Music on the Wing: Jennifer Goodenberger at BSPAC
Michael Stadler Borrego Sun February 7, 2019
How easy the day's anxieties drifted away right from the beginning of "Lark in the Clear Air," solo pianist Jennifer Goodenberger's opening piece in her BSPAC performance on Jan. 26, entitled, "Bird Notes." And she was relaxed and in fine spirits, too, probably due in part to this venue in Borrego being her "favorite place to perform.
Perform she did, taking the audience on a musical journey of imagination, with birds and their songs the theme, spanning classical, film, and traditional music. Prior to the selection, "Dew in the Grass," near the end of her performance, Jennifer remarked that is was a rarely recorded and performed Celtic piece. But it was upon hearing the piece early in life that she had an epiphany: "I knew I had to be a musician" from then on.
Goodenberger has not only come to be renown as a fine pianist, but her on-stage style keeps her engaged and interacting with the audience between pieces. She offers interesting musical insights, sprinkled with humor, not only giving more depth to the forthcoming music, but also letting the collective audience imagination run as wild as a bird in flight while her fingers grace the keyboard.
The 1962 film, "To Kill a Mockingbird," scored by Elmer Bernstein, opens with a single note. "It's nuanced and intimate," Goodenberger said, explaining that mockingbirds' only desire is "to sing their little hearts out – protect them, don't kill them.
In the film, she pointed out that the characters are as innocent as mockingbirds. It made you want to dash home and watch that film again to catch and better appreciate those dramatic-musical nuances.
Returning later in the program with the film-related bird song theme, this time for "On Golden Pond," Goodenberger asked the audience to listen for the four individual loon calls. There they were – tremulous, hoots, and even a yodel. In the next piece, Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," she spoke of the use of silence in the film, and she played an example to reveal how both the silence and the music foreshadowed the initial classroom bird attack.
There was much to this performance in both exposition and musical expression, so a short review like this doesn't do justice to the rich experience of "Bird Songs" brought to a packed theatre audience. All in attendance were very appreciative of Goodenberger's style and range, not to forget grace at the piano.
Jennifer Goodenberger tells a wonderful story to supplement her extraordinary talent. She is a treasure, and Borrego is fortunate to have her.
Solo Piano CD's
Jennifer Goodenberger to release seventh album, 'Sonnet'
The Daily Astorian Coast Weekend September 19, 2013
ASTORIA — Pianist and composer Jennifer Goodenberger will release her latest CD of original compositions, “Sonnet: Poetry for Solo Piano,” in concert at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Grace Episcopal Church. Admission is $10 at the door. There will be a reception following the concert. The CD is titled “Sonnet” because all the compositions were either inspired by a poem or are in and of themselves a poem. The album is Goodenberger’s seventh solo piano recording. In this CD release concert, she will also read the poetry which inspired the compositions, including poems by Emily Dickinson and May Sarton. Known for the elegance of her playing, Goodenberger is a sensitive and expressive performer. For more than 30 years, she has been engaging audiences as a concert pianist, composer, studio and ensemble pianist, and as a musical director for theater. She also teaches adult piano students. Goodenberger’s intimate and contemplative piano solos are an introspective journey into one’s soul. Her original works range from healing and spiritual compositions to passionate and romantic creations. The music is a mesmerizing fusion of classical, improvisational and contemporary styles. Her CDs of original compositions are ideal for use in healing, massage, yoga, birthing, hospice, and as ambient music for creativity and relaxation.
Grace Episcopal Church is located at 1545 Franklin Ave. in Astoria. For more information, call 503-325-5310.
Composing music for relaxation proves to be a challenge
DWIGHT CASWELL For Coast Weekend, The Daily Astorian November 13, 2009
Music has been used in healing throughout the world for millennia, and it was more than 300 years ago that William Congreve wrote, "Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." In this country, music therapy began to be taken seriously in the 1970s.
Local pianist and composer Jennifer Goodenberger has been interested in the effects of music on health for 30 years, an interest that culminates this Friday evening in a program called "Music for Health and Healing." Goodenberger's latest solo piano CD, "Breathe Peace," which is specifically designed to create a state of deep relaxation, will be released at the event, which is presented in cooperation with the Astoria Conservatory of Music.
As a musician, Goodenberger has always been interested in how music works, not just the technical aspects of composition, but "how and why we react to music; why music can make us joyful, or sad, or can energize us." She devoted some formal study to the subject, "but more than anything I've been on my own, with my own music." While music can be healing in many ways, she became interested in deep relaxation "because so many of our physical and emotional problems are caused by stress." She also knew that hospice and nursing situations need ways to find calm and comfort, and she decided to compose music that would do just that.
The music of "Breathe Peace" is made of slow tempos, simple melodies and simple harmonies. Writing this sort of music proved to be a unique challenge. "I had to make it musical and simple," says Goodenberger, "without it being pabulum." She discovered that there is a fine line between being relaxed and being bored, not just in the listening but in the playing. "It was an interesting line to walk.
Since the music required quiet dynamics, Goodenberger sometimes found herself tossing a take in the recording studio because there was too much rhythm, too much excitement - and excitement leads to faster tempos. Her problem was this: She had to remove emotion from the music, and music is all about emotion. She had to allow enough emotion for people to listen, but not so much that they couldn't relax.
This is the reason that "Music for Health and Healing" will not be a traditional concert. You can't have your audience drifting off into profound relaxation. Goodenberger and Lisa Nelson, of the Astoria Conservatory of Music, worked out what they call "A Presentation in Lecture and Music." The pieces on the new CD will not be played in their entirety, but only several minutes each, and the remaining musical selections will be from Goodenberger's other work.
