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How Can We Keep From Singing: Music and the Passionate Life

By Joan Oliver Goldsmith


How Can We Keep from Singing explores the life of the committed musicians who sing Beethoven’s 9th at Orchestra Hall, but may never sing a starring role at the Met. The book brings the reader behind the scenes of a symphonic chorus, and then inside the music itself, to share the physical joys of making harmonious sound, and the sensual pleasures of hearing it.


In the experience of making music, the book finds insight—about making mistakes, about courage and difficulty, about teaching, friendship, self-knowledge and the essential elements of creativity.


Finding the range in which it is most comfortable to sing can tell us how to find our home in other areas of life and work. By observing conductors—today and throughout history—we learn about leadership. But we also explore the largely unappreciated art of great “followership”—an art essential not only to choral singing, but also to human enterprises ranging from succeeding in kindergarten to building a company.


Above all, How Can We Keep From Singing advocates that we listen to ourselves, and not hold back in playing the “invisible instrument” of creativity—whether in writing poetry, starting a business, restoring old cars, planting a garden, or singing a good old song.


Praise From Reviewers, Authors, and Artists

“Goldsmith’s words soar, growl, cry and whisper. And they inspire. . . ”

Publishers Weekly, starred review


“Read it and sing!”

— Bobby McFerrin, vocalist and conductor


“For anyone who practices an activity simply for the love of it, this is an important, affirming book.”

— Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones


“Goldsmith offers a paean to the creative spirit” [and to] “. . . the passionate, committed, talented, frequently unpaid or underpaid workers who make possible the great things in life.”

— Kirkus Reviews


“Goldsmith conducts you gracefully among the surprisingly connected worlds of commerce, music, and spiritual discovery, leaving you with a precious recognition: you need never live a divided life again. Music powers all.”

— Kim Stafford, author of Having Everything Right



© 2015 Joan Oliver Goldsmith. All rights reserved.