In Vocal Communities, Strangers Suddenly United by Songs

May 10, 2017

Dr. Barnwell speaks at a 2015 TEDx talk.
Credit YouTube

Why don't people sing together anymore? During the Civil Rights movement, marchers used songs to bond with each other, but modern protest movements don't necessarily unite the same way. 

Dr. Ysaye Barnwell encourages people to put down their phones and make real-world connections through the power of group singing.

Dr. Barnwell has led Building a Vocal Community and Community Singing workshops around the country, and spoken about it at TEDx Beacon Street. On Thursday, May 18, Dr. Barnwell will speak to Chattanooga during the 17th annual Cam Busch Endowed Arts for Health Lecture Series. Ticket information is here.

Dr. Barnwell and Cam Busch join us to talk about the power of vocal communities and the upcoming event in town. 


CHI Memorial Foundation and the Hunter Museum of American Art are co-presenting the 17th annual Cam Busch Endowed Arts for Health Lecture Series.  This year’s event will be Thursday, May 18, 2016, 5 p.m. at the Hunter Museum of American Art.  Dr. Ysaye Barnwell will return as this year’s guest performer/speaker.  Her first appearance in 2010 was one of the lecture series’ most popular performances.

Dr. Barnwell is an accomplished musician, actress and author.  She is a retired member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, an internationally acclaimed, award-winning female African-American a cappella group.  She is a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance and has been a commissioned composer on numerous choral, film, video, dance and theatrical productions.  She has appeared in and provided voice-over narration for film, video and radio productions.  Dr. Barnwell is also the author of several children’s books including one on traditional African American stories, poems and songs.

In addition to the undergraduate and graduate degrees she earned in speech pathology and public health, Dr. Barnwell has been awarded multiple Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degrees.  She received a humanitarian award from the Washington Choral Arts Society and Washington Performing Arts Society, and has received two awards for her children’s books.

The Cam Busch Endowed Arts for Health Lecture Series is part of CHI Memorial’s Arts Medicine Program which uses performing and visual arts to enhance healing.  “This lecture series is designed to educate our community about the benefits of using different forms of art in healthcare,” explains Cam Busch, local artist, nationally recognized art therapist and registered nurse.  “The arts enhance healing and provide a vehicle for the expression of feelings and emotions.”

CHI Memorial’s Arts Medicine Program is an important component in our region’s vibrant arts community.  We are proud to announce the following organizations join us as Arts Partners to bring Dr. Barnwell’s message at Chattanooga: ArtsBuild, AVA (Association for Visual Arts), Barking Legs Theater, Bessie Smith Cultural Center, Chattanooga Ballet, Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, Hart Gallery, Sculpture Fields, Southern Lit Alliance and WTCI.

Individual tickets are $50 and include heavy hors d’oeuvres, a host bar, a performance by Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, and admission to the Hunter Museum of American Art.  For more information and to purchase tickets, call the CHI Memorial Foundation office at (423) 495-4141 or visit