Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lorraine Hammond: Bringing the Song Back to the Source

Lorraine Hammond – a well-known folksinger and songwriter with decades of experience performing and teaching Americana roots and folk music – came to the IMA program to study traditional music in her homeland, the Northern Appalachian region. “I grew up in a community where we sang the old songs, and I was the child of a farm family.” She not only sang, but learned to play the Celtic harp and 5-string banjo, and also became the foremost exponent of the Appalachian dulcimer.

Hammond's career teaching and performing takes her to festivals and folk schools around the country, including the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, the John C. Campbell Folk School (NC), the Mountain Collegium of Early Music (NC), the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop (WA), the Augusta Heritage Program (WV), and Summer Acoustic Music Week (NH). Yet over years of performing, she became increasingly concerned about the disconnect between this music's scholars, founders, performers and audiences. “There was a huge disconnect. Folk music is interesting to the upper class as something to be studied; it's interesting to academics as a form of literature; and it's interesting to the people who play and sing it because it's their vital expression of their lives and community. As I wrote the thesis, I was actively examining my own place in these three levels,” she says.

Having grown up learning folksongs from the likes of Oscar Degreenia, one of the original old time singers of this music, Hammond was in the unique position of coming from the very tradition she was studying. By employing an ethnographic approach, Hammond was able to combine a scholarly unfolding of the history of this music's origins with a discussion of the class issues, ethical dimensions, sense of place, and her own experience. She also bridged class issues that have historically denied early performers of folk music access to archival materials. Degreenia's daughter, Dolly, who is now in her mid-70s, hadn't heard her father's singing since his death because Middlebury College denied the family access to the songs collected by Helen Flanders on the grounds that they were now the property of Middlebury College. After negotiations, Hammond secured copies of Degreenia's singing, and she brought the tapes to Dolly, who heard her father's voice for the first time in 50 years.

In bringing the music back to its source, Hammond also found her own gifts as a scholar. “I have acquired a sense of competence that is the very reason I came in the first place. I really know my literature now. I know my sources. I understand how the important pieces of history fit together and have led up to the situation I find myself in,” Hammond adds.

Photos: Hammond with a rental mustang; Indian Neck Folk Festival, 2007. Dave Kiputh and Phil Zimmerman standing, Lorraine and husband Bennett seated; Folksongs with pre-schoolers, Soule Rec. Center, Brookline, MA 2007

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yvette Hyater-Adams: Changing Lives Through the Arts

Yvette Hyater-Adams is a change artist who found, while exploring the art of change, how art can change lives. During 20 years in the corporate world as a Human Resources executive and since 1997, CEO of her own consulting firm, Prime Directive Consulting Group, she has worked with Fortune 500 company leaders to lead change. Hyater-Adams started the Transformative Language Arts (TLA) concentration in 2001. Seven years later, she has infused her work with what she studied at Goddard about how people and businesses can change for the better through re-storying their lives.

Her work was catalyzed by 9/11, which happened less than a month after her first Goddard residency. Back home in New Jersey, she immediately joined ArtistCares. She was soon traveling to New York City and Washington, D.C. to train people who did body work, martial arts, painting and other arts on how to integrate writing into their work, and from the writing, move through some of the trauma from 9/11.

Since Hyater-Adams' graduation, it's no wonder that she went on to found Renaissance Muse, which uses the power of words for wellness, healing, personal growth and a creative voice. She has also developed a Transformative Narrative Coaching training program, influenced by her many years doing professional coaching and her TLA studies, to be launched in June of '09. She is also offering a Foundations of Transformative Narrative Coaching as an introductory program with NTL for the Applied Behavioral Sciences. This program will train professionals who coach or advise leaders in hospitals, non-profits, and businesses to help them examine, affirm and/or revise the stories that guide their lives (Read more about this.)

“This is all founded on TLA – on how words transform people – and on the work I've done with change management programs in my career and academic life,” Hyater-Adams explains. It's also related to her consulting, and workshop facilitation, particularly in communities of color.

“The women of color who have attended my writing workshops tend to be middle class women who are successful in their own lives, but who have been secretly silenced in lots of ways,” Hyater-Adams says, explaining that some have been silenced through physical, mental and sexual abuse, some from low self-esteem and invisibility. “Many communities of color still feel that therapy is a huge taboo....You don't go outside of your faith to deal with your problems. Creating this space through TLA – to use art to transcend experience – is what the writing workshops and coaching methods I use is about. Coaching is not therapy, but a way to look at restorying your experience – what new story you can create that breaks the old story you held.”

