Whatcom County Homemade Music Society oral histories
2005-2007 ( inclusive )
.5 linear feet.
The collection contains several oral history interviews with members of the
Whatcom County Homemade Music Society (WCHMS), conducted by former Fairhaven College student Coty Hogue. For over
thirty years, the WCHMS has arranged concerts and music gatherings in the area, and provided an avenue for networking
among local musicians.
Founded in Bellingham, Washington in the mid-1970s, the Whatcom County Homemade Music Society and its members
have been active participants in the folk music scene in Bellingham, arranging concerts and music gatherings in the
area, and providing an avenue for networking among local musicians. The group meets on a weekly/bi-weekly basis.
Traditionally, these meetings have been held at the Roeder Home.
The Whatcom County Homemade Music Society Oral History Collection is comprised of six oral histories of
founders and members of the Whatcom County Homemade Music Society, headquartered in Bellingham, Washington. Oral
histories were provided by Flip Breskin, Robert Lopresti, Terri Weiner, Laurel Bliss, Laura Smith, Mary E.
Penttinen-King, and Richard Scholtz. Interview files contain paper transcripts, and audio recordings.
The oral histories in this collection cover recollections between the 1960s to the present, focusing on
interviewees connection to the Whatcom County Homemade Music Society, but also their experiences with the Puget Sound
Guitar Workshop, a Washington-based workshop for guitarists established in 1974 in which all the interviewees took
part. Many of the interviewees relate their experiences with both local and national folk singers, including Janis Ian,
Pete Seeger, and Mike Marker.
This collection is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about folk music, or the music
community in Bellingham.
Use of the Collection
Restrictions on Access :
This collection is open to the public.
Preferred Citation :
Whatcom County Homemade Music Society oral histories, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western
Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The Whatcom County Homemade Music Society oral histories are organized according to the following series
arrangement: Series I: Interview transcripts and audio recordings, 2005-2007.
Custodial History :
Donated by Coty Hogue in January 2009.
Processing Note :
CPNWS staff converted original cassette and mini-disc recordings to WAV and mp3 format. Transcripts were
created later by Laurie Brion, a CPNWS volunteer.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Series I: Interview transcripts and audio recordings, 2005-2007
Ms. Bliss briefly outlines her early experiences with playing music and some of her early artistic
influences, including Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beatles. She spent the majority of her college career at University
of Washington. Ms. Bliss recalls how she was exposed to bluegrass style music, and how she was first introduced to
playing the dobro, a lap-played guitar often featured in country and bluegrass music. She relates her experiences
playing with the South Fork Bluegrass Band of Bellingham, including playing at the Darrington Bluegrass Festival and
the Grass Valley Festival. Ms. Bliss has taught classes at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop since 1984, and attended
Whatcom County Homemade Music Society (WCHMS) music circles at the Roeder house when she was first learning to play
folk music. She also describes the recording of a record, Old Pal, in 1994 with long-time friend, Cliff Perry, and
discusses her experiences playing Cajun music, specifically with the Bellingham-based band the Happy Valley
Ms. Breskin briefly describes her experiences as the first Jewish family on Mercer Island, and how this
isolation as a child led her to music. She moved to Bellingham in 1970 at the height of the counter-culture movement
and recollects her connections with the South Fork Bluegrass Band. She relates her experiences as one of the founding
members of the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, and the various camps and workshops that sprang forth from that, the Sound
Acoustic Music Workshop and the California Coast Music Camp for example. Ms. Breskin also discusses the influences she
had on the WCHMS, and her thoughts and experiences in the Bellingham folk music scene in general. She explores the
impact that musicians like Elizabeth Cotten had on her own folk music experience and her personal connections to other
folk artists like Janis Ian, Larry Hanks, Mike Marker, Eric Schoenberg, and Richard Ruskin. She explains her connection
to Mama Sunday’s, now the Underground Coffee House on Western’s campus, its history, and its connection to the music
scene in Bellingham.
Mr. Lopresti and Ms. Weiner both discuss their early musical memories, including familial influences and
popular music influences, including 1960s folk staple, Joan Baez. Both were born on the east coast, Lopresti in New
Jersey in 1954, and Weiner in New York in 1956. Both also found their initial interest in folk music during high
school, and discuss the reasons that they were drawn to folk music. They relate the difference in the way music was
experienced on the east coast in the 1960s and 1970s compared to the west coast, the accessibility of the music scene
and the musicians in the Northwest that was not true for them on the east coast. They re-located to Bellingham in 1987.
They discuss their first experiences with the concerts at the Roeder House and the WCHMS. Relate their musical
experiences in Bellingham, including seeing such acts as Richard Scholtz, Ani diFranco, and Bob Franke. They also
discuss their experiences with the monthly concert series put on by the Homemade Music Society and put on at the Roeder
2007 March 05
Mary Penttinen-King oral history
Length of recording: 38 minutes
Audiocassettes. MP3. WAVE (format). Transcripts
Transcript available in-house.
Ms. Penttinen-King was born in Pasadena, California in 1942, and recounts her early experiences with
music, as both a performer and a listener. She sang in her junior high and high school choirs, and recalls her father
listening to jazz and Big Band music when she was a child. She recalls her own early influences, including Mike Seeger
and Elizabeth Cotten. She attended the University of Maryland and San Diego State, where she saw Peter, Paul and Mary,
and Joan Baez perform. While in San Diego, Ms. Penttinen-King was active in the American Civil Liberties Union, taking
part in picketing during the Civil Rights movement, and she picked this back up after moving to Bellingham in 1982. She
briefly discusses the connection between those movements and singing. She explains the structure and organization and
activities of the WCHMS. She discusses her experiences hosting the concert series at the Roeder House, and the acts
that she has brought to Bellingham as host, including Hank Bradley and Kathy Whitesides.
Mr. Scholtz was born in Los Angeles, California in 1947, and spent parts of his childhood in Ventura and
Alton before heading to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. As a child, Mr. Scholtz played piano and trumpet, and
took music theory courses in college though he majored in Psychology. His first exposure to folk music came in high
school when he heard Pete Seeger and the Weavers, and after college he took up the auto-harp. He recalls his
experiences meeting Flip Breskin, and his work with the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop. He also relates how he came to
found the WCHMS, and his continued work with the group. Mr. Scholtz acted as head of the Washington State Folk Life
Council for 8-10 years, and has taught music classes at Western and at Whatcom Community College. He describes the
Bellingham music scene, and its influence and impact on groups like the Homemade Music Society.
Ms. Smith was born in Hawaii in 1947. She recalls that her early exposure to music came from her father
playing classical piano and ragtime when she was growing up. Her main musical outlet was choir, and she sang in her
church choir through high school. She went to college in Portland, Oregon, and continued to sing there. Ms. Smith
recalls her musical influences and interests during those years, including Joan Baez, Mimi Farina, Mark Spoelstra, and
Steve Young. She relates how she began playing banjo, and how this led to her playing with Larry Hanks, her husband.
She moved to Bellingham in 1979, where she and Larry reconnected with Robert Scholtz and became involved in the WCHMS.
As a host, she has sponsored various acts including The Wanderers, Bill Merlin and Carl Allen, the Bird’s Creek Boys,
and Sarah Gray. She discusses briefly where she sees the WCHMS headed.