Hilltown Families


Perfect for the creative teen or tween who wants to write or is already writing. These exciting online classes with Nerissa Nields begin on Tuesday, March 24, goes to June 16, 2020. The 4pm class is for all genres, including graphic novels, fan fiction, poetry, etc. The 7pm class has a strong focus on songwriting. Nerissa has six years of experience teaching writing at preparatory schools, as well as 15 years of teaching these creative writing workshops out of her studio. $265 for 12-week course. Sign up here.

Each week, Nerissa will give assignments, tailoring each assignment to the student’s interest and genre. For example, if the student wants to write songs, she will give a song prompt or topic. If the student is writing a novel, she will guide them to craft an outline, then submit chapters. If the student is writing a film, they will storyboard, then write scenes.

In the Zoom class, class participants will begin with a check-in on everyone’s progress, and Nerissa will teach techniques and use examples from films, books, songs, poems, plays, etc. Students will be invited to read a portion of their work out loud if they feel comfortable doing so. Shyer kids might want to submit to Nerissa, or have her read their work anonymously. The class will support each other as a community of writers, cheer each other’s progress, and listen to each other as they share the challenges that inevitably come with any creative practice.

Participants will not criticize each other’s work. Nerissa’s workshops are based on the principles of Amherst Writers and Artists, which are all about supporting new creative work with kindness, focus, and an eye to what is working well in the given piece.

Nerissa will not give grades, but she will edit and comment on all work, and make specific suggestions for improvement and/or direction on the page or via email. In the class, she will also point out what is working well.


About Nerissa Nields

Nerissa holds a BA from Yale University, having graduated cum laude with honors in English and taught Creative Writing and English at The Madeira School in McLean, VA, and the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT. In 2003, she founded Writing It Up in the Garden and has run writing groups and retreats out of her home in Northampton, MA. In addition, Nerissa taught songwriting at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyon’s Colorado at their Song School for two years. She has published a young adult novel, two works of non-fiction, and three books of poetry. She has written thousands of songs and recorded and released 20 albums worth, on major and independent labels.

Under the Hat: Songwriting with the Seasons

“Under the Hat: Independent Music Education” with 2015 Latin Grammy Award winner, two time Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner, Mister G.

The seasons can inspire us to learn in so many ways! They can even encourage learning about the art of writing songs! This month in “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Mister G, shares ideas that incorporate the seasons, curiosity, rhyming, and even a sense of humor for kids learning how to write songs

Ben Gundersheimer (a.k.a. Mister G) has always found it fascinating to dissect how songs are constructed. This month in “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education,” get a dose of music ed as he walks you through the listening steps to get you to think about the way different instruments come in and out of a musical mix.

This month in “Under the Hat,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Ben Gundersheimer (aka Mister G) spotlights the universal language of music. He shares a recent conversation he and a Brazilian musician he is currently collaborating had, noting how dogs all over the world understand each other, instantly! This universal language can be found in music too, crossing cultures and facilitating communication without barriers. Knowing how to play music can cultivate a sense of cultural appreciation and connection, building a bridge of cooperation and joy between people without the need for spoken language.

Traditional holiday carols have been worked over by so many different musicians and singers! This month in “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education” with Mister G, Ben has a look at the renditions of holiday classics, especially the magic of ‘Feliz Navidad,’ made globally accessible by the mastery of bilingual songster José Feliciano. Ben’s insights are always a treat into the creative process that results in terrific music by great musicians across the spectrum.

In this episode of “Under the Hat,” Mister G talks about how as a kid he used to read under the covers by flashlight long after bedtime. After touring around the world (and noticing that kids are looking at screens instead of books), he decided to write a collection of songs that reconnect children with their love of learning and creating. The album is The Bossy E and this video is of the first song on the record, “Love to Read.” Featuring Grammy winner Charles Neville on flute.

A healthy consumption of reading materials can be tantalizing for the imagination. As you sit still, you have to free your mind to interact with a stimulating narrative and go to other places. Not only do you consume information and read a story but it can inspire you to create something of your own. It’s a fantastic position to put a child in. Mister G’s new album celebrates the joys of reading and creating, and setting a child’s imagination free. Read on for the introduction to the album “The Bossy E,” and check out the video this month in “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education.”

In this month’s “Under the Hat,” Mister G and his mom, children’s book author/illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, reminisce about the role books and stories played in their household when he was growing up.

“Wherever we are, there are song ideas just lurking around the corner. The trick is to have your antennae up and let your curiosity lead the way,” writes Mister G. “If something strikes you as interesting, chances are that other people will be interested too.” — This month in “Under the Hat,” Grammy-nominated musician, Mister G, shares how being curious can help to create a new song…

This month in “Under the Hat,” Mister G shares his journey from writing English songs for adults to writing and performing Spanish songs in Central & South America for kids…

Mister G has a new vlog this month in “Under the Hat,” bringing you into his studio to show how mixing music is a lot like mixing a cake. Gather the kids around to learn more in this short video…

Under the Hat: Rhymes Have you ever wondered why the words to some songs get stuck in your head? In this episode of Under the Hat, Mister G reveals one of his big secrets; songwriters love to use rhymes. Using examples from his songs “Pizza for Breakfast” and “Colores,” Mister G explains how good rhymes fit together like puzzle pieces to create catchy, memorable rhythms. We learn how songwriters search for the… Read More

Under the Hat: Tempo The instant we hear music our bodies start responding to the sounds. Why is it that some music makes us want to dance and other music makes us want to take a nap? Using examples from his songs “Grilled Cheese” and “Sueños,” Mister G illustrates the role tempo plays in creating mood in music. It’s really not that complicated: fast tempos tend to make the listener want to… Read More

Following the Butterflies through Words and Rhythm While on tour in Mexico, Mister G talks about how his bilingual song, “Señorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch Butterfly to the state of Michoacan. He emphasizes how close observation of nature can become the jumping off point for new songs. Before performing “Señorita Mariposa,” Mister G demonstrates the traditional Afro-Cuban rhythm known as clave. Mister G’s song “Senorita Mariposa”… Read More

Under the Hat: Songwriting Detectives Reporting while on tour from Mexico City, Mister G talks about how songwriters are like detectives who are always on the lookout for clues as to what would make and interesting song. This month’s episode of Under the Hat includes footage from a variety of school concerts from Mexico as Mister G shares a story about how he came to write “Chocolalala,” the title track off of his… Read More

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