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.

This year, participants created new music and art in the form of Graphic Scores. Participants were encouraged to explore how art can make political/philosophical statements through different art forms in each class. The women of Deborah’s Place are encouraged to find their own voice through their creative work which cover such a variety of topics as the empowering journey from homelessness to self-sufficiency, or the struggle with family troubles, and solutions for how to overcome it.


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 graphic scores that are unique to their personal narrative. 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.


2017-2018 residency programs at Deborah’s Place were supported in part by grants from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council Association.