Songwriting Lessons

We can help you write, perform and record your own music.

Altered Stage is the perfect place to develop your ability to write your own songs. Our instructors have composed and performed their own original music so they know the challenges and triumphs that are a part of this creative process. They’ll be your guide on your journey to telling your unique stories through music.

If you want to write your own music and don’t know where to start, then you’ve come to the right place. Perhaps you have a beginning idea such as lyrics or a melody or a rhythm in mind, but you need help figuring out the next steps on how to complete it. Perhaps you are curious about music theory as well as the building blocks and processes that frequently go into songwriting. Or you could be interested in analyzing popular songs at different points in music history. All of these topics (and more!) can be addressed. We can also help you get a demo recording of your new song idea(s) and memorialize them in an mp3 file. And if you need other musicians to help bring your composition to life, our community of musicians can jump in and help make your song a reality.

Mat K on the keys

I’ve enjoyed learning to play drum parts for covers. But it has been especially gratifying to write lyrics, work with Nick on the music, and then play songs that we’ve made together. Songwriting encourages both the personal creativity and close musical collaboration prized by Altered Stage.

– Steve G.

Nick Kabat, Songwriting Instructor

Nick Kabat has always held music close to his heart, ever since singing the title track to Phantom of the Opera throughout the house as a two-year-old (or so he is told). Both of his parents are music teachers. Needless to say, there were loads of instruments in the house, and Nick showed plenty of interest in experimenting with them all. A native of Morton Grove, Illinois, Nick completed a bachelor of music degree in jazz studies from DePaul University in 2011. He was fortunate to study under some wonderful musicians during his time at DePaul, including Cliff Colnot, Ron Perrillo, Bob Palmieri, and Bob Rummage. During his career, both during college and thereafter, he has had the pleasure of playing alongside notable jazz performers such as Wynton Marsalis, Phil Woods, Ira Sullivan, and Jeff Hamilton just to name a few. Although he completed a jazz degree, Nick has never been one to play only one style of music. He also has an extensive classical background and currently is a member of both the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra and the Evanston Symphony Orchestra.

Aside from drums and percussion Nick also has a multitude of experience as a pianist. From Mozart piano sonatas to solo lounge jazz sets, versatility has been an important thing for him on this instrument as well. He has done a steady amount of work as a musical rehearsal accompanist to countless musicals such as Urinetown, Avenue Q and Cabaret. He also has helped with high school solo recitals at various schools around Chicagoland, such as Loyola Academy, Niles West and Leyden township high schools. Accompanying choirs from the elementary to high school levels has been another steady source of work for him as well.

Nick has performed on all sorts of stages throughout Chicago, from the stage at Millennium Park to the Cultural Center, and from theater venues like stage 773 to bar venues such as the Hideout, the Whistler and Schubas. Currently, he plays in a number of bands including Future Hits, Atticus Lazenby Group, Fran, Deanna Devore, Jim and the Povolos, and Bluefront Last summer, he put out an EP of original music with a band called Vilas.

With more than a decade of teaching experience, Nick has had students from the kindergarten age to senior citizens and everyone in between, and always stresses working on material that the student is really going to enjoy.

Justin LaForte, Songwriting Instructor

Justin’s first love was classic rock – but his musical interests didn’t stop there. Eventually earning his BA in Music and performance from Loyola University Chicago, he studied jazz with Kyle Asche, Scott Burns, Victor Garcia, and Anthony Molinaro, and classical guitar with Peter Aglinskas. Justin is a performing musician, equally at home playing in musical theatre pits, weddings, and shows with his own rock bands.

For the last decade Justin has worked for gear website zZounds.com as their main on-camera demo musician, creating product demo videos for anything from guitars, basses, keyboards, pedals, and amplifiers. He also writes and produces all of his own songs for the company, and serves as their main recording and mixing engineer.

Justin is proficient on guitar, bass, and drums. If you are interested in learning rock, jazz, funk, blues, classical, music theory, or songwriting then Justin is your guy!

See if our unique vibe is right for you!