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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM NEW BEGINNINGS-NEXT STEP!


12/4/18
Hi Friends,
As the year draws quickly to its close I’m filled with a sense of gratitude for the opportunities I continue to receive to both touch and be touched by the lives of so many inspiring and courageous people. As a wise young man I worked with for several years both during and after his incarceration said to me recently, the question we need to ask each other isn’t, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ It’s ‘what happened to you?’ He is of course absolutely right. It’s our stories that connect us. Our stories that create communion and understanding. I’m so blessed and honored to be continually entrusted with these stories, to carry and share them, both on the dark prison tier and the bright stage. Here’s an example of one such story.

In group we often talk about what it means to be free. Not just released from the penitentiary or the often overbearing strictures of probation, but really free in our hearts, minds and spirits. Often this means going inward to the place of that original wound. There and only there can the long process of healing begin to take place. It’s often hard and scary work. Recently in our Next Step (after prison) group a man talked of living in such extreme poverty that, as a little boy, the entire school bus would laugh when he got dropped o. in front of his family’s shabby house. He spoke of how he felt when the prettiest girl in the third grade laughed at his dirty coat. He traced the choices he made that eventually took him to prison directly back to the burning shame that little boy swore never to feel again. A shame that lay dormant but was rediscovered decades later in a prison cell. He’s been out a few years now, is working a good job (saying with a huge smile, “I have BENEFITS!”) rebuilding his life and helping his four kids attend college. I’m so inspired, not only by the resilience he has shown in so successfully moving on in life , but by the incredible courage he has exhibited in going back and wrestling with his own foundational wounded-ness. I’m so proud of the good man he is and always was. And I’m honored to know yet another human being committed to being truly free.

As NB-NS finishes its first year as a registered 501 C3 non-profit, we are confronted with some important choices about how to grow our efforts to reach out to the most vulnerable members of our community. If you’d like to support our work to help the incarcerated and returning citizen discover hope and dignity, please consider making a donation to us via paypal. You can find a link on our homepage at NewBeginnings-NextStep.org.

Now some music news. My new CD, VINTAGE, has been receiving an unprecedented (for me) amount of airplay from Folk DJs across the company. I was their third most played artist in October and “She Persisted” was actually the number one song for that entire month. Although, like Stevie said, “the landslide (of new music) brings you down”, we’ve been out over nine weeks and the CD is still hanging in at 12th on their airplay chart. You can find VINTAGE on all major digital distribution services. Or if you’d like to see your favorite neighborhood folksinger receive even more than the .0036 cents that Spotify will generously pay him if you stream all all twelve songs, you can purchase an actual physical CD at www.johnflynn.net.

My producer Harvey recently surprised me with a video of a song we released a few years back. The video includes some great cell phone footage captured by Lisa Kristofferson as Kris and I rehearsed my song “Malala “ backstage at the Birchmere in Virginia. You can check out “Malala” here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=vIhuCxJMY_U

I’ll be doing my annual holiday benefit concert for Camp Dreamcatcher, a therapeutic summer camp for kids dealing with AIDS/HIV on Wednesday, December 12th. The show will feature my friends Harvey and Reggie Harris , along with my kids, and will take place again this year at the beautiful Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA. Here’s a link for info and tickets- https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/6910467/john-flynn-family-friends-holiday-concert-sellersville-sellersville-theater-1894?language=en&country=US&cobrand=sellersville&searchType=organization&

A wonderful show to put on your radar for the start of 2019 will take place in Silver Spring, MD on January 18th. I’ll be part of the third annual UnNaugural Concert, Playing it Forward, Voices for Social Justice. Info here: https://www.unnaugural.org
Hope to see you out there!
Peace,
John
 


October 30, 2018
On stage with my producer Harvey at the CD release concert at the Kennett Flash... Thanks to everyone who came out!

 
 

 
Hi Friends,

 
The heartbreaking news these days seems to be coming in waves, one after another; each one capable of knocking you down before you can fully recover or catch your breath from the last. In these situations, I find it even more important to take time to notice -and thank- the truly good, loving, and courageous people in our world. I’m not talking about the big famous one’s either. (Lord knows we have our share of these                   !) I’m referring to the regular folks going about their work and lives quietly, without much notice or reward. The world is held together by folks like these and they’re truly all around us. 
 
These are the same people Fred Rogers was talking about when he said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.”
 
Just today in Gander Hill Prison, one of our guys shared that last night he was going through something pretty difficult and “feeling some kind of way”.  Dealing with anger has been a stumbling block for this young man, and he was out over is skis a bit and in danger of making choices that could have potentially extended his stay with the department of corrections. A corrections officer who had been observing not only the situation, but how hard the young man had been trying to make positive changes in his life, pulled him aside and talked to him, radically deescalating the moment emotionally. The officer spoke to my New Beginnings younger brother for several minutes, helping the young man pull back and get some perspective on the tense situation. He shared with the young man how impressed he’d been with him, and encouraged him not to throw away all he’d worked so hard to achieve in the last couple years by acting out in the heat of a volatile and vulnerable moment. The guard’s words helped. A lot. 
 
