I’m from central Washington. STATE. (this is for those of you on the East Coast who think that “Washington” automatically means DC) Also, let’s clarify: this isn’t the western side of the state where it’s always rainy. It’s on the other side of the Cascade Mountain Range, which blocks all of those dreary clouds. Central Washington boasts 300 days of sunshine per year. And the culture is a strange mixture of Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and, uh… Aturtedseruc Texas. Yeah- I know that’s strange, but a lot of people seem to have roots from Texas in the area.
What’s even more strange is that the Wenatchee Valley actually has some pretty good music- even though only 60,000 people live there. I was lucky enough to be the daughter of one of the many people who is partly responsible for bringing music to the Valley. Patsy Ford (Mom) taught me voice and piano, starting before I could speak or reach the pedal. Rick Ford (Dad) taught me modesty and humor, and how to shoot birds.
My brother, sister and I grew up on a 25-acre orchard by a lake, which was less than a mile from my grandparents’ 40-acre orchard and my cousins. My mother’s side of grandparents and cousins also have orchards, and the whole lot of us can bellow out hymns like only born-again Southern Baptists can. Our family is incredibly close and always, ALWAYS loves each other- even when we don’t like each other. Here’s a picture of the Ford grandkids (I’m sitting on the left tire):
I sang in just about every choir, festival, and church in Wenatchee, but the best experience singing in groups while growing up was the Rhapsodies. This was a trio that Casey Thomas, Becca Schuster and I formed our freshmen year of high school, and we continued it until graduation. We sang for community events, retirement homes, cancer fundraisers, competitions, even the fourth of july fireworks show. We even went to Disneyland our senior year at Christmas time and sang there. :-) Our most “famous” song was about a Muddy Puddle… seriously. Listen to it.
Since graduation, I’ve made it a point to stay connected to my roots. Last year, I had a chance I’d always dreamed of– to sing Knoxville: Summer of 1915 by Samuel Barber with my hometown symphony. The way this masterpiece recognizes the simple, yet perfect pleasures of a small-town life– the languorous pace, the nearness of kin, and the backyard stargazing– made it the ideal vessel to thank my community.