ember is a community choir based in the traditional homelands of the Oceti Sakowin and Ho-Chunk in southwest Wisconsin, directed by Anni Zylstra. We sing traditional polyphonic folk and sacred liturgical songs from European and early American traditions, with a primary focus in Black Sea and Caucuses regions like Georgia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine, American Shapenote, and Corsican.
We learn primarily through oral tradition style call-and-response - the original ancient format of music making - which helps make this music accessible to singers of all experience levels. Having fun, singing beautiful and moving music, honoring and ensuring that these rich folkloric traditions are passed to a new generous of singers, honing & discovering new things about our voices, and building a positive, vibrant community are our primary focuses, but we do also schedule a few performances throughout the year.
Note: There is not currently a 2024 winter term scheduled for the live and in person version of this class. Anni is in a long recovery process after sustaining vocal injury last year in the Village Harmony Georgia program.
However, the online course from 2023 is available for virtual participants, so please reach out or sign up below to receive the links and materials for the self paced course.
• This course is designed for 13 weeks of self-paced learning with a variety of materials uploaded to a class portal weekly, curated for folks with a range of musical abilities and learning styles.
• There is also a live class available to attend every Thursday evening from 7-9 PM Central Time on Zoom with an in-person choir of singers that learns the music with you in real time, simulating the experience of group singing and giving you a chance to hear and participate in making group harmony on mute from afar. In the live classes, you get a chance to be introduced to our material in real time, hang out with your fellow singers and chat, and be woven into the fun and chaos of our live group singing experience. Each live class is recorded and can be downloaded, revisited for review, or taken later for the duration of the course.
• After completing registration and payment, you'll receive the link to the Class Portal containing learning materials which roll out throughout the term, a Zoom link for live classes, and Google Drive access where you can find orientation materials and recordings of live classes.
• One of the most rewarding ways to take this course is with a buddy or two in-person for a live harmony experience. We encourage you to invite local friends or family members to sign up and take the course with you if you'd like to share the sound experience and have a practice buddy. We ask that for the sustainability of the program and because much of the class is a home-based individual experience outside of live classes, members of your singing pods sign up as individual registrations on the sliding scale. *We also facilitate opportunities for participants to connect with others independently enrolled in their area to get together and sing after registration is complete! It's a great way to make new friends and get to enjoy a live harmony experience with other singers.
• As with any learning experience, participants can venture as deeply as they choose with the materials provided. The more time folks spend in their portals and practice in off time, the more rewarding the course will be. As such, the course is suitable for singers of all experience levels. For examples, beginners might spend the duration of the course simply learning how to sing, perhaps with the goal of being able to hold song melodies solidly with the group sound by the end. More advanced singers might learn each part of every song with the goal of teaching them to their own ensembles, working towards memorization, learning solos, and utilizing the karaoke practice tracks which allows practice singing just one voice among all the other parts. The class portal with your materials will be available indefinitely, so returning to or finishing the course at a later date is also an option!
If you're looking for the in-person details and registration, you can find them here!
• Access to recordings and individual practice tracks for each song in our repertoire, song lyrics and translations, cultural information relevant to the music, links to source / professional recordings for study.
• Access to live Zoom classes with our in-person group on Thursdays, 7-9 PM CT
• 26 hours of live class recordings for make up, review, and self-paced learning
• Special surprise guest workshops with traditional singers from our areas of study
• Access to an active community of fellow singers and learners
• Invitations to yearly in-person singing gatherings / retreats
• *New* A 45 minute one-on-one voice lesson / check in with Anni. You can schedule yours after the start of class in January!
This hybrid model of learning is experimental, and online participants are extended members of the live class experience. The class is not a polished, finished product, but rather a fluid and happening experience you are a part of. You will experience all of our live, real-time chaos, laughter, questions, and sense of community building, and in that, learning in a highly authentic, imperfect way. If you're joining us online, we ask that you offer us your patience as we navigate the imperfect technologies available to us as we share this offering.
Anni is a folk singer, basketmaker, farmer, and magic sower based in the unceded land of the Oceti Sakowin and Ho-Chunk people in so-called southwest Wisconsin. She believes that folklore is a living, embodied, and essential practice that can help connect us to the land, our histories, and to each other, and be one of many tools in helping unearth patterns of systemic oppression rooted in domination and colonization. Anni comes from a rigorous classical music background, has been singing all their life, and specializes in making complex music digestible and accessible for beginners and anyone who wishes to learn. They have a decade of experience leading oral tradition singing and hosting welcoming spaces for singing in community. In recent years, she has had the privilege to travel to the Balkans, Georgia, and the British Isles to learn music, and loves to learn the lessons more traditional cultures have to teach us about how to live a good life. Anni continues to study with seasoned musical teachers and vocal professionals from within the traditions she studies.
Read through our Sliding Scale Guidelines & choose your tier. Then, fill out the registration form completely, open your Venmo app, and send your dues to @anniezylstra with just an emoji in the comment box!
We are open to international participants! Just select International Registration in the Paypal & card form.
Refunds are available up until you receive access to the course materials.
If you're looking for the in-person registration option, please view our Ember Viroqua page as many class details are different for local participants!
We are very happy to offer this course on a sliding scale basis to our extended community. In the spirit of folk, we want the material of this course to be as accessible as possible, while also honoring all the time, energy, expense, and skill it takes to offer a class of this kind. Your dues cover: 26 hours of class time; meticulously crafted practice materials including cultural information, individual part recordings, source recordings, and more; special native speaker / singer guest instructors, ethnomusicology collaborators, various web fees, physical gathering space, equipment, licensing fees, payment platform fees, taxes, special events, mutual aid donations to relevant causes, and whatever is left covers Anni's time spent preparing the class and contributes toward the continued education necessary for them to continue this work.