High School Songwriters Summit Happens This Week

The first annual High School Songwriters Summit (HSSS) brings together extraordinary student songwriters for three days of collaboration, professional development, and performance. The HSSS will culminate with a free performance at the GRAMMY Museum at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles on April 13, 2023 at 7:00pm featuring original songs composed by the students during the event. Students participating in the inaugural HSSS come from the Interlochen Arts Academy (Traverse City, MI), the Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana, CA), and the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles, CA).

The creation of the HSSS came from the need to bring together talented, professionally minded young songwriters to network and learn from each other in a positive, creative environment. "I think HSSS is a much-needed educational experience, pushing the students outside of their creative comfort zone and facilitating real professional experiences,” says HSSS co-founder and director of the popular music conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts, Natasha Pasternak, “HSSS also helps the student create networks outside of their school or hometown music communities."

Five students from each participating high school (fifteen students total) will meet April 11, 12 & 13, 2023 to collaborate and compose new songs. Participating students will also receive professional development workshops from members of the Los Angeles music industry community over the course of the three-day event. “Our students are so excited about this opportunity!”, says Courtney Fortune, HSSS co-founder and songwriting instructor for Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, “not only do they get to showcase their talents on the GRAMMY Museum stage, but they will be collaborating with other serious, like-minded songwriters, future writing partners, and change makers in the music industry.” The culminating

performance at the GRAMMY Museum on April 13th, 7pm is free, but RSVPs are required by using this link.

Future HSSS events hope to invite students from high school songwriting programs nationwide to participate. In addition to creating an invaluable learning and networking opportunity for the students, HSSS aspires to also provide impactful professional development opportunities for songwriting educators as well. "I am thrilled to be collaborating with this incredible team while paving a path forward for music education in songwriting,” says HSSS co-founder and singer- songwriting instructor at Interlochen Arts Academy, Courtney Kaiser-Sandler, “bridging across the US and hopefully beyond in future years, I hope that together we can significantly shape the future for young developing artists."

The HSSS is made possible by the generous support of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the GRAMMY Museum, the Evergreen Enterprise Experience, Upstaging, the Interlochen Arts Academy, the Orange County School of the Arts, and the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

For more information, please contact Chris Sampson at [email protected]. To RSVP for the April 13th performance, please use this link.


Courtney Fortune

Courtney Fortune is an acclaimed singer, songwriter and songwriting coach. She is a touring artist, professional music mentor and the founder of Songmaker Sessions: songwriting and recording workshops for teens and adults. Courtney grew up in Bellingham, Washington, near the vibrant music scene of Seattle, where she started playing jazz and rock clubs at an early age. She was immediately recognized for her distinct smoky voice and often compared to singers like Karen Carpenter, Linda Ronstadt and Peggy Lee.

Courtney began touring across the US and internationally, with residencies in Las Vegas, Disneyland, Hong Kong, and Japan, where she was the subject of a popular Japanese reality TV show. She has released two studio albums, both produced by 7-time Grammy nominated composer/arranger Chris Walden, the second of which was recorded at the iconic Capitol Studios in Hollywood. She was featured singing her original song “Lost In The Memory” on The Chris Walden Big Band album Full On! and documentary of the legendary Al Schmitt, The Art of Recording a Big Band. Al Schmitt also discussed Courtney’s performance in his episode on Mix With The Masters. Courtney continues to tour and is currently on the road with famed pianist David Benoit.

As a professional songwriter she has written for major label artists, TV, film, pop stars, boy bands, with credits ranging from Atlantic Records, Universal Music Group, Sony Japan, Disney, Cartoon Network, MTV, ABC, and more.

Courtney has a Bachelors Degree in Music Industry and a Masters Degree in Arts Leadership from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. In 2009 she was named Glamour Magazine’s “Top 10 College Women of the Year”, is recognized by the John Lennon Foundation, and is the recipient of The Brian Wilson Award for Musical Achievement.

In addition to being a performer and songwriter, Courtney is a songwriting coach, a professional music mentor and advocate for at-risk youth, and the founder of Songmaker Sessions. She was recently named Founding Faculty and Manager of the Commercial Music Program at the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts, and co-founder of The High School Songwriters Summit at the GRAMMY Museum.

Courtney Kaiser-Sandler

Interlochen Arts Academy and Arts Camp alumna Courtney Kaiser-Sandler is a professional songwriter, vocalist, and musician as well as the founder of the singer-songwriter program at Interlochen Arts Academy. Along with teaching, she oversees the Contemporary Music program (jazz, popular music, songwriting, and MP&E). Kaiser-Sandler has a passion for pioneering pathways in music education. She is a sought-after presenter on the importance of repeated performance for artistic growth and controlling the inner dialogue for performing artists.

