Aileen Vance

Aileen's Very Occasional, Almost Never Blog & News/Schedule
Planet Banjo!
NEW ROUNDS BOOK: I finally put together a book of my short compositions called "Bring the Choir! Rounds & Cyclical Songs for Community Singing"
to order a copy or for more info, click here.

September, 2013---"At the end of my life, with just one breath left, if you come, I will sit up and sing."

Another 1 1/2 years have passed since last I wrote on this website.   As I re-read what I've written previously, I find I don't have too much more to say right now.   I am happy to be singing, happy to be breathing...thanks for visiting my humble little page.  I am trying to update everything--slowly but surely.  Hope to see you out there somewhere in the world.  

May, 11, 2011---"We are rocking in the soul of Emma Goldman..." and "I earned this gray!"

Song lyrics seem to mark the phases of my life, from one year to the next.   I haven't updated my  web page for quite a long time.  One reason is I honestly jut can't talk myself into it; too many important things to do besides go on-and-on about myself!  The other is that last year, I had a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment....many many many weeks later, I am lucky and safe and happy and healthy, as well as very thankful for the many friends and family who have shown up to "smile for no reason" as Jolie Rickman's song "Emma Goldman" says, and remind me of purpose and legacy.   I'd rather not talk too much about all that, especially with so many people going through so much worse!   And as Emma's Revolution's song says (see my thread here?) "Baby, I earned this gray!"   I hope to enter into my next phase of life proud of the gray hairs and grateful for the smile lines and wrinkles.   After major surgery and recovery, whatever's left is all me!    And I am beginning again to get back to more music and finishing of projects.  Like for example....tada!......the long-awaited new rounds book.  It is at the printers this morning and will be in my house and ready to ship by next week.    See the link above for more details on ordering.  BOOK RELEASE PARTY IN SANTA CRUZ!   Sunday, June 12th @ 1:30pm @ Live Oak Grange, 1900 17th Ave, Santa Cruz.  song circle, book signing, refreshments; come sing & celebrate! 
Thanks to whoever checks these pages from time to time and thank you for your interest in my music.   Hope to see you out there, somewhere, somehow, in the future.     

June, 2009---"languages and letters, poetry and awe..." 

these lyrics from Bill Staines "Bridges" have  been sticking with me since summer began.   I keep thinking of singers all over the world who are building bridges with their voices and their songs.  This morning, I got an e-mail from my friend Guillermo Anderson in Honduras saying "Damn! Here we are again, the Banana Republic."  Hondurans right now are struggling to hold onto to democratic & humanitarian beliefs in the climate of a coup...and all I could think of was "keep singing, keep singing..."  There are so many singers raising their voices to raise spirits, money, awareness, to tell stories, record history, celebrate victories, feelings, efforts.  "Languages and letters, poetry and awe."   

My life in music seems relatively quiet right now.  I still conduct choirs, write, lead singing groups and teach singing & music classes.  I've been inspired recently by my friend Alisa Fineman to consider recording again.  My kids are growing up fast, my guitar still calls to me....amid the piles of laundry, lunch boxes, sweaty baseball uniforms and countless other activities that carry my boys along their paths, there is still poetry and awe in every day.  It's been a loooong time since my last recording, but I better sieze the day before it's long gone.   I am in awe of my colleagues who manage to maintain their focus and energy as they continue to walk the path of spirit healers, travelling all the back roads they can to bring their songs and stories to hungry audiences.

I continue to be inspired by the young children I have worked with.  As the public school system becomes more and more bankrupt, I worry about what will happen to an entire generation of poorer children who will increasingly not have access music, art, dance, creative writing, due to extreme budget cuts and standardized testing punishments.   To quote J. C. Pierce "If the creative fires of our young people are not nourished, they will burn down the very structures of society just to feel the warmth."  

Those are my thoughts today.  thank you for visiting me here.

Yours in song,

June, 2008--Planet Banjo!

Dear friends,

I thought you might appreciate these photos and story.  These are photos from a second grade class I've been working with all year.  Many of the kids in this class have never played a musical instrument of any kind or heard any music other than popular recorded music from commercial radio stations or iPODs.  Some of them also have extensive vocabularies of pretty foul or violent language that they have picked up from listening to commercial rap or hip hop or violent TV/movies.  A few of them are what the school system calls "Special Ed" and have extreme difficulty focusing or controlling their bodies or mouths during the day; a 30 minute music session is very challenging for them.  What I would normally cover in a year's time with this age group I could only do about half of with this particular group, due to the diverse amount of abilities, behaviors and personalities.