Corrections officers in my state may well be the most overworked and underpaid public servants we have. I know all the preconceptions about prison guards, and I’d be lying if I said I’d never met some that lived up (or down) to the stereotype. Add to the chronic staffing problems of an already very tough gig the regular mandatory overtime in which shifts are “frozen” (which essentially means... we know you were scheduled to work until midnight, but it turns out that you have to stay until 8AM...) and you can see that an already stressed workforce has had their jobs made much more difficult. It’s against this backdrop - one in which it would be so easy to do no more than the bare minimum the job requires - that the aware and consciously “human” being truly shines. And I’ve known many who wear badges. 
 
The officer last night went the extra mile and potentially changed the course of an inmate (and friend of mine’s) life.  I know a conversation with an emotional kid seems like a little thing when viewed against the enormity of the events of the day.  But little things -expressions of care and compassion- like this are being done all around us all the time. And in the end, the kind of world we live in may well end up being the sum total of these little things. (Hmmm... I may be plagiarizing Gary Cooper’s character in that Frank Capra movie here! Oh well, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best!!!) Anyway, pay attention to them. They’re the best PDFs (personal flotation devices) we’ve got when the waves threaten to take us under. 
 
I’ll be at Focus in Sterling, Virginia this Saturday evening, November 3rd -http://www.focusmusic.org/concert-s

 
This year, my annual holiday benefit concert for Camp Dreamcatcher will take place at the Sellersville, Theater on December 12th. My special guests this year will include Reggie Harris, Harvey, and my kids! Here’s a link for more info: https://theater.st94.com/events/john-flynn-family-friends-holiday-concert/
Hope you can join us!

 
The new CD has been getting a great reception from folk DJs around the country.  It’s available at all major digital outlets (ITunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.) But the actual CDs are only available at my shows or through my website. 
 
See you out there!
 
Peace,
 
John

10/15/18

NEWS: John’s new CD VINTAGE
was The Midnight Special’s CD of the week!!!



Cell phone pic from the road:
Don Quixote, aluminum statue by
Anna Hyatt Huntington, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells, Inlet, SC …

Can’t put my finger on it but something about this guy seems so familiar! -JF





Hi friends!

I hope this note finds you safe and well, especially my Florida and Georgia pals. Beth and I got to ride out the big blow in Myrtle Beach (Thanks Rob!) and luckily missed most of the bad stuff down there. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected by Hurricane Michael.

A few upcoming shows--

I’m doing a special gig this Saturday, October 20th, called “Released To – From – For” at 7PM at The 1867 Sanctuary, 101 Scotch Road, Ewing NJ. I will be appearing in concert with poets Luis Angel Mercado & Justice from 360 Poetry Night (and other poets). Admission is free (unlike over two million of our fellow citizens!)

Also, just a quick reminder that our CD release concert for VINTAGE will take place this Friday, October 19th at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square, PA. My good buddy and longtime producer, Harvey (In the Morning) will be backing me up for several songs. Info here:
https://www.kennettflash.org/event/1710359-john-flynn-vintage-album-kennett-square/

My thanks to Helen Leicht and all my friends at WXPN for supporting this show (and playing the album!) Thanks also to the Folk DJs around the country who have given it such a warm response!

I’ll be at Evergreen House Concerts in Plainfield, NJ on October 28th:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/john-flynn-at-evergreen-house-tickets-50980819002


And in Sterling, VA at Focus on Sunday, November 3rd:
http://www.focusmusic.org/concert-s


I’ve been on the road quite a bit these past weeks, so its always good to hear from our guys. I was particularly delighted to see this recent FB post from “Big Mike” Watkins… (pictured below)

“IT WILL BE 1YR OUT OF PRISON ON THE 29TH FEELS GOOD TOBE A FREE MAN THAT HAS A CAREER AND IS HEALTHY I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO MY GROUP NEWBEGINNINGS AND NEXTSTEP THANK YOU YALL FOR BEING IN MY LIFE AND THE STORYS THAT WAS TOLD I HELD ON TO IT IN MY HEART THANKS JOHN , SANDY JULEY FOR HELPING ME GROW AS A PERSON MUCH LOVE KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK HUMBLE AND INTEGRITY AND REMAIN FOCUS AND FREE GOD BLESS TILL WE MEET AGAIN PROSPER IS ALL I KNOW AND THANKS TO ALL FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR THE POSITIVE FEEDBACK ON BETTERING MY SELF IN LIFE AND MOST OF ALL MY MOTHER DESERIE WATKINS THAT TOOK ME IN HER HOUSE AND SAID SON YOU CAN DO IT IT TAKES ONEDAY AT A TIME BUT ITS NOT GOING TO BE EASY LOVE YOU MOM. R I P HOWIE MY BIG BRO I LOVE YOU THIS IS ALL FOR YOU I KNOW YOU ARE WITH ME I CAN FEEL YOU WALKING EVERY STEP OF THE WAY WITH ME SMILING DOWN SAY BRO GO HARD OR GO HOME MISS YOU BRO. IF I CAN DO IT WITH A FELONY ANYBODY CAN DO IT WITH A FELONY PLEASE DONT LET A CHARGE HENDER YOU IN LIFE WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES JUST DONT FALL BACK IN THE TRAP AND MOST OF ALL PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS NEGITIVITY RUN AWAY FROM IT AND MAY GOD BLESS DO THE RIGHT THINGS BECAUSE ITS THE RIGHT THING TODO. 110%” -MW


Thank you for your continued support of New Beginnings-Next Step and all my musical (and otherwise) windmill tilting! I hope to see you soon.

