While “practicing politics with music in mind” (NPR’s All Things Considered) as a two-term mayor, Phillip noticed intriguing parallels in the ways both music and community flow and develop. Phillip was awarded a grant by Utah Humanities to research and study these relationships. He has been a frequent conference workshop leader and keynote speaker on this theme. Phillip designed and teaches a course in the University of Utah’s Honors College where students explore music, dialogue and community both academically and experientially:

Composing a Community is a unique student-centered, community-cultivating course, where students engage and critically assess music as a socially-reflective art. Music is our vehicle for a journey into multiple dimensions of human behavior, with side-trips through rhetoric, political theory, sociology, narrative, improvisation, ideology and identity.

Flowing from a wide variety of cultural texts and a pan-historic genre-busting playlist, students correlate musical forms, processes and expressions with the societies from which they spring—including their own. Cross-cutting themes include: music as dialogue; music as thought; music as identity; music as ideology; music as a mirror of government; music and social movements; and music’s evolutionary role in human development.

A touchstone for the course is the Navajo songdog myth (about a coyote who “sings” the world into existence) coupled with Benjamin Barber’s conception of citizens as “makers” who “create a common future.” At the conclusion of the course, it is hoped that students will be able to develop, combine and apply their musical and political potential to metaphorically “sing” their world into existence.

Some of Phillip’s current talks include:

The Man Who Brought Civility Back to Town

The dynamic story of how Bimstein’s town healed its political divisions and restored dignity to its dialogue, as reported by Parade Magazine in “The Man Who Brought Civility Back to Town.”

Composing a Community:  Practicing Politics With Music in Mind

An intriguing combination of political theory and musicology that opens up deeper understandings of music, civic dialogue and the community narratives in which they are embedded.

The Music of Dialogue

How to learn, adapt and apply simple musical skills – such as listening, support, collaboration and interpretation – to foster a more participatory approach to community issues.

Red Rock Rondo

A community’s self-knowledge is enriched through its stories and oral histories. Bimstein takes the audience on a stunningly beautiful multi-media journey of discovery via his Zion Canyon Song Cycle, performed by the folk ensemble Red Rock Rondo in the KUED-TV music special produced by the Western Folklife Center.

Cow Sounds and Pitchers’ Mounds

The colorful stories and sounds of Bimstein’s alternative classical music, from cows, coyotes, cats, casinos, ballpark beer vendors, jailhouses, cracking eggs—all the way to the cracks of Sammy Sosa’s and Mark McGwire’s bats! Bimstein weaves samples from his works with an inside peek into how these stories and sounds are gathered and made into music.

Listen to samples of Phillip Bimstein’s musical works which have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center and London’s Royal Opera House:


How to Practice Politics with Music in Mind

TEDx Talks

Politics and Music; not usually mentioned in the same breath. Yet, as outlined in this entertaining talk by Phillip Bimstein, there are many corollaries. A former punk rocker, Phillip describes how he used his musical background to navigate the complexities of being a city mayor. Described by Outside Magazine as “America’s only all-natural politician-composer,” Phillip Bimstein is an Emmy Award-winning composer, former Chicago punk rocker and mayor of Springdale, Utah.

Article in New Political Science:

A Journal of Politics and Culture: “Composing a Community: Collaborative Performance of a New Democracy”

by Phillip Bimstein

From the Introduction by Nancy S. Love and Mark Mattern:

Phillip Bimstein brings the arts, specifically music, into mainstream political processes and institutions. … Drawing on his practical experience as an alternative classical composer and former two term mayor of Springdale, Utah, Bimstein describes how the citizens of this deeply divided community developed the “sociomusical skills” they needed to perform democracy together. He traces the transformation of Springdale’s politics as citizens learned the musical processes of deep listening, comparing notes, and playing off the melody. … In the process, the citizens of Springdale identified the “governing harmony of the[ir] public sphere” and embraced the uncommon common tones, close seconds, and productive ambiguities of the community. Although Bimstein occasionally waved the conductor’s baton, his musical-political democracy is best orchestrated collaboratively and without a conductor.  His call for citizen/composers whose trained political ears hear the music of democracy prefigures a politics beyond the deep divisions and violent conflicts that mark the world today. Ideally, the sociomusical skills Bimstein espouses would … promote a local-to-global process of democratic development.