Family Folk Machine Earth Day Celebration

Press Citizen: Family Folk Machine Plans Earth Day Celebration

Family Folk Machine, Iowa City’s multi-generational, non-auditioned choir, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in our spring session. “One Planet” will celebrate the Earth and its precious resources and humanity’s role in honoring and preserving it.

Though small on a global scale, Family Folk Machine will experience some changes this spring. Artistic and Executive Director Jean Littlejohn is out of the country with her family for the first part of 2020, but she has left the program in capable hands. Jean worked with Family Folk Machine’s associate directors to plan this spring’s musical selections and arrangements and to assure continuity. Associate Director Jon Ranard is filling the position of interim vocal director. Returning members know Jon from his previous work with Family Folk Machine, including his roles as vocal music coach and accompanist. His prior experience includes several decades as a choral and musical theater director, vocal coach, clinician, and adjudicator for groups from preschool through the collegiate level and beyond. Family Folk Machine is fortunate to have someone as experienced as Jon to lead the singers. Jean plans to resume vocal direction next fall.

Also returning are Associate Directors Gayla Drake, providing band direction and songwriting instruction, and Nicole Upchurch, leading youth programming. In collaboration with Eulenspiegel Puppet Theater, Nicole and the Family Folk Machine kids will be developing an original shadow puppetry presentation. An original musical composition by one of our youth members will accompany the puppetry for a new level of artistic expression for the kids.

This spring’s program includes a variety of music, coming from favorites such as Electric Light Orchestra, Dolly Parton, REM, and Pete Seeger, as well as newer and lesser-known works. The “One Planet” concert will be held on Saturday, May 9, at 2:00 p.m. at the Englert Theatre.

Our spring session began on January 12, but new members of any age and level of experience are still welcome to join. Jon notes that “the mission and focus of the group and all that it can provide for participants, audiences, and the community-at-large speaks to the heart of what music can and should be all about for people of all ages, backgrounds, musical experience, and ability levels. Groups like the Family Folk Machine can provide so much more than just a musical outlet. There is a true atmosphere of family, inclusiveness, caring, fun, learning, laughter, safety, creativity, and support that can be felt and experienced just by participating. With some wonderful singers of all ages, and an instrumental ensemble ranging from guitar, bass, and drums to cellos and ukuleles, and a great organizational structure and attention to detail, Family Folk Machine is a great example of what community involvement through music and the arts can mean.”

Please contact for details about joining. Family Folk Machine is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Visit to learn more.

Originally published in the Press Citizen. Aprille Clarke is president of the Family Folk Machine Board of Directors.