Peace,

John




NEWS:

John receives the 2018 Phil Ochs Award “in recognition of his music and activism for social and political justice in the spirit of Phil Ochs”!

John’s new CD, VINTAGE, will be released on October 5th. CD Release Concert at The Kennett Flash on Friday, October 19th!



With Sonny Ochs, after receiving this year’s Phil Ochs Award
during the annual Power of Song Concert

10/02/18

Hi friends,

Hope this note finds you well!


My deep thanks to the arts and culture organization, A Still Small Voice and Sonny Ochs for the incredible surprise they presented me with after the intermission at my concert last Sunday in Schenectady. Receiving an award with a lifelong hero’s name on it, indeed seeing your own name written there as well, is a profoundly humbling experience. I will do my best to live up to it.



The new CD is finally here! In terms of writing, performance I believe it’s my best work to date. (Certainly my harmony singing has improved!) The album was produced by my long time studio pal Harvey (aka to Philly old heads like me as Harvey in the Morning) and I think we’ve really hit our stride with this project. Don’t be shy about calling your local radio station and requesting they play a cut. Thanks to Helen Leicht at WXPN, 88.5 FM in Philadelphia for being the first to air the title track. The video for that song is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCmbV_EHwMw&feature=youtu.be

The new album will be available at my shows and website as well as digitally through ITunes, Amazon, Spotify etc. The official release concert will take place at The Kennett Flash on Friday, October 19th- Tickets are going fast!
https://www.kennettflash.org/event/1710359-john-flynn-vintage-album-kennett-square/



Some other upcoming shows include:

Saturday, October 6th, West Chester, PA, Private Event

Sunday, October 7th, Lawrenceville, NJ, WorldWind House Concerts, 5PM, for info or to rsvp email: worldwind.house.concerts@gmail.com

Sunday, October 28th, Plainfield, NJ, Evergreen House Concerts, https://www.facebook.com/events/856312944527910/

Saturday, November 3rd, Sterling, VA, Focus
http://www.focusmusic.org/concert-s
phone: (301) 461-3600

Thanks for your continuing support of my work. Hope to see you very soon!

Peace,

John
 


9/11/18


Great time performing with my buddy, Josh White Jr., at Uncle Calvin’s
 in Dallas last week!



Hi friends,

As I type the date, I can’t believe it’s been 17 years. Let our thoughts today be with those who still struggle with the life changing losses and wounds they sustained on that terrible morning. When the Philadelphia Phillies resumed play a week later they asked me to sing “God Bless America” at Veterans Stadium during the seventh inning stretch of their game with the Atlanta Braves. The sound- the spirit- of 40,000 people singing along with me under the open sky lifted my heart and gave me the first glimpse of something that could reasonably called healing. It had to do with the sense of courage I felt in the presence of my neighbors that night. I’m not sure this country held on to that spirit in the months and years that followed. But here’s a song that moment inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0tSC8x3V9E&feature=youtu.be

I had an amazing time at the Global Homeboy Network out in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago. Close to 400 people, from all over the world, came together to share their ideas and experiences in helping folks reintegrate into society and rebuild their lives after incarceration and gang involvement. I was especially honored to attend the conference with a friend and hero of mine, New Beginnings-Next Step participant and (now) advisor, Quincey Thomas. I met Q when he was serving time in Gander Hill Prison and have been so proud of the successful life he’s built since his release three plus years ago.



With the author of “Tatoos on the Heart”, Father Greg Boyle
of Homeboy Industries, and Quincey Thomas

On the flight back from L.A. Quincey reflected on all the wonderful people and organizations we’d encountered at the conference. We were both deeply affected by the hundreds of people from across the planet, all of whom were dedicated to striking some kind of a meaningful blow for restorative justice. Somewhere over Arizona Q said, “You know, Mr. John (personal note: I will never get this man to call me just plain John! Believe me I’ve tried!) All those people, Homeboy Industries included, are doing great stuff! But no one is doing what New Beginnings does. (Except for some gospel sharing ministries…) no one is really going INTO the prisons where the need is the greatest. New Beginnings-Next Step is really doing something special!” I had to agree with Q and it strengthened my resolve to continue and grow this effort.


Of course the LA trip wasn’t all business!

I’m heading to New England this weekend…

I’ll be doing a house concert in East Bridgewater, MA on Saturday night, September 15th. Email Jeff at i42golf3@yahoo.com, or call (508) 345-3682 for information.

I’ll also be playing the Joe Davies Folk Festival in Middleborough, MA on Sunday afternoon, September 16th. Here’s a link: http://www.soulehomestead.com/upcoming-events/joe-davies-folk-festival/

I’m doing a private event in West Chester, PA on September 23rd, and then I’ll close out the month in Schenectady, New York doing a concert for my dear friend Sonny Ochs: on September 30th: http://schenectadyhistorical.org/upcoming-events/?mc_id=1174

Final bit of news… my new CD, Vintage, will be out on October 5th! The local release concert will take place in Kennett Square, PA at the Flash later that month.

