About Joe Lombardi
Joe Lombardi (Joseph Rocco Lombardi) was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1947. He was called by the nickname “Rocky” by family and friends until college, when teachers and classmates began calling him Joe. At age seven his family moved from Strawberry Mansion in the heart of Philadelphia to a somewhat suburban area of the city known as Roxborough. After graduating from Roxborough High School in 1964 and working for a year, he went on to complete his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology in 1972 at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and a Ph.D. in Zoology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 1976 in the areas of animal physiology, ecology, and behavior. After a brief post-doc with the Environmental Protection Agency in the Research Triangle Park, NC, he taught in the Zoology Department at NCSU for three years before taking a permanent teaching position in the Biology Department at Hendrix College, Conway, AR in 1980. He did research and taught numerous biology courses at Hendrix for 34 years until he retired in 2014.
As a child growing up in the asphalt and brick environment of Philadelphia, Joe attributes an early love of nature and the outdoors to his summer experiences as a camper at age seven and a camp counselor ages 15 through 20 at a camp in the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania. The camp, Paradise Farms, run by an organization called The Children’s Country Week Association, was located near Downingtown, PA, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia in the foothills of the Allegany Mountains. The mission of the camp was to provide a country experience for underprivileged children from the inner city. In retrospect, as many former campers and counselors reflect on such camp experiences, it was likely that this summer experience and exposure to forests, fields, and streams nurtured not only his spiritual connection with nature, but his interest in the study of biology. The effects of these camp experiences are expressed the song, “Spirit,” which reflects on these connections along with the phenomenon of "biophilia."
As an introduction to his song “Spirit” Joe comments: “Biophilia, as envisioned by the behavioral ecologist, E.O. Wilson, is that sense of oneness with and passion for nature that seems to be a part of human experience. This sensitivity is why we seem to experience aesthetically trees, gardens, flowers, mountains, lakes, streams, oceans and the natural world in general. Like the imprinting process in many species allowing young to recognize their parents, such aesthetic and emotional systems in humans are inherently a part of our development, our make-up or 'species ancestral memory.' Like many of our emotional and aesthetic systems, biophilia needs to be nurtured by early experiences. Perhaps the younger we are when we have positive experiences with nature, the more easily and with greater intensity our biophilia develops. It is these passions, feelings, and emotions that are within us that define our spirituality, or what we often refer to as our spirit. This song, “Spirit,” describes such early experiences in my life and in the lives of so many campers and counselors who spent summers in those rolling hills. It also reflects my thoughts (and to a large extent-- the reality) of watching that rural area of eastern Pennsylvania overtaken by the 'progress' of development.” A more elaborate expression of biophilia and Joe's musical connections can be read and heard on the Music for Biophilia page of the Jesus, Jazz, and Buddhism Website.
Joe remembers always having a passion for music and singing, and would spend hours singing along with his two older sisters’ 45 rpm and 33 1/3 rpm LPs of show tunes and rock and roll music. In the early 1960s he became enthralled with the music of the folk revival, and at age 15, during his first year as a counselor, began learning to play a guitar that he would borrow from one of the kitchen staff. That summer he began to sing for the campers and counselors songs like "Tom Dooley" (the first song-only two chords-he learned to play on guitar), "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," and "Cotton Fields Back Home." Thus began his long journey, like so many of that era of the early sixties, into to realm of a "folk singer" and eventually a songwriter. His primary folk influences in those early years were (and are still inspiring) Tom Paxton, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ian and Sylvia, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Bob Dylan, Steve Gillette, Emmylou Harris, Gordon Lightfoot, and especially John Denver.
Though these early musical roots primarily involved singing at campfires or in the mess hall on rainy days, at parties, or eventually for Hendrix College campus coffeehouses, Joe now performs with other folk musicians. Since 1996 he has performed in numerous venues as a member of The Boomers, who are currently producing their third CD. He performs with other Hendrix College faculty as The Folk Faculty, and, since 2014, with The Four Jays and Fat Soul. These groups perform at a variety of venues, including sing-alongs for residents at local assisted living communities.
A summary of Joe’s journey, along with its numerous serendipitous connections, are elucidated in his Last Lecture to students, faculty, and alumni, upon his retirement in May, 2014. His post-retirement days will certainly involve more time to be able to share his music. His CD, Portrait, is the beginning of this sharing.