Cormac McCarthy Music Cormac McCarthy


Many artists provide coaching though master classes. Cormac has found that workshops are a more flexible and inclusive format for teaching and coaching. The uninvolved can be entwined into a love of poetry, creativity, editing, music, or history and economics.

These workshops began after Cormac taught at the Midnight Sun Songwriters Camp in Alaska with fellow instructors Cliff Eberhardt, Lucy Kaplanski and Kristina Olsen. Cormac's workshops are often arranged to complement a performance series at a university or college, or to fall-in with plans being arranged for a regional tour.

His Songwriting workshops are easily adapted to either the college or high school levels, where they can support both English classes and a Music curriculum. Songwriting Workshops are sponsored by a variety of colleges and universities.

Cormac has also provided more structured and performance rich workshops based on economic history of the Great Depression and told through songs by Woody Guthrie. Hard Times and Good Times in America provides sound economic theory and history with a human face and heart. This workshop involves the students by weaving their economics studies into a rich tapestry of theory, song, history and music. Woody Guthrie's 100th Anniversary in 2012 is now past, but the hard times seem timeless.

Details of previous workshops and academic recommendations are listed below.

Songwriting Workshops

What Happens at a Workshop?

At folk clubs, festivals, music stores, and colleges, workshops can take several different forms, depending on the size and interests of the group. The standard is a diligent and supportive review of participants' songs in progress (lyrics or music), lending advice and offering different options and approaches. Another frequently applied method is an exercise where Cormac and the students work to create a song from randomly written lines that are thrown upon a table. With Cormac teaching and coaching it becomes a vibrant lesson in editing, creativity, and decision-making.

Cormac brings to these exercises a vast knowledge of diverse musical styles and songwriting approaches. Many a decent song has begun from these inspirational and entertaining sessions.

Recommendations for Cormac McCarthy's Songwriting Workshops

Reviews from Colleges and Universities

"Cormac's presence on campus was exciting. The students were fascinated to meet a person who has made his life in music and literature and Cormac had a wonderful rapport with them. It was a real learning experience for the students to appreciate the realities of the creating and marketing of songs and recordings. His talk was funny and informative and quite enlightening to some of those students whose idea of the life of a musician is less that reality-based. His songwriting workshop led members of our faculty to create their own carols this last holiday season. The lecture and workshops also created a special interest in his concert where he sang the song that he and the students had written together. Cormac McCarthy is quite literate, informed and amusing. I highly recommend his lecture and workshops."

David Heckel, Chair, Department of Language and Literature
Pfeiffer College, North Carolina

Cormac McCarthy is a well-respected singer-songwriter and performer. Considered by such diverse newspapers as the Boson Globe and The Austin Chronicle as one of New England's finest song writers, he is noted for his stage presence and humor. It is the literate nature of his songwriting that makes his lecture/workshops perfect for the serious student/writer or the budding musician.

Cormac graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in English Literature and with an emphasis on poetry, where he studied poetry writing with Pulitzer prize winner, Charles Simic. It is his background in literature and music and his practical experience as a professional musician for the last 15 years, that makes Cormac's communication with teachers and students a delight to both. He is equally comfortable with the bardic tradition of Beowulf or Bob Dylan or the social relevance of Rap music. The emphasis is on serious writing and the song as a theatric monologue. Although song writing is frequently not considered " serious", its social significance is irrefutable and it's potential for expression and mass communication is overwhelming.

Whether it's with his humorous & ironic songs about pink flamingos or cows, or soulful poetic ballads of life's challenges, Cormac McCarthy loves to entertain-- and to teach.

His lectures presented at universities/academies typically incorporate a question and answer format, with a team teaching approach involving Cormac and the classroom professor fielding questions, and generating their own for the students. The discussion is lively and interactive and it allows the professor to tailor the exercise to fit the curriculum of that semester's studies. The lectures enable Cormac to work with larger numbers of students and help to create an interested and informed audience when presented prior to a concert. His approach is warm and intimate despite class size, and individuals get a chance to feel personally inspired.

Robert Nixon,
Learning Enrichment Specialist.

Songwriter Workshop Reviews

"I have attended, hosted or played host to hundreds of workshops, of all kinds. This one was informative, helpful, and entertaining. Cormac incorporated enough history, groundwork, speculation, and 'hands on' to make a worthwhile experience for everyone who attended. Three separate groups of people had finished and performed at least two songs within a month following the workshop. Two of those songs have been recorded! With his songwriters workshop, Cormac sets a standard few will be able to meet...can't wait to have him back!"
John Derado, Front Porch Music News


Descriptive Review of a Workshop:

"On Thursday...I had opportunity to witness a most unusual educational experience. Cormac McCarthy, a singer, songwriter, poet and scholar from New England mesmerized an English class here at State College Area High School. I met Cormac when he came to State College to perform at a local coffeehouse. He had agreed to come to the high school during the afternoon in advance of his evening performance. At that time he sat on the stage of our auditorium and played , answered questions from students and talked about life. In my opinion, his strength lies in his guitar playing. When he extracts his vintage Guild from it's beat-up old case and begins to play the whole room becomes magical.

