Annie Zylstra is based in the vibrant Driftless Region of Wisconsin. She has been facilitating, writing, and collecting new and old polyphonic songs in the aural tradition for the last seven years. Annie believes that everyone can sing, and that using our voices to make beauty together is one of the most powerful things we can do in a world hungry for collective experiences of joy and meaning. She is particularly interested in the way song can enliven daily life and bonds us in community and to place. Annie's facilitation, rooted in a decade of classical musical training, ethnomusicology, and community leadership, is lively, accessible, and playful. She currently leads four polyphonic community choirs that sing new and traditional music in Viroqua and Madison, WI.
"My work as a community choir leader began in Decorah, IA in 2012, where I was living and studying anthropology and vocal performance at Luther College. Early on in my time there, I met my first mentor, Liz Rog, who had been leading oral tradition singing and building a new culture of group singing in the area for decades. Liz became a fast friend, quickly and generously folding me into the broader Decorah community and wider world of modern oral tradition singing. Since those early days, many others, human and non, have influenced my craft as a singer and teacher of new and traditional music. Kate Valentine of Singing Mamas UK, Barbara McAfee and the Full Voice Institute, Village Harmony camps and international tours, the flowering mountains of Bulgaria whose grandmas and songs are alive and well and generously taught me how to sing their traditional songs from a clear and upright place, many great teachers and friends in the world of community singing like Gretchen Sleicher, Aimee Ringle, Laurence Cole, and Lisa Littlebird, the wild sandbar willow of SW Wisconsin, who has taught me to weave the days, to be resilient and flexible, to listen and speak at once, and everyone else I can't remember."
Annie is an astounding and charismatic carrier of oral tradition. Her leadership and music are captivating.
-Singing Alive Appalachia
Annie is a thoughtful, charismatic, and inspirational presence. She is at once a strong, vibrant leader and a gentle, patient, and flexible educator who seems to effortlessly bring forth and nourish the creativity, imagination, and sense of community within and amongst all of us. Learning with Annie is a uniquely joyful, colorful, and fulfilling experience.
-Ellie Turner, Illustrator of all Wonderful Illustrations on this Website
Annie is a gifted weaver of song. She has an innate ability to tune into the energy and expression of each unique voice within a group to facilitate a natural emergence of harmonious connection. I always leave an Annie-led group sing feeling more at ease in myself and in my energetic expression, and notice that this seems to be a shared experience among the group participants. This opening to joy in shared music making is of particular value in today's world, and I'm grateful for Annie's presence and skill and her commitment to offering opportunities for her community to experience singing in this way.
-Xochi John, Alexander Technique Practitioner
Singing with Annie is vigorously life giving.
-Judith Main, Artist