30 December 2008

2008 Year-end

1] Put Me on Your iPod
2] Sing My Anthem
3] Take My Course
4] Year-End Reflection: From Narcissus to Jesus
5] New Year's Eve Program Notes: The Heart of Fugue

Though I may be overpacking this epistle, I remain committed to the policy (now a decade old) of sending to my entire mailing list only twice each year. I aim to have your first reaction, each time receiving this, be one of curiosity. The most time-dependent item here is my annual New Years Rockport Eve recital, which will be (same as last year's) 8:00-8:45 and 9:00-9:45 at the First Baptist Church, corner of Main & Broadway in Rockport, MA. Details on this year's program "The Heart of Fugue" are found below and information about the entire evening may be found at http://newyearsrockporteve.com.

Put Me on Your iPod

All six of my CDs are now available through my site as high quality MP3 downloads. They are encoded at 256 kbps VBR (variable bit rate), which is the same quality used for Amazon.com MP3 downloads. (While this makes for a larger file size than those sold at iTunes, the audio is noticeably superior). Each album sells for $7.50. Once you reach the page to download the files, however, all the albums are available — where you are welcome to download albums you didn't pay for, try them out, and then go back and pay for what you expect to continue enjoying. Start at http://jeffrysteele.com/cds-mp3s.html.

Sing my anthem

Toward the end of last Summer [which readers of my previous newsletter will recall I spent at Camp Calumet in NH] I wrote a SATB anthem for choir to a text from St. John's Gospel, "Children of the Light." Though our performance of it in the final liturgy there was under-rehearsed, it was well-received. I invite those of you who may direct or sing in choirs (or any singing ensemble) to consider programming it. Download the score for free at http://jeffrysteele.com/servicemusic.html, where you will also find my Missa Nova (previously done at Calumet). This was notated, by the way, in Apple Logic, rather than my usual Finale.

Take My Course. . .

. . . please! My experience last year teaching the "Rock'n'Roll and American Society (1945-1980)" course at MassBay Community College got me energized to develop a new course targeted to non-music majors. The result is "Learning from the Great Songwriters (1963-2007)", which I submitted to the Tufts Experimental College. I may as well have "brought coals to Newcastle", given that they already have a lot of music courses and were only accepting 16% of the courses submitted in all fields. Perhaps you know of another institution that would be interested in offering it. Click here for a description and a sample handout.

Year-End Reflection: From Narcissus to Jesus

Living in a retired trailer at Calumet all last Summer was a lesson insimplicity (How many things do we really need in our lives?), in collectivity (What do I need my own bathroom for?), in service (What are the actual needs of those around me, regardless of what I am professionally trained to offer them?) and in worship (What is the best use of people's time together? How should we respond to the natural beauty around us?), among other things. If this sounds monastic, that may relate to my just having read The Mountain of Silence (Markides) about Eastern Orthodoxy on Cyprus. In an effort to face today's and tomorrow's economic challenges, Monica and I have made several changes to cut back on expenses. We have a young woman living with us from Nigeria (finishing Seminary) who pitches in on housework and driving of Noah in exchange for room and board. We cleared out our finished basement for rental. This required resolving pet coexistence issues that had been holding us hostage. We do basically everything out of the kitchen now — meaning that whatever we've cluttered up the kitchen table with has to be cleared so we can sit down for a meal. I give lessons at my mother's house, which means I see more of her. Not a lot of work has come through this year for me — I still have Fridays with my wonderful Lynn choral students — but I'm not lacking things to do. Monica having two jobs in music ministry, she needs a lot of my logistic, as well as musical, support. These are among the adaptations we all must implement when there's less money to go around; the cats have to live with the dog; resources are shared; our material world contracts.

How little we can imagine as to what God has in store for us. If someone had come to me in my younger years to say that after a dozen years of guitar teaching I was going to want to move on to something more dynamic and challenging but that specific preparations would be necessary to secure that work, I would probably not have heeded the advice and felt that I knew better. Likewise, if someone had told me that I would by this time have attained a wonderful marriage that puts God first, I'd have shaken my head incredulously — what on earth does thatmean? Perhaps God prioritized that which I wanted most, and saw to my "schooling" like a Dickens benefactor. I'm still trying to understand what God wants me to do next with my gifts . . . perhaps there's something unique coming my way with the reconfiguration of our society. Now that my older step-son has joined the Air Force (this surprisingly positive development could be the topic of a whole other newsletter) and the younger one is considering a move to the West Coast with his father (it's yet to be seen what sort of development this is), we can start considering more options for ourselves. If you know of a position that might be suited to me, even far from Gloucester, we may be willing to make the move.

An opinion piece in the New York Times (Sonja Lyubomirsky, "Why We're Still Happy", 12/26) concludes that "We care more about social comparison, status and rank than about the absolute value of our bank accounts or reputations." If we see others going down around us, we're OK going down too. But when our lot, our career, whatever, pales next to someone else's we're discontent. This must be Narcissus, or logismoi(thought forms) the Eastern monks keep at bay through prayer (specifically, the Prayer of Jesus). Has the American Way — or its progeny, the Global Economy — given the dishonest practices that have long germinated in "enterprise", finally proved itself unsustainable? As ominous as it may appear, I am excited for the potential the Economic Downturn shows for addressing deep cultural dysfunctions — to bring us further down the path from ego fulfillment to the common good. In the meantime, "I feel like I owe it to someone" (D. Crosby, "Almost Cut My Hair") to maintain my guitar chops and present a challenging recital from time to time. . .

Program Notes: "The Heart of Fugue"

Click each page to enlarge
p. 4, p. 1:

p.2, p. 3:

06 November 2008

To My Wife (Making Cursillo)

You are my home,
My heart’s desire.
You bring me new strength
To raise my arms higher.
You lead me to challenge
And fill me with fire
As no other woman could do.

Of all of the paths
God has led me down,
The one to your door,
So far out of town,
Reveals a bronze throne
And a pair of jeweled crowns,
Wrought by the fairies from dew.

Here now at St Basil’s
You have confirmation
Of inherited royalty
Or a well-earned vacation.
May you know yourself better,
Find new inspiration
And remember my vast love for you.

31 October 2008

Music Theory via "Blowin' in the Wind"

This handout was designed for the course "Learning from the Great Songwriters, 1963-2007". Click each page to enlarge.