Hope to see you soon.

Peace,
John


August 19, 2018

John Flynn is as close as we come these days to a live Phil Ochs!
– Vic Heyman, SingOut Magazine



Closing the New Beginnings-Next Step Benefit Concert with some of my guys...



Hi friends,

We had an amazing time and turnout at the NB-NS benefit concert this year! I was so proud of the four returning citizens who got up and spoke about the work we do. I know I surprised a lot of the guys in attendance by inviting them all on stage to close the show, but, as I'm sure anyone who was in the auditorium will attest, it was a moving and powerful experience hearing them sing the spontaneously rewritten third verse of my song “Benediction” with the words, “May your days bring you freedom and peace”. (There's some video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAUkGo1EqZs&feature=youtu.be

My thanks to NB-NS board member, volunteer facilitator and chief meditation instructor, Sandy Stefanowicz, for helping produce the concert. And a big thanks to my alma mater, Ridley High School for welcoming me home and hosting the event.

The prison work grows and I've been asked to start yet another “inside' group in a new part of a prison. After I explained that New Beginnings would need to hold to our foundational principle that participation could not be induced or mandated, I met with the offenders on the new tier last week and explained what we are and what we do. I spent about a half hour with the men and told them that if this was to work it had to be THEIR decision and THEIR group. I departed after telling them I would leave it to them to decide whether I show up next Thursday morning at 10AM. I'll let you know how the vote comes out...

This past week I was also allowed to do a concert inside Gander Hill Prison. I joked with members of the audience that I was honored to be there because no one had ever paid so much to see one of my shows before. The reactions of the men to my songs were some of the most powerful I've experienced in going on four decades of sharing my music. My song, “Just Like Merle Haggard Said (Sing Me Back Home)”, contains the lines “Please sing me back to a place in the sun, where men can be more than the worst things they've done...” At hearing those words, a man in the audience left his seat, turned his back to the stage and disappeared completely from my view. I later learned that he had dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands for the duration of the song. Sandy Stefanowicz was in attendance and seated nearby. She wrote on Facebook afterwards that, “One of our guys fell to his knees crying and praying... The next night at our Thursday meeting in the prison, one of the men told John that the words to his songs expressed everything he has ever felt and experienced in prison”.

I'm sure you'll believe me when I write that no award or review from a professional critic could ever mean as much to a performer or songwriter.

Thank you all for your support and prayers as I continue to be uplifted and astonished to encounter brothers and sisters, beautiful children of God, and indeed, our Lord himself, in the faces of strangers who have often endured things I fear I may never have had the strength to survive personally. At least not intact.

I'm increasingly certain that we can all experience these (for me) life changing recognitions if we give ourselves the chance to create a context in which they can occur. As far as I can tell, for a person comfortably ensconced in what our society thinks of as the middle class, this often requires moving dramatically beyond our respective comfort zones. I guess that's often to a place they call the "margins". I doubt I would have had the courage to do this personally unless I was asked. I'll always be grateful for this invitation. At first, I believed that Brother David, the Franciscan friar who stared New Beginnings, had seen something in me that I didn't see in myself. Now I'm coming to understand that everyone in possession of a beating heart – hence, a heart that can be broken- is not only able to make this journey, but is perhaps duty bound!

I was on a panel with my friend Mary Gauthier at a conference in Kansas City last year and we were addressing this very idea. A man in the audience asked how to begin and Mary said, “Go TOWARDS what breaks your heart.” Best advice I ever heard.

I had a great time seeing and hearing friends at the Philadelphia Folk Festival this past weekend. The best part was getting to introduce my granddaughter to everybody. There's a wonderful new book called "Smiling Banjo" about the festival which includes amazing photos of folks who've performed there over the years. (There are even two shots of my kids!) In the back of the book is a list of all the performers who've played there and the years they appeared. It blew me away to see that in the past 25 years I've played PFF thirteen times! I'll never be able to thank the Folk Song Society (and head honcho, Andy Braunfeld) enough for all their support has meant to me.



Hanging with Gramps backstage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival

I'll be doing a house concert in Culver City this weekend (Aug 25th). For info send an email to:
JohnFlynnHouseLA@aol.com
I don't get to California that often so I hope if you're a west coaster you'll try and come over and say hi.

The traveling doesn't end with LA. In the next few weeks I'll be in Tulsa:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1984351118283119/?ti=icl

in Dallas:
http://www.unclecalvins.org

And in Houston:
http://www.houstonfolkmusic.org/secsat.html

I know there's a lot going on (and wrong) out there these days. But there are good people everywhere and so many reasons to stay hopeful. Hang on tight and keep the faith!

Peace,
John


"John Flynn isn't the only artist I admire that my kids discovered on their own. But there are similarities between him and the others. Two of the best writers I ever knew - Roger Miller and Shel Silverstein - had, in common with John, fertile imaginations, a Shakespearean love of words, and the ability to see funny things with a child's eyes. Their art, like John Prine's, is a wonderful combination of humor and heart that can move kids and grownups to laughter, tears, or both... The truth is in the details; the gifts are an ear for accurate dialogue, an eye for powerful imagery and anything funny, and a heart open to surprises and the possibilities of moving the emotions. John Flynn is one of a special breed of good-hearted artists whose reaction to the Human Condition finds kind, humorous expression. God bless them.” - Kris Kristofferson

May 25, 2018
Prior to singing the National Anthem at Citizens Bank Park , Philadelphia
photo: Beth Flynn
 

Hi friends

I hope this note finds you well. I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while but things have been conspiring to keep me from the keyboard recently.