Despite my reluctance to do so, the students heard that I like to do a banjo making project  with classes --what I call "Planet Banjo!"  They were  all very motivated to convince me they should do it, too.  They helped organize the gathering of supplies and pestered me every time they thought I might have forgotten to pick up something for the banjo kits or were afraid I hadn't scheduled it into their time.  They learned the song by Tom Chapin & John Forbes "This Pretty Planet"  and actually were able to sing it in a 2-part round (an accomplishment for any 2nd grade class).  I was certain when I brought in the first phase of the banjo kit that it would not go down very well (I was imagining poked eyes and smashed banjo heads).  Boy, was I wrong.

From the moment I showed the students photos of the Earth from outer space and talked about mixed media for decorating their "pretty planet" banjo heads, they were hooked and full of ideas.  The next session, when I came to begin the next step (gluing up frets on paint stick banjo necks), what I saw blew me away: each student had really looked at those photos of the Earth from space and each had made a unique banjo body that truly reflected their scientific observations.  the fine motor skill required to glue frets, and stretch rubber band strings over paint sticks required persistence for some, but all persisted.  They picked out different colors of banjo straps from my stash of leftover yarn and eagerly awaited the following day when the glue up of the necks would happen and they could finally play their banjos.                                          

"Planet Banjo Day" was a huge success and lots of fun, as you can see from the photos.
What struck me when I looked at the all photos of this project was this:  most of these kids are sophisticated enough and worldly enough--some even somewhat cynical already (like my own son Willie who is also in this class :-))--- to know that these banjos are not "real banjos;"  they are made from paper plates and paint sticks and glue and toothpicks fergodsakes.  But they completely gave themselves over to their imaginations and allowed themselves to create, imagine and play these instruments, all the while excitedly observing how each one sounded different,  enjoying fully the magical play involved, the percussiveness, the unique plinky plunkiness, the joy .    When one girl cried because her banjo neck had broken off at the end of our final session, I felt both sad for her and overjoyed that such a humble handmade object could engender such care.   I was so proud of all the students. 

When I look at the photos, I see hope for the world.  I also see the challenge this hope poses to me: turn off the TV and the violent movies and help them take back their imaginations and their creativity.  They've got tons of ideas, tons of enthusiasm--try to continue finding ways to help them to use it.  And, of course, I did have one other thought:  a  "Make banjos, not war"  bumper sticker!

I am still directing the Santa Cruz Peace Chorale; this year, our big annual concert was a Pete Seeger Choral Tribute & I had a blast putting music together for that event.  Still composing in bits and pieces....I now have five songs in my "California Landscapes" series!  Still adding my voice to the many in any way I can.   I am still offering private voice lessons from Sept-June, as well as school programs and concerts/workshops.

If you would like to book one of my children's programs, a concert or workshop or be informed of upcoming appearances,  e-mail me now.  Click on the  biography link for more press/booking info.   Thanks for visiting me here in cyberspace and carry it on.  

Yours in song,

           banjo making 2005 guitar box band project 2004
Schedule--TBA updates asap

updates still in progress--more coming soon..please check back! 

September 30-Dec 9
"Zabalaza! Revolution in 4-Part Harmony--Monday nights-pre-registration required
Soquel CA
for more info
Friday, November 16- 8pm TBC
Phil Ochs Song Night, with Carolyn, Hester, Kim and Reggie Harris, Sonny Ochs and more.
Sebastopol, CA Studio E concerts
stay tuned for more details
Saturday, Nov 16-7:30pm
Phil Ochs Song Night, with Carolyn, Hester, Kim and Reggie Harris, Sonny Ochs and more. St. Cyprian's Church, San Francisco, CA
for more info
Sunday, November 17-7pm
 Phil Ochs Song Night, with Carolyn, Hester, Kim and Reggie Harris, Sonny Ochs and more. Don Quixote's,  Hwy 9, Felton, CA
for more info

Thursday, Nov 21-7:15pm
Oxfam "Fast for a World Harvest" fundraiser-leading singing with the Santa Cruz Peace Chorale
Soquel, CA
for more info
Tuesday, December 17-7pm
Annual WILPF Holiday concert
Quaker Meeting House/rooney St. Santa Cruz CA

"Let's Sing Together/Cantemos Juntos!" curriculum-based elementary school music programs: reading, literacy,  self-esteem, social studies, science, nature, ecology, & arts standards, plus music findamentals and instrument building
to book one for your school: click this link now
January 26-April 13th
"Revolution in 4-Part Harmony" south African style choral singing, Part 2
pre-enrollement req.
for more info
March 14--6pm
w/ Santa Cruz Peace Chorale-private event
watch for location & time
Reel Work Labor Film Festival
Vet's Hall, S.C

watch for info & time

**tbc May 23 @ 8:00pm

Saturday, May 31 @ 2pm

Saturday, July 4 @ 8pm

Sunday, July 5 5-7pm

Sept-June 2008-2009
 vocal workshops & private lessons
find your voice, your spirit & your power in song
Contact us for rates and more info: click this link now


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  Aileen Vance is represented in the US by: 

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