For over thirty years, Susan Lewis and Janet Stecher have created incredible harmony as members of The Belles of Hoboken, Shays’ Rebellion, and since 1989, Rebel Voices. They took their name from the book by Joyce Kornbluh, Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, a collection of writings, songs, poems, and cartoons by members of the Industrial Workers of the World. “Wobblies” have always been rabble rousers, unionists, artists, and singers who attack the issues of their time with passion and humor. This same spirit moves Rebel Voices today as they sing out for social and economic justice.
Rebel Voices concerts and workshops present the struggles and triumphs of real people – – workers from many lands and many times. Included too, are the voices of today’s rebels: union activists, gays and lesbians, pro-choice advocates, environmental activists, persons with disabilities and those who are usually powerless and therefore too frequently voiceless: children, immigrants, political prisoners. With an integrated vision of theater, harmony and politics, Janet Stecher and Susan Lewis fill the stage with rare power and compassion.
Susan, although “born (and professionally trained) to be a dancer,” was fortunately convinced by Janet that she could use her voice as well as her feet. Susan has taught creative movement, drama and/or music in Winnipeg as a Canada Council grant recipient, in New York, for the United Nations International School, and in Novosibirsk, Siberia, through the YMCA International Exchange Program. Meeting people of other cultures confirmed her belief in the need for world harmony, and working with Shays’ Rebellion introduced her to the labor movement, which further awakened her growing passion for social justice. Add the influence of life with husband Mark Graham and daughter Emily, and you have the major elements that have molded Susan’s personal growth as well as her philosophical grounding. As life and art become one, Susan says “When Emily was 7, she came in from play, singing “Solidarity Forever” mixed in with the words of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. I realized then that I must be doing something right!”
Janet was born into a musical family with a strong social conscience where critical thought and creative endeavor were a natural combination. Years of travel coordinating international exchange programs led her to a deep appreciation of other cultures and an understanding of how our own country’s foreign and domestic policies impact the lives of most of the world. “I feel that along with the resulting privilege comes the responsibility to do something about the imbalances we’ve created in world.” She has lived collectively since 1983 and has spent most of that time managing an alternative health care facility. As a past board member of the Pacific NW Labor History Association and the founding musical director of the Seattle Labor Chorus, Janet continued to combine her strong interests in culture, politics and community. Janet’s exploration of a broad variety of vocal styles (Balkan, Indian, Cajun and musical comedy) has given wide range to her very fine voice. “With Susan in Rebel Voices, we have found a way of giving voice to the values that really matter to us both. And we have such a good time too.”