The Columbus Songwriting Workshop strives to take songwriters to the next level. We pick songwriters that know their craft and are pros typically working songwriters that have many strengths. Each workshop we strive to empower our instructors to share their version of success to attendees. Sign up for our next workshop here.


Jess BaldwinProcessed with VSCO with b6 preset

Jess Baldwin’s voice has been described as “world class,” “effortless,” and “pure beauty.” She appeared on American Public Television’s “Songs at the Center” in 2018, performed on Mountain Stage in 2013 with The Fields of Gettysburg, won Best Cover Song in the 2015 and 2017 Ohio Music Awards, and was a quarterfinalist in the 2015 and 2017 American Traditions Competitions. As an artist, her eclectic style melds indie and chamber pop with soul and R&B, living somewhere between Regina Spektor, Lake Street Dive, Becca Stevens, and Laura Mvula.  

As a teacher, Jess has extensive training in vocal pedagogy and voice science. After earning her master’s in classical vocal pedagogy, she turned her focus to working with singers that are traditionally ignored or misunderstood by academia, including those in pop, rock, country, R&B, soul, indie, and more. She now teaches at the CCM Voice Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University, where voice teachers come from all over the world to learn how to work with non-classical singers. She loves helping people take the mystery out of singing to find the magic in their voice.

RJ Cowdery3231810 

Rj Cowdery has solidified her place in the world of performing singer-songwriters, garnering accolades at Mountain Stage NewSong, Kerrville, Falcon Ridge, Wildflower! Arts and Music, Rocky Mountain Folk Festival, and Sisters Folk Festival. She plays a clean guitar, flat picking or strumming, stringing chords together to develop melodies built like a proverbial brick house and pours over it all with a voice like butter. Her lyrics are sincere and plainspoken, inviting you to lean in hard and come out the other side changed. 

Eric Gnezda42

A regular performer at Nashville’s Bluebird Café, Eric is a recipient of the Ohioana Citation for Music Composition, joining Michael Feinstein (American Songbook), Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane), and Chip Davis (Mannheim Steamroller).

An Emmy-nominated TV journalist, Eric has seen success with a wide range of songwriting styles – from inspirational anthems, to country, to comedy. Songs at the Center, based in Columbus, has aired on more than 260 stations over its 4-Season run. More than 80 local and regional artists have been showcased on the series.

Eric and his work have been featured on media around the globe, including ESPN, Entertainment Tonight, and NPR (Car Talk, and All Things Considered). He is also the host of the monthly Songwriter Showcase at Natalie’s, in Worthington. Eric’s latest CD is Songs of Hope in a Changing World.


Billy Zenn14369971_1772373672980268_1558330187302219324_n

At age 7, Billy Zenn stepped onstage for the first time—as a ventriloquist.  The instant darling of the service lodge circuit, Billy and his dummy performed comedic scripts—with song breaks—penned by his grandfather.  Countless talent shows and chicken dinners later, The Beatles arrived on the Ed Sullivan Show. Billy’s career as a variety performer was over in an instant—his dummy consigned to storage, replaced by an electric guitar and the company of some school mates.

Billy kept at it.  He began working weekend club dates in the late 60’s and never looked back. Somewhere along the line he started crafting his own songs, drawing from the pastiche of influences around him and culling the best of those into a distinctive writing style.   

With four CD’s and a live DVD set under his belt, Billy continues to follow his muse.  Lately, he has happily assumed the role of producer for several up-and-coming performers, producing CD’s for Grace Adele, Craig James, Mark Hunter and more.

Chris Shaw


Chris Shaw has been a staple in the music scene in Columbus for 15+ years starting out in high school playing drums in a rock band that produced two records, moving to play drums in Andy Shaw Band, fiddle in Shaw Brothers, singing/writing/guitar playing in a 10 piece soul band called Topher James and Biscuit Brigade, and guest spotting in several recent projects including Doc Robinson’s latest ep “Musicol Sessions 2″. 


Previous instructors:

Dominique LarueOhio Music Photographer

Born and bred on the north side of Columbus, Ohio, Larue was greatly influenced by Gospel and R&B, but it was her older brother who introduced her to Hip Hop. Influences from A Tribe Called Quest, Fugees, Outkast, Def Squad, and Busta Rhymes and it was in her elementary years that she realized just how influential her brothers music had actually been. At 7 years old, Larue made her first attempt at writing a rhyme, “I will never forget that day because it was the first day of the rest of my life.” And although Larue does not remember the song she and her friend wrote, if it hadn‟t been for that song, she wouldn’t be rapping today. She has released several records including in 2015 when she joined forces with legendary Hip Hop pioneer Monie Love, MyVerse, and Carolina Dirty to form the rap supergroup Heresy. Their self-titled EP released in August 2015.  Recently a song of hers was placed in a movie called, “The Challenger,” starring Kent Moran and the late Michael Clarke Duncan released in 2015. She has landed placements on VH1, MTV, TLC, Fox, Oxygen, The CW and HBO as well. Read more on her Facebook page here.

