WHEN: Third Friday of every month. Next showcase is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21.
WHERE: Mixin Mingle, 124 Cass St., Woodstock
INFO: To take part or for information, call 847-507-1352 or visit www.aplacetoshinemusic.com or www.cassandravohsdemann.com.
The hardest thing for a songwriter can sometimes be finding someone to listen.
Once a month in a quiet room on the Woodstock Square, a crowd gathers to do just that.
"This is my divorce angst song," Tim Merkel said after stepping up to the microphone, his guitar in hand. "It's pretty self-explanatory, an analogy to a house falling apart."
All eyes are on him as he strums and sings his creation.
Merkel (www.treebeardsound.com) was one of three performers on a recent Friday night invited to take part in a relatively new Songwriter Showcase hosted by Cassandra Vohs-Demann and A Place To Shine Music, the training program she runs for singers, songwriters, educators and artists.
A singer/songwriter herself who also performed that night, Vohs-Demann has brought in local and regional songwriters since October in an effort to promote original music and accentuate the art scene in McHenry County.
"I'm trying to bring Nashville to Woodstock," she said.
The Songwriter Showcase takes place the third Friday of every month at Mixin Mingle, 124 Cass St., Woodstock. The next showcase is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21. Admission is $7.
Songwriters take turns performing their original songs, often relaying the story behind them. Audience members laughed, then tapped their toes and nodded their heads as Jim Green (www.jimgreenmusic.com) shared his "Boxcar Man" song about a hobo jumping a train.
"It's not often a lot of us get to play to a very attentive crowd," he said.
Using his guitar as both a drum and a string instrument, he also played the harmonica.
He'd thought of the song while listening to an old cassette of "train songs" created by harmonica players, he told the crowd. The songs actually sounded like trains on a track.
"I thought the idea behind that was interesting, so I tried to translate it to guitar," he said.
Another song told the story of a man trying to jump a train with a time-sensitive freight, or a "hot shot," Green said.
"If you get on one of those, you'd better hang on because you're in for a ride," he said.
Behind the piano, Vohs-Demann's songs told a different story, one written for her niece's wedding, another for stressed women everywhere.
"No Time to Cry" is about how women tend to overextend themselves, she told the crowd.
"All of a sudden you wake up one day and say, 'Man, I'm a mess. I hate everybody. Nobody loves me,' " she said with a bit of a laugh. "You get overwhelmed, and I think sometimes we give so much we forget we need to refuel. I'm a better giver if I'm fueling myself."
Vohs-Demann performs often throughout the area, and her CD "Here I Am" is available on iTunes and elsewhere. Through her own songs, her studio and now the Songwriter Showcase, she follows the mission statement, "Believe in what is possible. . . "
Those who know her, have worked with her and attended the showcase admire her effort to bring the community together through music.
"She wants to let the community experience the wonderful artists right in our backyard. That's her goal," said Flora McIntyre of Woodstock, who attended the recent showcase. McIntyre's daughter, Alayna DeVar, has worked with Vohs-Demann as a voice instructor.
Vohs-Demann said she'd love to draw in as many diverse artists to the showcase as possible from all over the country.
"We hope to get the word out and fill the place," she said.