Mojo Monday ~ Bread and Roses

“Bread & Roses holds a special place in our hearts.  We keep on giving because no one can argue with the power music has to open hearts and comfort minds.”
~ Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan

I was steeped in an eclectic blend of music growing up as a child.  The beginning influences came from my parents and my older siblings.  My parents love music and in their younger days my dad saw Elvis in concert and my mom loved listening to the likes of Sarah Vaughn.  My parents are in their 70’s now, but their calendar is still full of concerts they will be attending.

My parents started taking me to concerts when I was just a kid too.  I tagged along to various jazz festivals and blues concerts.  My older brothers exposed me to the music of  the Jackson 5, Bay City Rollers, and later hard rocking bands like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.  One of my older sisters was listening to more to artists like Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees and other pop wonders. Between them all I was exposed to rock, folk, disco, country, blues, soul, jazz and the list goes on. 

Music became a soundtrack to my life.  If my 10 year old self was feeling sad I knew just the 45 to play with a song called Bluer Than Blue by artist Michael Johnson.  If I was in a rollerskating mood then Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall was my first choice.  I toyed around on the family piano as a child and then took guitar lessons for a couple of years.  I returned to the guitar as a teen, but my ability as a musician seemed quite limited.  I was okay with it though. I had my record player and later 8 track and cassettes to fulfill my music needs.

One particular series of concerts my parents took me to as a child were called the Bread & Roses Festivals of Music.  These concerts in particular had a big musical impact on me.  One we attended took place in October 1980 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California.  I was only 11 years old.  We would put out our blankets and sit on the wide concrete steps. You can see from the program image below that the line up of artists was incredible.  

Another year we also saw Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Graham Nash, the Smothers Brothers and Peter, Paul and Mary perform.  That year we were also entertained by the MC talents of manic comedian Robin Williams.  

The story about how Bread and Roses came into being is very inspirational. It begins with a vision of a woman name Mimi Farina, sister to Joan Baez. Here is the excerpt from the web site for Bread & Roses.

“Every successful organization starts with a visionary founder. Ours was Mimi Fariña. She was the energetic, goal-oriented, passionate person who had the idea, was willing to take the risk, and was able to sell the vision of Bread & Roses to others.

Mimi  Farina & sister Joan Baez
Mimi was a petite ball of fire, a meticulous writer, an inspiring speaker, a fine songwriter, and a fabulous performer. As a child, she was an excellent dancer, and played the violin. As a teenager, she mastered the guitar. With her late husband, Richard Fariña, she entertained and inspired audiences in the 1960´s with original folk music until Richard´s untimely death in a motorcycle accident in 1966. Mimi continued to perform professionally for many years – both solo and with others.

In 1972, she attended a live concert with B.B. King at Sing-Sing Prison in New York, and she was deeply moved. She had seen the healing exchange that occurs between performer and audience at least once before at a performance for patients in a mental hospital. Not long after the B.B. King concert, her cousin invited her to perform at the halfway house that he managed. This time, the seed for Bread & Roses was planted. Mimi began to think seriously about creating opportunities for performing artists to bring the joy of live entertainment to people shut away from society. She said it was like writing a song.

Mimi started Bread & Roses in Mill Valley, California in 1974, working out of her home. She recruited fellow performers and matched them with facilities serving the sick, homeless, disabled and imprisoned. Eventually she rented a tiny office, hired a staff and really put the show on the road. From the beginning, she established a few fundamental principles that still guide the organization:
  • Recruit high quality professional and amateur artists who (a) have a natural rapport with their audiences, and (b) will volunteer their time.
  • Provide all performances free of charge to client facilities.
  • Garner other volunteer resources, sound and light technicians, photographers, and the like, to reduce production costs.
  • Treat volunteers, donors, and clients with grace and gratitude.
Not everybody can do what Mimi did; take a powerful idea, keep the principles simple, and execute with heart and soul. Mimi created a successful, nonprofit organization that serves other nonprofits and uplifts tens of thousands of people every year. Her accomplishments were recognized by many organizations over the years, including The Easter Seal Society (1989), National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (1993), League of Women Voters (1998), and the National Association of Women Business Owners (2000).

Although Mimi had planned to retire in 2000, she suspended participation in the daily affairs of Bread & Roses in November 1999 when she was diagnosed with cancer. However, she continued to assist the organization in many ways. In March 2000, she served as the beautiful and eloquent hostess for our 25th Anniversary Celebration. She continued to inspire and uplift the staff and board with her ideas and her humor. She illuminated our path, set an example of excellence and kindness, and reminded us how important our work is to our audiences and to our volunteers.

