Molly Jane Sturges

How I Learned Love From Serving The Dying

Modern life today is replete with volumes of "noise", literally and metaphorically, that obscures us from tuning into the music within, and from singing our true song. In such times, how might we help each other reconnect to those resounding chords within?

On May 1st, as a ripple of a recent Living and Dying Pod, emergence is converging a 'Heart Talk' with Molly Jane Sturges, a remarkable composer and community catalyst whose life is an ode to the song within each of us. While this conversation initially arose as an intimate group space for the context of that Pod, the more stories we unearthed from Molly, the more we realized we couldn't keep such a gift to ourselves -- and you are wholeheartedly invited to listen in!

With nearly thirty years of experience as a healing-centered composer, artistic director, educator, meditation teacher, and mother, Molly's work has taken her from university classrooms to the bedside of the dying, from rural border towns to cosmopolitan performance halls. She has served as faculty for George Washington University's Center for Excellence in Public Leadership and the University of New Mexico.

As a child, Molly's grandmother would play music in nursing homes. As a teenager, she joined in on these visits: "It was scary at first, for me, especially the nursing homes we went to -- a lot of times there weren't visitors. ... But I saw, very early on, how music just changed the environment immediately. It didn't last long, but in an intuitional setting where people were often incredibly depressed and kind of warehoused, there wasn't much dignity of life, systemically. And I saw the music change that."  

In her twenties, Molly found herself exuberantly immersed in climate activism and experimental education. Music was just a hobby. Yet through timely encounters with a teacher's zest for music and a composer's encouragement, Molly enrolled in grad school for World Music Composition. Soon, she found herself composing songs with cancer patients, and obtaining her MA from Wesleyan University. Moved by the power of storytelling through music to come into presence with one another, the third decade of her life embarked her on a decades-long journey into the powerful alchemy of music and community as vehicles for creative expression and healing, particularly among those facing the end of life. 

Today, Molly's work has been witness to an array of intergenerational creative healing projects -- including Littleglobe, a diverse arts-in-community non-profit; Firerock: Pass The Spark, a DIY musical for community healing and sustained climate justice; and LifeSongs, which converged senior home and hospice residents with art and community to uncover, compose, and sing their life's song. More recent projects include the current Stories that Heal (2022), SOS Soul Station (2020), and Waking The Oracle (2019). Her collaborative initiatives have engaged institutions ranging from University of Colorado to University of Wisconsin, Mind and Life Institute's Center for Ethical Leadership, EU Festival of Culture, Biomimicry For Social Innovation, Santa Fe Opera, and beyond.

Examples of the many songs that Molly and her teams have helped steward to life include:

Dancing by Moonlight, written with an elder in a care center:

Bury Me Green, song written and sung in concert with an elder in hospice:

"Through witnessing our elders’ songs and stories, we connect around what we share as opposed to what separates us," Molly describes. "We bless and heal the past, and we hold our elders and the dying in their potential rather than their decline." 

Through it all, she remains convinced that “as the new era unfolds, learning to steady oneself within, while surfing the great mystery on a board made of love and service, is one pretty good plan.”

Join us, on Sunday, May 1st at 7AM PDT for a 'Heart Talk' with Molly on how she learned love, followed by a moderated conversation on her journey and learnings from making music with those at the end of life, including her own experience at the brink of death, and the vibrant symphony of her life journey.