Community outreach has always been a central part of my work as a musician. When performing, I always aim to engage audiences through storytelling, teaching and group music-making. However, I have never opened up my writing process to the community. Through the Community Creative Fellowship, I received just the push I needed to let my guard down and invite in the ideas and voices of others to impact my creative work.
Adriana Katzew and I have been co-leading a workshop called “Making Tangible the Intangible: Objects that Hold Memory.” We’ve had wonderful sessions with a variety of groups, from CJP’s “Together at Home” program to Kavod’s JOCISM Caucus (Jews of Color, Indigenous Jews, Sephardim and Mizrahim). During these gatherings, Adriana and I have shared how our creative work connects to memory, inviting participants to engage with their own memories through the lens of an object that holds meaning to them. In the process, I’ve come to better understand the universal human experience of memory and loss while also appreciating the beauty of each person’s unique experience of their history through memory.
At the end of the workshops, Adriana has led participants in photographing their objects, which she will combine into a community art piece, set to my song “Will Her Love Remember?” If you’d like to contribute to this community collaboration, please photograph an object that holds memory for you and submit it using this form.
Another song I’m working on discusses how taste and smell can hold memory, and how the struggle to recreate family dishes can draw us closer to our ancestors. In my experience, ancestral recipes are never transmitted in a linear way. There are always omissions and confusions that make it difficult to achieve the flavor combination that can unlock the warmth of memory. At the end of the chaotic and questioning verses of this song, I’m going to create an overlapping cacophony of spoken words, taken from recorded stories submitted by the community. If you’d like to contribute a short reflection on family dishes or your struggle to get that dish exactly right, you can find more details and instructions here.
In my workshop “Singing Our Stories,” I’ve been inviting participants to have an even more direct influence on my work. In the intimate and deep discussions of these gatherings, we reflect on the many different ways our identities and histories are fragmented. From this place of openness and groundedness, participants brainstorm lyrics for my song “From the Fragments.” Creativity flows abundantly with participants typing their ideas into the chat while I sing their suggestions as they come in, one after another, in real time. One idea inspires another, which inspires another, in a beautiful feedback loop of creative energy. The suggestions that accumulate in the Zoom chat expand far beyond anything I could have thought of myself, yet they resonate in their simplicity and their truth. The song that results from these workshops will be a richer and deeper expression of vulnerability and strength than anything I could have written on my own.
I want “From the Fragments” to feature the voices of our community not only through its lyrics but also through its sound. If you like to sing, please consider learning the simple chorus of the song, record yourself singing it and submit it for me to mix into the final song. More detailed instructions can be found here.
Overall, these workshops have taught me how our vastly different experiences can be so closely connected. I know that the seeds planted in the intimate community gatherings of the last few months will blossom into music that is more resonant, grounded and personal than anything I’ve recorded before. I’m hoping you’ll engage with my work in a way that excites you, and I can’t wait to share the product of our collective creativity in the coming months!
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