All of it leads Hyater-Adams to continue her work as a social change agent, one person, one group, one story at a time.

Transformative Narrative Portrait Workshop February 27- 28, 2009, Philadelphia, PA

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Francis Charet: Consciousness Studies and Pilgrimages to India

Francis Charet, a faculty member in Goddard's Individualized MA (IMA), and BA programs, walks his talk, even if that means long treks to various ashrams in India. As founder of the Consciousness Studies Concentration in the IMA program, Charet knows the importance not just of expansive consciousness, but expansive cultural consciousness, enhanced by immersion in other cultures and spiritual traditions.

During the last year, Charet went to India twice, first in January of '08 for a conference on spirituality and psychology which Goddard College sponsored. After the conference, he traveled to the Rishikesh, the yoga capital of India, where he wandered, scouted out pilgrimage points and ashrams, and did a lot of yoga and meditation. While visiting the ashram of one of his teachers, the late Neem Karoli Baba, he met an elder, who, upon hearing Charet's Indian name of Vidura, told Charet of the Vidura Kutir (hermitage). "You must go there," the elder said. So Charet visited his namesake, where he was welcomed with open arms. Returning to India in September, Charet visited the Shivananda Ashram in Northern India along with other communities, all of which deepened spiritual practices, initially sparked by six months he spent in India in 1972.

"It reconnected me to some of the very important influences in my personal life that became part of my own teaching and research and academic work, and it was largely a rejuvenation, like going back to the holy land," Charet says. "Experiential learning for Consciousness Studies and this degree involves an engaged practice, and this arises out of the Goddard pedagogy in the program itself, but it also reflects what I felt so much in my own life. Your learning is grounded in experience." Charet has mentored students ground their MA studies in practices such as meditation, Kabbalah, chanting, dreamwork, memoir as spiritual exploration, Buddhist mindfulness practice, and shamanism.

Charet's main practice these days is yoga, which he rises early to do daily from colder climes -- his home in Montreal. He explains it's not just the physical exercise, but the spiritual practice of yoga. "It connects you to deeper resources and allows you to express this in your interactions with others, and it informs the work you do, which is, in my case, teaching. It opens you to a wider reality -- the Obama thing of "Yes, we can," there is hope, there are possibilities, the universe does cooperate even though sometimes we have grave doubts about that. I think connecting with these traditions when the connection is authentic can help bolster and give us the help we need in our lives, which are so driven by activity," he says."It also makes you calm," he adds while laughing.

See Consciousness Studies resources.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Larry Greer: A Calling for Death and Dying

When Larry Greer, a building contractor in Maine, first received a Goddard postcard in the mail, he ignored it, thinking there was no reason for him to finish his bachelor's degree. But then a little magic and his wife, Peggy, intervened, and the next thing he knew, he and Peggy were driving to the college to learn about the programs offered. When he saw the sign that said, "Goddard College," he started crying without having any idea why. "If you told me then what would happen, I would have laughed in your face. No way would this lead to me holding the hand of someone who's dying," Greer said.

Fast forward almost a decade, and you can find Greer, now an ordained Interfaith minister, who specializes in death and dying, educating groups of ministers all over Maine on how to help parishioners come to terms with death. He completed his BA and his MA at Goddard, both degrees bringing him deeper into end-of-life studies. During his MA degree, he also developed a curriculum to help pastors as well as the general public cultivate greater awareness about death and dying in their lives and communities. He gives talks to medical professionals, including University of Maine nursing students, and Maine Medical Center doctors on the spirituality of death. Recently, he started leading workshops, based on Stephen Levine's ground-breaking book, A Year to Live, to three groups that include people as young as 20 and as old as 70 to explore issues such as unfinished business, forgiveness, and what people want in terms of disposal of the body.

His main job as an interfaith minister contracted with a local hospital in Scarborough, ME, to provide spiritual care for their patients brings him to nursing and assisted living facilities, homes, and hospitals. His work doesn't just inspire people; it brings them to his door. He tells the recent story of sitting down to dinner with his kids and grandkids when someone knocked at the door, and said, "My friend is dying." He looked at his family, who completely support his work, and they told him he had to go.

