Kristin Lems biography

Kristin Lems is a versatile composer, songwriter, folksinger and performing artist from Evanston, Illinois, USA.  Born to an acclaimed concert pianist mother and musical Dutch immigrant father, Kristin studied music from an early age, singing in choruses and playing in orchestras.  As a teenager, Kristin picked up the guitar, like many others, and wholeheartedly raised her voice as part of the movement to make a better world. With guitar in arms, Kristin brought her upbeat musical stage presence to nationwide events for the ERA and women's rights, safe energy, peace, racial equality, and other pressing causes.


Equally at home before vast crowds or in small living rooms, Kristin Lems has shared the stage with two First Ladies, Maya Angelou, Captain Jacques Cousteau, Gloria Steinem, Helen Caldicott, and Alan Alda, and performed a full song on Nightline. Musicians include Pete Seeger, Tom Morello, Malvina Reynolds, Holly Near, Dan Fogelberg, Laura Love, Koko Taylor, Peter Paul and Mary, Michele Shocked, the BoDeans, Simon Townshend and many others. New Yorker magazine called Kristin "a charmer in the most literal and least artificial sense of the word." Gloria Steinem named Kristin "a one woman argument against the notion that the women's movement doesn't have a sense of humor." The Illinois Times said, "Kristin not only has a beautiful voice, clear, crisp and forceful, but she is a very creative and thoughtful lyricist." And of Kristin's performances, The Evansville Courier said, "the performance was simple yet substantive, humorous, yet poignant, and always energetic and warm." [more reviews at the 'Press' tab]


Kristin's songs have been recorded by Butch Hancock and Marcie LaCouture, Anne Feeney, Pilshaw and Sklamberg, Lucha, Margaret Roadknight, Katzberg and Snyder, Voices, The Los Angeles Women’s Community Chorus, and others.  Her 1979 song, How Nice! an early recorded song supporting marriage equality, was included in Marching for Freedom, a video of the 1993 March on Washington, and her songs are included in Radical Harmonies, about the women’s music movement, and The Equal Rights Amendment:  Unfinished Business for the Constitution.  She has been aired on Car Talk, Dr. Demento, and in folk syndications and documentaries.  Her original song "The Heritage of Farming," was commissioned by the Illinois Farm Bureau as a video's theme song, and the video won a "Cindy" Award, which the producers credited to the song.  

Kristin's tribute to American farm women, Farmer, was featured in an Ann Landers column and written up in Farm Journal and Farm Wife Magazine.  Her bilingual round We are Stars, is sung by several choruses and choirs, as is her tribute to Martin Luther King, Come by Here, Martin Luther King.  Kristin's songs appear in Here's to the WomenRise up SingingFresh TakesSing Out!Songs for EarthlingsBroadsideRounds GalorePulling our Own Strings, and The Folknik, and one of her songs is included in The Feminist Dictionary.  Her environmental song, Cuyahoga River, won an honorable mention in the Great Lakes Songwriting Competition. 


Kristin performs an original song in the Grammy-nominated CD anthology The Best of Broadside, on the Smithsonian/Folkways label. Another album, Born a Woman (Flying Fish/Rounder), was named in the Chicago Reader's Top Ten Folk/Country albums in the year of its release.   Awards include the "Woman of Illinois Repute" of the Illinois Women's Agenda, the President's Award of Illinois NOW, the Humanist Heroine Award of the American Humanist Association, the Freethought Heroine Award of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and the Founder's Award of the Women in the Arts Foundation, for founding the National Women's Music Festival. In 2014, she was honored with the Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh Servant Leadership Award at Northeastern Illinois University for "lifetime contributions as a humanitarian singer and songwriter."  Most recently, an award, The Kristin Lems Social Change through Music Award, was created by the Women in the Arts Foundation for the 40th National Women’s Music Festival, and Kristin received the first award.  Outside of music, Kristin’s early talent in writing and academics resulted in many awards, including a first place from Scholastic Magazines, a National Merit Scholarship, and later, a Hopwood Award for poetry from the University of Michigan.  Kristin has also been a Fulbright Scholar.

 Kristin sings for conferences and music festivals, for tributes and rites of passage, at libraries, school assemblies, preschools, and in the classroom, as part of her work as an ESL teacher and teacher trainer.  She is currently working on a theatre piece about the life of Jane Addams, who was a direct and dramatic part of her own family’s Chicago history. She enjoys taking part in a wide variety of musical activities, but most of all, Kristin enjoys singing for those striving to build a better world. 


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