Marie Eaton, a longtime Bellingham folksinger and guitarist, will join musical friends Laura Smith, Janet Peterson, Karee Wardrop, Richard Scholtz and Chad Peterson at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Roeder Home, 2600 Sunset Drive. She will perform her own songs and a couple of covers.
Eaton is a former dean at Fairhaven College and currently teaches there.
Question: How did this concert come about?
Answer: (My friend) Robin Bailey sparked this event when she asked whether I'd ever be willing to do a solo concert. I said yes, because I wanted the chance to share songs I've written that I don't often play in other venues.
However as I got thinking about the set list, I kept imagining other voices and instruments, so I called on a group of my musical friends to help back me up. So it's not really solo anymore, but it will feature a lot of original work.
Q: What's your musical "story?"
A: I had the blessing to grow up in a very musical family. We sang washing dishes, in the car, around the piano, at church. I started performing solo in coffeehouses during high school and college, as a kind of wanna-be Joan Baez.
By the time I got to graduate school, I was the singer in a country western band that I started with some other grad students. They were rockers and I was a folkie, so country was where we could meet. We played every Sunday night at the Inside Passage, a bar in Seattle's Pioneer Square. Those gigs helped me pay for graduate school.
However my true musical homes have been with Motherlode, a four-woman band that has performed around the Northwest for the past 30-plus years; the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop; and with my friends in the wonderful music community here in Bellingham.
Q: What is the value of folk music to young people?
A: My colleague John Bower and I teach a class on American folk music at Fairhaven College every term. We study some aspect of folk music - a person or an era.
One of the goals of our class is to get the class community singing together, because we noticed that folks younger than 30 are terrifically sophisticated consumers of music but often haven't figured out yet that they can make their own music. In their self-evaluations, students often describe the experience as transformative.
I also teach a class on songwriting at Fairhaven College, so I get to witness some amazingly creative new music being born. Additionally, I've been following the development of the DIY music scene in Bellingham, which is the place where a lot of young musicians are rediscovering the joys of music created in community without the screen of the music industry filtering the experience.
Q: What about your other experiences performing in Bellingham?
A: I find that performing stretches me to find new parts of myself and new ways of communicating, whether through music or other forms. I've had the opportunity to participate in a number of theatrical events over the years; the "Vagina Monologues" on campus; Pam Kuntz' piece on death, "Leave My Shoes By the Door;" and, most recently, Maria McLeod's "Body Talk."
Each of these performances required me to face some aspect of my own life - sexuality, aging, death - and in return revealed things I didn't yet know.
Q: Why did you return to Fairhaven College after retiring?
A: Actually, I never retired. I just stepped down from being Fairhaven's dean. I held that role for 12 years, and had been working in varied administrative roles at Western for over 20 years, so I was ready for a new chapter in my career. I love teaching, so the chance to be with students full-time has been a blessing.