Eagles guitarist Glen Frey teaches Steinhardt students the art of songwriting

November 29, 2012

This semester, one class of NYU students had the opportunity to study songwriting under a legendary professor — one who has penned such hits as “Hotel California” and “Desperado” and served as a founding member of one of the most iconic rock bands of the 1970s.

The professor, Glenn Frey, original guitarist for the Eagles, spent the past semester teaching at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development with NYU songwriter-in-residence Phil Galdston.

Frey chose three of his students to perform with the Eagles at a benefit concert in the Beacon Theater on Nov. 15. According to their students, Frey and Galdston focused class discussions on the marriage of music and lyrics and provided their students with useful anecdotes and examples from their own careers.

Their goal was not for students to learn to write hit songs, but for them to become the best songwriters they can be, and to give them the tools to eventually form those hits.

“Mr. Frey had me play a recording of a new song for the rest of the class and we analyzed it meticulously, word by word, melodic line by melodic line,” said Steinhardt senior A.J. Smith. “By the time the class was over, I had a new understanding of my song.”

Galdston has written well-known songs for artists like Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Beyoncé and Aaron Neville. He has also helped write and produce a number of Grammy-nominated and winning pieces, contributing to 13 Grammy-nominated albums in total.

“It’s a thrill to collaborate with Glenn,” Galdston said. “He’s not only a natively gifted and highly disciplined songwriter, he’s a natural teacher. Although he’s based in Los Angeles and I’m based here, we were able to keep up-to-date on the songs created by the class, remain flexible in our planning and be in the classroom for the majority of the course hours.”

The students who played at the Beacon Theater earlier this month include Smith, Steinhardt junior Peter Wise and Steinhardt sophomore Tiger Darrow. The trio performed the opening act for a gala held to benefit Steinhardt.

After the students’ performance, Frey walked onstage with Eagles members Don Henley and Joe Walsh and played songs representing the last 40 years of their career.

Smith described the experience of walking through the Beacon stage doors, getting special performance badges and working with Walsh, Henley and Frey as almost unreal. He said the experience and the class have helped his work immensely.

“Songwriting is hard,” Smith said. “A lot of people who aren’t serious about it might think otherwise, but [it] is not an easy task. It’s putting your soul on the line. As Mr. Frey said in our first class, it’s fitting big ideas into small places.”

Jonathan Keshishoglou is a staff writer. Email him at features@nyunews.com. 

In the previous version of this article, WSN incorrectly reported that Peter Wise is a senior. In fact, he is a junior. WSN regrets the error.

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