Grant-funded Projects

Youth Ukulele Project

15 ukuleles, bags, and tuners, 10 stands and lights

About the Project
In the words of an FFM kid: “To learn to play and perform on an instrument for the first time is very empowering. It opens a door for kids, creatively. It will help kids develop knowledge about chords, musical structure, and pitch. When I learned to play the ukulele, it broadened my horizons as a songwriter. There’s something more concrete about writing a song and putting chords to it than if you’re just humming a melody in your head. It gives you the power to make a full sound by yourself.”

With a comprehensive program of instrument instruction funded by the Community Foundation of Johnson County with an in-kind donation discount from West Music, the Family Folk Machine is hoping to instill in the kids a confidence in self-expression, a belief in their value and their abilities, and a concrete example of learning to do something hard—on your own, but supported by a community of other learners. We’ve already seen great results—in general musicianship, in songwriting independence, and in musical engagement—from some of our older FFM kids who have learned to play the ukulele.




Wasn’t That a Time

About the Project
The Family Folk Machine, supported by a major grant from the Iowa Arts Council, engaged in a songwriting project in collaboration with the Awful Purdies. During Fall 2016 we gathered stories from Folk Machinists, Senior Center groups, and community members using the Story Circle technique developed by the Awful Purdies for “All Recipes Are Home.” In January and February, the Awful Purdies led the FFM in a series of songwriting workshops, using images or phrases from these stories as song seeds. We created ten brand-new songs in our workshop groups! The Family Folk Machine performed the songs at a Senior Center concert on April 30, 2017, and the project culminated in a joint FFM/Awful Purdies concert on Saturday, June 3 on the Main Stage at the Iowa Arts Fest. Click on the link below to access the Wasn’t that a Time project:

Brown Gold

In 2015, the Family Folk Machine in collaboration with The Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center received funding from the Community Foundation of Johnson County to create a music video of the Tom Chapin song “Brown Gold.” The song promotes composting in a fun and catchy way, tracing the natural cycle of seed to plant to human consumption to compost-rich soil. Partners included the New Pioneer Co-op and the Iowa City Recycling Center. The video was shot and edited by Senior Center volunteers and recorded by Luke Tweedy of Flat Black Studios.