14 October 2008

To my Mother-In-Law on her 90th Birthday

Women like you are not bothered by trifles,
Raised as you were by aunties with rifles --
Deep in the woods of the forty-ninth state,
Which lately has fostered one brash running mate.
Drawn, as you were, to those with strong feelin',
You found yourself nursing one ornery Sicilian.
Settling together as post-war consumers,
Not knowing your kids would become known as 'boomers',
You bought a big house on a New England farm
And brought up four girls, who lived in the barn.
For holiday meals, you let them inside.
"For sure you will spoil them," the neighbors deride.
But when the girls staged their theatric ambitions
Their parents were charged a double admission.
And though he started with best of intentions,
Your husband was shortly consumed by inventions.
So to bring the family some stabilization
You got into nursing home administration.
Grand-parenting may have been more than you bargained;
As you were there for my step-sons before divine jargon
Would say that this daughter's intended life mate
Was to be spared diapers and be showing up late.
And for that favor I was in your debt,
that is, till we traveled abroad somewhat wet.
How blest we are now that you're here to this day
And for quite a few more, if God has his way.
To think that you date from the Great War's conclusion!
A life lived long and well need not be illusion.

08 October 2008

Draft course syllabus: Learning from the Great Songwriters, 1963-2007

  1. DYLAN 1: Poetic Folk with a Rock attitude
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. song structure
      2. pitch, rhythm
      3. meter
      4. pentatonic
      5. diatonic
    2. Listening
      1. folk traditions inspiring Dylan
        1. Carter Family
        2. Leadbelly
        3. Woody Guthrie
        4. Hank Williams
      2. selected early Dylan
    3. Discussion
      1. Pick a song (by anyone) with which you feel a strong identification; what makes it alive for you?
      2. What gives a sung performance authenticity?
    4. Exercises/Worksheet
      1. Music knowledge assessment
      2. mapping out song structure on a grid
      3. melodic dictation on a grid
      4. Identifying scale degrees in “Blowin’ in the Wind”
      5. clapping note rhythms
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
      2. Identify the meter and map out the structure in three Dylan songs.
      3. Mark where the beats fall over the lyrics to a song of your choosing
      4. Prepare an analysis of lyrics to one song, assigned you by the instructor, that will take about 3 minutes to present to the class.
      5. Identify scale degrees in melody of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"
  2.   DYLAN 2
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. picking styles
      2. pentatonic minor scale
      3. melodic contour & range
      4. phrase length
    2. Listening
      1. later Dylan
      2. Donovan - “Starfish on the Toast”
    3. Discussion
      1. Mellers, Wilfrid (1981) God, Modality and Meaning in Some Recent Songs of Bob Dylan, Popular Music, Vol. 1, pp. 143-157.
      2. Hentoff, Nat (1963) liner notes to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
      3. Students present lyric analyses and scale degree choices
    4. Exercises/Worksheet
      1. Identifying minor scale degrees in “Masters of War”
      2. rhythm/triad exercise
      3. Rhythmic dictation on grid
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to With the Beatles
      2. Identify meter & map out song structure to any three early Beatles songs
      3. Identify scale degrees in “All My Loving”
      4. Explore measureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com and choose one point of interest to share next week
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. vocal/instrumental arrangement 
      2. subdivision of the beat
      3. grooves (rhythmic interlocking of instruments)
      4. notating rhythm
      5. accents
      6. triads
      7. basic chord progressions
      8. cadences
    2. Listening/Viewing
      1. early Beatles - With the Beatles (1963)
      2. Beatles & Marvelettes performing “Please Mr Postman”
    3. Discussion
      1. Price, Charles Gower (1997) Sources of American Styles in the Music of the Beatles, American Music, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 208-232
      2. Panfile, Greg (1994) Boys will be girl group: The Beatles and the Girl Group Sound, Soundscapes, v.2, 9/99
      3. Students share interesting points from measureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com
    4. Exercises/Worksheet
      1. Rhythmic dictation with eighth-notes 
      2. Mapping out song groove on a grid
      3. Hearing the root & mapping out chord progressions on a grid
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Map out structure for “It Won’t Be Long”
      2. Map out the rhythmic groove to a song assigned you by the instructor
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. blend of minor pentatonic & major diatonic
      2. secondary dominants
      3. subdominant minor
      4. voice leading
      5. common chord progressions
      6. chord & non-chord pitches in melody
      7. pitches on a staff
      8. 12/8 & 6/8 time
    2. Listening
      1. selected songs from 1965-68
    3. Discussion
      1. Excerpts from Mellers, Wilfrid (1973) The Twilight of the Gods, Viking, New York.
      2. Tillekens, Ger (2001) Words and chords: semantic shifts of the Beatles' chords, Beatlestudies 3, University of Jyväskylä (Department of Music, Research Reports 23), 2001, 97-111.
      3. Evaluate students’ groove & structure mappings
    4. Exercises
      1. “Checkerboard” rendering of scale & chord patterns
      2. Mapping out chord progressions on a grid.
      3. Chromatic descent (bridge to “It Won’t Be Long”)
      4. Pitch dictation on staff
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion 
      2. Prepare an analysis of lyrics to one song from the album, assigned you by the instructor, that will take about 3 minutes to present to the class.
      3. Identify the pitch sequence in “Painting Box”
      4. Outline some similarities between ISB’s lyrics and those of Dylan
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. dropped & added beats vs changing meter
      2. harmonic ambiguity
      3. vocal range & ornamentation
    2. Viewing/Listening
      1. TV Documentary
      2. “October Song”
      3. Amazigh music from Morocco video
      4. Selections from 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (1967)
    3. Discussion
      1. Ford, Charles (1995) 'Gently Tender': The Incredible String Band's Early Albums, Popular Music, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 175-183
      2. Students present lyric analyses and compare “Painting Box” pitches
    4. Exercises
      1. Sensing the meter changes in “Little Cloud”
      2. Map out  chord changes
      3. notating synchopated 8ths: “Gently Tender”
      4. Studying “The Eyes of Fate”
    5. Homework
      1. Listen to the eight songs being discussed next class
      2. Find the meter changes in “Tinker’s Coin”
      3. Prepare to present a brief analysis of lyrics and melodic shape in a song assigned you by the instructor.
