (provided by Stacia Watkins)

Michael Laidley (from Michael Laidley)

Rachel VanSlyke (Photo from Rachel VanSlyke website)

Jody Soland (Photo from Jody Soland website)
Shannon Williford (from Nashville Musicians Union AFM Local 257 website)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Making Music in Nashville


          NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 2016) – Country/Americana artist Scott Coner (second from right) celebrates the completion of a Nashville recording session with fellow music industry professionals at Studio 515 in Berry Hill.  Joining Coner for the session were (from left) guitarist Mike Waldren, guitarist Jake Widenhofer, keyboardist Dane Bryant, drummer Sean McDonald, engineer/producer Logan Schlegel, engineer Trever Golden, and Lynyrd Skynyrd background vocalist Carol Chase. Coner, who has recorded songs with Tanya Tucker, T. Graham Brown, and Charlie Daniels, plans to release a new album in spring 2016. The project will feature original songs and classic covers in country, Americana and classic rock. Scott's single "Maybe She Lied", a duet with Tucker on Reedy's Dream Records, hit number one on the United Kingdom's Hot Disk Top 40. A recent video of the song has been downloaded on Facebook almost 250,000 times. Other songs, including "Sanibel" (a duet with Brown) and "Reedy's Dream" (with vocal and instrumental contributions from Daniels) have been heard on terrestrial and online radio stations around the world. Also an emerging author, Scott recently penned the book "Lynyrd Skynyrd: Ronnie Van Zant and Me" with Gene Odom, a survivor of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.  To learn more about Scott Coner or to download his songs and videos, visit,, or (Photo by Cynnamae Media Productions)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Artist/Instructor Gail McDaniel to Teach Watercolor Painting Course Near Atlanta from March 2-May 4

            ATLANTA (February 2016) -- Gail McDaniel, an acclaimed watercolorist who, by invitation, has served as an associate member and demonstrating artist/instructor for the prestigious Winsor & Newton Creative Artist Network in London, will lead an eight-week watercolor painting course this spring near Atlanta.

            The course will be offered to beginning, intermediate and advanced artists on selected Wednesday afternoons starting March 2 at Griffin First United Methodist Church, 1401 Maple Drive in the Atlanta suburb of Griffin, Ga. Sessions will occur from 1-4 p.m. on March 2, 9 and 16; April 6, 13, 20 and 27; and May 4.

            The artist/instructor will provide insights on composition, perspective, value, color theory and application. She also will demonstrate some of the techniques that have helped make her an award-winning artist, including abstract under paintings, disappearing purples, painting on Masa Paper, white on white, monotype paintings, let it flow, texturize your paintings, portraits, reflective surfaces, and wax-resist Batik. The course is structured to serve artists at all skill levels, from the very raw beginner to the most advanced. McDaniel will close each session with individual critiques.

Gail McDaniel teaches students in one of her classes. (Photo by Chuck Whiting)

            Because space is limited for the classes, reservations are required. For more information or to register, contact the artist by phone at (678) 603-1502 or send an inquiry to Individuals can learn more about the artist/instructor and view her artwork at

            Before moving to Georgia, McDaniel spent more than 20 years working as a professional watercolorist and art instructor in Franklin, Tenn. During that time, she taught more than 1,300 students in classes and workshops around the world. A number of her former students have developed into professional artists with exhibitions and commissions.

            "Some people come to find out if they can paint in watercolor," said the artist, who painted the invitation cover for "A Little Night of Music" starring country superstar LeAnn Rimes. "Like me, others love the look of watercolor paintings and want to learn the medium. Many come for the change of pace and the new, wonderful, relaxing challenge it brings. The intermediate and advanced students come to me to grow in the medium."

            Over the years, McDaniel has seen the positive change that comes over many people when they spend three hours with her creatively thinking from the right side of their brain.

            "It's truly a night-and-day change, not to mention the fun they have," McDaniel added. "Many who come to me with no art background find they really have a true talent for painting. Some of them never had the slightest notion they had any talent. It's such an outstanding reward for them and a source of real pleasure for me."