Before Interlochen, she spent 12 years of her career in New York City leading successful bands touring the United States and continental Europe, the most notable being Kaiser Cartel. Kaiser- Sandler has lent her talents to high-profile artists including John Mellencamp, The Wallflowers, Sufjan Stevens, Petra Haden, Yuka Honda, and Sean Lennon. Her original songs have been heard on film and television including Bored to Death, The Firm, Private Practice, and Liberal Arts. She has worked in the music industry as a booking agent, promoter, and in tour management for the likes of Bon Jovi as well as other national acts.

As a philanthropist, she wholeheartedly believes in the importance of Arts education for all. Kaiser-Sandler combined her beliefs in the power of music and protecting the environment, crafting songs to be used by the non-profit organization Art of Conservation to teach conservation to youth in Rwanda. The material is written and performed in both English and Kinyarwanda.

Natasha Pasternak

Ms. Natasha Pasternak is an artist in the most honest sense of the word. As a songwriter, composer, producer, and performer, to a professor and founder of her new company, Desert Dream Creative, Ms. Pasternak has fully embodied what it takes to be a successful musician and entrepreneur in today’s music industry.

Classically trained at the Randolph College for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Ms. Pasternak went on to excel in the local music scene with various projects. In 2010, she co-founded the

acclaimed Toronto indie-pop band, Hands & Teeth. One part Broken Social Scene, one part Arcade Fire, Hands & Teeth dominated festivals across North America (SXSW, POP Montreal, Halifax POP, CMW, M for Montreal and NXNE to name a few). Their songs found homes locally and internationally, featured on various radio and television stations including the CBC, BBC, Much Music and MTV. And featured in various publications, including a 5/5 star review in NOW magazine for their first release. In 2016 Ms. Pasternak lent her vocals for Warner Bros. official trailer for The Legend of Tarzan, now with over 16,000,000 plays.

Ms. Pasternak is an active committee member for Women In Music L.A (WIM LA) and a juror for FACTOR Canada. She recently launched her own songwriting workshop/ master class business, Desert Dream Creative. Over the years she has been selected for various prestigious workshops and mentorships, including ASCAP’s Harold Adamson Workshop. Ms. Pasternak worked one-on-one with top industry professionals (Mr. Hudson, Autumn Rowe, Jayson De Zuzio, Nicole Morier, Andrew Cider and Daniel Werman). For the past 3 years Ms. Pasternak has been building programming and lecturing at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. This past June she acted as Assistant Director, program designer and lead instructor for UCLA Herb Alpert school of music’s Teen Summer Songwriting Intensive. She is currently in her summer appointment at UCLA and will be heading back to take up her role as professor this fall as well. On top of lecturing at UCLA, Ms. Pasternak splits her time working for the non-profit, Jail Guitar Doors, bringing songwriting and music into correctional institutions as a part of their rehabilitation. There, she teaches guitar and songwriting, designs programming and organizes concerts with her students. For more information head to www.desertdreamcreative.com or www.natashapasternak.com.

Chris Sampson

Chris Sampson has enjoyed a diverse career in music as an educator, songwriter, performer, producer, arts administrator and author. In 2009, Sampson founded the Popular Music program at the USC Thornton School of Music, which is considered to be the first of its kind at a major university.

As a professor of songwriting, Sampson’s students have penned #1 hit songs, won GRAMMY awards, won national songwriting competitions, signed major recording and publishing contracts, toured nationally and internationally and have placed numerous songs in television and film. He serves as the songwriting instructor for the GRAMMY Foundation education programs and the National YoungArts Foundation.

Sampson regularly gives masterclasses and clinics on songwriting and careers in music nationally and internationally, including the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, UK,) Interlochen Arts Academy, Colorado University Denver and the Make Music Miami Festival, to name a few. He is the author of numerous articles on songwriting and songwriting pedagogy, as well as the author of “Careers Through Music: Building Employable Skills in Your Music Class,” published by Alfred Publishing in partnership with the GRAMMY Museum. He has interviewed over 400 music professionals including some of the most iconic names in the industry such as Irving Azoff, John Mayer, Smokey Robinson, Sir Elton John, Sting, Chaka

Khan, Linda Perry, Graham Nash, Jody Gerson and Dan Wilson, among many others. Sampson was the creator, producer and host of “Joy Sounds: Music You Need to Know,” an internationally charting podcast that ran from 2019 – 2021, showcasing talented, emerging and breaking artists. Sampson is the recipient of the 2017 USC Provosts Mentoring Award and the 2019 Ramo Faculty Award at USC Thornton.

As an administrator, Sampson has served as vice dean for the Division of Contemporary Music at USC Thornton and vice president of academic affairs at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, among numerous other appointments. Sampson is a lifetime voting member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a member of BMI and serves on the advisory board for the Orange County High School for the Arts and Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.