      4. Write lyrics for a potential song of your own (rough draft is fine)
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. simple innovations: the chords left out
      2. extra-musical expressive elements
      3. meter superimposition (McKennitt)
    2. Listening:
      1. Gillian Welch - “One Little Song”
      2. Bill Staines - “Coyote”
      3. Gordon Bok - “Brandy Tree”
      4. Patty Griffin - “Top of the World”
      5. Kate Wolf - “Unfinished Life”
      6. Bruce Springsteen “ “If I Should Fall Behind”
      7. Lui Collins - “Tinker’s Coin” (Jack Hardy)
      8. Loreena McKennitt - “The Old Ways”
    3. Discussion
      1. Students present analyses
      2. Compare meter change results
      3. Share original song lyrics
    4. Exercises
      1. Choosing chords to harmonize a melody
      2. Improvising notes for a vocal harmony
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Prepare a brief talk and a handout, incorporating the criteria used so far, on a recorded song of your choice.
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. Reinforcing/clarifying of concepts relevant to student song choices
    2. Listening
      1. Recordings brought in by students
    3. Discussion
      1. Students each present their talk and handout
    4. Homework (plus reading one of the two articles to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to “Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Love or Confusion”, “Spanish Castle Magic”, “Little Wing”, “All Along the Watchtower”
      2. What specific songs/music possibly known to Hendrix do you hear reflected in his music?
      3. Where do you see Dylan’s influence in Hendrix’s lyrics? Other possible lyric influences?
    1. Musical concepts
      1. eschewing the triad
      2. riffs that evoke chords
      3. 16th, 32nd & triplet quarter notes
      4. Jazz, classical, blues, R&B influence
    2. Viewing/Listening
      1. Backing up the Isley Bros.
      2. “Spanish Castle Magic” at Woodstock
    3. Discussion
      1. Zak III, Albin J.(2004) Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix: Juxtaposition and Transformation "All along the Watchtower". Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 599-644
      2. Whiteley, Sheila (1990) Progressive Rock and Psychedelic Coding in the Work of Jimi Hendrix. Popular Music, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 37-60.
    4. Exercises
      1. pentatonic sight-singing exercise
      2. map groove to “Little Miss Lover”
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Write your own pentatonic melody
      2. Listen to “Georgia on my Mind”, “Get it While You Can” & “Golden Lady”
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. key modulation
      2. chord alterations
      3. lead sheets
    2. Listening/Viewing
      1. Ray Charles
      2. JM & the Funky Divas of Gospel
      3. Howard Tate
      4. Stevie Wonder
      5. excerpts from “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” DVD
      6. Wonder at work in studio
    3. Discussion
      1. Mooney, H.F. (1968) Popular Music since the 1920s: The Significance of Shifting Taste. American Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring, 1968), pp. 67-85
      2. Hughes, Timothy (2003) Groove and Flow: Six Analytical Essays on the Music of Stevie Wonder. Dissertation, U. of Washington, excerpts: pp 1-19 & 60-106.
    4. Exercises
      1. Sing & comment on student-composed melodies
      2. Figuring out chords to “Goin’ Up Yonder”
    5. Homework
      1. Read either the Whitesell or the Pepper Rogers articles to be discussed next class
      2. Read the Lauro Nyro bio from lauranyro.com
      3. Listen to
        1. “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”
        2. “Rainy Night House”
        3. “Blue”
        4. Eli & the Thirteenth Confession (1967)
      4. What might the narrative be to the story told in the 13 songs on Eli?
      5. Which songs (on Eli) make use of 6/8 time?
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. guitar-based vs keyboard-based composition
      2. alternate tunings
      3. modes
      4. song cycle
    2. Listening/Viewing
      1. Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning” on TV
      2. Laura Nyro, “Save the People” on TV
    3. Discussion
      1. Whitesell, Lloyd (2002) Harmonic Palette in Early Joni Mitchell, Popular Music, Vol. 21, No. 2 (May, 2002), pp. 173-193
      2. Pepper Rogers, Jeffrey (1996), The Guitar Odyssey of Joni Mitchell & The Vocal & Lyrical Craft of J.M., Acoustic Guitar, 8/96 & 2/97.
      3. Comparing the two artists
      4. Artists they inspired
    4. Exercises
      1. “checkerboard” rendering of modes & chords
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Prepare Final Project Proposal (choose one)
        1. Your own original song
        2. Collaboration on original song
        3. Relevant research or analytical paper
      2. Listen to “Ojalá”, “Te Doy una Canción”, “La Gaviota”, “El Necio”, “Abracadabra”
    1. Musical concepts
      1. Further harmonic progressions and melodic ideas
    2. Additional Listening
      1. Victor Jara (Chile)
      2. Duo Guardabarranco (Nicaragua)
    3. Discussion
      1. Manabe, Noriko (2006) Lovers and Rulers, the Real and the Surreal: Harmonic Metaphors in Silvio Rodriguez’s Songs. Transcultural Musical Review, No. 10 (12/06), pp 1-7, 30-36, 52-60, 65-72
      2. Influence of the Beatles on Rodriguez
    4. Exercises
      1. notating rhythmic interplay in “Gaviota”
    5. Homework
      1. Listen to “American Tune”, “Same Old Lang Syne”, “How Long”, “The Last to Die” & other songs being discussed next class
      2. Submit project sketches for instructor review
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. Applying learned concepts to new innovations
      2. new instrumental textures
      3. Bach reworkings by Paul Simon and Jethro Tull
    2. Listening/Discussion may also include songs by
      1. Elton John
      2. David Bowie
      3. Talking Heads
      4. Bruce Springsteen
      5. Elvis Costello
      6. Kirsty McColl
      7. U2
      8. Iggy Pop
      9. Bruce Cockburn
      10. Dan Fogelberg
      11. Jackson Browne
    3. Exercise
      1. Notating the melody from Tull’s “Bouree”
      2. Notating the groove from McColl’s “Walking Down Madison”
    4. Homework
      1. complete final project
    1. Students either
      1. perform (or bring someone in to perform) their original song
      2. present a summary of their paper

24 September 2008

Draft Course Syllabus: Second Time's the Charm

This course demonstrates how some popular music artists have a burst of creativity for their second album that is sometimes unique to their career. Click each page to enlarge.

11 August 2008

To my Niece on her 10th Birthday

Filling out forms now
May feel strange and new:
Where there was only one digit.
Now you put two!

Your life marches forward.
It won't be so far
Till you're behind the wheel
Of your first pre-owned car.

Paying insurance;
Paying for gas.
Perhaps be a lawyer;
If the Bar you can pass.

"But wait just a minute;
My ticket right here
Says I can return
If used in one year.

