‘Look at my Hands’ came from stories I heard in my work as a faculty member of Community Access to the Arts in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. I travel to health care settings and memory care units with the Art Cart program, bringing music, movement, stories and poems. A lot of the songs I write arise from stories generously shared with me and others.

The hands shown in the video belong to different folks in Sarasota, Florida.

After going to an extinction rebellion meeting, I wrote 'barbed wire shoes..' I want to be part of the 3.5 % needed n o w to move away from extinction. don't you? xrmass.org

photo credit: Jane Feldman

photo credit: Jane Feldman

My Sicilian grandmother, Rosaria Dolce, urged me to "Sing, Giovanna, sing!" when in need of a remedy for any and all things troubling, or to find the best way to celebrate. I feel fortunate that the joy and healing power of singing has become the foundation of my life's work.

Walking or leading processions when I sing has become a favorite way to be a part of the music and find where it leads me. The rhythms in walking or dancing are a big part of the song and the singing together.

The elements around us lead us with their own sounds: our conversations with the river, wind, water, sun were our first music and can be discovered each day in new songs of listening. What do we hear? What do we want to say?

I like to call the audience the 'Elemental Orchestra.' As we find our own simple rhythms and songs, we recall what we are made of and feel more our belonging with the world around us, with others and with ourselves.

Here's an article about my work in the May 2017 issue of The Artful Mind. Thank you to publisher Harryet Puritzman Candee and photographer Jane Feldman for this interview.


leading procession at Pumpkin Hollow, "Sounding the River" pictured with Marafanyi, Lion Miles, Vikki True.. photo: Keith Emerling

leading procession at Pumpkin Hollow, "Sounding the River" pictured with Marafanyi, Lion Miles, Vikki True.. photo: Keith Emerling

procession down Main Street Stockbridge "Sounding Mohican Pathways" photo: Tammis Coffin

procession down Main Street Stockbridge "Sounding Mohican Pathways" photo: Tammis Coffin


JoAnne Spies is a singer songwriter and visual artist who collaborates with her audience in rhythm and sound explorations. Recent works include Karaoke Confession and Trust at the Norman Rockwell Museum and Survivor Tree, sung at the 9-11 Memorial by the Survivor Tree to honor the tree and Jane Goodall as she received a peace award on International Day of Peace.                                                                                              

Spies (pronounced Speez) has headed the Art Cart program at Community Access to the Arts since 2001, co-creating songs with elders and people with Alzheimer's.

Her CD's include 2x3, Me & Melville, North Avenue Honey, and Ecstatic Dances.

JoAnne is a graduate of the four-year MfP musicianship and leadership program in music improvisation and is a Remo Drum Health Rhythms facilitator. She has studied with drummer Arthur Hull and the Liz Lerman dancers in the MCC Elder Arts Initiative.

Awards include a composer and visual arts fellowship to the Millay Colony, a grant from the Westfield Watershed and Marmalade Productions to write songs for "Watershed Waltz," an eco-friendly production that premiered at the Berkshire Museum and toured the schools, and MCC grants for her CD, "Me & Melville," "Sounding Mohican Pathways," a collaboration with the Trustees of the Reservation, and the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire for a Bascom Lodge performance highlighting Melville.


A Bill of Musical Rights

Developed by David Darling/Music for People

 Human beings need to express themselves daily in a way that invites physical and emotional release.

 Musical self-expression is a joyful and healthy means of communication available to absolutely everyone.

 There are as many different ways to make music as there are people. 

 The human voice is the most natural and powerful vehicle for musical self-expression. The differences in our voices add richness and depth to music.

 Sincerely expressed emotion is at the root of meaningful musical expression. 

 Your music is more authentically expressed when your body is involved in your musical expression.

 The European tradition of music is only one sound. All other cultures and traditions deserve equal attention. 

 Any combination of people and instruments can make music together. 

 There are no "unmusical" people, only those with no musical experience. 

 Music improvisation is a unique and positive way to build skills for life-expression. 

 In improvisation as in life, we must be responsible for the vibrations we send one another.

We learn by going,
where we need to go...
— Theodore Roethke