News & Events


Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp

Jane Sapp songbookLet’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp is a new resource for music educators, chorus leaders, activists and cultural workers, to be released in the coming weeks. In it, the nationally admired cultural worker, musician, educator, and activist, Jane Wilburn Sapp, shares her approach to social transformation and its roots in African-American musical traditions. In the book, Jane tells the story of her childhood, nurtured by the Black community while living in the brutal world of the Jim Crow South. She describes her participation in the Black Power movement and introduces us to her mentors. She shares 25 songs she has written with young people and sung with people of all ages, and tells the stories behind each song and offers suggestions or teachers and chorus leaders. The book also includes scores, and all of the songs can be heard on podcasts where Jane’s approach to cultural work is illuminated through conversations with activists, cultural workers, and music educators.

From the introduction, “If You Really Want to Know Me:”

Too often social change work focuses on what communities don’t have: there aren’t enough economic resources; the education system is not responsive; and racism keeps Black people from reaching their full potential. But I began to wonder what would have if we focus on what we do have rather that our deficient. We have each other, our songs, our stories, our imaginations, our experiences surviving and making ugly beautiful. We know how to make a way out of no way. – Jane Sapp, p. 25

If you would like an advance copy to consider adopting for a class, or for writing a review, please contact me directly at

Coming soon! The Jane Sapp songbook features sheet music, lyrics, and the stories behind 25 songs that Jane composed with young people in communities across the country. The podcast series expands on these stories in interviews with Jane and special guests, and also features recordings of the songs. Sign up to receive email updates about the songbook and podcast series

September 2019

VIDEO: Interfaith Reconciliation Ceremony in Atlanta featuring Jane Sapp
DeKalb County, Georgia

Watch a performance by Jane from September 2019 in DeKalb County, Georgia at an Interfaith Reconciliation Service "with roughly 200 people in attendance pledging to tell the truth about DeKalb’s history of racial injustices and to address issues that linger today."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, "A choir of 35 people crowded around a piano as Jane Sapp played an old Negro spiritual that she gave modern arrangement. The power of the composition built as the choir blended in four-part harmony. 'Ain’t you got a right to the tree of life?' Sapp said before the service that the title of the song, which provides the framework for its repetitive lyrics, has always resonated with her. 'It’s always been the fundamental question of this country when it comes to race,' she said. 'We must answer that question and act on that question and deliver the answer to that question that, ‘Yes, you’ve got a right.’" Watch now.

Image credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution Video by Ryon Horne/AJC
Image credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Video by Ryon Horne/AJC


March 2016

Boston Children's Chorus Concert -
Found in Translation: Teacher Professional Development Concert with Jane Wilburn Sapp

bccSaturday, March 12, 2016 2:00pm
Boston University College of Fine Arts

The Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) harnesses the power and joy of music to unite our city’s diverse communities and inspire social change. The Found in Translation concert will be the culmination of the BCC's 8th Annual Weekend of Song and Professional Development for music educators on March 11 & 12. Registered educators will engage in workshops with our guest artist, Jane Wilburn Sapp, BCC Staff, and the singers of the Boston Children’s Chorus.

Learn more, view the program flyer, and apply for the weekend program.

April 2015

Jane Wilburn Sapp in Residence
April 13 - 25, 2015

A Call to Action:
Learning from Jane Sapp's Life, Stories and Songs

via Indiegogo


Jane Sapp in Workshop



Our partner organization, ReCAST, Inc, is launching an online fundraising campaign to generate resources that will allow Jane Sapp to document her practice in a book, in performance/presentations that will be recorded and disseminated on an accompanying disc, and in a songbook with transcriptions of some of the powerful songs Jane has written with children. This campaign is an experiment to see if folks of modest means can join together to support a cultural worker whose life has been devoted to strengthening communities by helping us value our cultures and build the kind of trust that allow us to work together across differences in the pursuit of justice. This project is designed to support Jane to share her skills, her wisdom and her work with a generation of emerging leaders: organizers, artists, educators, young people and community workers of all kinds, who are pursuing social justice in relation to the criminal justice system, schools, the environment, economic inequity, immigration reform, gender-based violence, voting rights, labor issues, youth development, and more. Please check out the campaign. Even very modest contributions are welcome! You can also support the campaign by sharing it with friends, colleagues, comrades of all kinds.

fb Share it!  twitter Tweet it! emEmail your friends!