"'Satisfaction Guaranteed',
So reads the sign;
And I'm not quite through
Being just eight or nine.

"An easy life, please;
Nothing too hard.
Say, what age must I be
For my first credit card?"

Love, Uncle Jeffry

To my Mother on her Birthday

Time's running short
Before I leave to see ya;
So you may not get
As many lines as Lucia.

How's the weather been there?
My stoop is a dock.
I'm glad life with you
Has been more than small talk.

They say the twenties
Roared without strife,
Some prodigy remaining
Twenty-something for life.

The age of the present
I know not what to call;
But that you're here in it
Brings joy to us all.

03 August 2008

2008 Summer


Traditionally, this bi-annual epistle has gone out in late Spring to advertise my Summer recitals and reflect on the year thus far. This Summer, however, my performing has all been for 'private' functions, the majority being gatherings of the Camp Calumet community. Since mid-June I have been housed in a trailer at this New Hampshire Lutheran utopia, collaborating in the organizing of Family Camp programs (a separate operation from the Resident Camp). While I wrote a first draft of this newsletter during my first week here, I decided to hold off sending anything out until lessons more worth your time emerged from the experience.

Learning to Play iPod

First, an aside that should interest other 'boomers'. While teaching the class described in my last newsletter ('Rock & Roll and American Society, 1945-1980), I found myself needing to encode mp3s of songs from my vinyl record collection for easy access on my laptop during lecture presentations. Later I thought, wouldn't it be great to have every track I enjoy listening to (or teaching about) so accessibly categorized? Oh, but what an overwhelming task! Nonetheless, I made a point of putting on records to record whenever doing kitchen and house work -- though it did mean sitting down later to separate and label individual tracks -- and within a few months I had made it A-Z through all my jazz/pop/folk along with some of the classical. The LPs (300+) then went to a used record store and the Lutheran church yard sale.

Revolution through Intonation

I have written before about why I believe every human being benefits from singing. In early Spring I took a rigorous online course through Boston University in Music Education Research. (I am debating whether to continue pursuing this second Masters degree or switch to the Doctorate in Sacred Music program through the Graduate Theological Foundation). My eyes were opened to the importance of empirical research in all areas we work in or even talk about. From reading the news media we get a random sampling of pieces making up the jigsaw puzzle for any given issue; research allows us start fitting contiguous pieces together. My previous impression of research came from the dry tables and charts seen in quantitative research. But equally legitimate, I learned, are the stories and experiences shared in qualitative research. (It can be hard for the eyes to note that the 'nt' in the first word becomes 'l' in the second). I read about how making music has been credited with benefitting for our immune systems, our emotional well-being, our math skills (though we don't want to slave our music programs to MCAS results) and our effectiveness working as a group. One example of the latter that comes to mind, featured in at least two documentary films, is the Balkan 'Singing Revolution' that bloodlessly ended Soviet rule in that region.

In the Urban Voices Choral Initiative -- which has made up most of my teaching in recent years -- we strive to bring the choral singing experience to students whose exposure to it, mostly due to economic reasons, has been limited. We also build musical skills in classroom teachers whose musical experience has also, in most cases, been limited. The object is reach as many students as we reasonably can. We don't work in school systems that have the stability and budget allowing elementary to 'feed' into middle, which in turn 'feeds' into prestigious high school choral programs.

There are similarities between this and what I've been doing this Summer at Calumet. To whoever 'walks through the door' or, in this case, meanders over from their campsite, I offer a musical experience: worship music, songs for Kids' Fun Time, an afternoon music hour for all ages (where instruments may be brought), spontaneous sing-alongs, and my own guitar recital every Sunday afternoon. I organize impromptu performances where adults and children alike test their mettle in front of a supportive audience. For last Saturday night, I put together a concert of four professional level musicians: a Portuguese classical pianist who works in the Dining Room, a jazz guitarist who has camped here each Summer for decades, a Taiwanese pianist and singer of soulful Christian songs (her parents are both Lutheran pastors back in Taiwan) who works in the Day Camp, and myself.

Some visitors may be here a week or two, some only a couple of days. We are the keepers of their 'Brigadoon': the timeless, harmonious place they return to year after year -- some for generations. Last week the place was crawling with adults who enjoyed singing at every opportunity (it was rumored that members of a church choir had arrived together), while very few children came to 'Fun Time'. Some weeks the reverse can be true.

The voice is the most personal of musical instruments, produced entirely within the human body -- capable of re-creating feeling-states in listeners with each familiarly human nuance in timbre, elocution and facial expression. “It’s not what Dylan sings,” said John Lennon, “it’s the way he sings it.” As with most camp situations, there is a long tradition of singing loudly with only the vaguest sense of pitch. But however transient the participants and however informal the setting, I strive here at Calumet to get every voice on pitch -- sneaking in the kind of vocalizing I use for Urban Voices. For not only is it more satisfying for me to hear the right notes, it is more satisfying for participants to be singing them. There is no experience that quite matches feeling your own voice become an integral component in a choral sound. I have come to believe that developing confidence in singing is a step in the self-actualization process that makes us happier and more pro-active on behalf of other humans. Hence, the heading above.

Looking Ahead to God-Knows-What

Breathing the sweet rural NH air, swimming in the lake, bicycling, rarely driving, never cooking; this life is more like being on retreat than working a job. I'm located by the chicken coop, maintained by Alice, along with all the flower gardens. I brought my cat of 12 years here to insure he gets his insulin injections. My sole complaint concerns having no water hookup, particularly when it comes to his litter box. The fact that a spider bite made me seriously ill the first week is water under the bridge. Monica makes visits when she's able. I'm not completely out of touch with the world, though, as I talk to a variety people of all ages about their lives. The teenage junior counselors who assist us give me optimism for their generation. I get to work with families where altruism can be seen down through the youngest child. This is 'Faithful Friends' Week, when mentally challenged adults -- most of whom attended Resident Camp as children -- are staying in the barn and adding life to our programming. By the end of the Summer -- whose last week finds me directing the one official choir -- I will have collaborated with nine Lutheran pastors (one week each). In my free time, I've been learning the ins and outs of Logic Express 8, Apple music creation software I purchased recently. I've recorded some guitar/synthesizer improvisations, begun an analysis of Bach's Prelude, Fugue & Allegro (which I've been playing on recitals here for the first time in over 30 years) and read a few books. I will close by quoting from one:

At a certain point, life becomes less about who you're becoming and more about who you've become. . . Wherever you've been, and whatever you've done so far, your entire life was building up to this moment. Now is the time to burst forth into your greatness -- a greatness you could never have achieved without going through exactly the things you've gone through. Everything you've experienced was grist for the mill by which you have become who you are.