My summer chore list included a lot of firewood to split and stack


A lot going on…. I finally finished up what will be my next CD, Vintage. I’m anxious for you to hear the songs which include 10 new compositions and two older ones. One of the new songs, Sing Me
on my Way, includes vocals by heroes, friends and loved ones including my kids, my brother Michael, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Kathy Mattea, Billy Swan, and many others. It is very special to have so many voices from my musical journey brought together in one place. I’ll let you know when the CD is to be released, but I’m shooting for sometime this fall. 

Our New Beginnings-Next Step Picnic was a great success!
John talks more about New Beginnings-Next Step here:
https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/offering-new-beginnings-interview-musician-social-activist-john-flynn-lbkr/

My continued thanks to those who support New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc through donations at my shows and in the mail. As Executive Director my time and efforts have been increasingly monopolized by this work but in a very real way I feel it is exactly what I’ve been doing all along with my music. I know that as a young parent when one of my kids was sick, though I loved all my children equally, my ear was always turned to the cry of that sick child. There were nights where Beth or I slept by that ailing child's door, or held it in our arms. I often feel that the Lord is like a young parent and I feel God most keenly in the presence of those who are asked to suffer greatly, as in the case of our incarcerated brothers and sisters.

Or with returning citizens as they summon the courage to take on the enormous challenges of starting a new life - often without a dollar in their pocket or a possession to their name.

Rather than cost my music, I believe this experience over the past thirteen years has profoundly enriched it. And I will continue to try to share what I learn in my songs and stories.

I’ll get to sing some of those songs in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on Saturday, July 14
th, at The Guthrie Center. The 14th is Woody‘s birthday and it is no small honor to have been selected to appear on this particular evening in this particular place. I will be of course including a few of my favorite Woody songs in the show--

https://guthriecenter.org/troubadour-series/

I will also be performing a show Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania on July 26, and I'll be back in Wilmington, Delaware at Bellevue State Park on August 2.

My annual benefit concert for New Beginnings Next Step will take place at my Alma Mater, Ridley High School in Folsom, Pennsylvania on August 10
th.

Later that month I will be flying out to California for a house concert in Culver City as well as attending the Homeboy Global Network Conference in L.A. Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart, calls this conference a “finishing school for compassion”. I’ll be taking one of our NBNS returning citizens along with me on this trip to speak about the work we’re doing here in Wilmington, Delaware.


Stay strong,

John




April 10, 2018

"John's songs reach deep and he has a way of touching an audience in ways that few can match. Reviewers often write that Flynn 'follows in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger,' yet John's work for justice and fairness is something he weaves seamlessly into his concerts. He truly inspires his audience. His most recent concert here ranks among our favorites and we look forward to the next time."

­-Russ & Julie
Russ & Julie's House Concerts, Los Angeles, CA

Mike is one of many New Beginnings members making good in the world! He is the manager of a KFC and writes that New Beginnings “kept me humble and grounded. The next step here! Integrity is number one (in) my rehabilitation!... Thanks for believing in me... no looking back... Love freedom!”




Hi Friends,

I hope this note finds you well! I'm packing for a couple shows in Florida this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends and- after a long snowy winter her in the midatlantic- having a chance to get out and run in the warm sunshine. Links and information regarding upcoming shows are below.

The new album is going great! Last night we finished cutting vocals on a song called Sing Me on my Way which features the voices of family, friends and heroes I've worked with throughout my career. Singing on the track are folks like Kris Kristofferson, Arlo Guthrie, Kathy Mattea, and Billy Swan, Jane Kelly Williams, Lizanne Knott, and Ben Wisch. Even my kids and my brother Mike (my first singing partner) join me at the microphone. I can't wait for you to hear it!

The work in prison and with returning citizens continues to teach and amaze me. An example:

Someone in one of our men's prison groups recently complained about a new transgender inmate named Wheeler. (Not using real names here.) Although Wheeler identified as a woman, DOC classifies people solely on the basis of anatomy. Being new to prison, Wheeler was - quite understandably -having a difficult time adjusting. And she wasn't the only one.

I ain’t looking for trouble, but that stuff really freaks me out.” Martinez said with almost practiced disgust. Plus, if you’re SEEN with people like that, then other people start wondering about YOU! All I know is he... she... IT... better steer clear of me.”

Before I could say a word, another member of our circle came back at him hard. “Knock off the bull!” he said. “Don’t use that kind of language here. You’re talking about another human being! What about what we talk about in New Beginnings? What about working on your own shit and not judging other people? None of us in here is perfect or has all the answers. If you think you do, maybe this isn’t the group for you.”

The room was momentarily filled with a charged tension but the disagreement that ensued was talked out and worked through-as is our way- with measured and respectful words. I saw each man, guided by his brothers in the circle, really attempt to listen to the other. And within minutes a truly amazing discussion evolved. By the time we began our closing meditation ninety minutes later, the group was in general agreement on several points.

