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Sandy Bly


I walked into the dining hall at Portland Folkore Society’s (now Portland FolkMusic Society) Singtime Frolics almost thirty years ago not knowing a soul.  It didn’t take me long to get hooked !!  Folks were friendly and the music mesmerizing!  A week later Bonnie Messinger and Steve Mullinax took me under their wing and took me to a Saturday song circle, and shortly thereafter I went to a Monday song circle at the Cheerful Tortoise, where I heard sea chanteys (sung lustily by Mary Benson and Jonathon Lay) for the first time! What opportunity for harmony !

At the Tumbleweed Festival with Bill and Jim Portillo

Bill, my son Erin, and I after a gig at Beaverton Farmers' Market

So I jumped in. Portland FolkMusic Society over the years has provided me with so many friends and rich musical experiences (not to mention providing me with my husband, Bill Murlin!), that over the years I have tried to give back to this organization that has enriched my life so much. I have served on the PFS Board and on the Singtime Frolics Committee. During my years on the Concert Committee I have had the pleasure of producing some fine concerts, mostly musicians I have met at Puget Sound Guitar Workshop. The Canote Brothers, the Kathy Kallick Band, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, Barry and Holly Tashian, and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker have been audience favorites. In addition I have produced Peter and Lou Berryman in concert for about twenty years (also audience favorites).

Bill and I performing at a library in Vermont

Bill and I at some friends' wedding party

Marianne Ahlberg, Bill, and I at an Artichoke gig

For ten years (with Linda Huddle, until we, sadly, lost her) I coordinated an annual PFS mini folkfest at the Beaverton Farmers Market. This event, my other music projects, and fifteen years as a folk music DJ on KBOO, kept me pretty busy, juggling these activities with my teaching job. (I did manage to fit into my summer break, however, a music-oriented trip to Portugal.)

Apart from PFS activities, I have co-coordinated house concerts and harmony workshops presented by David Roth; the Canote brothers; Valerie Mindel (once with her daughter, Emily Miller; once with Kate Brislin; and once with Joe Newberry); Barry and Holly Tashian; Bill Staines; and Peggy Seeger (who taught us how to make tea the proper English way!)

I have grown musically through my PFS experiences as well as from music camps and workshops, especially Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Festival of American Fiddletunes, Portland Megaband, and John McCutcheon’s songwriting workshop at the Highlander Center in Tennessee (an amazing experience). Three music teachers have enriched my music and my life: my childhood piano teacher in Minnesota; Suze Spencer (guitar, mandolin, songs, theory, arrangements, encouragement); and Mark Bosnian (vocal technique and general cheerleading).  

With Lou and Peter Berryman

With Peggy Seeger

My Grandma Nellie Bly (not THE Nellie Bly) would modestly object if I credited her with getting me started in music.  But who can deny that a grandma who, as a young woman, had accompanied her traveling preacher father to churches and played the pump organ for his services, and sat with her granddaughter and listened to the latest piece she was learning on the piano, was a great motivator for a young girl? And perhaps I have had at least a little to do with passing on the muse to my son, who is now composer-in-residence for the St. Mark’s Cathedral Compline Choir in Seattle.

I continue to sing and play as I can: song circles; a couple of Artichoke gigs with Bill and friend, Marianne; a few performances (and song circle leadership) at the Tumbleweed Music Festival; and a few gigs while on vacation with Bill. 

I am so lucky to have discovered PFS and to have such a rich life of music and friends.  Music and community: a powerful combination! 

With my son Erin on tune Southwind

Me and Erin singing at Singtime Frolics

Sign for Rosa Ramblers concert in Vermont (Rosa Ramblers are Bill and me)

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