Williamson, Marianne (2008) The age of miracles: embracing the new midlife. New York: Hay House.

Even though I did not send out the first version of this newsletter, I'm glad to have written it. For in reading it over I see the musings of someone struggling to make peace with internally and externally imposed 'career' expectations -- a litany of more than you needed to hear. While that struggle may not be over, I anticipate returning home with new contentment.

Peace, Jeffry

11 May 2008

To my Mother on Mother's Day

This Mother’s Day just bursts with Spring
For even this clan has been planting
Yet perplexed as to why I have not come
To inherit one tenth of your green thumb

Still may we find more gratitude
For family, home and latitude
For all the times that we have passed
All the gifts that shall us outlast

24 April 2008

M.V. Hood

Historical Research Critique

Shelly Cooper, “Marguerite V. Hood and Music Education Radio Broadcasts in Rural Montana (1937-39).” Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 53, No. 4. (Winter, 2005), pp. 295-307.
One of the fruits of Shelly Cooper’s 640-page dissertation on the life and work of Marguerite Vivian Hood (1903-1992) is this concise article focusing on Hood’s foray into radio broadcasting. While some MENC members may know that Hood was MENC President from 1950 to 1952, fewer would likely know of her resourcefulness — during the Great Depression — in putting the latest technology to work in the name of music education. Cooper may well be the leading authority on Hood, her work being informed by extensive interviews and source documents. She undertook this dissertation project not only because no previous biography of Hood had been written, but to fill in the lack of studies on prominent women in music education (Cooper, 2004).

Considering that she graduated high school at 16 and college at 20, Marguerite Hood would be seen as precocious by today’s standards and certainly intellectually ambitious by 1920s standards. While still in her 20s, she became Montana’s State Supervisor of Music. This reviewer finds no evidence (from available sources, at least) of Hood’s having been married; and it would be in keeping with historical accounts that most woman born in 1903, once married, would have undue constraints on her career ambitions. Dedicated to the music education of Montana’s school children, and faced with resources greatly limited by economic times as well as rural isolation, she exploited the new craze for radio. Cooper cites statistics (p. 295) showing an increase in radio ownership from 1929 to 1939 from 10 million to 27.5 million, listenership being much higher owing to multiple families gathering around one radio (particularly in urban areas). Harvey Jackins attested to the far reaching influence of 1930s’ radio when he recalled one person after another walking past subconsciously singing, “How in the heck can I wash my neck if it ain’t gonna rain no more?” Cooper compares the impact of radio in that era to that of computer technology on people’s lives today. During the Depression, wrote Erik Barnouw, radio won "a loyalty that seemed almost irrational. Destitute families that had to give up an icebox or furniture or bedding still clung to the radio as to a last link with humanity." (Quoted in Garofalo, 1999). Recognizing the implications radio held for music education, Hood promoted three music education radio programs — all broadcast during school hours — through a monthly column she wrote. Produced nationally by NBC and CBS, the programs all offered printed materials — which Hood encouraged teachers to avail themselves of — to make the broadcasts more meaningful to students.
It was a creed of Hood’s to behave pro-actively, to which her own later writing attests:
For some reason or other, to date we have been so engrossed in the business of teaching that we have neglected to assume our responsibilities in advance planning for the profession. And so it has become all too common to lock the door after the horse is gone—to take action after something has happened to cause professional problems for us. (Hood, 1952)
And so, in anticipation of a change in the wind, she also encouraged her readers to write the radio stations in appreciation of this kind of programming, hoping to keep it on the air. Her apprehensions were realized when the state of Montana stopped broadcasting the NBC Music Appreciation Hour due to scheduling conflicts, adding to the already problematic reception of national radio signals in mountainous areas. She determined that broadcasts needed to originate in Montana and set about to produce them herself. In these years, most music on the radio was performed live and there were no performing ensembles of sufficient calibre in nearby areas to realize live broadcasts. Use of phonograph records for radio broadcasts was relatively new, and considered a grave threat to the house musicians who were, at this time, forming performing rights associations to protect themselves (Garofalo, 1999). Persevering in the face of prohibitive royalties required to play records on the air, Hood wrote to prominent figures in the recording world to plead Montana’s case. She succeeded in getting the fees waived so long as her cause was non-commercial.
Cooper quotes from materials Hood created to accompany these broadcast geared to 4-8 grades that pertain to teacher attitude, room set-up and procedure. She also lists a sampling of program titles, reflecting Hood’s cross-curricular approach. This picture would been further served by quotes from the actual music appreciation commentary, especially considering that these transcripts are not readily available.
 Cooper does relate in her article that “highly descriptive” narration was followed by worksheets (p. 301). Hood’s legacy of articles and books — published over a forty-year period — can suggest the tone of these scripts. Here she advises, in 1931, how to conduct a listening lesson:
It is possible to have a distinct reaction to the mood of music, and yet not be able to express that reaction in words. Any thoughtful idea should be respected, no matter how far it is from our interpretation (Hood, 1931).
Nothing, it would seem to this reviewer, in in this 77-year-old article of Hood’s comes across as being dated; she could easily be describing the classroom setting of today. This would lead one to conclude that her theories on effective music education, or education in general, were remarkably progressive. Under ‘Desirable Materials and Activities’ to accompany her broadcasts, Hood lists “a phonograph and records of at least some of the numbers used in the lesson” (Cooper, 2005, p. 301). It is apparent, though not clear in Cooper’s article, that Hood broadcasted the music along with the narration — the very thing she needed permission from the American Society of Recording Artists to do — but hoped that teachers would have their own records for supplementary listenings preceding or following the broadcast. Ever mindful of the need to keep students engaged, Hood featured (Cooper, 2005, p. 302) a range of music from Baroque to Contemporary along with what would now be termed World music.
Our aim is not to insist that these students like all music considered good—we ourselves do not do that. Our aim is to help them attain intelligence in deciding for themselves whether or not they like it (Hood, 1931).
Hood obtained a grant to study radio broadcasting in New York in conjunction with New York University, CBS and NBC for two months. Immediately following, she began teaching a radio course at Montana State U. (Cooper, 2005, 302-3). She pursued further radio studies some time later (Cooper does not specify when) in Ohio. In 1939, Hood left Montana, and her radio show, to obtain a Masters degree at University of S. California. Her drive for self-improvement and more effective advocacy are born out in these choices.
Cooper concludes that Hood modeled the style of vision to which all music educators should aspire, citing other scholars of similar mind. Keeping pace, therefore is required not only on the technological front, but on the changing demographic and needs of the student body. Hood modeled not only making optimal use of whatever resources are available, but the will to create new resources. The reviewer closes with another quote from Marguerite V. Hood:
Music education has nothing to fear but itself and its own failure to be a part of the world around it (Hood, 1952).


