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

Friday, November 18, 2016

                                          Thank you, Mose Alison.
                                           Rest In Peace

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mr. Trump collages

'Mr. Trump, Please Stop Waffling' collage by J. Spies

collage by JoAnne Spies

'Mr. Trump, We Demand that you Denounce Racism'
collage by JoAnne Spies

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We are water and by water are led...

A friend heard the water protector's moving testimony: 'I am made of water..' and it reminded him of my song
 By Water I Am Led  
(Spoken Intro)
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
I'm standing by the riverside                                                                                                           
Lost and ramblin' in my pride                      
Never knowin' in my heart and my head      
 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 when I die
Carry me to the river and sea
I am water and I am free

words and music by JoAnne (Giovanna) Spies 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Peace for all on September 11th

Survivor Tree flourishing at Ground Zero  
photo by Jin Lee 

My song 'Survivor Tree' was written for a ceremony honoring both Jane Goodall and the Survivor Tree on International Day of Peace:
Jane Goodall Honors the Survivor Tree

~~> Survivor Tree song with Andrea Feldman artwork


Survivor Tree
  (Water your Roots) 

You stood in the darkest day
Covered in fire and ash
Even your roots were blown away

How could you be so torn
 Come back and be reborn
 Come back and hold the sky

We watered your roots
Nurtured your shoots
 Sheltering you 

Take all our tears
And water your roots with love

Water your roots with love
Water your roots with peace
Water your roots with love and peace
(Repeat Chorus)

Where we have fallen
We will rise
Where we are ignorant
 Let us be wise
When we are sure we’re right
 Before we fight
Let us water our  roots with love


Water our roots with love
Water our roots with peace
Water our roots with love and peace

(Repeat Chorus)

Where we are blinded
Let us see
When we lose courage
Help us stand like a tree
When we’re divided
We know our roots go deep and united
We’ll water our roots

We’ll water our roots with love
Water our roots with peace
We’ll water our roots with love and peace
We’ll water our roots with love
Water our roots with peace
We’ll water our roots with love and peace

© 2012 Words and music by JoAnne Spies

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


in Stockbridge cemetery
berkshire tree photo by Elizabeth Petty

Music of tree rings

Monday, August 1, 2016

wampus wishes

                       Photo by Elizabeth Anne Petty

Thanks to all who came up through the rain and the fog to magical Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts.
We crawled, flew and climbed as we became many creatures, made their unique sounds and explored what their wishes might be.
New names and words were invented.
Our wishes went out into the world.

Thank you to the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire and the MCC for supporting the arts.

creature magic

Ella Tawes

Thank you to Derek Gentile and Gillian Jones from the Eagle for visiting our workshop.

Berkshire Eagle article

Rodelinde Albrecht and Matilda Asch

Friday, July 22, 2016

Magic Words

"Spirit Down to Matter" totem by J. Spies

Just completed totem for my Incantation and Song Magic workshop to represent: Wampus (Body), Pukwudgie (Heart), Horned Serpent (Mind), and Thunderbird (Soul)



In the very earliest time
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes they were animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen ~
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody can explain this:
That’s the way it was.

Thanks to The Sun Magazine for publishing this Inuit poet in their July issue.
sheds light on incantation..          

To register for workshop e-mail by July 28th
More info at Berkshire Edge ~> calendar listing.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"incantation totem house" - j. spies

Building an incantation house for upcoming workshop makes me think that function follows form. Adding birch mask creates new dimensions to explore with group.

This old print from my Art Cart work is perfect for the roof. How does the Ilvormorny school take into account Native American culture? 

"Shar-I-Tar-ish, A Pawnee Chief"
from Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Incantation House

It was exciting to create a three-sided 'house' in a workshop with artist Robert Hite and others at the Berkshire Museum and Hancock Shaker Village.
Hite's wonderful sculptures and paintings can be seen at both venues over the next few months.
  "Incantation House" in Round Barn
at Hancock Shaker Village  ~ J. Spies

"Incantation House" will come up to Mt. Greylock with me for the incantation workshop I'm leading at 2:00, July 31st.  To register, e-mail

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Wharton..... Ilvermorny School?

ancient horned serpent


Melville and Hawthorne at Marconi Beach

Do you think traces of the Ilvermorny School influenced Moby Dick?
Getting ready for my July 31st performance on Mt. Greylock, I'm pondering what Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Wharton might have encountered when they visited this lofty peak.

Would all these writers fall into the Horned Serpent category at the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardy? 
It's fascinating to study the mythology of Thunderbirds and Horned Serpents. Pukwudgies and Wampuses will require more imagination. We'll look into this at the Incantation Workshop before the performance.

The horned serpent symbol is one of many snake-like deities with horns associated with Native American tribes, often symbolizing rain, thunder and waterways.
Moby Dick, indeed!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The sound at the heart of the snake horn fragment

2:00 - 4:00 pm   Sunday, July 31st
Incantations and Song Magic
Mt. Greylock is not only the highest mountain in Massachusetts, but J.K. Rowling has designated it as the home of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardy!

