Songwriting instructor offers real-world experience

Rebecca Jordan Smith is an instructor of songwriting at Lewis & Clark, offering private instruction through the Evans Music Center as well as teaching a music industry course at the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. 

Smith has an extensive background in the music industry as a musician and songwriter. She has toured with Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty and Lilith Fair, and has written songs for  Prince, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. Her original music has also garnered national praise. She is a winner of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Abe Olman Award, has been nominated for an Independent Music Award for Best EP, and was a finalist in the NPR Mountain Stage NewSong competition. In addition to her musicianship, Smith is an accredited filmmaker, and has acted in feature films such as Liberty Heights and Latter Days. 

With her music industry practicum, Smith demystifies the often daunting industry and prepares students for the real world. This includes bringing in professionals from across the field to ensure a wide range of exploration.

“For the music industry class, that’s a really fun one because it’s an interesting balance of business and marketing and some maybe not-so-riveting topics like copyright,” Smith said. “I teach hands-on practical experience and simulation of going through the lifecycle of a recording. I try to have the students understand these concepts by doing them so it’s not just memorization.”

Both the songwriting and music industry classes were new courses that Smith brought into LC’s catalog when she was hired in 2020. Making contemporary music instruction accessible is one of Smith’s principal aspirations in music education.

 “Sometimes I meet students who are really intimidated by [songwriting],” Smith said.“I think it is a balance because there does need to be a rigorous application of study and learning. But if you’re doing this on a professional contemporary level, there’s such a wealth of creativity and experimentation that people are succeeding with actually in the world that I’m not sure if programs and individual schools reflect all the time.” 

Smith shared advice from her experience in the music industry. 

“Some people are going to be the front person of a band. Some people are going to start their own labels,” Smith said. “Some people are going to work in publishing, some people might work in film and TV. There are so many ways that you can be involved in the music industry. So my biggest advice I think would be being open, and also being willing to be active.” 

Outside of teaching at LC, Smith has many projects, ranging from teaching herself how to use FinalCut Pro to making a short documentary on Black farmers.

 “I like to encourage and inspire the students,” Smith said, “Even if music is your love, and the thing you wake up and go to bed thinking about, it’s so important to be a well rounded human. Exploring other interests, letting yourself be informed and affected by other mediums, is an amazing opportunity you have at LC.” 

As much wisdom as Smith has imparted on her students, she also is excited to continue to learn and grow. 

“That is one of the amazing things about music,” Smith said. You spend your life trying to master it. It’s a practice. You always want to be learning, even me with as many years experience as I have. I have learned so much from students.” 

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