Cooper, Shelly (2005), “Marguerite V. Hood and Music Education Radio Broadcasts in Rural Montana (1937-39).” Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 53, No. 4. (Winter, 2005), pp. 295-307.

Cooper, Shelly C. (2004) “Marguerite Vivian Hood (1903--1992): Her life and contributions to music education” Arizona State U., DAI, AAT 3123530.

Garofalo, Reebee (1999), “From Music Publishing to MP3: Music and Industry in the Twentieth Century.” American Music, Vol. 17, No. 3. (Autumn, 1999), pp. 318-354.

Hood, Marguerite V. (1931), "’Practical’ Listening Lessons: Are They Possible?” Music Supervisors' Journal, Vol. 17, No. 5, (May, 1931), pp. 21-58.

Hood, Marguerite V. (1952), “Music in American Education: Our Heritage Demands Action, Not Defense.” Music Educators Journal, Vol. 38, No. 4, (Feb. - Mar., 1952), pp. 17-19.

17 April 2008

Group Singing

Jeffry Steele, MU765 (Hebert)
April 20, 2008

Research Proposal
Group singing for working or incarcerated adults: groundwork for new initiatives

This qualitative study seeks to document the benefits experienced by adults from group singing and to explore paths towards new group singing initiatives in both the workplace and the prison system. Interviews will be carried out 1) with 3-4 employees of Pfizer Corporation (New York, NY) who sing with The Pfizer Choraliers and 2) with 3-4 inmates at the Northeastern Correctional Center (W. Concord, MA) who participate in the music program offered there (which is not specifically choral). Recorded interviews will be structured around a set of questions to ascertain informants’ musical, social and cultural background along with their aspirations and level of life satisfaction. As some informants may respond more openly to a general interest in their life rather than specific questioning, the interview will necessarily be flexibly structured. Then they will be asked about the benefits they experience from participation in music-making and possible changes in their self-concept since beginning their respective music programs. Informants’ opinions about how to interest fellow employees or inmates will also be solicited. Three interviews will be conducted with each informant, one week apart, to build rapport with the interviewer and so that variations in mood may be factored in. Results will be geared toward suggestions useful in the expansion or  improvement of these music programs as well as the implementation of related programs elsewhere. While the many studies outlined below point the way towards this proposed research, none have been discovered by this author that are specific to group singing in these settings.

Research carried out over recent years has recognised that human beings have an innate need to make music, that music occurs in all societies around the globe and that a significant proportion of music-making involves the human voice in what we commonly refer to as singing. (Durrant, 2005)
Singing in groups can be credited to a great diversity of phenomena, including:
  • morale building
  • social change
  • emotional healing
  • conflict resolution
  • consolation
  • celebration
  • spiritual expression
  • stress reduction

Compared with other societies, many adults in the United States have been cut off from the valuable resource of participatory singing. 
Does there exist an innate human need to sing? Durrant (2003) cites research suggesting that singing, of a sort, preceded language — as homo habilis humans sought expressions to go with memories of particular events. Vocal sounds that expressed anger, surprise, grief, etc. each had their own contour and timbrel qualities that are likely retained in the language (melody, instrumentation, etc.) of music. Philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) believed that language resulted from this sort of ‘music’, while biologist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) thought of music as coming out of language (Durrant, 2003, p. 41). Given that researchers cannot go back and make field recording of pre-language humans, the contrast between these two views is subtle. In the current epoch, Durrant writes, “People’s emotional lives are more complex than the logical verbal language they have at their disposal” (p. 42).

Music Consumption vs Music-Making
Even before humans had words, therefore, it was natural for humans to express emotions through vocalization. The addition of language added greater specificity to the emotions. The voice is the most personal of musical instruments, produced entirely within the human body—capable of re-creating feeling-states in listeners with each familiarly human nuance in timbre, elocution and facial expression. “It’s not what Dylan sings,” said John Lennon, “it’s the way he sings it.” (Mojo, 2005, p. 46). The digital age has brought with it the building of personalized song collections by people hungering to identify and experience time and again the emotions aroused at hearing the singing of their own species. Many adults who lacked engagement with their school music curriculum become simply consumers of music — their listening choices being entwined with their own “self-identity.” (North and Hargreaves, 2007a, b, c;); (Lamont, et. al., 2003); (Durrant, 2001).
Before the advent of commercial recording technology the only way to hear music at home was to play instruments or sing. At the turn of the century, while still a child, Alban Berg would play four-hand transcriptions at the piano with his sister (and later, with his wife) (Monson, 1974). Score reading was the only means available — apart from attending concerts — to familiarize oneself with great music of the the past as well as the present. We who today may listen to a professional recording of given Beethoven symphony whenever or wherever we please cannot approach the kinesthetic connection experienced by those forced to read the notes and sound them with their own hands. 1952, a half-century later, was the year that saw the proceeds from phonograph records exceed those from sheet music (Garofalo, 2008) — the portent of a steady decline in collective ability to play or sing at sight. While recent developments have democratized the tools of music production — packing digital recording and sound creation capability into affordable laptop computers — this new-found ease in producing a polished product leaves users with less incentive to master an instrument or the voice.