Hogwarts Classroom​ = Bascom Lodge?
In this two hour workshop we will determine if we’re Thunderbirds, Horned Serpents, Pukwudgies or Wampuses and then create incantations, chants or poems based on our character. What is the sound at the heart of the snake horn fragment? Our creations can be performed at the evening show or kept secret.
Rhythm instruments will be provided or found outdoors.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said: “Defense Against the Dark Arts, Prof? (J.K. Rowling)? Where do I apply? Trump, Death Eaters - I got this!”
Let’s see what we got in the way of defense and magic.

To register by Wednesday, July 27th e-mail
Pay what you will: legal tender or dragon heartstring

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

 According to J.K. Rowling, --->The Ilvermory School was located atop Greylock in its misty past.
Like at Hogwarts, Ilvermorny students are sorted into four houses, and as with Hogwarts, fans can take a quiz on Pottermore to determine which Ilvermony house they belong to. The choices on this side of the pond are named after magical creatures rather than school founders: Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, and Wampus. The first two are exactly what they sound like, the third is “a short, grey-faced, large-eared creature distantly related to the European goblin” (one of whom helped the school’s founding family in their time of need), and the fourth is a kind of panther.

I envision Senator Warren leading our chorus Sunday evening, with a few incantations from J.K. Rowling thrown in for good measure.   

I will work out choral parts for the Thunderbirds, Horned Serpents, Pukwudgies and Wampuses in the audience. Best to find out who you are before July 31st.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

    JoAnne Spies and special guests 
    in concert Sunday, July 31st 
    at Bascom Lodge 
    atop Mt. Greylock                     

Come to the incantation workshop at 2:00 and discover your own brand of magic.   contact:

I'll be weaving in songs and poems from 'Me & Melville' and words from  Berkshire literary luminaries who have visited this majestic peak, along with original songs.                     

                  5:30 - 7:00pm

Allow at least a half hour drive from Rt. 7 in Lanesborough to the top, and consider staying for dinner at the Lodge at 7:00. Reservations strongly suggested.

    Many thanks to the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for keeping the arts alive in our communities.
    This program is supported in part by a grant from the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency."

    For more

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Monday, June 27th - Air
It was a warm, sunny morning with not much of a breeze.
Poems went inward to breath, lungs and depth of breathing.
Noticing number of breaths for inhale and exhale.

someone wrote:
leaves on tree beside me
shimmer and move
 my lungs smile

There are an infinite array of fire mandalas, and infinite ways
 to create your own mandala representing the fire element in your life.
Join me tomorrow outside the Stockbridge Library, June 20th
the first day of summer,  to create your mandala.
I'll provide the paper and colors. Bring your favorite pen and a notebook or paper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

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?

Where is the watershed?

from "Where is the Watershed?" by JoAnne Spies 
listen ~>: "Where is the Watershed?"

local~>:Housatonic River Initiative

Quick Bioregional Quiz
1.Where is the place that urbanites, suburbanites, and rural residents inhabit together?
2.Where is the place to learn and practice sustainable ways that satisfy basic human needs?
3.Where is the place nearest at hand to restore & maintain ecosystems & wildlife?
4.Where is the place to re-localize & decentralize political, social and economic features?
5.Where is the place to remanufacture products from recycled material?
6.Where is the place for students to learn about ecology?
7.Where is the place to begin both reducing climate change & planning suitable adaptations?
Answer: The watershed in the bioregion where you live.

Monday, June 13, 2016

"Once in our lives we ought to concentrate our minds upon the Remembered Earth. We ought to give ourselves up to a particular landscape in our experience, to look at it from as many angles as we can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. We ought to imagine that we touch it with our hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. We ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. We ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk." 
    -- N. Scott Momaday (from the movie Remembered Earth)

How intimately I knew the ants' hillocks of soft grey earth and the feel of the sidewalk's
stubbly concrete where I grew up. I yearn to take the time to wonder about and dwell upon (live in) the elements around me today and 'all the colors of the dawn and dusk.'

We won't meet at dawn, but at 10 a.m. the next few Mondays to 'concentrate our minds on the Remembered Earth.'
Each session focuses on an element.
            Monday June 6  -  earth
                          June 13 - water
                          June 20 -  fire
                          June 27 -  air
                          July  11 -  ether

contact to sign up

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

 a dancer warming up for dance, dream and doodle
wearing my Earthdance mask 

The first session of Dance, Dream and Doodle on June 6th moved outdoors into the sunshine.
Dancing, singing in harmony and writing  culminated in individual songs.

 Next week we meet at Stockbridge Bowl at 10:00 am to celebrate water using a similar format.

These  DDD sessions grew out of an exploration of mindful eating.

For every meal that I eat mindfully, 
I put $1 in a box that can be given to a food bank
at the end of the month. $3 a day would be close to $100.                                                                  Let's share and collect boxes.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Stockbridge Library annual meeting hosted four representatives of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe that was a fitting tribute to the first people who lived here.

The Procter Museum and Archives reopens June 25th, and will have a wonderful display of Stockbridge Indian artifacts and art.

