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Taking the Music to the People: When Brad Tisdel isn't helping others enjoy music, he's playing 

click to enlarge Relax, Mr. Tisdel. You've earned it: Relax, Mr. Tisdel. You've earned it.
  • Relax, Mr. Tisdel. You've earned it: Relax, Mr. Tisdel. You've earned it.
Relax, Mr. Tisdel. You've earned it.Editor's Note: This profile was originally slated to run in our Local Heroes issue, but was inadvertently omitted. Better late than never, eh?

The fact that Sisters has about 10 times as much musical energy as a typical American town of its size is not an accident. While some of this is due in part to the vein of creativity that seems to run through the center of the cowboy town, a good deal of recognition also should be handed to Brad Tisdel.

The musician has given the town of Sisters a musical shot in the arm not only through his diehard dedication as the artistic director of the Sisters Folk Festival, but also with the innovation he's interjected into the town's schools through the Americana Project - a program that brings roots music history, education and lessons into the classroom with a hands-on approach. The result is a town bustling with youthful musicians, some who've used the program as a springboard into a musical career. Tisdel says he's not all that surprised by the talent that the program has produced.

"If you give kids these opportunities, you'll be blown away by what they can achieve. I'm not necessarily surprised because I think young people have a lot to say and they're really smart," Tisdel says.

He adds that almost every local, regional or national touring musician that comes to the program as a guest teacher is not only blown away by the talent of the students, but are also a bit envious - they often say that their crusty music classes were hardly this cool.

Having made an impact with some of Central Oregon's youngsters, Tisdel is now looking to make a difference through music at the other end of the age spectrum with his new program, Musical Memories, which takes local musicians into area assisted living homes to perform songs that the homes' patrons remember from their younger days.

"It's not just about artists going in and playing gigs, it's about playing music that's pertinent to their generation. They remember the songs from when they were young," says Tisdel.

While much of his effort has been directed toward both the Americana Project as well as the Sisters Folk Festival, Tisdel has hardly stopped work on his own music career. Just last year he released his CD On Your Way and has also played routinely around the region. Tisdel's music, which has been featured on regional radio stations, is an embodiment of the Americana stylings he has taught in the past and the type of music that he's continued to bring to the Sisters Folk Festival year after year.

On Friday night, you can catch the smooth and soulful Tisdel in one of Central Oregon's most unique settings as part of the Largent Studios Concert series. It's folk music in an intimate environment - just how the style is meant to be played.

Some people say that music can't change the world, but with what Tisdel has done with both the young and old of his community, he's definitely proved that music can change a community.

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