Reasons to Make Music
Psychologist Abraham Maslow talks about the “higher needs” all humans have — one being “to be free for self-development” (p. 75). He speaks of seeking paths towards “peak experiences” as

. . . the intrinsic values, the ultimate values of being, which in turn is a therapeutic-like help toward both the curing-of-sicknesses kind of therapy and also the growth toward self-actualization, the growth toward full humanness. (Maslow, p. 168)

Maslow is credited with ushering the term “self-actualization” into common usage by the psychological community (Dennis & Powers, p. 58); he elsewhere defines it as “the fullest height . . . that the particular individual can come to” (p. 74). Both he and Durrant refer to  “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” rewards, the former of which “sustain the interest of the learner in seeking out further learning experiences” (Durrant, 2003, p. 29). Related and overlapping terms found in the literature attributable musical experiences are: self-identity (Lamont, et. al., 2003), self-concept (Colwell and Davis, 2005), music self-concept (Sanders, 2000) and life satisfaction (Bailey and Davidson, 2003), and global self-worth (Shields, 2001), among others. John Dewey’s (1859-1952) writings on “aesthetic experience,” which brought scientific inquiry to what operates for humans on a “gut level” — are a precursor Maslow’s work on “peak experience” (Dennis and Powers, 1974).
A deeper investigation of extrinsic versus intrinsic rewards may be found in psychological, health and consumer research. Materialism — seeking happiness through objects — is found in most cases to be negatively associated with “well-being,” due to its conflict with “collective-oriented” values held by most people (Burroughs and Rindfleisch, 2002). In comparing symphony orchestra musicians with clerical, human relations and industrial workers, job satisfaction was found to be higher for the former (Kivimäki and Jokinen, 1994).
Several studies on adult instrumental students document the attraction making music continues to hold for adults who universally — unlike children — study music by choice. “Personal pleasure” in playing piano music was found in three-quarters of former and current adult students by Cooper (2001). The most-cited benefits of playing instrumental music found in adults by Choido (1997) were “self-expression, fun and personal enrichment.” In another survey of adults (Jutras, 2006), “skill improvement” and “dream fulfilled” were the benefits most highly rated by piano students. Simply the fact that many adults choose to pay for and occupy their leisure time with lessons speaks to the importance of music-making to the human spirit.
Bowles (1991) concludes that “a surprising amount of self-directed music experience and learning was reported” (choral and instrumental) in a survey of concert-goers. Hays and Minichiello (2005) affirm that music participation “provides people with ways of understanding and developing their self-identity; connecting with others; maintaining well-being; and experiencing and expressing spirituality” — for 52 Australians over the age of 60. Researching German singing societies in Pennsylvania, Hinkle (1987) observed “self-directed learning and desire for personal enrichment.” When college music students were asked about the impact music-making had in their lives, they reported that, in addition to deepening their musical knowledge, it allowed them to feel like “active contributors to a group outcome,” develop “a strong sense of belonging”, enhance their social skills and build up “a strong sense of self-esteem and satisfaction” (Kokotski and Hallum, 2007). In a study carried out during a Gilbert and Sullivan festival, “making music, or being present when it is made, is therefore about keeping a sense of community alive, so that music listening can be a shared experience that reinforces identity and belonging” (Pitts, 2001). Philosophy on community aspects of music-making and learning may be found in writing by Jorgensen (1995). In the black community, the behaviors resulting from singing spirituals has long been referred to as “getting happy” (Standifer, 1980).
Work to further corroborate the beneficial effects of music making can be found in music therapy research. Colwell (2005) speaks of gains in “self-concept” in hospitalized children after the experience of computer-assisted music composition activities. Even in a single session of songwriting therapy, Jones (2005) documented significant elevation of mood in a group of chemically dependent adolescents. Of particular interest — although subjects in this study were not making music — was the finding that blood oxygen levels of hospitalized children increased significantly after live music was performed for them (Longhi and Pickett, 2008). Physiological measurements such as this provide specific internal observation data unavailable through the interview, questionnaire or external observation data collection more common to music therapy or music education research. A study by Shields (2001) finds evidence of “the importance of music and role of music, music education and the music teacher as mentor” in the lives of at-risk urban adolescents. Improvisational drumming with adult male sexual offenders can positively affect reduced risk of recidivism through “the development of intimacy, social skills, pro-social behavior, and awareness and expressions of emotions” (Watson, 2002). Secker (2007) cites evidence of positive outcomes for the mentally ill through their participation in artistic activities.
Of particular relevance to the goal of this proposed study is quantitative research by Dr. Barry Bittman, CEO and Medical Director of Meadville (PA) Medical Center’s Mind-Body Wellness Center
, on Recreational Music Making. His collaborative studies—some of which, it should be noted, have been funded by musical instrument manufacturers—are concerned with the effects of drum circle participation on stress in the workplace. The data were mostly obtained by comparing blood samples of participants with those of a control group. Since a pilot study published in 2001, increasingly valid and generalizable results have been subsequently sought. Participation in drum circles has via this methodology been credited with “the potential to modulate specific neuroendocrine and neuroimmune parameters in a direction opposite to that expected with the classic stress response” (Bittman, et. al., 2001); reduction in “burnout and mood dimensions, as well as TMD [Total Mood Disturbance]” in long-term care workers and nursing students (Bittman, et. al., 2003; Bittman, et. al., 2004); “amelioration of stress-induced genomic expression” (Bittman, et. al., 2005); and “documented changes in NK [natural killer] cell activity, coupled with gene expression changes for interferon-g, interleukin-10 [stress induced], and improved mood” in Japanese male corporate employees (Wachi, et. al., 2007). The latter study concludes that “RMM [Recreational Music Making] protocol has significant potential for utilization in the corporate wellness environment.” One might add that it also holds significant potential to increase the sale of percussion instruments for the study’s sponsor, though cynicism may be counterproductive in the face of so positive an initiative.

