Deborah’s Place

2016-2017 Residencies


How did the Blues originate and what is characteristic of the Blues style?

How can we use our personal stories to create a product using the Blues?



Participants will be able to define standard Blues structure, and recall history of the Blues.

Participants will be able to define and demonstrate Blues stanza, syllables, and rhyme.

Participants will work with beat, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, tempo, mood, and harmony to better understand the Blues.

Participants will utilize a personal story to create the foundation for a blues ballad.



Fifth House Ensemble began their experience working with women at Deborah’s Place for three residencies throughout the fall, spring, and summer. During their summer residency, participants worked with 5HE members to craft their personal narrative, learning about character, plot and setting to structure their personal story. Members of Deborah’s place followed prompts to discuss events that happened in their life, transforming each unique narrative into a blues ballad through the study of blues structure. Beat, rhythm, ostinato, and review of quarter notes and eighth notes were revisited, allowing participants to learn 12-bar-blues structure and improvise melodies over a blues scale. Fifth House Ensemble worked with each participant to create melodies and lyrics that emulated their personal narrative.



Through the series of residencies at Deborah’s Place, Fifth House Ensemble created an environment where women could open up and talk about their life history and stories that may typically be hard to discuss. Each residency built up an environment of honesty and vulnerability, as well as increased music education. This allowed participants to channel their inner musician to turn their personal story into a form of art, through the blues ballad.



Participants create personal narrative poems that they set melodies to, creating blues ballad as their final project. Each member presents their final project in front of the other participants, using public speaking techniques and musical knowledge developed throughout each workshop working with Fifth House Ensemble.

2016-2017 residency programs at Deborah’s Place were supported in part by grants from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation and the Field Foundation of Illinois.