such an honor to hear Sarah Lee Guthrie & Hoping Machine sing my song at the Climate March in DC!


new CD available on band camp click on cover image below to download tracks

new CD available on band camp          click on cover image below to download tracks

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tell Me a Story

Thanks to The Mount  in Lenox, MA for great programming.
I heard five terrific storytellers there this past week-end.
Speak Up in Hartford and Matthew Dicks

Today's story kernel: Ran into a woman at the chicken counter at the Big Y who asked me to help her read the price on the package. She was an older woman who thanked me warmly when I noticed that the price was hanging over the counter. We laughed about the plot to confuse us, and when I saw her about five minutes later in the dairy section, she felt like an old friend. 
Since I come from Chicago, I don't have real family nearby, and now and again I get the urge to adopt someone as my mother. This lady would be a keeper...
From a simple nugget or realization a story takes shape...

These truths get organized differently in songwriting for me. Usually I'm getting other people's stories and writing my take; it's a whole 'nother story to tell a truth about your self in the first person


recycled propane tank makes beautiful music

                                                       Tank drum 

               The last  track on my new CD is called 'Rest Awhile,' and it features the tank drum along with Robby Baier creating a drone with bass. It's a deeply relaxing and healing journey of sound. 
I've been exploring these beautiful instruments in my work with CATA, where tones bring relaxation to people recuperating from a broken leg as well as those with Alzheimer's who find new ways to connect with others through the music.
              Last spring I created a listening game using the drum at Undermountain School in Sheffield, MA with music teacher Elizabeth Petty. Each player uses a mallet and listens before saying their part of the conversation on the drum. It was interesting to see how quick we are to 'play our part' in a conversation and using the drum is a way to help us slow down and listen to each other.
               It was a treat to hear students sing my songs about the watershed and see their curiosity about watersheds, dragonflies and waltzing.
                People ask how the drum is made from a propane tank. Here's how:

cutting a tank drum

playing the tank drum

         Some folks have brought tank drums to first period in schools where fifteen minutes of meditation accompanied by a student playing the tank drum has increased peace in the classroom.
 Makes sense!  I wish everyone had their personal tank drum to ease the stress of the day and to have a deeper way to communicate with self and others.
        I called my first tank drum a story drum, as it lends itself to making up words and rhythms in the moment.
       There are many different places selling tank drums. Here are a few that I know and recommend:

Ithaca Tank Drum

Berkshire Gold and Silversmith


Arthur Hull led an alchemical rhythm workshop at Rowe Conference Center in November and it was a joy to re-connect to drum circle spirit.

for more info: Arthur Hull 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

FODfest October 10 in Sheffield, MA

Come to Sheffield on Friday, October 10 to honor Danny Pearl and be a part of FODfest.
 Danny played fiddle with my band a few times when he lived in the Berkshires, and was a loyal friend to many here. We honor him, his commitment to telling the truth as a journalist and his love of music as a way to connect with many cultures.
I'll be at Dewey Hall @ 4:30 and many fine musicians and bands will be playing from 3pm onward.
A note from Todd Mack about FODfest:
This Friday, October 10th, on what would have been Danny's 51st birthday, Music in Common will celebrate the 10th Annual FODfest from 3PM until midnight.The recent, brutal murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and others are painful reminders of the hate-fueled violence that took my friend Danny's life and serve as an urgent call to band together to fight that hate and violence with tolerance, understanding, peace, and love. Together, we can raise our voices of hope and resolve above the voices of terror and fear. This Friday you have the opportunity to stand up and be counted simply by being there. I hope you will do exactly that.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Join in International Day of Peace September 21

There are many ways to raise your voice for peace on Sunday, September 21.

International Day of Peace event at Eastover
Lenox, MA
This free event at Eastover begins at noon. I'll be leading everyone in singing 'Survivor Tree,' and look forward to seeing you there:
Jane Goodall explains the significance of the Survivor Tree

Pathways to Peace

People's Climate March

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

As I Sit Down To Eat

Since May I've been working at Soultube Substation studio in Housatonic, collaborating with Robby Baier and hip-hop artist Jackson Whalen on a new CD.
Can't wait to share the first song about mindful eating. Stay tuned!

Have been reading "The end of overeating : taking control of the insatiable American appetite" by David Kessler. It's an interesting overview of how our eating habits have changed the past few decades and why.

Meanwhile, one in five children goes hungry in America.

Locally, a link to food banks:
Berkshire County MA Food Banks

An excellent national organization:
End Hunger Network

Friday, June 13, 2014

what's in a name?

since recording 'Mindfull Eating,' my grandmother's Italian name for me is sticking.

call me Giovanna.

Dolce family in Chicago 1915.
                                                    Grandma Dolce seated third from left

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Atop Mount Greylock at Bascom Lodge June 30th

Bascom Lodge atop Mount Greylock

Come join me Monday evening at Bascom Lodge  at 6:00.
Stay for dinner if you can, as the food is excellent.
I'll be sharing new songs and poems from a week there as a 'Creative Resident.'

Saturday, April 12, 2014

art scraps and elemental orchestra: let's recycle!