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Peggy’s Bio: Peggy Elliott has been in the music industry for over 50 years. She is from southern Ohio, Eaton, received her undergraduate degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education at Ohio State and has a Masters in Conducting from Cleveland State University. Throughout her career she has worn many hats including singer, actor, dancer (tap dancing with Gene Kelly and Tommy Tune), and musical director for many musical theater productions all over the country. As a vocalist, Peggy has soloed as a Lyric Soprano with various choruses through out Ohio, singing Brahms, Beethoven, and Faure Requiems. She is an accomplished teacher presiding over the professional development of music teachers as a music administrator for Cleveland City Schools and has coordinated music events all over Ohio. She has served on committees with International House of Blues, the Education Committee of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/John Lennon Recording Bus, and the Cleveland Hard Rock Café.

Jon Elliott


Jonathan Elliott is a singer-songwriter best known for his work as the lead vocalist of Columbus based roots-rock band, The Floorwalkers. Raised in a musical household and classically trained, Elliott has grown up performing and singing many styles and genres of music in choral, live-band, and theater productions and ensembles. Always naturally gravitating toward the soulful sound of R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, and jazz music. As a child, Elliott’s parents owned an operated a fine arts studio in his hometown of Chardon, Ohio. There he took dance, art,and various music lessons beginning his passion for the arts and performance. In 2001 Elliott began writing songs and collaborating with fellow high school classmates, Ben Meinhold, Tom Lasky and Kerry Henderson. Together they would relocate to Columbus, add guitarist/vocalist Theo Perry and Keyboardist Todd Hamric and start recording and performing as The Floorwalkers. Since then, they have toured regionally and built a solid grassroots following in the midwest and southern United States. Elliott and his bandmates pride themselves in their eclectic songwriting and their ambition to write songs in multiple styles of popular music. Together they have crafted a sound and an energetic live show that is uniquely and sonically their own. (614) Magazine’s Readers Poll voted the Floorwalkers Best Band, and they were named to The Hot 17 in 2011. Columbus Alive has called them “One of Columbus’ most beloved bands”…“A band the hipsters, hippies, and bros can all agree on.” says, ”Jon Elliott’s voice seems limitless with each song.”Aside from his work with The Floorwalkers, Elliott also lends his vocal talents to other Columbus musical acts The Middle Rats and PopGun, and is a frequent guest vocalist with The Columbus Jazz Orchestra.

Jesse Henry12188004_10153189943435233_800587404253220740_o

Jesse Henry is a songwriter, teacher, and Dean of the Rafiki School of Music in Kenya. He’s a dreamer who navigates all genres, and leads some of our city’s most unique groups.  The SpikeDrivers, Stutterfly, The Royal Tycoons, The Field Dogs, among others. Jesse’s life experiences melt into the mood of his songs. A former iron worker, mennonite jazz student, and conservatory of music scholar, Jesse has spent the last ten years training and crafting his music style in Columbus through close friends and some of the community’s highest level of musicians.

Eric Gnezda12029638_1024780657568641_1705066488013204663_o

Singer-songwriter Eric Gnezda performs regularly at The Bluebird Café in Nashville, and is the recipient of the Ohioana Citation for Music Composition, joining Michael Feinstein, Chip Davis (founder of Mannheim Steamroller) and Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane. His work has been heard on ESPN, NPR, ABC Radio, Nickelodeon, and in local media markets worldwide.  Also an accomplished public speaker, journalist and television producer, Eric received an Emmy nomination for a story he produced in Europe for American television. Based upon his work as a songwriter and producer, he conceived the popular Columbus music show, Songs at the Center, which airs weekly on WOSU TV, immediately following Austin City Limits. The show has been renewed for a second season, and, in addition to premiere regional acts, has featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member John Oates, and Grammy Award Winning songwriter Don Henry.  Eric also coordinates and hosts Songwriter Showcase at Natalie’s. Now in its third year, the Showcase features some of the finest songwriters in America.  His song, Is This America, was a featured segment at the Citizens’ Symposium on Civility in Washington D.C., and he has written themes for Special Olympics Ohio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Race for the Cure, and other organizations.  As a keynote speaker and workshop trainer, Eric has presented to hundreds of companies and associations throughout America, from IBM, to General Electric, to Wendy’s International, to Oncology Nursing Society, to the World Gathering on Bereavement.  When he’s not writing songs, speaking or performing, Eric teaches speech at his alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University. Whether on the stage, radio, TV, or in the classroom, Eric entertains and inspires his audiences. Notable upcoming dates: Songs at the Center taping, Columbus, Sept. 17 The Bluebird Café, Nashville, Oct. 11 Songwriter Showcase at Natalie’s, Columbus, Nov. 12