            A good example is Phyllis Tatum, a watercolorist who studied with McDaniel for 14 years in Middle Tennessee. She and her fellow students were thrilled when she won four blue ribbons and a red ribbon at the Tennessee State Fair. Her crowing achievement came later when she won the fair's "Best of Show", a rare occurrence in watercolor circles.

            McDaniel fondly remembers receiving a thank you note from former student Suzy Foy of Estes Park, Colo., who wrote, "My whole life I have dreamt about being an artist... I never believed I could live that dream, one painting at a time. Because of my workshops, mentoring and support (from McDaniel), it is happening."

            "One of the obvious results of classes is the togetherness that comes upon the group," McDaniel noted. "Friendships develop, and with that interest in each other's lives and the happenings and events in their world. The group watches children grow up, grandchildren being born, and members die. The group celebrates the joys together, as well as the sad times, giving special support. Sometimes, our paintings reflect those experiences."

            The classes near Atlanta should be no exception. McDaniel will demonstrate the techniques, shortcuts and concepts that she has developed or learned by doing, reading or studying with others. She plans to show her students everything she knows, holding nothing back. Her goal is to inspire them without making them feel overwhelmed.

            During her career, McDaniel has trained artists from 36 different states (including Alaska and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea. She has taught 11 workshops at historic Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, a landmark where the late Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted. She also served as a member of the arts faculty of Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art.

            In 2002, she and her husband, Ken, launched the "Students and Friends of Gail McDaniel Awards", raising almost $90,000 for the visual arts in Middle Tennessee public schools. The fundraising effort earned Gail and Ken a nomination in the "volunteer innovator" category of the 2009 Mary Catherine Strobel Award. In 2012, the artist was named the PENCIL Foundation's "Volunteer of the Year".

            Before leaving Tennessee, she received an award for "Excellence in Community Service" from the Travelers Rest Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was inducted into the Cave City, Ky., Hall of Fame and named (as an eighth generation Kentuckian) to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels as one of  "Kentucky's ambassadors of good will and fellowship around the world."

            In 2001, she was invited by directors of the "Art in Provence" program to conduct an eight-day watercolor workshop in Dieulefit, France. She studied under 38 noted art instructors to help build her reputation as one of the South's top artists/instructors. -- even accepting a commission to paint a family landmark for former Kentucky Gov. Louie B. Nunn.

            For more information about Gail McDaniel or to see her work, visit

Read the Latest Edition of the Music City Arts Update Newsletter

     The latest edition of the Music City Arts Update newsletter has been posted. Receive artist tips and an overview of arts-related developments in Middle Tennessee for the week of Feb. 15-21 by visiting .

     Have arts news to share? Send it to us at Follow us at and Our goal is to help artists succeed by providing career-changing information.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

'Tunesmithing' Spotlights Some of Nashville's Top Songwriters... Next Show Is Feb. 17

Artist Spotlight: PJ Brunson Known in the Carolinas as 'Female James Taylor'

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

            NASHVILLE -- PJ Brunson is a South Carolina-based singer, songwriter, composer, guitarist and pianist who has performed extensively across the Southeast region, opening for legendary artists such as Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith

            Known in the Carolinas as the "female James Taylor", the acoustic folk/easy listening artist delights audiences on guitar and piano with hints of Americana, country, pop, blues, Celtic, new age, classical and rock. Her songs, instrumentals and lyrics reflect her deep appreciation of poetry, art, literature and Southern heritage -- with imagery-accented stories of love and lore that appeal to audiences from all walks of life. 

            PJ has received accolades from fans and the media alike. The publication Creative Loafing named her Charlotte's "Best Acoustic Folk Act". Her latest album, "Home To Me", was nominated for Folk Album of the Year by members of the International Music and Entertainment Association.