When I learned that Cormac was driving through State College in mid May, on his way to Boston, I jumped at the chance to have him come back to our high school. On his second visit he agreed to host a seminar in a junior English class. As we discussed logistics and the specifics of what was to happen in the class Cormac said that he would elicit input from students in the form of poetic lines or thoughts and create a song. The newly created song would then be performed at the culmination of the class. Personally, I though it sounded risky!! A class of high school juniors!! They are a tough audience!! Finally, the time came to begin the class. Cormac began by performing an original song. He got their attention!! Next, it was time to get input from students. Using the song to create the mood, Cormac asked students to write down one poetic line on a scrap of paper. "You don't have to be a poet to write down a thought" he said. Then he collected approximately 20 pieces of paper and spread them out on a desk top. He then "poured" over the scraps explaining that he was looking for "themes". The first theme he found was " The Sun" and he said that several among us must have been thinking about being outside in the sun rather than inside writing poetry. Finally, he arranged and rearranged the papers looking like a "Shellgame" player. After a moment of silence he exclaimed, " I think we have created a poem, not a song - a poem." He went on to explain the difference between poetry and song lyrics. The students were fascinated and I was too!! Eventually, he set "our" poem to music and it sounded incredibly good. All of this had taken approximately 45 minutes.

Cormac finished the class, moved to another room in our school and performed for another 45 minutes. Several students stayed until long after the close of school to ask questions and listen. After what I thought was a rather exhausting day I followed Cormac to a 8:30 p.m. "House Concert" at a local home where I listened to him perform his music for more than two hours.

Cormac McCarthy is an outstanding performer. He is a singer, songwriter, poet and scholar. I recommend him to you.

Thank you,

Robert Nixon, Learning Enrichment Specialist

Hard Times
and Good Times in America

The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl through the songs of Woody Guthrie
with stories and vignettes provided by Cormac McCarthy

Woody Guthrie

Cormac McCarthy gives us a look through a window into a period of American history that remains remarkable in its sadness and heroic in its testament to the triumphant nature of the human spirit.

This musical show gives an intimate first person look into the depression era with a focus on the even harder hit Midwestern dust bowl of the mid-1930’s.

Using stories and monologues to explain the economics that followed the great crash of 1929, this show puts a human face on the history and events of those times. The stock market crash and the resulting chain reaction: a diminished demand for goods causing the manufacturer to reduce the work force, leaving less money to buy the goods and pulling the economy into a downward cycle.

It also explores FDR’s assimilation of Keynesian economic theory to stimulate the economy through federally funded work projects. All in an understandable, folksy way.

Woody Guthrie’s classic songs describe the hardship of these times with great humor and optimism. They chronicled the times he lived in. Listening to one of his great ballads is like opening a door and walking into another time and place and seeing it through the eyes of those that lived it.

This program is designed for grades 7 through 12 and is adaptable for college students and adults. Superb supplementary and photographic materials are available from the Library of Congress for educational use.

Photo by Dorthea Lange

from photos by Dorthea Lange, Library of Congress archives

Recommendations from Teachers and Student for

Hard Times and Good Times in America

Cormac performed at several Nashville schools as part of his appearances for Woody Guthrie 90th Birthday, Woody Guthrie Foundation, Nashville, TN. 

Dear Cormac,

On behalf of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, I would like to sincerely thank you for the outstanding performances you gave during Woody Guthrie month at three of our middle schools. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the performances and was quite impressed. It is nice to know that another generation is informed about Woody Guthrie's causes and music.

We appreciated your willingness to educate and entertain our students. I feel that all those students who had the privilege of attending one of your performances will long remember who you are and the music you presented.


Carol Crittenden
Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

Letter of Recommendation:

June 2002

To Whom it May Concern:

Cormac recently performed for my 115 8th grade students during he last period of the last day before vacation! Needless to say this was not an ideal time to perform for adolescents. Cormac however, not only held their attention but they lingered after the bell because they didn't want his concert to end. My students were captivated by Cormac's chronicles of Woody Guthrie's experiences during the Great Depression. He kept them intrigued by skillfully weaving Guthrie's songs with historical background information and interesting anecdotes of the era.

Throughout Cormac's performance he celebrates the life of one of the greatest troubadours of this century by singing and playing a wonderful selection of Guthrie's music. His choices not only reveal Guthrie's talents as a poet and writer but also provide his audience a glimpse in the lives of a generation of Americans who truly understood the meaning of the word struggle.

Cormac's musical ability is astounding. He incorporated vocals, harmonica and guitar and is incredibly talented in all 3 arenas. My students were thrilled with his musical skills but were even more impressed with his sense of humor.

"Mr. McCarthy impressed us all with his ability to play the guitar, sing, and play the harmonica all in one song! He played a variety of songs, some we had studied in class and some new ones, some happy, and others sad, but no matter what, we sang along. He gave us the chance to listen to songs we don't hear everyday."

"Mr. McCarthy told us things about the Depression that our history books didn't. I loved his stories and he's a really great musician too. He even made Woody Guthrie sound good."

My students and I would highly recommend Cormac McCarthy's performance for any audience. He was accommodating and knowledgeable and most important of all he puts on an incredible show.

In addition, I'm booking his show for the Old Berwick Historical Society next year!

Please feel free to call if you would like any further information: 207-384-2248.


Nicole St. Pierre
South Berwick, ME 03908