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SCC songwriters get attention from Nashville pr

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image Ellen Kleinschmidt, center, president and musical director of the Sun City Center Performing Arts Company, goes over lyrics written by Nancy Burridge, left, and Nola Swain that were used in a show July 13 at the Rollins Theatre. Photo Penny Fletcher

The chance to write songs for a famous songwriter was a life experience in itself for five Sun City Center residents.


When members of the Sun City Center Performing Arts Company performed in Lakeland for a Wounded Warriors benefit in February, they had no idea they would make a contact that would change their lives.

Whether or not the songs they have recently written for the famous songwriter they met there will become hits, or even be played on major radio and television stations, the chance to write them was a life experience in itself.

After the performances, the organizer of the charity event came over and told the performers if she could ever return the favor, she would. She said she was very grateful they had taken their time and effort to help America’s wounded vets.

“As it turned out, the event organizer was Lisa Palas,” said Sun City Center’s Performing Arts Company President and Musical Director Ellen Kleinschmidt. “Lisa is an award-winning songwriter with several Number 1 hits to her credit. Her songs have been recorded by Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, Kris Kristofferson, Lee Greenwood and many more famous names you would easily recognize.”

Palas has also appeared in numerous short films and episodes including the Pax Network’s It’s a Miracle, hosted by Richard Thomas. She is currently seen in many television commercials; on Broadway; and wrote the song “Send Love” that was the title cut on Anita Hall’s campaign with the Marine Corps Band’s Toys for Tots and the Hawaii Food Bank drive. In addition to the title song, Lisa also wrote “That’s What Angels Do” for the same CD.

When contacted by Kleinschmidt, Palas not only agreed to perform July 13 in the Rollins Theatre in Sun City Center but also said she would like to write a song about Sun City Center and the people who live there.

Kleinschmidt put this thought to her company in the form of a “musical exercise.”

“Well, you know how our residents are always over-achievers,” Kleinschmidt said July 11. “We not only got ideas for songs, we got six complete songs. Lisa was stunned and said every one of them deserved merit, and she’s written five songs to go with the lyrics they (the residents) sent in.”

The five songs were written by Sun City Center residents Nancy Burridge, Nola Swaim, Myra Beck, Bill McDonald and Mike Young.

“Milt Tapas also wrote a song, but he wrote his lyrics to the tune of an already existing song so music did not have to be written for his,” Kleinschmidt added.

Another thing that Kleinschmidt said amazed her and the Sun City Center songwriters was that Lisa wrote the five complete musical scores in less than one week.

She had asked that ideas be submitted by July 5 for her Sun City Center show, “Life, Love and the Music Business,” which was performed twice on Saturday, July 13 as part of the Performing Arts Lite Summer Variety Series.

“But when she (Lisa) saw the material, she was so shocked at the quality, she wrote a score for each one separately — that’s five songs in a week!” Kleinschmidt, herself a professional and a music teacher, said. “Why, it would take me all summer to do that.”

Those who wrote the songs described it as a really fun experience and all were surprised to hear them performed as part of Palas’s show.

“It was really a surprise for them,” said Kleinschmidt.  

When questioned about how it felt to write their songs, the replies were all different but had a common thread: these songs were not the first things the writers had ever penned.

“I’d written a little poetry,” said Nola Swaim, one of those who submitted songs. “But I never wrote a song before.”

But Swaim had written a children’s book containing family history for her grandchildren and belonged to a writer’s group before moving to Florida in October.

Nancy Burridge has written more than 100 songs, but says most were lost when her computer crashed. She does, however, sing professionally, taking bookings through her website, and says she still occasionally writes some music.

Bill McDonald said he’s been writing poems most of his life, but never songs.

“I feel my song is typical of my poems,” McDonald said in a telephone interview before the performance. “I used to belong to a writer’s club.”

McDonald said he wrote his song in just a few minutes.

“I just write what I feel,” McDonald said. “Most of the time, that doesn’t take very long.”

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