Barbara Allen of Stockbridge Library's Museum and Archives
holds newly made gift from Stockbridge Indians
peace pipe gift from Stockbridge Indians

~>Native Languages and Mohican Culture


"Sounding Mohican Pathways,"  an educational and cultural exchange program that I created in collaboration with Tammis Coffin, former Education Director at the Mission House, received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2011.
I'm grateful to the MCC and the Stockbridge Cultural Council  for this program that helped build bridges between the Stockbridge community here in Massachusetts and the Stockbridge Mohican community in Wisconsin. In addition to a 'historical/musical' walk that I led to the Housatonic River and Indian burial ground in Stockbridge, there was  a  music program at the library that wove together stories, songs and history. 
There's a wealth of new books that the Stockbridge Indians gifted to the library museum with new stories and history to explore!

Saturday, May 28, 2016



( image credit ~ Amy Cavenaile/The Washington Post; iStock)

to sing, dance, write and explore a creative sampler of fun activities 
that support mindfulness

Each of the sessions will focus on a different element

Week One:  the earth element ~

10am - 11:30am
Stockbridge Town Offices
50 Main Street 
 lower level

MONDAY MORNINGS June 6th - July 11th     (no class on July 4th)

Limited to twelve participants - all ages and genders welcome

Pay by donation

 To register contact: 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

what is mindfulness, anyway?

Here's an article on what mindfulness is not. 
Beyond McMindfulness: beyond the marketplace

To be mindful in vipassana meditation in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality.
"Looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate, and piercing all the way through so as to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing"   
Bhante G
          Sharon Salzberg urges us to choose the 'peaceful wolf' through practicing mindfulness: 
According to Jon Kabat Zinn, "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." 
       says that the benefits are many,
       helping participants:
  • Recognise, slow down or stop automatic and habitual reactions.
  • Respond more effectively to complex or difficult situations.
  • See situations more clearly
  • Become more creative
  • Achieve more balance at work and at home 

    My first experience with mindfulness came about when I found a cassette at the Goodwill. Its title was scrawled in ink, and it came from a stress reduction clinic at U MASS led by Jon Kabat Zinn.

    I could pop this cassette into my dual CD/cassette player in the car and do a body scan, relaxing individual body parts on my way to teaching. It worked so well that I tried the straight ahead lay-yourself-down-and-relax mindfulness meditation before going to sleep that he advocated.

    I found another path to mindfulness as a Berkshire Kripalu Community (BKC) member, when I took a series of classes on yoga, mindfulness and Ayurveda.

    I loved Ayurveda's focus on the elements, and enjoyed taking time to sit down to eat and be mindful... being more in the here and now. To help me remember what I learned in the classes, I wrote a song from the notes I took and sang it for the group at 'graduation.' That acoustic version has morphed into this dance version, which reminds me to call on the elements and 'burn away what is not needed. 

                       'As I Sit Down to Eat' lyrics and download

    In my work with Community Access to the Arts, I bring songs to six healthcare settings, two of which are memory care (Alzheimer's) units. I lead movement to a variety of music: jazz, world, samba and often begin with "Hu Ray," my song that's a gratitude hokey pokey. Though everyone is sitting in wheelchairs, we move vigorously as we reach out to 'meet in the middle' and sing along with "Standing in a Circle."

    Drawing, coloring and doodling are also great pathways to mindfulness. Mindful drawing classes at Deb Koffman's studio can lead me to mindfulness on different levels.


    I'm eager to explore different creative avenues to mindfulness in a series of sessions called 'Dream, Dance and Doodle.' (see info in March 31st post below)

    How can we converse with the elements?
    How can we use our own images and songs to create more kindness towards ourselves, and others,  especially as we 'sit down to eat?'
    We'll use some of my song lyrics as writing prompts, and create our own songs.

    Songs are a gift that keeps on giving, always revealing more meaning as needed.

    At the Stockbridge Town Offices there's a spot to bring canned goods for local food banks.
    I invite everyone to bring a can or two (or three) to our classes.
    An awareness of hunger in our area and in America and beyond is part of the mindfulness practice.

    Berkshire poet Jan Hutchinson sends out poetry prompts the world over during April.
    I've kept up with a lot of them so far. Here's one for 'write a poem with three reasons..'

    three reasons to eat broccoli 

    the green buds cling so tight to the stalk
    i become president of a dark country every time I swallow

    when cut diagonally on the stalk you can see trees
    with limbs raised up in jubilation

    each florette sends a love letter addressed to me 
    from every boy or butterfly I've yet to see

    by Giovanna Spies                                                                                                                                    (I revert to my Italian name when food is concerned)

    two cans 
                    drawing and collage joAnne spies

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

CATA Performances May 14th and 15th

Mark your calendars and join us in May for CATA’s Annual Performances & Gala!

Saturday, May 14 at 6:00pm 

Sunday May 15 at 1:00pm

Tina Packer Playhouse   Shakespeare & Company
Lenox, MA
here's link to  buy tickets
Looking forward to being in this show and sharing the voices of some of the artists I work with at Berkshire Healthcare settings through the Art Cart program.