The Particular Case for Group Singing

This will be the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don't think there’s been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs. The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us—wishing us a Happy Christmas etc. They also gave us a few songs etc. so we had quite a social party.
—letter by unknown British solider on the 1914 “Christmas Truce” (Weintraub,1993)
As evidenced in this letter excerpt, singing can be the catalyst for bringing together those who have been brought up to hate each other. It can also fortify a group’s resolve against powerful odds, such as during the Civil Rights era—“the most musical of political movements in U.S. history” (Goldsmith, 1996). 
The church was packed before eight o'clock. People were everywhere in the aisles, sitting and standing in the choir stands, hanging over the railing of the balcony, sitting in trees outside the window.. . . When the last speaker among the students, Bertha Gober, had finished, there was nothing left to say. Tears filled the eyes of hard, grown men who had seen with their own eyes merciless atrocities committed .... And when we rose to sing "We Shall Overcome," nobody could imagine what kept the church on four corners. ... I threw my head back and sang with my whole body (Charles Sherrod, quoted in Zinn 1964, 128-129, re-quoted in Reagon, 1987). 
Bernice Johnson Reagon (of the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock) points out how traditional songs gained added power through “the richness of Afro-American harmonic techniques and improvisation in choral singing” (Reagon, 1987).
Some civil rights protest songs crossed borders and struggles, such as “We Shall Not Be Moved” reappearing in Latin American labor strikes as “No Nos Moverán,” or “We Shall Overcome” migrating to India (Bremen, 1999). Nowhere, perhaps, has the power of group singing been felt so uproariously as in the Baltic “Singing Revolution” (1987-91) which sprung from the Estonian Song Festivals, “to which gatherings of some 30,000 people and a public of 300,000 people and more, making up a third of all Estonians, attended!” (Lagerspetz, 1993, p. 359). 
Some societies have more of a singing tradition than others, related most likely to the retention of collective values and struggle, a sense of community and belonging. In his study of Finish and Swedish choruses, for example, Durrant (2005) noted “that singers identify themselves socially as well as musically with a group and that choral activity enhanced these singers’ sense of national and cultural identity. . .” Here in most regions of the U.S., pursuit of the American Dream has caused many generations of immigrants to leave collective values behind in exchange for autonomy and promotion of self (see above reference to materialism). This trend towards isolated independence and away from communal interdependence appears to accompany a decrease in familial and cultural singing practices. Inadequate practice of or exposure to participatory singing in the home or neighborhood yields an increasing percentage of adults who believe themselves to be non-singers. This belief has often been instilled, as well, by “a careless negative comment” received at an impressionable age (Richards and Durrant, 2003). “As a nation, we no longer celebrate our cultural heritage in song. We are becoming a nation of non-singers,” wrote Charles Elliott. He adds, “Ironically, this decline has occurred during a time in which the quality of choral performance is at an all-time high, especially in the public schools” (Elliott, 1990). Durrant (1996) paints a gloomier picture for England: “it is apparent that choral activity in many schools is declining or is even a non-existent activity.” But the irony found by Elliott is also a source of explanation, as Richards and Durrant (2003) attribute British non-singing, in part, to high standards for choral performance that ‘ordinary people’ feel too intimidated to meet. They also cite research that “confirms that early behaviour patterns in singing are likely to persist into adulthood unless specific vocal training occurs” (p. 79).
How then, does one go about revising this attitude of oneself? From a seven-month, qualitative study involving members of a ‘Can’t Sing Choir’ based at a London adult education college, it was deduced that “psychological barriers to singing are greater than physiological ones,” the former being gradually overcome thanks to the nurturing environment created by the group’s leader (Richards and Durrant, 2003). Singing in groups adds a social dynamic to the intrinsic reward in making music. Bailey and Davidson (2003) find that “group singing appeared to promote therapeutic effects which precipitated from emotional, social and mental engagement”. In his survey of retirement community choruses, Darrough (1990) found among reasons for participation “musical,” followed by “social,” “recreational,” and “therapeutic.”
Singing in the Workplace
There did exist a custom of singing in the U.S. workplace during the first part of the last century. Elwyn Carter (1954) investigated 55 company choruses representing what he described as “a burgeoning movement” in which conductors were hired and choral masterworks performed. While there is not evidence for this movement’s continuance, this author has learned (through his sister, a long-time employee) of the Pfizer Choraliers, who meet for two twelve-week rehearsal periods per year at the New York City office. Their flyer reads:
We like to think of ourselves as ambassadors of goodwill and camaraderie for the company, exuding values of teamwork, performance and community. We are looking for all interested colleagues who like to sing and be part of an age-old tradition within Pfizer. Everyone is welcome – music readers and non-readers alike! (Pfizer intranet, provided by Nancy Steele)
The group performs both in the company lobby as well as in the community (nursing homes, churches and parties).
Emerging in the late 1970s, work-site “wellness” programs have sought to promote health and prevent disease among employees, thereby reducing absenteeism and health care costs for larger businesses (Conrad, 1987). According to Wellness Councils of America
, such programs have been implemented by 81% of companies employing 50 or more. Wachi, et. al. (2007) cite “evidence that job stress increases the risk of psychiatric disorders, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.” A Partnership for Prevention
 document cites research that credits work-site health promotion programs with 28% reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26% reduction in health costs, 30% reduction in workers' compensation and disability management claims costs and $5.93-to-$1 savings-to-cost ratio. Recommendations generated from this proposed study are intended to inform discussions on the initiation of choral singing as an extension of Worksite Wellness programs in Massachusetts corporations.

Singing in Prison
“Can you imagine what a standing ovation feels like after being told all your life that you are worthless?”
— Member of the East Hill Singers

One of the most-mentioned prison choral programs was founded and is directed by Elvera Voth at the Lansing Correctional Facility near Kansas City. Known as the East Hill Singers, this men’s ensemble includes minimum security inmates along with volunteers from the outside community. Mary Cohen assisted Voth for a time and based her doctoral thesis on the experience, stating: “Findings suggest that experiences fostered by this particular choir may carry potential for positive, transformative change” (Cohen, 2007). She also cites a visit from Robert Shaw to lead a sing-along benefit for this prison program—his last out-of-town engagement before passing away—as testament to its importance. It appears that even among the prison population, more people grew up singing a century ago than today. A prison choral concert given at Sing-Sing (!) Penitentiary on April 10, 1897 merited reviewed in the New York Times:
At its conclusion, the Rev. Dr. George H. Corey. . . arose and said: “I wish to say before we part that this is a concert given by a choir which would give credit to any church in the United States. This is one of the most remarkable concerts I have ever attended, and given by gentlemen artists of unusual ability. It seems to me there should be a more formal recognition of the merit of the entertainment and of the kindness of Warden Sage. All who think the same will please rise.” And every person in the room arose. (NYT, 1897)
In her study of a women’s prison choir in Israel, Silber (2005) lists common personal and interpersonal dysfunctions in the prison population cited in the literature: lack of self-esteem; lack of sensitivity toward others; lack of self-control/impulsivity; aggressiveness; need for immediate gratification; lack of trust; and non-acceptance of authority and rules; and proposes that “Skills pertaining to all of these would be exercised in the workings of a choir.” Group activity that promotes interaction, dedication, commitment and communication, is found therefore to be “instrumental in counteracting the alienation of confinement” (Silber, 2005).
A number of correctional facilities in Massachusetts have what is labeled a Music Theory program which, in addition to textbook study, includes participation in performing ‘bands.’
 This activity appears to address some, but not all, of the issues outlined by Silber for choral singing. Such a program, however, could provide an opening for discussion of recommendations resulting from this proposed study.