Joanne Hammil is a nationally renowned composer, music educator, choral director and performer. She presents dynamic workshops, composes and arranges choral music, runs community choruses, has written hundreds of songs, and her unique rounds have become standards in books and harmony circles.
Joanne grew up in Nutley New Jersey and attended college in Massachusetts (B.A. in music, Smith College). She taught music in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, taught piano lessons, and raised her two children in the Boston area. She established her first community children’s chorus when her oldest child turned five and she couldn’t find a good music enrichment program for him. She continued her love for teaching children about music, and for choral singing and directing, by founding The Choral Connection that included several choruses a week for children of different ages. Joanne ran these non-auditioned, community children’s choruses for 30 years. In 2003 she founded the 85 voice Greater Boston Intergenerational Chorus (a chorus that spanned ages 10-95) which she has run since 2003. She also has directed choruses in various music schools.
“Thank you for being a wonderful chorus teacher. Without you I would never be the great person I am.”
–5th grade boy
Joanne’s own composing is at the heart of her work. She has produced several CDs and songbooks of her original songs and they have been published in various books and music text books, including Silver Burdett/Ginn, MacMillan, Heinemann, Teaching Tolerance, Rounds Galore, Hearing Everyone’s Voice, and Rise Again. Her songs have been recorded by many other musicians and choruses, including Christine Lavin, The Amidons, Libana, Kathy Reid-Naiman, Tom Hunter, Calliope Feminist Choir, Acoustic Blender, The Short Sisters, Gryphon Carolers, Rounds Galore & More Singers, Freyda Epstein, Two of a Kind, Womansong, Music for Little People, Chantsisters, and more. Her songs, choral compositions and arrangements have been enjoyed by singers from the very youngest to university students and adults.
“You are one of the best songwriters I know…”
Joanne presents workshops around the country for national music organizations and their chapters (AOSA, ACDA, AUUMN, OAKE, NAfME, and others) and has taught adult music courses in summer music institutes (Augusta Heritage Center, Swannanoa, Common Ground on the Hill, Ferry Beach, among others). She also presents keynote addresses and leads Rounds Sings for communities of singers and teachers with her lifelong passion for this unique genre and its intriguing polyphonic structures.
“After your daylong workshop for our (Orff) chapter, all we want is for you to come back again as soon as we can book you!”
–Music Teacher, California
As a founder of The Children’s Music Network, she served as President and then a Board member for many years. She has performed hundreds of concerts for children and families in schools and on stages, and both her original songs and her rapport with audiences have garnered exuberant praise from musicians, teachers, conference organizers, choruses, parents, children and community organizations.
“You convey to all in your audience a sensitive caring, a deep wisdom and a marvelous sense of humor. I loudly applaud your music and yourself. Encore!”
–family concert attendee, Massachusetts
When Pete Seeger heard Joanne sing her original songs at conferences of the Peoples Music Network for Songs of Freedom and Struggle, he asked her to come to his home and help him write songs in a particularly intriguing song style sung in many African cultures. This began the great honor for Joanne of both composing with Pete and presenting workshops together across the country through the years -- on rounds, African-style cyclical songs, and even on Woody Guthrie. (In the video at the top of the HOME page, just five months before his passing when he was no longer comfortable singing, he is accompanying Joanne on guitar as she leads singers and audience at a concert.) Many other well-known musicians have enriched Joanne’s life and work, and their collaborations together have given rise to exciting forward motion in the fields of children’s music, socio-political songwriting and community singing.
“Keep on keepin’ on!”
–Pete Seeger (…but he writes that to everyone 🙂)
Joanne lives in Watertown MA, and is an active composer, workshop presenter, social activist, and creative thinker. Her family also continues to fill her life and heart, and her two adult children, Adam Ezra Olshansky and Lisa Olshansky are esteemed figures and activists in their fields.
See a 2019 Boston Voyager Magazine interview with Joanne to learn more about her career and thoughts.
Awards & Press
WGBH’s NPR shows “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” aired a piece about Joanne’s song “Namaste” on December 13, 2019. Unbeknowst to Joanne, her song has become the school song for a Newton, MA elementary school. This heartwarming broadcast features the children singing, words from the principal, the music teacher, and Joanne herself when she was interviewed by the reporter Judith Kogan.
Boston Voyager Magazine interviewed Joanne in March 2019 for their “Inspiring Stories” series, which provides a great overview of Joanne’s full and varied music career.
Joanne received the prestigious Magic Penny Award from the Children’s Music Network. This is a lifetime honor, named after Malvina Reynold’s famous song, and she joins other distinguished leaders in the field who have empowered children through music.