Snoqualmie couple performs as part of area bluegrass band

By day he is a high-school teacher with the Bellevue School District; she works for the city of Seattle.

But by night, or at least once a week for rehearsal, Snoqualmie residents Terry O'Brien and Mary Sackmann are one half of the local bluegrass jam band Stay Tuned.

The musically-inclined couple has been married for 20 years, playing together for the past four. Sackmann was born and raised in the Valley; O'Brien has lived in the area for 27 years.

Each part of various bands over the years, Stay Tuned also includes Pete Goodall of Snohomish (who works in the computer industry and has a part-time bluegrass radio show on KBCS radio) and Alan Ehrlich, an emergency room doctor in Seattle. In 2002, the four joined together with the goal of producing original content and created the acoustic band Stay Tuned.

"We were having a lot of fun," O'Brien said, noting that the members were friends and had played together informally, reuniting over the years at the Maltby Jam in Maltby. "We were sharing each other's original materials ... and that became the start."

The name for the band came about through a process of elimination, but the group appreciated the double entendre, O'Brien said.

Everyone liked the idea of "stay tuned," meaning there is more to come and instruments need to stay tuned, O'Brien explained.

"It was hard to find people who just wanted to play music for fun," Goodall said. "It was just great to be able to connect with those people on a community level."

O'Brien and Goodall play the guitar and the mandolin, Sackmann plays the upright bass and Ehrlich plays the banjo and guitar.

"There is a very dynamic relationship with the people you're playing with," O'Brien said. "In that sense, it's really a lot of fun to be a part of."

Bluegrass - a sound described by O'Brien as authentic and honest in its presentation and typically consists of stringed instruments - is a musical style O'Brien sees gaining popularity, especially among younger crowds.

"Now there are a lot of players that are very much redefining the boundaries of where it [bluegrass] has been," O'Brien said. "You have some very wonderful opportunities to hear some very special things."

"I'm hoping [audience members] can get our sense of enjoyment from our music," Goodall said. "It's intended for people to have fun and to enjoy and for the chance to be involved. It's community-oriented music."

Every third Saturday of the month at 6:30 p.m., O'Brien and Sackmann run the North Bend Bluegrass Jam at the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend.

It's O'Brien's way of giving back to the music that he loves so much, he said.

"It's much like a starving artist," O'Brien said of playing bluegrass music. "For us - we all have primary jobs - this is something that will never really turn into a vocation, but it's something we enjoy."

This summer, Stay Tuned has focused on playing gigs and working toward getting a CD finished for release by the end of September.

The group is also appearing Sept. 16 in Everett, and they will be playing at the Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co. Tap Room in Snoqualmie Oct. 6, Nov. 3 and Dec. 1. They will perform at the Si View Community Center in North Bend Nov. 17.

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