East Bay Community Music Project

Music Is Community!

EBCMP Stories: Jennie Dorman

on January 6, 2020

Our community includes professional musicians and teachers, as well as many who are simply life-long music lovers. And we pride ourselves on giving participants, no matter what their experience level, the chance to learn and to lead, as in this week’s story.

Meet Jennie

Associate Director Jennie Dorman pauses to enjoy the view mid-hike

Jennie Dorman and her family have attended EBCMP events for the last 7 years. She has served as Librarian, Board Member, Instructor of our U.C. Village Singalong program, and now as Associate Director and member of the Creative Team. Recently, we sat down with Jennie to learn what drew her to the organization, and what keeps her coming back!

Before EBCMP, what was your musical community like?
When I was a kid, we did a ton of singing in my family and in our synagogue. Some of the singing was casual, and some required lots of precision and practice. Singing with my sister and brothers, I experienced the closeness that develops when you harmonize with others – and the intimacy of taking breaths at the same moment to synchronize your phrasing and blend your voices.
After I left home I constantly sought ways to sing and make music with other people– in gospel choir, at Jazz Camp West, and playing the surdo drum for several Brazilian batucadas. On weekend mornings I would bike through Golden Gate Park and jam with people down at Ocean Beach and in this underground tunnel near the Conservatory that had amazing acoustics. So I had all kinds of disparate musical experiences, but nothing bound it together. I didn’t feel like I had music plus community again until I found EBCMP.
What was your experience of walking into an EBCMP event the first time?

I brought my family to the very first Sunday gathering that East Bay Community Music Project ever held; the acoustics of the room were “pandemonious” (we soon found another space), but I trusted Ryk, who had been our Music Together teacher, and it was good fun, so that made me want to come back.

The other thing that made me want to come back was that one of the founding community members, Erin Riley, welcomed me warmly every time I showed up. She learned my name and always lit up when I walked in. I thought “Oh! Someone knows me here!” Being recognized by Erin had a surprisingly big effect on me.
How has your experience at EBCMP impacted you?
I don’t have formal musical training, but music has been a constant love and presence in my life. Participating in EBCMP allowed me to practice leading songs, and gave me the confidence to apply for a job leading community singalongs at the University Village in Albany. So EBCMP has totally transformed my career because I decided I wanted to devote myself to doing more community music and bringing this experience to other people.

Kids, parents, and grandparents from China, Japan, US, India, Taiwan, and Pakistan drum zestily to a song celebrating the Diwali holiday
Kids, parents, and grandparents from China, Japan, US, India, Taiwan, and Pakistan drum zestily to a song celebrating the Diwali holiday

Over the past 2.5 years at the University Village I’ve led 100+ singalongs, each one designed to build community through playful musical exchange. A typical singalong might bring together families from Japan, Korea, India, Iran, Russia, China, Europe, Pakistan, and the U.S. We learn lullabies, play musical games, and sing rounds/ canons, all in many languages. 
One of the things that I find really compelling about EBCMP’s approach is its emphasis on multigenerational music making. I love involving grandparents and parents in the singalongs I lead, because it allows the generations to connect in a meaningful and very playful way.
How has EBCMP impacted your family? Your children?

Invitation to the Welcoming Ceremony EBCMP helped design for a 1-year-old member of the community
Invitation to the Welcoming Ceremony EBCMP helped design for a 1-year-old member of the community

My daughter (now 11) was four when we started coming, and my 6-year-old son has been coming ever since he was in the womb. When our son turned one, Ryk and our EBCMP community helped us create a welcome-to-the-community ceremony, complete with our favorite music. I loved working with EBCMP to create a musical ritual marking this important life cycle moment for our family.

Participating in EBCMP has infused hundreds of songs into our family vocabulary! Pragmatically speaking, I use the songs all the time in my parenting: When I am stressed or annoyed, I will sing something. When we’re in a traffic jam, I sing. Singing shifts my physiology, lifts my mood, and calms my children too.

Over the years we’ve made music with EBCMP,  I’ve seen my kids develop musical fundamentals and musical confidence. They are confident to sing their own part in a round or canon, for example. To pull that off, they have to trust their pitch, memory, and sense of musical timing…Of course it doesn’t always work, but last night we were singing a round and I was thinking – this is amazing!

For me, a round is the poetic embodiment of belonging:  singing the same notes that others are singing, only shifted in time, and hearing it all blend and connect and cross to make something complex, beautiful and whole. That’s community!

We hope you will join Jennie in supporting us financially and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming programs. Learn how you can get involved.

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