By René Kraus Explorebigsky.com Contributor

BIG SKY – The inaugural Big Sky Songwriters’ Festival, Aug. 15 – 19, will bring together some of the biggest names in the music business.

The goal is to help songwriters, and those who want to learn the craft of songwriting, by providing access to some of the very best in the business.

Instructors will include Rory Feek, who has written for Blake Shelton; Bruce Burch, whose work has been performed by Reba McEntire; Chas Sandford, who’s had hits with Stevie Nicks and Tina Turner; and Montanans Paul Durham and Kostas.

Through a series of workshops, these and other industry leaders will share insight and perspective on songwriting, the music business, publishing and legal information. There will also be nightly live performances.

The event’s founder and creative director David Goodwin is a longtime Montana resident also lives part of the year in Nashville. He’s been planning the festival for several years, and it is the realization of many in the business who wanted to bring their passion for the industry to a beautiful and exciting location.

At age 16, Goodwin worked for a photographer in South Florida who shot liner photos for the Allman Brothers at Criteria Studios in Miami. During his tenure at the studio, he befriended producer Tom Dowd and soon became a studio ‘gopher.’ Through this work, Goodwin was exposed to many music styles and legendary artists.

Goodwin studied photography at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., and then film at Montana State University in Bozeman. In 1989, he moved to Nashville, where he wrote and published music, managed artists in major record deals, produced and engineered music.

While he reveled in Nashville’s sense of camaraderie and collaboration, Goodwin couldn’t let go of a dream to start an artist’s retreat. His dream came true in 2000 with the purchase of a bed and breakfast on the west side of the Bridger Mountains, near Spring Hill. Goodwin transformed the building into a studio, and for the last 12 years Big Sky High has been a performance venue and a “nurturing enclave” and studio for songwriters and performers.

Also an avid downhill skier, Goodwin knew Big Sky would be a great backdrop for an event like the songwriters’ festival. He’s confident this year’s festival will be the start of something unique and valuable to the industry, particularly as Big Sky continues to evolve into a thriving arts community.

“Big Sky has the distinction of providing an environment of comfort and freedom from distractions that other locales contend with, in addition to its staggering natural beauty,” Goodwin said. “It is a place truly conducive for artists to be nurtured and able to really focus on their craft.”

In another effort to grow the music industry in Montana, Goodwin is hosting a series of programs in schools across the state, culminating in a camp program for the summer. He hopes to help students “open their minds to [the] vast professional opportunities, whether as a producer, writer, publisher or [a performer].”

Goodwin believes that in order to keep what you have and to cultivate your gifts, “you must first share your gifts.” He learned this message while living in Nashville, and today he is intent on doing just that with the start of the Big Sky Songwriters’ Festival.

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