            PJ wrote her first song at age 5 (a rewrite of the love theme from the movie "Exodus") after she nearly drowned during a family outing to Santee Lake in South Carolina. Her "beloved" adoptive father rescued her just in time. 

            "I remember being in a tunnel, seeing the light, feeling divine arms enfolding me, and hearing a voice whisper 'it's alright'," PJ says. "In that moment, I felt a peace unlike anything I have experienced since. And once on dry land, I felt an overwhelming longing to return to that sense of peace. What I ultimately hope to share in my music is the feeling, knowledge and hope that peace exists beyond this world and beyond all of our problems."

PJ Brunson (Photo provided by PJ Brunson)

            Her grandmother on her father's side paid for piano lessons after convincing her mother to buy a piano. Her maternal grandmother bought PJ her first "real" guitar when she was 16. She learned to play the instrument by observing a folk guitar teacher on ETV. Her first paid gig at a local club led to a TV appearance and opportunity to record in a real studio. She later studied classical guitar and piano after landing a music scholarship to Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C.

            One of her greatest accomplishments as a budding professional artist was opening for Lovett and Griffith at Spirit Square in Charlotte and advancing to the second round of the "You Can Be A Star" talent search. She has performed at a host of prominent venues since then, including Nashville's Commodore Lounge and Renaissance Hotel.

            The singer-songwriter has recorded six albums as a solo artist and/or member of the New Age duo Ananda, with songs airing on radio stations and websites around the world. 

            "I describe my latest solo album, 'Home to Me', as a love-in-all-phases CD: the good, the bad, and the ugly," says PJ, whose performances and recordings feature some of the South's top folk and Americana musicians. "Performing my songs is the one thing I know I can do to make the world a better place. It's the opportunity to share my story and make someone smile, feel, think about something in a different way, and even cry if they have to." 

            Fans have praised the 14-song project as comforting, drifting, thought provoking, life changing, and authentic -- a gentle way to find peace in a troubled world. The Herald newspaper in Rock Hill, S.C., described her performances as "so clear and captivating... she has often been compared to Joan Baez and Karen Carpenter."

            Using lyrics that often sound like poems, PJ treats listeners and audiences to metaphorical stories of life, love and legend. The songs are brought to life with the artist's mesmerizing alto vocals and intricate finger picking on acoustic guitar.  Other musicians on the project include violinist Glen Alexander, double bassist Tom Hildreth, background vocalists Jessica Lynn and K deValk, flutiest Laurie Neal, and percussionist Donny Fletcher.  

            "Hopefully, my songs and performances are cathartic, making people forget about their problems for a while and find something worth taking home with them at the end of the night," says the artist. "It's my purpose -- What I've sensed was my purpose since I was a small child." 

            PJ serenades the Spirit of Love with the tune "Morning Song", blissfully describing how euphoric she feels at various times of the day. "We'll share our midnight dreams," she sings to her suitor. "...Holding on until the morning light."

            The artist reveals her appreciation for Greek lore with "Pegasus", an ode to Poseidon's winged stallion who scattered stars across the night sky. The singer longs for something she doesn't or can't have and being shackled by things beyond her control. "So, Pegasus fly me away on your wings... When the songs become shackles a singer can't sing... A poet inspired but lonesome am I... For I want the moon but I can't reach the sky."

            One of the artist's favorites is "Crystal Glass of Romance", a song about someone who still believes in love even when relationships don't last. "I have been a thousand times where some people only dream of... I've known the peace of mind that the lonely never find."

            The artist has performed her original songs at restaurants, bars, churches, weddings, bookstores, festivals, parks, private parties, and coffee houses. Other appearances include the Charlotte Music Awards Singer-Songwriter Showcase; the Awendaw (S.C.) Green Barn Jam; The Come-See-Me Festival in Rock Hill, S.C.; the York (S.C.) Summerfest; St. John's United Methodist Church in Vacaville, Calif.; Community Performance Center in Rock Hill, S.C.; the Sylvia Theater in York, S.C.; Manhattan's in Knoxville, Tenn.; The Grey Eagle in Asheville, N.C.; Cafe' 99 and Cumberlands in Charleston, S.C.; Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Belmont, N.C.; and various writers nights in the Carolinas and Tennessee.

