East Bay Community Music Project

Music Is Community!

EBCMP Stories: Andy Fullington

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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EBCMP Stories: Jennie Dorman

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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