Susan Parenti, born in Chicago Illinois to a mother who is a painter,”but she’s just a housewife,” and a father who was an architect-creator, “but he’s just a house painter,” pursued the study of music composition while being fascinated by language and its ability to slander and put down, “but it’s just words!” In 1986, she received her doctorate in music composition at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.
In Urbana, her teacher and life friend, composer, Herbert Brun insisted on making connections between art and society. This insistence, welcomed by young people born into a world of the Cold War, Vietnam and a vigorously growing capitalism, influenced Parenti and other students to form a touring experimental music and theater ensemble, the Performer’s Workshop Ensemble. The PWE composes concerts, workshops performance and publishes books, all with the intent to question the status quo of art and society. Its current compositional project is the School for Designing a Society in Urbana, where the question “What would I consider a desirable society?” is given serious and thoughtful discussion.
At the School for Designing a Society, Parenti teaches courses on feminism, performance and composition. She tours with Patch Adams, lecturing and performing piano, accordion and tap dance. She has published two books: a collection of plays, The Politics of the Adjective ‘Political’ and Other Plays and a book of poems and language investigations, I, My Mouth, and Their Irresistible Life in Language. She is currently working on a book with Patch Adams called The Politics of Care.