Mimi died on July 18, 2001, at her home on Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California, surrounded by her family and close friends.  Her vision lives on in the form of Bread & Roses today.  
The Mission Statement for this inspirational program is as follows:

Bread & Roses is dedicated to uplifting the human spirit by providing free, live, quality entertainment to people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society. Our performances: enrich the soul and promote wellness through the healing power of the performing arts; create a sense of community for our professional performers, in a non-commercial setting in which they can donate their talents to inspire and be inspired; provide an opportunity for non-performing volunteers to contribute a variety of skills and resources that support our humanitarian services and increase the impact of donor contributions. In carrying out this mission, Bread & Roses seeks to create a social awareness of people who are isolated from society, and to encourage the development of similar organizations in other communities.

Here are a couple more quotes from artists who serve as volunteer performers for Bread & Roses.  

“I became a Bread & Roses volunteer performer and donor a long time ago.  I am still supporting Bread & Roses because it meets a basic human need-the need for hope in hard times.” ~ Pete Seeger
“My commitment to serving humanity inspires me to support Bread & Roses.” ~ Carlos Santana

Come learn more about Bread & Roses and their dedication to uplifting the human spirit by providing free, live, quality shows to people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society, by visiting their web site:

What is your relationship with music?  

Has music played a significant role in your life?

Are there certain songs that have been part of the soundtrack of your life?

Any favorite songs you’d like to share with us?

Had you heard of Bread & Roses before?  What do you think of this program?

If you are feeling sad right now come listen to my childhood “sad” song called Bluer Than Blue — I have to say finding this video brought back memories but also made me laugh a bit and also feel extra tender for my precocious childhood self.

Mojo Monday ~ Phenomenal Woman

Fairly recently I was thinking that someone needed to take Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman and put it into song.  Well a friend of mine posted this video of Candaian artist Amy Sky performing this poem as a song.  So fabulous and inspirational. 

Here is a little story about how Amy Sky got permission to turn the poem into a song:

“I carried this incredible poem around in my purse for months, while trying to contact Dr. Maya Angelou to get her permission to put it to music. One day she showed up — serendipitously – at a taping of the Dini Petty show that I was also on. When I told her I wanted to set the poem to music, she said she had always wanted it to be a song, and gave me permission on the spot. Not only was I thrilled to be able to sing out her inspiring words of self- affirmation night after night, I learned a very valuable lesson about intention. I passionately believed the poem should be a song, and the universe heard me and responded. I encourage anyone who has a dream, no matter how out of reach it seems, to keep it in your purse – keep it close to your heart. Travellers who undertake a journey for the right reasons, are always helped by invisible hands.”


Phenomenal Women

by Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Mojo Monday ~ Music

 “The discovery of song and the creation of musical instruments both owed their origin to a human impulse which lies much deeper than conscious intention: the need for rhythm in life… the need is a deep one, transcending thought, and disregarded at our peril.” ~Richard Baker
According to Wikipedia “The word music comes from the Greek mousikê (tekhnê) by way of the Latin musica. It is ultimately derived from mousa, the Greek word for muse.
In ancient Greece, the word mousike was used to mean any of the arts or sciences governed by the Muses. Later, in Rome, ars musica embraced poetry as well as instrument-oriented music.
While we may be happy to just think about music in terms of the latest song we just downloaded or singing along to the radio while driving, the truth is that music is able to do a lot more than just entertain us.
According to the eMed Expert web page music affects us in a variety of ways and can even promote health. Their list states that music is capable of doing six things:
1. Music heals
There are even organizations like Music that Heals and Music to Heal that provide musical entertainment to patients in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Fred J. Epstein, a world-renowned neurosurgeon states that “There is little question that music is therapeutic. I have become a ‘believer’ only through first-hand observation of what music has done for so many of my patients. I have seen children who were lethargic become wakeful, I have seen others who were suffering from enormous anxiety over impending surgery become upbeat. I support with pleasure efforts to raise funds to provide live performances to children afflicted with serious and life-threatening disease.”
2. Music even makes you smarter
“The idea that music makes you smarter received considerable attention from scientists and the media. Listening to music or playing an instrument can actually make you learn better. And research confirms this.”
3. Music improves physical performance
4. Music helps to work more productively
“Listening to upbeat music can be a great way to find some extra energy” and “According to a report in the journal Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, a person’s ability to recognize visual images, including letters and numbers, is faster when either rock or classical music is playing in the background.”
5. Music calms, relaxes and helps to sleep
6. Music improves mood and decreases depression
“Music’s ability to “heal the soul” is the stuff of legend in every culture. Many people find that music lifts their spirits. Modern research tends to confirm music’s psychotherapeutic benefits. Bright, cheerful music (e.g. Mozart, Vivaldi, bluegrass, Klezmer, Salsa, reggae) is the most obvious prescription for the blues.”

What are some of your favorite songs?

Do you have favorites for exercising and others for relaxing?

Some people even have favorite songs to listen to when they’re sad. How about you?