One: Though part of Martinez's discomfort grew from simply not knowing what to say (and then covering his embarrassment), people can usually tell what's in your heart. Even a dog knows the difference between being accidentally stepped on and being kicked. So we should just do our best but not worry so much about slipping up and saying the wrong thing occasionally. We're all trying to figure this stuff out at some level. If there's no malice in your intent there will seldom be a real problem in using the wrong words. Especially if you bring to the moment an open heart. So if you don't know how a person prefers to be referred to or addressed, just ask them. (Regarding misgenedering, I've since been challenged on this point, but although I realize context isn't a magic wand, I remain comfortable with my position.)

Two: Prison is a place that, by its very nature, deprives an individual of a large measure of their dignity.

Three: Prison can be, for the toughest, but especially for newcomer, a very lonely and frightening place. (So how much more so for a new transgender individual!)

And finally: Regardless of whether or not you’re comfortable with another inmate’s sexual preferences or identification, a subversive way to fight for your own (probably) damaged sense of self-worth might be to do what you can to let each and every person you come into contact with (correctional officers included) know that you recognize them as being possessors of basic and inherent dignity as human beings. It may be something as simple as saying hello.

I walked out that evening both marveling at the arc and honesty of the guys' discussion and wondering if anything would come of it.

A week later I found out that Martinez had, a few days later, invited Wheeler to join his afternoon card game. I simply can not express how profound a gesture this was.  Such a simple thing. And yet so very powerful. And what inherent risk it entailed for someone who has struggled with what others might think of him. I told Martinez how proud I was of him and asked if he’d received any blow-back. “Hell yeah!” he said. “There are always gonna be haters. Jokers call you 'faggot' and shit! I don’t care. I thought about what we talked about and decided that no one gets to tell me who I can and can't hang around with." 
"Besides”, he added, “she’s a good dude!”

She's a good dude! Talk about getting to the heart of things!

But the story doesn't end there.

Several weeks later, Wheeler was actually invited to join our New Beginnings group. Although she didn't say much during her first meeting with us, afterwards, before going back to her pod, she said something to one of my volunteers that I will never forget. She said “Thank you for making eye contact with me.” I don't think I had ever truly considered a world where this simple acknowledgment of your very EXISTENCE was something to take notice of and be grateful for.

If you want to have your faith in the human heart restored, simply stand for a while with the ones whose hearts have been broken.

Peace,
John

Upcoming Appearances:

April 14th,
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
House Concert,, (SOLD OUT)

April 15th
Vero Beach, FL
Indian River House Concerts
 

April 27th
Newtown Square, PA
Burlap and Bean

http://www.burlapandbean.com/events.htm

May 25th
Philadelphia, PA
Citizens Bank Park
John will perform the U.S. and Canadian national anthems prior to Phillies game with the Toronto Blue Jays



 

"John Flynn’s songwriting carries a wide open heart –they are both fierce and tender. Think Cat Stevens... with a bit more folk rock and edge.”

– Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM



Andrea and Sylvester, two of the wonderful volunteers who help with our weekly New Beginnings-Next Step Community Clothing Closet

 

February 6, 2018

Hi friends,

I realize that my notes deal more with my prison work than my music these days. Please don’t take that as a sign that I’m sticking my guitar case in the closet. Aside from releasing several digital singles in 2017 (These were topical songs which probably comes as a surprise to no one), I’ve been writing and recording material for an album that I’m planning to bring out by late summer. One track- a new song which I’ve taken to closing my shows with these days is called Sing Me on my Way and features an entire choir of old friends, including Kris Kristofferson, Arlo Guthrie and Billy Swan. (The list is still growing!) So don't count me out you guys. I've got some more songs in me. I'm gonna keep singing them and will be relying on you to help me spread the word.

I’m excited to be heading to Kansas City next week to perform an official showcase at the International Folk Alliance. The list of showcase artists draws from all over the world and is actually quite impressive. (http://www.folk.org/news/372317/Announcing-2018-Official-Showcase-Artists.htm) I’m proud to be on it.

On the summer horizon, I was recently honored to be booked by the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, MA to do a show on July 14, 2018 for Woody's birthday celebration! Of all the artists they had at their disposal, I was very touched to have bee selected for this special performance. And yes, you'll be hearing me sing some Woody that night!

In the mean time there’s a gig this coming weekend I’m hoping to get a few of you in the DC area out to. On Sunday, February 11th, I’ll be in Alexandria VA doing a show with the wonderful Anne Hills at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial­

http://www.focusmusic.org/hills-and-flynn.

Although I haven’t been performing as much as I’d like these past few months, I’ve been kept incredibly busy with my prison and returning citizen work. Yesterday we actually held our second weekly New Beginning’s group at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. This is the sixth group I've taken on (with the help of a great team of volunteers! It's also my first in a women's prison. We have about 20 women in the new group and their appreciation and level of participation has been very moving. (It literally took me years to reach this level of openness and courage with the men's group!) Although I went into this situation knowing that I’d be dealing with some new and different dynamics and issues, my sense that we’re not there to solve or fix each other, but simply stand with and listen deeply to one another seems to be being borne out. I’m grateful that I have a terrific group of female volunteers who accompany me into Baylor as the talk is- just as with the men’s prison- open and frank. (I think yesterday was the first time I ever blushed in a prison.)

