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Always A Song: Ellen Harper, PhD, Folk Music Matriarch, and Sam Barry, Musician/Author

February 8, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Always a song

Registration/Information:  https://ellenharperatioa.eventbrite.com

Cost: Free, but donations accepted at registration

While Grammy-winning, world-renowned musician Ben Harper is undoubtedly the best-known member of his musical family, he credits his talented mother, Ellen Harper, PhD (Education), with providing endless inspiration for his own career.

Indeed, Dr. Harper’s life has been composed in song. During the 1950s, her mother, Dorothy Chase, performed and taught banjo and guitar at Hecht House in Boston, with Bess Lomax Hawes—and Ellen’s father, Charles Chase, repaired any instruments that came his way. Ellen then learned to play, perform, and teach guitar and other folk instruments in this lively environment. Hootenannies and song circles served as the soundtrack of Ellen’s youth. The notes of Ravi Shankar’s sitar and the voice of Joan Baez filled the background of her adolescence. And from listening to Pete Seeger in her parents’ living room to chasing Jimi Hendrix around Beverly Hills—from her mother’s banjo lessons to her father’s clumsy attempts at the violin—from the early days at the historic Folk Music Center to her on-stage performances and recordings with her son Ben Harper—music has both informed Ellen’s worldview and guided her path in life.

Now, with the release of her compelling memoir, Always a Song: Singers, Songwriters, Sinners and Saints, Ellen Harper offers her personal story and a journey through the folk music revival. Spanning a transformational time in music, history, and American culture, her memoir explores the legacy of folk from its roots to its current form, and reveals the profound way folk music has shaped her life, her style, her generation, and the music of her children.

On Monday evening, February 8th, IOA welcomes Dr. Ellen Harper, and her co-author, Sam Barry, to an Institute on Aging AgeOn online event which will be of interest to music lovers, history buffs, creative agers, and for those nostalgic for the acoustic echo of the music that influenced a generation—an era of change defined by the civil rights movement and anti-war protests—and the groundbreaking music that came along with it . Sam Barry will moderate this event

Presenter: Ellen Harper, PhD is a singer, songwriter, musician, teacher, and owner of the Folk Music Center in Claremont, California. In 2018, she released her first solo album, Light Has a Light of Its Own. Ellen and her son, Ben Harper, collaborated on the album Childhood Home, and went on an international tour together in 2014. Ellen and Ben’s musical journey is the subject of Danny Clinch’s documentary A House Is a Home. Ellen received a PhD in Education from Claremont Graduate University and taught at California State University San Bernardino. Ellen currently runs the Folk Music Center shop, concert series, folk festival, and music classes. She lives in La Verne, California with her husband, Jan Verdries.

Moderator: Sam Barry earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the State University of New York at Purchase in 1981 and a Master of Divinity from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1993. Sam Barry is a musician and author in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also plays with the Rock Bottom Remainders, an all-author rock band founded in 1992. Other members include his brother, humorist Dave Barry, Scott Turow, Roy Blount Jr., James McBride, Matt Groening, Greg Iles, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson and Mitch Albom. Barry is the co-creator of the humor website, The Hilario www.thehilario.com. Until late 2017, he was the director of the Path to Publishing program, at the well-known independent bookstore Book Passage.

Praise for Always a Song:

“I read this book in a weekend, riveted by the intimacy and the honesty of Ellen’s narrative. Always a Song is an eloquent, searching account of a life lived for truth, love and music.” —- Jackson Browne, musician

“Ellen Harper is folk music royalty, growing up with Pete Seeger and Joan Baez around the dinner table. Her story is both heartrending and a pleasure to read.”-Roger McGuinn, leader of The Byrds

“My mom has lived—and is living— an extraordinary life. In reading this memoir, I have come to understand and appreciate the many sides of Ma…I am deeply touched by her story, and I can’t wait to see what she sets out to accomplish next.”—Ben Harper, in the forward to Always a Song.

Truth-teller Ellen Harper writes through five generations of her multi-cultural family’s odyssey of fighting to keep music real and powerful in American life. At times heartbreaking and humorous, but always inspiring and not to be missed by songwriters and singers, music fans, or anyone who likes a meaningful story.Peter Case, singer, songwriter, producer

“Ellen Harper has given her lucky readers a front row seat and a backstage pass. Her extraordinary story is revelatory, inspiring, and compulsively readable. Like the music it explores, this book is beautiful and lasting, subversive and broadminded, uncompromising and profound. Now, more than ever, Harper’s accounts of fighting the establishment in the name of art and equality is required reading—a songbook of protest, of freedom, of revolution and resurgence. “—Bret Anthony Johnston, bestselling author of Remember Me Like This and Corpus Christi: Stories

Funding for this program is provided by the JULIAN S. DAVIS, MD, LECTURESHIP FUND


February 8, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


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