May 2014

International Visiting Research Scholar Public Talk:
Arts, Well-being and Resilience: Ideas and Music

May 6, 2014
Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
University of British Columbia


Listen to the podcast (beginning at 15 minutes & 30 seconds).

Dr. Cynthia Cohen reported on her research into resilience, peacebuilding and the arts, focusing particularly on her collaboration with the distinguished musician, activist, educator and cultural worker Jane Wilburn Sapp. Dr. Cohen was accompanied by Jane who illustrated the power of music’s contributions to resilience through her own stories and through songs performed at the piano.  Conversation will explore connections between resilience and the practices of cultural work, music-making, healing, and justice-seeking.

The evening was introduced by the premiere of “Invocation,” a new song for voice and piano with text by UBC Professor of Law Michelle LeBaron and music by award-winning UBC composition major Matthew Emery, performed by soprano Bahareh Poureslami and Professor Rena Sharon. View the flyerListen to the podcast (beginning at 15 minutes & 30 seconds).

Letter from Cynthia Cohen to students of the independent study course of spring semester 2014, “Cultural Work and Social Transformation"

During the course, students learn about the cultural work and the 40 years of experience of Jane Wilburn Sapp, a distinguished African American musician, educator activist and cultural worker, in communities struggling for social justice. Students have the opportunity to reflect on Jane’s work and its meaning in their own lives in writing and in an intimate, small group format.
 Read Cindy's letter, which includes powerful excerpts of reflections from students. 

February 2014

Images, Songs and Stories that Challenge and Inspire

Events featuring cultural worker Jane Wilburn Sapp and photojournalist Don West
Part of ‘DEIS Impact 2014: The weeklong "Festival of Social Justice" at Brandeis University
February 1–10, 2014

Portraits of Purpose: Focusing on Social Justice Leaders in Boston and the World
February 1 - 10, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Slosberg Music Center Library

Composing Our Lives Together: Song-Writing Workshop with Jane Wilburn Sapp
Sunday, February 2, 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Slosberg Recital Hall
Application deadline: January 27
Download the application and instructions
Watch a video from the workshop.

Ain't You Got a Right to the Tree of Life:
Spirituality and the Quest for Justice in the African-American Musical Tradition
Wednesday, February 5, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Slosberg Recital Hall
View photos

Meet and Greet Artists Don West and Jane Sapp: Reception
Wednesday, February 5, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Slosberg Music Center Lobby
View photos

Read more details about these events and view the program brochure pageSEEKING LIVES OF PURPOSE is co-sponsored by ‘Deis Impact, The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts; Graduate Student Association; The Office of the Dean of Student Life; Social Justice Social Policy; The Intercultural Center; Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies; The Protestant Chaplain’s Office and others. Read more about ‘DEIS Impact and view the entire event scheduleView photos from the events.


Photo Credit: David Weinstein
View full photo album

Watch a video from Composing Our Lives Together: Song-Writing Workshop with Jane Wilburn Sapp.

Composing Our Lives Together:
Song-Writing Workshop with Jane Wilburn Sapp
Sunday, February 2, 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Slosberg Recital Hall
Application deadline: January 27 (Download the application)

Join the dynamic activist, musician, educator and cultural worker Jane Wilburn Sapp to create an original song that will inspire us to compose lives devoted to social justice. We will draw themes from Portraits of Purpose and from our own experiences and aspirations. Musical background welcome but not required. Participation limited. If you wish to attend, please download and complete the application and email it to David Stiefel by January 27. This event is part of the "Seeking Lives of Purpose" event series featuring Jane Wilburn Sapp and photojournalist Don West as part of 'DEIS Impact "Festival of Social Justice."