Sex remains such a huge stumbling block for us as a society. My friends Donald and Barbara Olsen, counselors from the Locus of Hope addiction treatment center, recently gave a wonderful workshop on sexual addiction to our Returning Citizen group. They helped us find language and begin to openly address the underlying reasons for which sex and sexuality can be misused and are often so deeply misunderstood. Seeing how our guys responded, both their reticence to speak and their hunger for the information being shared made me more aware of how we so often live as strangers to ourselves, let alone other people.

It also reinforced for me the value of what we do in trying to provide a circle of trust and compassion where we can begin to risk opening up to other human beings.

Someone in one of our men's prison groups recently complained about a new transgender inmate named Wheeler. (Not using real names here.) Although Wheeler identified as a woman, DOC classifies people solely on the basis of anatomy. Being new to prison, Wheeler was- quite understandably-having a difficult time adjusting. And she wasn't the only one.

“I ain’t looking for trouble, but that stuff really freaks me out.” Martinez said with almost practiced disdain. Plus, if you’re SEEN with people like that, then other people start wondering about YOU! All I know is he... she... IT... better steer clear of me.”

Before I could say a word, another member of our circle came back at him hard. “Knock off the ‘it’ crap! Don’t use that kind of language here. You’re talking about another human being! What about what we talk about in New Beginnings? What about working on your own shit and not judging other people? None of us in here is perfect or has all the answers. If you think you do, maybe this isn’t the group for you.”

The room was momentarily filled with a charged tension but the disagreement that ensued was talked out and worked through-as is our way- with measured and respectful words. I saw each man, guided by his brothers in the circle, really attempt to listen to the other. And within minutes a truly amazing discussion evolved. By the time we began our closing meditation ninety minutes later, the group was in general agreement on several points.

One- Though part of Martinez's discomfort grew from simply not knowing what to say (and then covering his embarrassment), people can usually tell what's in your heart. Even a dog knows the difference between being accidentally stepped on and kicked. So we should just do our best but not worry so much about slipping up and saying the wrong thing occasionally. We're all trying to figure this stuff out at some level. If there's no malice in your intent there will seldom be a real problem in using the wrong words. Especially if you express an openness to learning. So if you don't know how a person prefers to be referred to or addressed, just ask them.

Two- Prison is a place that, by its very nature, deprives an individual of a large measure of their dignity.

Three- Prison can be, for the toughest, but especially for newcomer, a very lonely and frightening place. (So how much more so for a new transgender individual!)

And finally- regardless of whether or not you’re comfortable with another inmate’s sexual preferences or identification- a subversive way to buttress and fight for your own (probably) damaged sense of self worth might be to do what you can to let each and every person you come into contact with (Correctional Officers included) know that you recognize them as being possessors of basic and inherent dignity as human beings. It may be something as simple as saying hello.

I walked out that evening both marveling at the arc and honesty of the guys' discussion and wondering if anything would come of it.

A week later I found out that a few days later Martinez had invited Wheeler to join his afternoon card game.

I simply can not express how profound a gesture this was.

Such a simple thing. And yet so very powerful. And what inherent risk it entailed for someone who has struggled with what others might think of him.

I told Martinez how proud I was of him and asked if he’d received any blowback. “Hell yeah!” he said. “There are always gonna be haters. Folks call you 'faggott' and shit! I don’t care. I thought about what we talked about and decided that no one gets to tell me who I can and can't hang around with... Besides”, he added, “she’s a good dude!”

If you want to have your faith in the human heart restored, simply stand with the ones whose hearts have been broken. It works every time!

Peace,

John

www.johnflynn.net

Follow John on Facebook-
https://www.facebook.com/john.flynn.771

or on Twitter-
@singwriter
 

(c) Flying Stone Music
 

 

“John Flynn’s songwriting carries a wide open heart –
they are both fierce and tender.  Think Cat Stevens...
with a bit more folk rock and edge.”  
 

– Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM



Sellersville Theater with Harvey...Thanks to all who came out for our annual holiday benefit for Camp Dreamcatcher!

January 3, 2018


Happy New Year Friends!

I went over to the Brandywine YMCA to swim some laps this morning (you can only run so far when its 8 degrees outside) and I noticed a sign on the wall that read “Be Awesome Today!” It occurred to me that better advice might actually be “SEE Awesome Today!”

I know lots of stuff sucks in our country these days. (I think I'm safe with this statement no matter which side of the political spectrum you call home!) I've shared quite a few songs documenting my personal takes on much of what transpired in 2017. But despite the disagreeable trolls, bots and seemingly ceaseless fusilade of outrageous, often alarming  tweets and soul-concussing news, I am more and more knocked out by the spirit of the people I see around me each and every day.

As Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and author of “Tatoos on the Heart” points out, we should stand in awe that the poor and marginalized manage to carry the burdens they do, rather than stand in judgment of how they carry them. This is a lesson brought home again and again in my work with New Beginnings and New Beginning-Next Step.

