My Arrival in Coos Bay by Jennifer Sordyl

Published: Apr 17, 2014  |   Category: Uncategorized

There’s music in these hills! That’s what brought me, along with my husband, Don Berg, back to the Oregon Coast in 2012. We were ready to return to the Pacific Northwest, after a long absence. Visiting towns along the way: Seaside, Pacific City, Newport & Florence, when we got to Coos Bay we found our home.

Being musicians (I’m the fiddler, he’s the guitar player) we heard there was a Celtic Jam Session at the former Rogers Zoo in North Bend. We made our way there, from the RV Park in Charleston. And found the welcoming smile of Stacy Rose & others. We enjoyed a fun evening of tunes and  cheerful musicians. The jam session, sponsored by the South Coast Folk Society is just one of many regular events they put on: Contra Dances, Folk Dancing, Sing a-longs, the Celtic Festival and others.

This is primarily why we chose to re-locate in this area. There’s a welcoming, active group of musicians here. We’ve enjoyed meeting Karen & Davy Olsen, of Myrtle Point, who play concertina, whistle & drum. And guitar player, Larry Gallagher, the former President of the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers Association has welcomed us to his home several times, to play swing jazz. Speaking of jazz, Don has been happy to connect with many jazz musicians here in Coos County. There are regular jazz groups who play swing tunes together.

We also enjoy the Cook Gallery Players from Port Orford, driving south to play on the occasional Saturday afternoon. There’s also Celtic jam sessions twice a month in Bandon “the Local Session” in addition to the twice monthly South Coast Folk Society jams, at the Liberty Pub in North Bend. SCFS also puts on a monthly contra dance at the Greenacres Grange Hall, just off of Hwy 42 as you leave Coos Bay.

I’m a fiddle teacher by trade. In fact, I was raised, along with my 8 brothers & sisters, in the music business. My folks have a music store, the House of Music, in Central Illinois. When they brought my twin brother & me home from the hospital, we lived upstairs, above the shop. One of the fiddles I play was made by a man whose wife changed my diapers as a baby. She worked as a secretary, for many years, for my Dad in his music store.

I began teaching violin at the family owned store when I was 23 years old. I had played for years, but when my father needed a teacher, I was persuaded to do a week long Suzuki teacher training in Wisconsin. I could see that Dr. Suzuki knew how to start young children on the violin. It was quite an eye opening experience to see the octogenarian teacher playing & being followed around the gymnasium (like a pied-piper) by about a hundred little children.

How could I have known that years later and two more Suzuki training camps, I would end up teaching in Arizona at two rural Montessori Charter Schools for more than a dozen years? The schools were really forward thinking, having each kindergartener receive a year of lessons. If they liked violin, they would have after school & private lessons available to them.

I also had a fabulous opportunity teaching each summer for 12 years, at Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp in Colorado. RMFC is a week-long camp each summer featuring some of the finest talent in the fiddle & folk music world. I have enjoyed meeting many colleagues and friends at this family oriented string camp.

What’s with these ‘jam sessions’ you may ask? Well let me say, if you like Celtic fiddle & rhythm that’s one part of it. There’s also the social aspect. It’s fun to gather with like-minded folks and share music; passing the time with stories, songs & more tunes. There’s a therapeutic aspect to playing together; especially the excitement of a fast reel, the swing of a jaunty jig or the mournful sound of a lament. There are tunes for every occasion: jigs, reels, slip jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slides, waltzes, barndances, and strathspeys. “Banish Misfortune & The Blarney Pilgrim” are two jigs we often play in a set.  We’ve been polishing up a ‘Paddy Set’ of reels recently. (Paddy got around you see…) So we have “Paddy on the Railroad, Paddy on the Turnpike and Paddy on the Handcar”. Celtic tunes are funny, many are known by more than one name. We like to play Miss MacLeod’s Reel. A quick search on tells me it’s also known as Dance For Your Daddy My Little Laddie, Did You Ever Meet The Devil, Uncle Joe?, The Dun Cow, Eighthsome, Hop High Ladies, and Iníon Mhic Leóid.


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