East Bay Community Music Project

Music Is Community!

EBCMP Stories: Andy Fullington

on February 5, 2020

As our Winter Fundraising Campaign draws to a close, we hope you’ve enjoyed the series of “EBCMP stories” that we’ve shared (my story is below, and concludes the series of staff and Board stories).

And we thank you for your contributions of money, spirit, and enthusiasm.

As Board Chair, I invite you to serve on the Board with us. You don’t need to have experience serving on Boards, and we provide child-care during Board meetings.  We seek music-loving people with expertise in any of the following areas: project management, financial, legal, non-profit, social media, or event planning. If you or someone you know might be interested, please reach out and I’ll be glad to share more specifics.  

Hope to sing with you soon! Andrea Fullington, Board Chair

Meet Andy

What is your musical background?

Andy and her Mom

I grew up in a very musical family. I have two sisters and my Mom is a singer and we all sang together a lot. I also sang and played music at church and at school. I moved around a lot, because my Dad was in the Air Force, but every school I went to had music. As a young child, we lived in Germany where Orff music pedagogy began, and I have a distinct memory of holding my mallets, waiting to play my part on the xylophone and just being so jazzed about the whole thing. 

I was involved in music in various ways – mostly playing cello and singing as a kid, but then eventually tried to focus on other, more practical studies at college. Ultimately, I ended up getting a BA and a Masters in Music as a singer. I had a professional singing career for about 15 years which was super rewarding and fun, but also quite stressful at times. I was lucky enough to have some amazing performance opportunities. I sang at Carnegie Hall and premiered a Steve Reich composition at Lincoln Center, followed by a European tour with his ensemble that included a performance at Royal Albert Hall. My lasting memories all involve the thrill of creating something moving and beautiful while collaborating with other musicians.

Then I had my daughter Laurel. A friend of mine told me about Music Together classes, so I went with my daughter, who was 9 months old, and had an amazing experience! I was able to let go of all these high-falutin’ ideas about music and singing and really reconnected with the absolute joy and magic of singing and being in my body. I bonded easily with my child, the teacher and the other people there. It was a total rediscovery of just the humanness – the humanity – in making music with other people.

Andy singing with Laura Nicodemus and EBCMP Director Ryk Groetchen

I loved the program so much that I became a Music Together teacher for 15 years. That was also a very magical experience: seeing how each class was its own unique group of people, adults and kids, with its own personality, dynamics and discoveries. I was inspired watching all the different relationships that were formed through these very simple musical activities: the kids with the other kids, with their own parents, with other parents, with the teacher, the teacher with the parents, the parents with the other parents.…incredible! And watching the little musical lights turn on in these children – it was magical!

How did you discover East Bay Community Music Project?

Ryk and I met through Music Together. He came to me and we talked about his vision of starting something that was music as well as community. It would be informal, different levels – anybody could participate at whatever level they wanted to. And I loved that idea, so I helped launch EBCMP. The first 3+ years, I led many activities and helped Ryk create all of the programming. Then, for a number of reasons, I needed to take a break.

Recently, I decided to come back because I had stopped teaching Music Together and wanted to put my time and effort into something else. I realized I am still very passionate about music and community building. There are not very many opportunities like EBCMP around and I wanted to contribute to this important and fulfilling project. 

What do you value about participating in EBCMP?

One of the things I really appreciate about this kind of musical activity is that it functions as a form of mindfulness. When I’m at an EBCMP gathering, I am not thinking about anything else, I’m just really in the moment. I’m listening, I’m watching, I’m communicating with other people through music and movement and I really treasure the sustained, solid hour and a half where I am in this zone.

Music allows you to connect with others in many ways, regardless of whether you know them, or speak their language, or are 20 – 30 years older than they are. You can connect through your eyes, and your heart, or physically through dancing. You can blend your voice with somebody, or try something new, like being vulnerable and silly. And you can teach people, and learn from others as well. It’s all very rich and EBCMP provides this special opportunity to everyone!

There are many families with small children who are a part of EBCMP, but I have mostly come on my own, without my family.  I have one child who’s grown and gone, and another who is pretty resistant and very busy. I have discovered that I really love having this experience for myself, and not worrying about parenting. It gives me a chance to really connect to other kids as well. So is it only for people who have little kids? No – there’s a lot here for you whether you have a small child or not. 

Andy and her family in Venice

When I am leading an activity, I love making the arrangements and then sharing it with people. It’s always eye opening to see which parts of my idea really work and which parts don’t. I get a lot from that feedback loop. The whole creative process, and experiencing how things actually manifest, is just endlessly fascinating.

I also love trying to play all these different instruments — drums, percussion, piano, guitar, and bass lines in addition to doing lots of singing. It’s great to have one strong skill that’s quite developed and then it’s extremely satisfying to try new things in a safe space. The informal format of EBCMP offers an entry point for everybody to participate in whatever way they feel comfortable – it’s really a way to include people.

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