Its new album, Hope Rises, brings together 15 emerging activist musicians
More than 50 years ago, Noel Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul and Mary) was among many folk music performers who used the power of their songs for a generation’s push for social change during the modern civil rights movements and the Vietnam War.
Fast forward to 2020, and the issues are much different: COVID-19 and a widened political partisan divide. The goal of folk music now is the same as it was: healing, communication, and hope.
Thanks to Music to Life, a non-profit group that Stookey co-founded with his daughter, Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, in Wilder, VT, the new album Hope Rises has brought together 15 emerging artists who are singing for social change.
Noel Stookey, who lives in Blue Hill, says the 15 artists were chosen out of a field of 100 artists by a Music to Life panel. The 15 artists use a variety of musical genres from acoustic folk to hip hop.
Noel borrowed a quote from Forrest Gump to describe this collection. “This album is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
He thinks older listeners may be challenged when they encounter the different musical styles, but he also believes the overall message of Hope Rises will be received loud and clear.
Songs by artists such as Rising Appalachia, Jason Chu, Emma’s Revolution, and Steven Hernandez achieve this goal. They invoke a range of emotions, such as anger, pain, and loss, but also give hope for healing and strength.
Myles Bullen, 28, of Portland does not have a track on Hope Rises. He is one of the many artists who works with the Music to Life Activist Musician Accelerator program, which pairs artists with community groups to effect positive social change. It reflects Noel’s philosophy that “music opens the heart so the mind can learn.”
Before the pandemic arrived last spring, Myles, a Native American musician and poet, toured nearly 50 states, and even traveled overseas to play concerts at schools, recovery centers, and prisons in order to spread his message. Recently, Music to Life created a partnership between Myles and University of Maine professor Robert Burnheim to create “Survivor Stories”—a 15-week residency with prison inmates.
The pandemic forced Myles to shift “Survivor Stories” to an online model for the fall. He teaches three creative writing workshops a week via Zoom.
Folk music was a thread, running through the issues that defined the 1960s. Stookey believes it is the legacy of storytelling his generation inherited from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Gospel music. The current generation of artists featured on Hope Rises is now carrying that same torch.
“The world is relying on each of us to address these issues in our neighborhoods. Each of us has a responsibility to each other,” Noel said.