Press-Citizen column about Nov. 12 concert, “Homegrown Harmony”

The Press-Citizen published this column by Jean about our November 12 concert at the Englert:

The Family Folk Machine presents a fall concert, “Homegrown Harmony: Celebrating a Decade of Song!” on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 3:00 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City. The concert is free and open to all, with donations accepted, and we would love to see you there!

Eleven years ago, the Family Folk Machine (more accurately, the to-be-named family folk choir) was just a twinkle in the eye of a few Iowa Citians. My family had just returned from a two-year stay in the Boston area, where my small children and I had a great time singing with an intergenerational choir. I really wanted them to have the opportunity to be part of a musical experience where children and adults of all ages and backgrounds could participate and contribute equally.

When we held the first FFM rehearsal in January 2013, I was amazed by the people who showed up. The Machine has grown from that point, adding singers, instrumentalists, and leaders who brought new ideas that have taken the group in directions I never could have dreamed up on my own. The FFM has become, in the words of one participant, “a non-auditioned, intergenerational community choir that supports its members and the wider community through music, working to promote understanding, acceptance, equality, and social justice through song.”

“Homegrown Harmony” includes six brand-new original songs that are the product of the tenth-anniversary songwriting workshops the FFM held last spring. FFM kids worked with local musician Nicole Upchurch and created a beautiful song titled “I Want to Sing,” which they will premiere at the concert. FFM adults worked in groups under the direction of Christine Moad, learning about song construction and how to generate song lyrics. These workshops resulted in four wonderful group songs in contrasting styles and with widely varying subject matter. It has been a deep pleasure to experience the creativity of our singers in this new way!

The concert will also feature a new song by Janet Lessner, a Folk Machinist who had not been a songwriter before participating in Christine Moad’s workshop. Janet wrote a beautiful, moving song of support and love for the children of the FFM and all children in these times when being yourself is not always simple, easy, or welcomed. The concert also includes reflections on intergenerational relationships from Allison Russell (“You’re Not Alone”), prophetic messages from Bob Dylan (“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”) and Patti Smith (“People Have the Power”), and a beautiful tribute to departed FFM singers (Pete Seeger’s “Old Brown Earth”).

Hope you can join us on Sunday, Nov. 12 for this celebration of ten years of the Family Folk Machine!


FFM Through the Years: A Video Compilation

As a special event for our 10th anniversary, we are hosting a video showing:

Thursday, Nov. 2 7 p.m. Iowa City Senior Center
Please join us for “Family Folk Machine Through the Years,” a compilation video tracing our first ten years together. There will be popcorn and sweet memories! Free and open to all.


FFM Annual Appeal

It’s November, a time for reflecting on what’s important to us, to our families, to our community. Each year at this time the Family Folk Machine reaches out with our Annual Appeal, asking for your support so that our work can continue.

You can make a donation of any size today by sending a check to
Family Folk Machine
P.O. Box 1421
Iowa City, IA 52244

or by navigating to the “Donate” tab of this website.

For ten years, the FFM has been a place for people of all ages and backgrounds to shine and grow into their full musical humanity. I hope you will consider an Annual Appeal donation!


Fall 2023 Concert!

Save the date! We will perform our fall program at a concert at the Englert Theatre on Sunday, November 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Rehearsals start Sunday, August 20th at 2pm at City Park (weather permitting). We enjoyed being outdoors during Covid and continue the tradition. We move indoors to the Iowa City Senior Center October 8. Please email for information.


Pete Seeger: The Power of Song film screening on May 2!

As part of our 10th anniversary celebration, the Family Folk Machine will host a screening of the movie “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song” on Tuesday, May 2, beginning at 6:45 p.m. at the Senior Center in downtown Iowa City. This inspiring film features interviews with Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and many other folks and documents important moments in Pete’s life and work. For those interested in how songs can make change in the world, it’s a really energizing story!

We’ll provide popcorn and an enthusiastic sing-along after the film. Please plan to join us!


Spring Concert: Love in the Harmony! Saturday, May 13

Spring Concert: Love in the Harmony
Saturday, May 13 3:00 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City
Free and open to all, with donations gladly accepted
Come celebrate ten years of the Family Folk Machine with us! Our spring concert features favorite songs from our ten-year history along with new original songs about how music works in our lives. The program includes songs by Iowa artists Greg Brown, Susan Werner, and The Weepies, alongside tunes from ELO, Woody Guthrie, and Bill Withers.

FFM Spring Session Rehearsals Begin Sunday, Jan. 15

Happy New Year from the Family Folk Machine!

We are excited to begin rehearsals for our spring session, “Love in the Harmony,” celebrating the 10th anniversary of the FFM! When we first gathered in January 2013, we couldn’t imagine what the coming ten years would bring. It will bring great joy to gather friends old and new this Sunday to begin our work together for this spring.

Our spring session will combine “greatest hits” of the past ten years of FFM concerts with some new songs about how music works on our world, including two brand-new originals. Other highlights include songwriting workshops for kids (with Nicole Upchurch) and adults (with Christine Moad) and a harmony-singing workshop with Annie Savage and Greg Blake.

Is the time right for you to sing with us? Send an email to if you’d like to join us! We rehearse on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 p.m. at the Iowa City Senior Center.

And it is not too late to support our work with a donation to the 10th Anniversary edition of the FFM Annual Appeal! You can send a check to our P.O. Box or donate securely online using the “Donate” tab above!

Save the Date
The Family Folk Machine spring concert will take place at the Englert Theatre on Saturday, May 13 at 3:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!


FFM Annual Appeal!

We have launched the FFM Annual Appeal! Coming up on our 10th anniversary in January of 2023, please consider supporting our work with a donation of any size! We hope to keep singing and building community for 10 more years, and 10 after that. You can make a secure online donation here:

or you can send a check to

Family Folk Machine
P.O. Box 1421
Iowa City, IA 52244

Thanks for your support! We wouldn’t be here without our community!

Hope to see you at the Englert on November 13 at 3:00 p.m. for Carry On: Songs for Living!

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