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