Interspersed with the music will be a discussion of how music and sound is being used in scientific and medical fields. For example, sound is now routinely used to destroy kidney stones; might it sometime be used against cancer? Sound is being used to treat dyslexia as well, and scientists are comparing the structures of music and DNA. Goodenberger will also keep it personal with stories of the way music has touched people in her life. There will be time for questions from the audience.
Music for Health and Healing" takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, at the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center, 16th Street and Franklin Avenue. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. For further information, contact the Conservatory at (503) 325-3237.
Breathe Peace: A new direction in recording and a new release
in time for a new year
by Lisa Evans for Hipfish Monthly November 2009
IT’S A FITTING EXPRESSION for the holidays. It’s an spot-on suggestion for our world right now. It also happens to be the title for the latest, and very well perhaps the greatest, c.d. of local musician and artist, Jennifer Goodenberger. I had the opportunity to attend her presentation, “Music for Health & Healing” at the Performing Arts Center last month and it was both informative and inspirational. I’d heard her play many times before and have always enjoyed her music, but this particular performance was diff erent. It was different because she not only played her passion, she spoke about it in such an uplifting and life-affirming way that one couldn’t help but be moved by the whole experience.
Fellow artists will understand what I’m about to say next. Doing your art (whatever your medium happens to be) is often easier than talking about it. Explaining what you do is one thing, but being able to express why you do what you do and getting others to really understand your art from that perspective…well, that’s an art in itself. And that’s what Jennifer did that night. Through her music and her words, she gave the audience a chance to “get” why she plays the piano.
Passion often begins as a yearning for something you can’t have. At six years of age, Jennifer begged her parents for piano lessons. Even though her folks loved music and there was a piano in their home, it wasn’t until she was nine when she began learning how to tickle the ivories. Perhaps they made her wait because it was the conventional wisdom of the day. Perhaps they wanted to make sure she was serious about learning an instrument. Perhaps they weren’t quite ready to hear what passion sounds like from a young child. What Jennifer didn’t know back then was her journey as a life-long artist had begun. Perhaps that’s what her parents had concerns about...being an artist can be a challenging profession. Passion often leads a person to follow the less-traveled path of instability. Passion isn’t always reasonable and reliable. Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. All of this is irrelevant, however, to a person who must create their art.
Jennifer has been studying and creating music for the last forty years. Despite her early interests in folk and pop music, (she was a big fan of Elton John’s in her teens), her education was centered on classical formal training. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in music from Marylhurst University in Portland and her Master’s in Music from Northwestern University in Illinois. It was while she was attending Marylhurst and taking music classes taught by strict nuns that she discovered she was a non-traditional student. While learning music theory and methodology were important in her studies, so was learning about the spiritual and healing qualities of music and these two elements were missing. She remembers asking herself, “How can music change the world?” and after she received her undergraduate degree, she began exploring how her music could answer that question.
In the early eighties, Jennifer discovered the music of Steven Halpern who was using his piano compositions as instruments of healing. This struck a deep chord (piano pun intended) with Jennifer and she was inspired to create her music in a similar style. While many people would categorize it as “New Age”, Jennifer prefers to call it “a mesmer- izing fusion of classical, improvisational and contemporary styles.” Her latest work, BreathePeace, is more than a style. It is a true reflection of who Jennifer is as an artist and how she hopes to make a difference in healing the world.
During her presentation Goodenberger also gave the audience a glimpse of her research into the connections between sound, music, health, and all else, which she has been refi ning over the last 30 years. She revealed that the ancient civilizations of India, Greece, Egypt, China and Tibet had vast knowledge of the power of sound to heal, based on an understanding that vibration was the fundamental creative force of the universe. Scientists have recently proposed that “superstrings” are the fundamental building blocks of matter and energy, and their vibrations are manifestations of everything in the universe. Goodenberger sums it up as, “The universe is a symphony of vibration.”
And she was quite excited to learn that sound and health had a common etymology. Health (Gesund in German) is defined as soundness of body and mind, and to heal is to “make sound”. “Music is life made audible,” says Goodenberger.
Goodenberger’s extensive home library includes two books that demonstrate how water and other materials are aff ected by vibrations. Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration by Hans Jenny, and the newer Water Sound Images by Alexander Lauterwasser, seem to say that the world (and the rest of the universe) is (and has been) essentially formed by sound. The ancients had it right after all.
So why did Jennifer record this kind of c.d. now? About a year and a half ago, she was asked by a couple of friends to consider lengthening some of her songs from earlier works and that marked the beginning of the idea of BreathePeace. Longer songs with extended pauses that didn’t stir up emotions, but would provide a sense of calm and comfort was what Jennifer wanted to create. Having done her research regarding using music as a healing modality, she wanted to find out what kind of aff ect her new songs had on people before she recorded them. This past summer she held several mini-concerts for friends and the feedback she received confirmed that this new c.d. had to be made.
After two days of recording in mid-August, on a Steinway in a professional studio in Portland, BreathePeace was born. It’s the perfect time now for this c.d. Our world is stressed-out, sped-up, and stripped of serenity. While Jennifer’s big dream is to have this c.d. playing in hospital rooms and hospice centers around the country, she created BreathePeace for all of us. We can all use a bit of healing these days. Indeed, BreathePeace is spiritual, soothing soul-food.