For Tish McFadden, life is about making and sharing music
Music is Life &
The Rest is Details proclaims the bumper sticker on Tish McFadden's car. Music teacher and performer, recording artist, writer, mother, guitar playing former-archaeologist, Tish is at peace with herself and her life, and passionate about music. To her, life is about making and sharing music for the sheer joy of it. Even after a long day of lessons, her enthusiasm has not waned as she accommodates an evening interview with the Tidings.
DT: Tell us a bit about yourself: where you're from, your early memories and interests?
Tish: I was born and raised just outside of Detroit, Michigan. My childhood was filled with the music that my father made at the piano, which oddly, resided in a dim corner of our basement. He was not a performer, not an instructor, not a serious student of music. He played for the pure joy of it. I knew I wanted to be a part of that.
When I was older, I took piano lessons from a teacher who was dark and sullen. A bit afraid of her, I studied my pieces more out of worry than wonder. I began guitar studies at age 13 in a large community center with 50 or so adult beginners, and it was much more joyful and positive, more like what I'd witnessed with my dad. It's an experience that continues to affect the way I teach today.
DT: Did you want to be a musician when you grew up?
Tish: Actually, I had an early passion for bugs and butterflies and in first grade was sure I wanted to be an entomologist! I also loved to camp and hike and my love of the outdoors later shaped my college interest in archaeology, travel, and eventually I wrote a book on renting fire lookouts. Music was so integrated into my life that I never considered that it could also be what I did for a living. Luckily, I've learned otherwise.
DT: Did you pursue archaeology in college?
Tish: I graduated in 1976 from the University of Utah with a BA degree in Anthropology. I was a Federal Archaeologist for 12 years, working throughout Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon to identify and preserve archaeological resources on public lands.
DT: What precipitated your move to teaching music?
Tish: In 1987, I decided to resign from my archaeology position so that I could be at home with my sons, Joel and Logan, who are now 23 and 19. I was playing music and singing to them every day. Soon I started writing songs about childhood. Lots of songs. In 1988 I founded Rum Tum Music Company, which gave me a framework to write, record and teach music.
DT: What is your philosophy regarding teaching?
Tish: I believe we are our own best teachers. My role with students is to guide them to this knowing. By working to build self-confidence and self-awareness through music, and by supporting every gain and accomplishment along the way, I watch people of all ages transform. As hard as I try, I can think of nothing else that so completely involves our wholeness as playing music. It is visual, aural, physical, intellectual and emotional. It requires us to do several tasks at once &
with order, care, courage, and feeling. Music is the heartbeat of humanity. And when shared with others, it communicates a rare goodness to the world.
DT: What instruments do you teach, and how many students do you currently have?
Tish: I teach guitar, piano, and flute. I also have directed many children's choirs here at the school as well as in classrooms across Ashland. I have more than 85 private students, and teach in four Waldorf and four Montessori classrooms each week throughout the school year.
DT: Could you tell us more about some of the different music projects you've been involved with?
Tish: One of my most memorable music moments was when guitarist and songwriter Brian Freeman agreed to help me record my first album in 1989. We eventually created three full-length recordings of original songs: Rum Tum Music, Rum Tum Too and Rum Tum Traveler.
In the early 1990s, I joined with producer Paul Richards in co-creating The Musical Enchanter Radio Theater, an hour-long variety show that aired on NPR stations around the country, including JPR. From 1994""1997, Thomas Doty and I cofounded and produced The International Folklore Project, which generated 120 concerts of storytelling and music. Currently, in addition to teaching, I offer Sing and Swim each summer to family groups, and the Yo Mama Jam for my guitar playing women students. I also enjoy performing with my band-mates in Viva Voce; we are currently rehearsing for a free concert coming to the Craterian on Jan. 12.
DT: Could you tell us more about Viva Voce and the upcoming concert?
Tish: Viva Voce is Rick and Joanne Soued, Steve and Lynn Fain, Don Harriss, Brian Freeman and myself. The Craterian Theater, now for the 4th year in a row, offers this concert as a community building event and welcomes the residents of the Rogue Valley to enjoy a night of nostalgia, laughter, music and song. We will perform audience sing-alongs featuring tunes from the '50s, '60s and '70s. It's a great event! Did I mention that it's free?
DT: Could you talk about the book you and Tom Foley wrote, How to Rent a Fire Lookout in the Pacific Northwest (Wilderness Press; 1996, 2005)?
Tish: About 15 years ago, the U.S. Forest Service started a recreational rental program giving new life and purpose to former fire lookouts, guard stations, and ranger cabins in the Pacific Northwest. Most are great for families, some are handicap accessible, and they are all minimally but adequately equipped: roof, propane stove, lights, etc. The book profiles many of them, and tells a bit of the lookout's history, how to get there, what's provided, what to bring, and a website link to get more information.
DT: You've accomplished such a variety of things. If failure wasn't possible, is there anything else you'd do?
Tish: I'd expand the teaching staff at Rum Tum School of Music so that I could accommodate every request for music lessons!
DT: What is the most important thing you've learned in life?
Tish: Do what comes naturally, and do it with gratitude and love.
Debi Smith is a local freelance writer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org