            According to Kristy Marett, a writer for the blog Gig-Spotting, the artist "effortlessly bridges the eras of our favorite music, and melds them together with a flavor that's seasoned, yet fresh."

             PJ's other solo albums are "Long Road - Live" (2003) and "Come Hell or High Water" (2001). Her New Age duo Ananda has recorded the albums "Comfort and Joy - Christmas" (2013), "Dusk Till Dawn" (2012), and "Still Waters" (2010).

            "A gem... a real class act all the way through... clearly one of the very best female guitarists in the area," raved Rob McHale, host of the Summit Coffee Songwriters Showcase in Davidson, N.C.

            The singer-songwriter has received substantial news media coverage, appearing on WMNF-FM in Tampa, Fla.; "The Session with Tzima Brown" on radio station 95.9-FM The Point in Columbia, S.C.; WSGE-FM in Dallas, N.C.; WGWG-FM in Boiling Springs, N.C.; and "The Bo Travis Show" on Charlotte Cable Television.

            PJ loves to reflect on her South Carolina upbringing.

            "I was raised in Sumter, S.C., with "a lullaby running through my head... literally," the artist laughs. "You can actually hear that line in my song, 'Lullaby'."

            She knew she wanted to be a musician after watching a guitarist/singer perform on television. Music was playing all around her. Her grandfather on her mother's side played guitar on the front porch or in the living room, much like Andy Griffith did in TV's Mayberry. Her great-grandfather on her father's side, whom she never met, was a classically trained pianist who played ragtime in the honky-tonks of St. Louis. Her mother and father, who were musically inclined and could sing, encouraged her to develop her talents. Family members listened to a wide range of recorded music by artists such as Johnny Mathis, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Charlie Pride. But growing up, PJ's favorite artists were Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Croce, The Carpenters, and Harry Nilsson.

            "I want to touch hearts across the nation and around the world by writing and performing powerful music that connects, heals and comforts people," PJ continues.

            To learn more about PJ Brunson or to hear her music, visit,,,, or You can contact the artist at or (803) 324-1906 or (803) 729-0397.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Country Artist Scott Coner Writes Short Story That Sheds Light on Spousal Abuse Against Women

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 2016) – Country artist Scott Coner has written a touching short story titled "When An Angel Cried" that reveals the often unspoken but devastating impact of spousal abuse on married women. 

            Scott says he was inspired to write a song after his wife, Cyndi, shared a true story about her mother being abused by an overbearing husband. He wrote the companion short story after recording the song in Nashville last year. A music video, "When the Angels Cry", has been viewed by thousands of people on You Tube and Facebook.

            "Like the song and video, I hope the short story will reach as many people as possible," the artist said. "We probably all know someone who has been abused in some way. There are all types of abuse. I have actually known of two different men who actually locked their wives in the house while they were gone to work. I think we have a lot to do in our society to raise awareness about spousal abuse."

            Individuals can read Scott's new short story, "When An Angel Cried", at!when-an-angel-cried/c1mci. The music video, "When The Angels Cry", can be viewed at

            The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that one in five women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Startling statistics show that on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

            "I think I am passionate about the issue in part because of my own wife having to live in an abusive situation as a teenager," added Scott, who has recorded songs with legendary artists such as Tanya Tucker and T. Graham Brown. "But there is more to it than that. I hate to see anyone lose her self-worth and identity because of someone else. We all deserve a voice, and we all deserve respect."

            His short story, "When An Angel Cried", opens with a young woman tearfully facing life-threatening spousal abuse. Deeply afraid of her violent husband, she attempts to come up with an "escape plan" that will save her life. But escaping her tortured situation won't be easy. She will have to endure a final beating and her own self-doubt before finally building up the courage to limp toward the front door to freedom.