Just a small illustration. Elliott* (*not real name), a long time member of our Gander Hill Prison group, is being transferred to another facility this week. In his final session with New Beginnings he looked across the circle at a man named Claude* who'd only been attending our meetings for a few months. Claude had come to us with more than the normal share of inmate challenges (and I remember wondering if we'd be able to help him much) but week by week, we'd seen him grow in confidence and self awareness. He was visibly buoyed by the trust and affection he experienced in group, and instead of continuing to be held captive by a long list of anxieties about the future, Claude had begun to “eat the elephant one bite at a time'”, breaking down big, seemingly insurmountable problems into smaller, more manageable portions. Each week, Claude would confide in the group, discussing troubling issues, weighing advice, and ultimately making simple, reasonable decisions. As a result of this Claude was seeing, maybe be for the first time in his life, some things starting to turn around and go his way. He was experiencing what psychologists call agency; the realization that he had the power to affect his own life in positive productive ways.

Elliott addressed Claude saying, “Brother, before I leave here I want you to know how proud I am of you, and how far I've watched you come in a short time. I know you have many doubts about yourself, but I've been privileged to see you grow so much!” At this point Elliott unstrapped a large rugged black digital watch from his wrist. (Being paid 32 cents an hour, if they're fortunate enough to have jobs, very few inmates can save enough money to purchase watches from the prison commissary.) Elliott presented the watch to Claude and said, “I want you to have this. You told me once how much you admired it. So please accept it as a gift from me, and every time you look at it, remember how much I believe in you". Claude's eyes brimmed with tears as he struggled to find and give voice to words of the most profound gratitude you can imagine. Other guys in the group saw him losing the fight for composure and said, "It's ok, man... tears are ok.... let 'em come.” They did. (I personally hadn’t waited for permission.)

In a place where men have next to nothing, I witnessed one of the most beautiful acts of kindness I've ever seen.

So bring on the nightly news, I can handle it! I saw a hell of a lot of awesome today! 



I'll be in New York this month for a few shows:

Friday, January 12, I'll be at 6 On The Square in Oxford, NY.
http://www.6onthesquare.org/


Saturday, January 13, I'll be with my good friend Reggie Harris at Walkabout Clearwater Coffeehouse in White Plains, NY.

And Sunday, January 14, I'll be doing a 4PM show at the Public Library in Middleburgh, NY. My dear pal Sonny Ochs will be hosting this show.

Stay warm and keep your heart and spirit!

Peace,

John
 

www.johnflynn.net

Follow John on Facebook-
https://www.facebook.com/john.flynn.771

or on Twitter-
@singwriter
 

(c) Flying Stone Music
 

 

“John Flynn’s songwriting carries a wide open heart – they are both fierce and tender.  Think Cat Stevens … with a bit more folk rock and edge.”  
– Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM


New Beginnings-Next Step member Curtis Reed receives a standing ovation after addressing the audience about the program at this year’s benefit concert



November, 2017


Hi Friends,

Hope this note finds you all well!

A few upcoming shows I wanted to put on your radar…


Thursday, November 16th I’ll be back in Sykesville MD at Baldwins Station (
http://www.baldwinsstation.com/events-calendar/2017/11/16/john-flynn-concert)

And Wednesday December 13th will be my 21st Annual Holiday Benefit Concert for Camp Dreamcatcher, a therapeutic summer camp for kids dealing with HIV/Aids. The show will take place at the Sellersville Theater and will feature friends and special guests Lizanne Knott, Michael Braunfeld, and Harvey (In the Morning). (
https://www.st94.com/event/1583118-john-flynn-sellersville/)

I’ll be back in New York for some shows in January and performing an official showcase at the International Folk Alliance Convention in Kansas City in February. Look for info on my web site. (
https://www.johnflynn.net/jfnet/photoback_website/Gigs.html
)

My little west coast tour last month was a blast.  Beth and I had a great time connecting with old friends and – since more and more of my days have been getting taken up with my guys here in Delaware -- I really enjoyed getting out and doing some back to back shows. (By the third night I wasn’t even forgetting the lyrics to my songs!)

Before heading home, Beth and I took a little side trip out to Joshua Tree and got to do some hiking in the desert--



Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park



Cap Rock, Joshua Tree National Park
 

In other news…  I’m proud to announce that I have assembled the inaugural Board of Directors for New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc. I’m very grateful that these amazing, talented and caring folks have agreed to have my back as we move forward in growing our work both inside and outside of Delaware’s prisons. Stay tuned, ‘cause something tells me this is only the beginning!

Our Board Of Directors is:

Frank Hoffmann
Owner,
Hoffmann & Associates
LLC.
Former New Beginnings volunteer

Robert Fox
Adjunct Professor of Taxation, 
Wilmington College
e

Glenn Pfeil
President ,
21st-Century Insurance

Cathy Weaver
Senior Vice President for Mission Integration,
Mercy Healthcare System

Sandy Stefanowicz
Professional Development Coordinator/ Acting Teacher/ Career Consultant,
Voice Box LLC.
New Beginnings and Next Step volunteer

Ashley Biden
Executive Director,
Delaware Center for Justice

I’ll keep you updated on all the exciting goings on in the coming months. Thanks for your continued support of my music and my work!

Peace,

John