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Brad Tisdel is serious about music.
As an educator, musician, director and arts advocate he’s spent his entire adult life promoting the magic that music and art can bring to audiences and classrooms alike. As executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival, he’s helped create an internationally respected event in Sisters. As an educator, he’s helped launch countless students on an artistic path.
His latest CD, “On Your Way,” has a song that expresses his life’s work: “I want to be a part of the world we’re creating…I want to make a difference in the lives of children; make time to give my time…”
For the past 15 years, he has done just that.
Like many professional singer/songwriters, Tisdel spent years as a traveling troubadour, playing music festivals across the nation. He even spent five months playing in a Slovenian resort near the Julian Alps; a European adventure full of back-to-back performances and gigs in places like the Czech Republic.
In Montana, he worked as a consultant in education for years, and eventually started an outdoor recreation program that incorporated outdoor classes and music education. He saw the value of exposing children to music in an environment that fostered creativity and a sense of security. While he was in Montana he started his arts-education company, Creative Educational Resources, and did contract work in the local schools teaching team-building activities.
From his childhood home in Lake Oswego and the summers he spent with his family at Black Butte Ranch, Tisdel often returned to the Sisters Country to write new songs and recharge his creative batteries. In the 1990s, he began working in the Sisters schools and eventually started the Eighth Grade Retreat with fellow educators Debbie Newport, Rich Schultz and Cindy Glick. He also became lead facilitator for the sixth grade Outdoor School, in which they take middle-school students into the outdoors to learn science, music and art, and help build a sense of community with their classmates.
His association with the Sisters Folk Festival began, like many aspiring musicians, when he entered the festival’s songwriting contest and was a finalist two years in a row.
Festival organizers Dick Sandvik and Kathy Deggendorfer contacted Tisdel in 2000 to start the Americana Project, to connect kids and the festival.
“I had an idea to put guitars in the students’ hands and teach them to write songs,” Tisdel said.
Tisdel’s life has been a bit of a whirlwind ever since. In 2000, he started the Americana Project; in 2002, he and Kathy Deggendorfer started My Own Two Hands to raise money for the Americana Project; he also started the Americana Song Academy that year, hosted at Caldera; in 2003, he became the artistic director for the Sisters Folk Festival; in 2005 he married his wife, Tiffany; and became a father in 2006.
In 2007, he started the Song Academy for Youth, which offers Americana students from communities throughout the Pacific Northwest the chance to experience an intensive, supportive music camp that fosters self-expression and the improvement of their musical talents.
Tisdel knows he’s given up some of his own dreams to help others realize theirs.
“I’ve transferred some of my experience, passion and love for the arts and music and traded it to help others to grow their own. It’s a good life’s legacy for a lot of reasons. I’m part of creating something bigger than me.”
Tisdel sees Sisters setting the foundation for community integration with arts and music.