Scott Coner (Photo by Cynnamae Media Productions)

            Scott wrote the song late one afternoon while he wife was preparing dinner. It tells the story of a woman who is abused by her husband night after night. In the lyric, the woman pleads with her spouse to stop. "You've taken all that I am... There's nothing left of me but this broken wedding band... Please don't hit me again... Please don't take my life... Look into these eyes for God's sake... That's your wife."

            "When my wife put the concept for the music video together, I began the process of writing the companion short story," he noted.

            Scott recorded the song with top-tier session players in Nashville, and the couple teamed up to shoot a stirring video on their rural farm near Franklin, Ind. The artist hopes the song and video will be a meaningful tool for organizations that are helping abused women realize their own potential while encouraging men to overcome a lifestyle of abuse. 

            Cyndi, who runs the family's Cynnamae Media Productions, brought the black and white video to life with realistic scenes of a Southern woman battered by an intoxicated, uncaring husband. In the end, the victim finally decides to run away. But when she opens a closet door to get her suitcase, a Bible falls out onto the floor. Listeners/viewers can hear Scott singing the chorus. "When the angels cry... You can almost taste the tears... Flowing like a river... It's been dammed up for years...."

            "The issue itself should be important to all of us," the artist continued. "If we know someone who is in such a situation and we have a relationship that allows for discussion, we should talk to that person. I don't know the answers to this problem, but if I could say one thing, it would be this: Christ died for each of us that day on the cross. Life can push us a long way from such truth sometimes. But if he was willing to die for each of us, then that means he loves each of us. If we are in a valley, maybe we should pray for his direction and his strength. If we can take a step in faith, then we are beginning to have 'Christ-esteem' as opposed to self-esteem. Maybe it all comes down to what we see in the mirror. Maybe somewhere we stop loving and respecting ourselves enough that we may feel we don't even deserve a better life. That is a lie that has been told for thousands of years. We are all deserving of God's love, and we are all his children."

            Scott Coner has recorded songs with a who's who of country legends including Tanya Tucker, T. Graham Brown, and Charlie Daniels. Scott's single "Maybe She Lied", a duet with Tucker on Reedy's Dream Records, hit number one on the United Kingdom's Hot Disk Top 40. Other songs, including "Sanibel" (a duet with Brown) and "Reedy's Dream" (with vocal and instrumental contributions from Daniels) have been heard on terrestrial and online radio stations around the world. Also an emerging author, Scott recently penned the book "Lynyrd Skynyrd: Ronnie Van Zant and Me" with Gene Odom, a survivor of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.

            To learn more about Scott Coner or to download his songs and videos, visit

'Tunesmithing' to Feature Jimmy Borja, Suzahn Fiering, Tom Shinness and Others on Feb. 17

         NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 2016) -- "Tunesmithing" songwriters showcase will spotlight five professional songwriters from 7-9:30 p.m. Feb. 17 (Wednesday) at WXYZ Restaurant/Bar at the Aloft Nashville Hotel, 1719 West End Ave. (near Music Row). 

          Attendees will enjoy original songs by Jimmy Borja, Suzahn Fiering, Tom Shinness, Jackie Steil, and Bert Stratton. Admission is free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Publicist Chuck Whiting will emcee the show. Songwriter/audio engineer AJ Bigler will handle sound. 

Tom Shinness (Photo provided by Tom Shinness)

          "Tunesmithing" songwriters showcase is sponsored by Music City Arts Network and Whiting Publicity and Promotions. The monthly show was founded in 2003 to spotlight emerging, professional and hit songwriters, as well as artists of all kinds. The event offers mentoring, career growth and networking opportunities for artists at all levels.  

          For more information about "Tunesmithing", call (615) 423-9857, write, or visit

Suzahn Fiering (Photo provided by Suzahn Fiering)

Jimmy Borja (Photo provided by Jimmy Borja)


Jackie Steil (Photo provided by Jackie Steil)

Bert Stratton (Photo provided by Bert Stratton)