Five Misconceptions about Documentation, Archiving, and Communication in the Field of Community Cultural Development
virgtechartsBy Jamie Haft
A small national meeting on documentation, archiving, and communication in the field of community cultural development was hosted December 6 - 8, 2013 by the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts & Cinema, Center for the Arts, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, and Institute for Policy and Governance. Dr. Cynthia Cohen and Jane Wilburn Sapp participated in the meeting. Read a blog post by another participant Jamie Haft, Assistant Director of Imagining America
. The post reflects on learnings from the meeting and explains five misconceptions about documentation, archiving, and communication in the field that the meeting helped to debunk.

January 2014

Spirituality and the Quest for Justice in the African American Musical Tradition
January 29, 2:00 – 4:00pm
Slosberg Music Center, Room 215
Jane Wilburn Sapp and Cindy Cohen will share work from their multimedia project "A Way Out of No Way: Jane Sapp, Cultural Work and Social Transformation." They examine the roots of African-American musical tradition in West African cultures, in the period of slavery, and in the Black Church. The songs that emerged combined the community’s spiritual impulses with its commitment for social justice. Presentation followed by discussion. (Note: A formal presentation of this material will be offered February 5 at 10:00, as part of ‘DEIS Impact.)

Download the flyer to read more about this event, which is part of the "Possibilities and Dilemmas of Incorporating Sacred Elements into Art for Social Change" event series on January 28 & 29 featuring Pakistani Theatre Director Shahid Nadeem and Jane Sapp. 

Organizational Meeting about New Independent Study/Internship Opportunity offered in Spring 2014:
Cultural Work and Social Transformation

January 15, 6:00 - 8:00pm, 
Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC) Room 302


Cynthia Cohen is working with Jane Wilburn Sapp, a distinguished African American musician, educator activist and cultural worker on a major project called "A Way Out of No Way," documenting Sapp’s 40 years of experience working in communities struggling for social justice. Students are invited to join the project as interviewers, transcribers, archivists, researchers, writers and event producers. They are welcome to work as volunteers, or more intensively for credit as interns (in PAX 92a4) or researchers in a group independent study (PAX 97a1). View more spring 2014 courses supported by the Ethics Center.

fbRSVP on Facebook!

November 2013

“I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table”: Resilience, Cultural Work and Development in the African-American Community
Presentation/Performance by Jane Wilburn Sapp, special session of PAX 250 - The Arts of Building Peace open to the Brandeis community
Tuesday, November 12, 2 – 4:50 p.m.
Slosberg Music Building, Room 215


Image from
"Someone Sang for me" 
oN Jane Sapp

In this performance/presentation, Jane Wilburn Sapp will discuss the conditions that gave rise to the need for resilience in the African-American community, including slavery and life under the Jim Crow regime of segregation, and the sources of resilience in the African American family, community, and church. Songs will illustrate the power of culture to validate people’s experience and nourish their capacity to maintain a sense of dignity in the face of forces determined to humiliate them. 
fbRSVP on Facebook & invite your friends!

Read more about this session as well as another open session of PAX 250 featuring a different special guest. Limited seating is available. Please also RSVP with the course teaching assistant Anneliese if you plan to attend either session.

View videos from the session.

Independent Study/ Internship Opportunity for Students - 
Cultural Work and Social Transformation
PAX 92a4 (internship)/ PAX 97a1 (independent study) 
Offered in Spring 2014
Registration opens November 5

sappStudents are invited to join the "A Way Out of No Way" project as interviewers, transcribers, archivists, researchers, writers and event producers. They are welcome to work as volunteers, or more intensively, as interns or researchers in a group independent study in the spring of 2014. Registration for the spring term begins on the 5th of November. View the flyer and learn more about the project

View additional Spring 2014 courses supported by the Ethics Center.

October 2013

Blue Mountain Center Residency
This October, Jane Sapp, Hubert Sapp and Cynthia Cohen will be focusing on the project during a ten-day collaborative residency at Blue Mountain Center. During the residency, they will focus on completing original interviews needed for the book and for the development of the performance/presentations.