Biography

Sarah Pirtle

When Studs Terkel interviewed Sarah Pirtle for an hour on his radio program, he focused on her award-winning young adult novel, An Outbreak of Peace. He said that he found the book as meaningful for adult readers as for teenagers.

One of the hallmarks of Sarah’s work--her books, recordings, concerts--is that she speaks to all generations.

Photo: Sarah PirtleAn Outbreak of Peace received the Olive Branch Award for the outstanding book of the year on world peace. The citation read, “Sarah Pirtle’s sensitivity to young people and their feelings simply shines through.”

In her media tour, she focused upon teaching our children alternatives to violence. Pirtle gave over twenty radio and television appearances in Boston, Chicago, and Minneapolis including interviews on the Minneapolis NBC-TV affiliate, Minnesota Public Radio and Boston television. Articles about her book, the first of her four books relating to peace education, appeared in the L.A. Times and the Boston Globe.

After Oberlin College, she toured for five years with the Big Mama Poetry Troupe from Cleveland, Ohio, publishing two anthologies of poems and performing at venues including NYU, Columbia University, and Rutgers College. She focused on peace education in her Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts, and taught the first graduate course on conflict resolution in New England in the 1980’s, beginning sixteen years of graduate school teaching. She currently teaches how to integrate music into the classroom for the Creative Arts in Learning Program of Lesley University.

Sarah was invited to perform at the Hudson River Clearwater Folk Festival when her first recording, “Two Hand Hold the Earth,” became the favorite of Pete Seeger’s grandson. Later, as the principal founder of the Children’s Music Network, she got to know Pete and feel his encouragement for her songwriting for adults as well as children.

As a twelve-year old Sarah taught herself to play guitar using Pete’s “Folksinger’s Guitar Guide” and her goal in life was to be like Pete Seeger. She never dreamed that Sing Out! magazine, which she subscribed to as a teenager and read cover to cover, would one day carry songs of hers including “Mahogany Tree” or that her performing would be mentioned in Billboard Magazine.

Sarah’s songs from her nine recordings have a crossover appeal for all ages and have been recorded by Sharon, Lois and Bram, Bonnie Lockhart, Two of a Kind, Velma Frye, Tom Pease and many others. Most recently Common Thread Community Chorus of Toronto included her song, “My Roots Go Down,” on their greatest hits recording.

As a gifted teacher, she has led workshops at Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Omega Institute, the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, Rowe Conference Center, the Appalachian Peace Education Center and the Michigan Reading Association Conference on Reading and Writing for Peace.

Her keynote speeches artfully weave music with inspirational anecdotes. She has given keynotes for many groups including the Women’s City Club Forum in Cincinnati, the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools, Bowdoin College Maine Educators Conference, Gettysburg College, the Middlebury, Vermont Regional Early Childhood Conference, the Minnesota Head Start Conference, and the Wisconsin Association for Mediation in Education Conference.

She has given hundreds of performances reaching a variety of audiences ranging from the People’s Voice Cafe in NYC, to the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, SUNY New Paltz School of Education, and the Los Angeles Children’s Museum. She has performed concerts in California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont since 1978, and she is on the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Roster for Music.

Sarah Pirtle was the founding editor of Pass It On! -- the journal of the Children's Music Network--and continues to provide articles and guest editorials.Aiming to create a context of cooperation among teachers, children’s performers, music educators and families, she was the main founder of this energetic network. For current news of the Children’s Music Network, see www.cmnonline.org. Her vision for CMN examplifies the message that interlaces her work: we can pass on timeless and universal values, share the wisdom of the past, and care for the next generations.

In the 1990’s she was a national trainer for Communitas, leading unlearning racism workshops in colleges and high schools. In the 1980’s as the first Peace Education Director at Traprock Peace Center, Deerfield MA, and a member of the Educators for Social Responsibility professional leadership team, she contributed some of the first curricular materials for classrooms on constructively communicating about conflicts and conceptualizing peace in daily life. Her work also involved helping to launch the Veterans Education Project.

In addition to her four books and three songbooks, she has written chapters for the following books:  Spinning Tales - Weaving Hope: Stories of Peace, Justice and the Environment, Hearing Everyone’s Voice, Promising Practices in Teaching Social Responsibility, and Kids Working It Out: Stories and Strategies for Making Peace In Our Schools. Her song, “Ibrahim,” appeared in the War Resister’s League’s 2006 Calendar.

Sarah is considered a national expert on teaching social skills through the arts. Training in
the 1970’s to become a dance therapist, she chose instead to focus upon communicating through music and joined the Living Poem Theater Company where she not only performed but wrote songs for the productions. Today she has returned to her love of dance by leading Sacred Circle Dance and choreographing dances to contemporary and original music.

The heart of her work is connecting with the earth and bonding with the natural world through the expressive arts. In her programs for adults she underscores that we can listen for our own personal connection to the fruitful life-force of the Universe. For sixteen years she has directed Journey Camp held at Woolman Hill in Deerfield which emphasizes that “We aren’t just on the earth. We are part of the earth creating and growing.” She co-founded the Tree of Life School at Red Gate Farm, now in its third year. Each keynote speech, each workshop, each concert, brings together the themes of building our communities, caring about justice, and fervently loving the earth.

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