(left to right) USC’s Chris Sampson, SHOF West Coast Projects Committee member Mike Todd, Jason Mraz, SHOF West Coast Projects Committee Chair and Board Member Mary Jo Mennella, Vice Chair Kathy Spanberger and Committee member Casey Robison
The Songwriters Hall of Fame returned to the USC Campus on Friday April 6th to present its final Master Session of the school year by presenting 2009 Hal David Starlight Award and Grammy Award winner, the eloquent and inspirational Jason Mraz.
Moderated by the Founding Director of the Thornton School’s Popular Music Program, Chris Sampson, over 150 students were inspired by Jason’s journey from his early days performing at local coffee houses writing songs that reflected his personal experiences and observations with songs serving as a vehicle for his artistic expression. His breakthrough song, The Remedy, co-written by the Matrix, channeled the personal challenges he experienced through his close friends’ cancer diagnosis with a positive message and the lyrical hook, I Won’t Worry My Life Away. The huge success of that song woke Mraz up to the power of song and began his dedication to utilizing songwriting as a service to others.
Mraz described to the class how many of his long string of hits were created and Jason underscored the purpose of each hit, from the global smash I’m Yours to writing Lucky with Colbie Caillat and Tim Fagan, and how I Won’t Give Up resonated and broke through following a personal breakup.
Commenting on his recent co-starring role in the Broadway hit musical, Waitress, Mraz said, “It was like going to a resort. I loved it. No set list, all scripted and ready to go!” It was a bucket list accomplishment, and when Sara (Bareilles) called “it was the first time I’d worked for somebody else in 18 years!”
Offering advice to the students, emphatically said, “Do what brings you joy!!” Mraz said that sharing love by spreading himself around, and particularly through nature and farm culture, he has found real joy and further grounding of his values. He now has a flourishing farm (Mraz Family Farms, harvesting avocados and over 40 other fruits). Through this experience he surrounds himself with beauty, engaging friends and providing community service.
With a new album out in August and tour dates supporting that effort, Mraz continues to collaborate with and celebrate other musicians to help them shine on stage and encourages enjoying each breath, as songwriting and singing helps him breathe and enjoy each breath! The afternoon concluded with a heartfelt tribute of a medley of Jason Mraz hits by the students led by Thornton School’s Chair of the Popular Music Program, Patrice Rushen, and students Adam Yaron and Lauren Jones contributing their leadership in organizing the performances.
"This was a special day,” said Chris Sampson. “Jason has had such a profound influence on my students as writers and artists that it was a thrill for them to learn from him directly. Jason's extraordinary generosity was truly moving and he is an exceptional role model for these up-and-coming artists."
“We are honored to have had the incomparable Jason Mraz conclude the school year by sharing his generous commitment of time and wisdom to the students in a most informative manner,” said SHOF West Coast Projects Committee Chair and Board Member Mary Jo Mennella. “The Songwriters Hall of Fame is grateful to the legendary Inductees who led Master Classes on the USC campus since last year’s spring semester, including Carole Bayer Sager, Irving Burgie and Johnny Mercer Award Winners Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.”
In attendance from the SHOF West Coast Projects Committee were Mary Jo Mennella, Vice Chair Kathy Spanberger and Committee members Casey Robison and Mike Todd.