 It's been so much fun finding new things to make using art scraps. Thanks to Crispina ffrench for coming up with the First Ever Art Scraps Challenge.
 Here's the collection:
 Scrap Bag Challenge on Pin Interest

Here's my newly made and re-made instruments for the Elemental Orchestra.

I keep finding  blue plastic rings everywhere and plan to make more jimmy jangles and rhythm stick recycling them. I was moved by the multi-media presentation  Conversations with the Sea with Hannah Fries, Sara Parrilli and Marie-Elizabeth Mali that was part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.
How wondrous is the ocean and its inhabitants! To see the many dead fish in a remote sea whose bellies are full of our plastic bits and pieces is heartbreaking.
How might we change this situation?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

songs about water

I'm excited that some of my songs about rivers and watersheds will be sung at Undermountain Elementary School in Sheffield, MA this May. Thank you to music teacher Elizabeth Petty for all her work.
Another awesome teacher at Undermountain, Rebecca Neet, is working on sharing the lyrics to Survivor Tree with some of her students who will make a virtual book. Can't wait to see this!

Rivermass Song
 Twelve thousand years of tears are standing in my throat
A hundred million fears are woven in my coat
Illusion and memory are all the same
Can you tell me, what is my name?

Beyond the mountains I move along
My voice is hidden, then my voice is strong
After so much silence and separation
Will you praise my beauty, my reparation?

Rising, falling, known, unknown
My water blossoms in your bone
I am the heart of tree and bird
I am the river, a holy word

 © 2007 words and music by JoAnne Spies

Watershed Waltz
Come on, let’s dance
Can we skip? Can we prance?
I’ll try not to step on your toes
I saw you there with the clouds in your hair
In your shimmering, glimmering clothes
I didn’t know how the steps go
But you showed me every day

When the eagle flies back to her nest
Where the blue heron stands for her rest
When the salmon jump early in spring
Dance with me

In the river where the deer drink
In the middle of the woods by the muddy creek
In the way we listen and the way we speak
Dance with me

Come on, let’s dance
Can we skip? Can we prance?
I’ll try not to step on your toes
I saw you there
With the clouds in your hair
In your shimmering, glimmering clothes

I didn’t know how the steps go
But you showed me every day
When the eagle flies back to her nest
Where the blue heron stands for her rest
When the salmon jump early in spring
Dance with me

We’re doing the watershed waltz
 © 2007 words and music by JoAnne Spies

By Water I Am Led

I'm standin' by the riverside
Lost and rambling in my pride
Never knowing in my heart or head
That I am water and by water am led

Let the memory of the soft green ground
And the majesty of each simple sound
Hold me when I’m tumbling down
I am water, missing and found

Landlocked, full of fear
Sound your torrent that I may hear
Where I'm stubborn, let me flow
Where I'm ignorant, let me know

Let the spirit of the earth and sky
Keep me and when I die
Carry me to the river and sea
I am water and I am free

 ©2007 words and music by JoAnne Spies
 Save the Date for CATAtude!
Mark your calendars and join us in May for CATA’s Annual Performances & Gala!
When: Gala & Performance
Saturday, May 17 at 6:00pm
Matinee Performance
Sunday May 18 at 1:00pm
Where: Tina Packer Playhouse, Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Massachusetts
For more information call (413) 528-5485 or visit our office at 40 Railroad Street,
Suite 6, Great Barrington, MA.

I look forward to being in this show and sharing the voices of some of the elder artists I work with at Berkshire Healthcare settings through the Art Cart program.
Celebrating Fred's 104th birthday at North Adams Commons

Friday, January 17, 2014

Berkshire Festival of Women Writers

Thank you to Jennifer Browdy of Simon's Rock for creating Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
 that's in its third year. So many community connections, workshops and performances have taken place and the festival continues to grow.
It's an honor to be a part of it again and I'm excited to be in two different performances

The format for Karaoke Confession, a performance that I created for the first festival was an interactive guided /musical tour of the Rockwell Museum that explored the theme of forgiveness with Rockwell's paintings as the focal point and local poets and dancers assigned a painting.
Last year the theme was trust; this year's theme is 
Norman Rockwell Museum
Friday, March 28th  2:30 - 3:30pm
9 Route 183 Stockbridge, MA

Mari Andrejco
Suzi Banks Baum
Jan Hutchinson
Andrew Joffe
Francesca Margulies
WindRose Morris 
Eve Schatz
Gabrielle Senza
Nathan Smith
JoAnne Spies
Rosemary Starace
Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
Teresa Thomas
Looking forward to gig at six depot with Rosemary Starace March 7.
Words sung and spoken and part of Berkshire Festival of Women Writers

Saturday, January 25th   2:30 - 3:30
I'm happy to present a workshop on using music improvisation in the classroom
at the Norman Rockwell Museum's 

 Symposium on Using Non-Fiction Books in the Classroom

You don't have to be a teacher to be there ~ all are welcome. Featured speakers will include
illustrator Wendell Minor, his wife, author Florence Minor, illustrator David Macaulay (How Things Work,)
and picture book historian/author Leonard Marcus.

great interview on using whole body to make music:
Conversation with Melanie DeMore: "Sound Awareness"