His work and calling are one and the same. "There is that piece, the call, and if don't answer it, it becomes a monologue, and not a dialogue." He's answered the call that came to him through a postcard in the mail, and it turned out to an extensive dialogue that provides others ways to engage with the biggest questions of their lives.

Pictures: Larry at home in Alfred, ME., and the studio where he gives some of his workshops. You can also contact Larry at directly to arrange talks or workshops.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Katt Lissard & the Winter/Summer Institute: Changing the World Through Theatre

Katt Lissard, IMA faculty member, believes theatre can be an effective vehicle for social change, especially when it comes to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2006, along with colleagues from the U.S., U.K., South Africa and Lesotho she founded the Winter/Summer Institute in Theatre for Development or WSI ( WSI is a multi-cultural, multi-national project that brings together student performers and faculty facilitators from three continents to create collaborative theatre focused on HIV/AIDS. The roots of the Winter/ Summer Institute project are in the Fulbright Lissard received as a Goddard faculty member in 2004. She spent most of 2005 in Lesotho, teaching in the Theatre Unit at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), directing and producing shows, and researching the "theatrical response" to HIV.

By any measure, the Winter/Summer Institute has been successful beyond the co-founders dreams. After WSI worked to create collaborative theatre with rural villagers in the Malealea Valley in 2006, the villagers decided to form their own theatre group, which they call Khalemang Bohlasoa (Eradicate Negligence). They’ve been performing issue-based theatre for their rural mountain communities ever since, and joined with WSI again this past July to create a new performance for the 08 Festival. Student performers from each of the participating countries/universities have also continued the work of the Institute in the intervening periods between residencies in Africa. "The National University students are amazing," Lissard says. "Once the rest of us left in 2006, they recreated the show we'd made together, filling in all the now-missing foreign actors with other NUL student performers, and then proceeded to do the show almost until we reconvened in Lesotho this June (2008). They took that show all over the place, including to festivals in Botswana and Zimbabwe. A performance they did in Lesotho in 2007 for National AIDS Day prompted a call by the government for a renewed commitment to the battle against the virus!"

Lissard continues to work with students in New York at Empire State College, SUNY with Prof. Lucy Winner, a WSI co-founder and colleague there; and to collaborate with students and faculty at Wits in Johannesburg and the National University in Lesotho. She explains, "The other really important part of WSI is what happens to the student performers from every culture involved in the program - not just those from South Africa or Lesotho, but from New York, too. They're transformed when they do things they didn't think they could do or that they never imagined themselves doing. Former WSIers have been engaged in some remarkable endeavors - from creating a project for urban garbage pickers in Argentina, to running a youth program in the Bronx, to starting a school in Lesotho. WSI seems to encourage a level of self-esteem and confidence along with a desire to build and create projects that serve community."

The Winter/Summer Institute is an ongoing project. WSI will offer a weekend residency in New York City March 6th-8th, 2009. See WSI's website for more info.

PHOTOS - Top: Katt Lissard in Johannesburg in 2007 with WSI 06 student performers Kim Hess and Ditchaba Lekaoto; Middle: WSI performers and village actors in procession to the 2008 WSI-Malealea Festival performance site; Bottom: Over 600 villagers from the Malealea Valley attended the WSI-Malealea Festival in July 2008.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome to Worlds of Change

We bring you this blog to share stories of change and changers, stories that make a big difference in a life, a community, even our culture at large, stories we've witnessed in the Individualized MA program's students, alumni and faculty. Reading such stories can foster hope, give us ideas for our own work or studies, illuminate projects and arts that engender positive change, and spark in us more of story we're meant to live.

We also share these stories because each one is a ripple of change, catalyzed by focused inquiry, interdisciplinary study, engaged practice, innovative work, and deep reflection. Whether the project is a study of pilgrimage as a pathway to social change, political organizing to prevent environmental devastation, or writing workshops to help a previously silenced community find its collective voice, each project fully embodies one person's vision for living with greater purpose. Most of all, we share these stories because they're too important to keep to ourselves.

Please feel free to share your stories and responses as you read.

Photos: To right: IMA graduates from fall 2006, from left, clockwise, Sue-Ann Commissiong, Krystina Graves, Larry Greer, Patricia Boissevain, Cynthia Crisel, and Hillary Smith; to left: IMA faculty members, including -- from left-- Francis Charet, Ruth Farmer (program director), Ralph Lutts, Ellie Epp, Katt Lissard, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.