Tom Neilson, a talented singer/songwriter, appeared in person during 2013 and 2018 in Pleasant Hill.
Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Uplands Lifelong Learning Institute (Ulli) is proud to present Neilson and wife, Lynn Waldron, via Zoom, a program in remembrance of Martin Luther King’s birthday.
They will appear on Friday, Jan. 15 (7-8:30 p.m.), and Saturday, Jan. 16 (9-10:30 a.m.). Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to register — deadline for registration is Wednesday, Jan. 13. You will receive a response confirming your registration and will receive Zoom invitation prior to program. First come, first served. They are limited to 100 registrants, so do not delay.
Born on a dairy farm, Tom was raised with long days in the barns and hay fields of upstate New York. Soloing in the Sand Hill Methodist Church at the age of 3, he first learned performing arts under the tutelage of his choir director and church organist mom. He received awards in grade school talent shows and performed in adult theater and musical groups as a child. His undergrad work was in education at SUNY Cortland. He studied voice with Guy Webb who told him that one day he could make a living with his voice. An anti-war organizer in the ’60s, he left the U.S. for Colombia, living there until 1974. He re-settled in northern Idaho, where he was the athletic director for Special Olympics. His first professional work as a musician was singing at a funeral home in Lewiston, ID. By the end of 1975, he headed to West Africa where he lived in Senegal until 1978 working in public health, taught English in Portugal, and traveled some in North Africa.
Back in the U.S., Tom was a trilingual counselor in the Alcoholism Unit at Cambridge City Hospital, MA, while getting his M.Ed. in counseling psychology from Northeastern. At Northeastern, Tom soloed on his second record (vinyl) of classical/contemporary music. As a classical vocalist, he has performed at the Washington Cathedral, New York City’s Town Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and the New England Conservatory of Music. Tom provides a voice for those who believe in the power of folk music to effect change. His award-winning songs of humor and compassion have been performed in 21 countries on five continents. His lyrics are celebrated for their sophistication, political astuteness, and wit.
Combining art with activism, he has appeared with Medea Benjamin, Cynthia McKinney, Amy Goodman, Cindy Sheehan, Cesar Chavez, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Ray McGovern, Howard Zinn, David Cobb, many others, and played at the Martin Luther King Center in Havana, Cuba. His travels are reflected in his songs, intertwined with farm roots and a fervent commitment to social justice, as he writes about historical and current events. He has been at the forefront in helping communities organize against water privatization, mountain top removal, nuclear energy, incinerators, GMOs, fracking and toxic waste.
Known locally as the Bard Insurgent, Tom is a veteran of stage and street theater with his writing, acting and directing. His songs draw the listener into his musical response to globalization. He plays at union halls, colleges, conferences, cafés, house concerts and has performed for countless benefits and causes. His music has been used in documentaries, TV shows, stage and street theater as he tells the stories of people’s struggles against greed and violence, interjecting a good deal of levity along the way. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s just a farm boy with a guitar who loves a good ball game and human rights. Tom’s wife, Lynn Waldron, will join him during these performances. Her activist work includes most currently working with the Wendell State Forest Alliance to prevent logging in public forests in Massachusetts. She has joined Tom as actress and singer in the Jobs With Justice annual “Voices of Labor History” production to celebrate and honor May Day. She also performs in a hospice choir singing at bedside for the critically ill and dying. They live in Greenfield, MA.
Help support these programs: donations are always welcome and can be made by mailing checks to address below. Guest speakers are paid an honorarium even on Zoom and your donations help support appreciation to the performers. Become a member: $50 annually entitles you to course discounts and helps support these wonderful programs. Mail checks made out to Ulli, c/o Pleasant Hill Community Church, P.O. Box 167, Pleasant Hill, TN 38578. Uplands Lifelong Learning Institute is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and your membership is considered a charitable donation so you will receive an acknowledgement for your tax records.