Watch for the 2018 debut CD release of

"Before the Story Ends" by Stephanie Bissland!

 

Stephanie Bissland - Musician

From a family of musicians and gardeners, Stephanie first hit the stage in the mid ’60’s with a cover of Purple Haze, and went onto a successful career in music as a soloist and with bands such as:  The Ovarian Rhythm Section—A Fine Ladies Jug Band, The Doc South Family Band,  and pick-up bands such as Bird Creek Wanderers, Railbelt Ramblers, Tamarak Jam, and more lately, Faded Jeans, and Blues and Beyond.

A lifetime of music, guitar, mandolin and voice encompasses decades of performance experience formally and casually including Sweet Adeline’s Sourdough Chorus where she sang bass and tenor. Some highlights were performing on Good Morning America in Anchorage and in Carnegie Hall, and participating at the Sweet Adeline’s Northwest Regional Competition in Portland, Oregon. 

During her working years she was a Federal Civil Servant by day and musician by night attending jam session at The Bridge and performing with the South Family Band.The Doc South Family Band was a fixture in the old timey music scene in Anchorage and Fairbanks.  The group could be seen on music festival stages, at sessions, weddings, bar mitzvah, dances and pubs all over the state.

In the early 1980’s Stephanie took music and voice classes Anchorage School of Music School with Janet Stotts.  Stotts gathered seven of her students to perform an  a cappella group to blend their voices singing a collection of ‘motets, madrigals, chansons, and ayres.’  This group performed at Anchorage Museum events, hotel events, the Pleasure Faire, and other esoteric events.

In 1985 Stephanie entered her song, “Take Heart’ in the Kentucky Fried Chicken  9th Annual Amateur Songwriting Contest.  She didn’t win, but came back with a wealth of information and ideas from hearing what the judges said about the various songs that were entered.  

In the 1996 Stephanie joined the Holy Family Cathedral Choir as a tenor to travel to Rome and London where they sang in the Basilica de St. Sabina built in the 5th century, and at Winchester Cathedral in London. 

Stephanie took a hiatus from formal music to pursue other life goals and returned to regularly playing music in 2011 to jam and perform with the Paddleboat jam session and the past year with Not Ready For Tour jam group where some of them became ‘Blues and Beyond’ to perform in the 2017 Anchorage Folk Festival.  In 2014 Stephanie began to work on the CD release "Before the Story Ends".

Stephanie’s vast experience has led to an eclectic style that draws on Big Band Sounds, 40’s jazz and pop standards, ’50’s do-wop, movie scores, bluegrass, folk, blues and jazz standards.  Her main influences are Dave Van Ronk, Ian and Sylvia, Peter, Paul and Mary, Patty Page, The Andrew Sisters, Dolly Parton, Jefferson Airplane, Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, Motown, Tin Pan Alley, and Vaudeville performers.

Doc South Family Band

Harold “Doc” South, a psychiatrist by trade, was an active fiddler and dance caller when he moved to Fairbanks from Indiana. Soon after arriving, he joined forces with a young local band called the Sidewinders and the band went on to become extremely influential in the Alaska music scene. Spurring a larger old-time revival across the state, Doc was recognized for his contributions to the music scene in Alaska being dubbed “the father of old-time and bluegrass music in Alaska.” In 2010 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Alaska Legislature, and in 2014 the Fairbanks Folk Festival was dedicated in his honor and he also received a lifetime achievement award from the Fairbanks Arts Association and Interior Alaska Mayors.

Stephanie met Doc and his Family Band when he moved to Anchorage and held forth at jams at The Bridge, an old Quonset on Northern Lights Blvd and later at the new Bridge on Spenard Road.  She was enthralled with his enthusiasm, encouragement and insistence in learning to listen and pick up tunes and songs.  Doc was inclusive and supportive to everyone at all levels of expertise; on her first visit to the jam Doc asked Stephanie the new girl what song she would like to sing.  Stephanie joined the Doc South Family Band in 1979 playing the wash tub bass.  She took banjo lessons from Doc’s son, Daniel; and taught herself to play the mandolin…after a fashion; and electric bass.  She enjoyed harmonizing with Louise South.

As well as performing at the blue grass festivals, special music events, Monday night at the Mountain View Recreation jam/dance, Willow Trading Post and George’s Homestead Lounge; the band played at wedding receptions, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs—wherever lively music was called for.   As a band they didn’t just play music—they hiked, went on picnics, cross-country skiing, and checked out every 2nd hand store and dump on any route they travelled.  Doc told stories on long drives up and down the rail belt…rambling topics of all sorts; and they shared lots of laughter and some tears.  Stephanie says that going to the first jam set her on a fabulous adventure into music and being a member of the South Family Band was the best—everything else is gravy. 

RIP Doc, Louise, Bill and Daniel.

The Ovarian Rhythm Section

The Ovarian Rhythm Section was group formed in 1981 by a group of six Anchorage area women who decided  to play an active role in summer bluegrass festivals.  Stephanie played the mandolin and sang. Since their first performance at the 1981 Women’s Art and Music Festival, the group appeared at the Wasilla, Talkeetna and Mt McKinley blue grass festivals, the Alaska State Fair, the Renaissance Open Aire Pleasure Faire, The UAA Pub and the Willow Trading Post, ACC Arts Fair, Women in Science & Technology Conference, Rainbow Factory, KSKA’s Homebaked Alaska Radio Review, KSKA Bluegrass Festival in the Sluicebox Saloon and on the main stage.  It was said “watching this colorfully dressed group perform is a visual as well as a listening experience.”  The ORS had an exuberant personality and a cult following.  As to the name—the music was rhythmic and the members were all women.

Now in Session

Now in Session grew from a two-day class sponsored by the Alaska Scottish Club and the Celtic Community of Alaska at the 2013 Spring Celtic Fest.  Instructors from the Celtic Arts Foundation of Mount Vernon, WA came to Alaska to teach at the 'Anchorage Workshop for Smallpipes.' Stephanie was one of several musicians who provided guitar, mandolin and fiddle rhythm for bag pipers who wanted to branch out from formal piping and learn how to attend pub sessions.  Several members of the class created the “Now in Session’ band, practiced on Mondays at Guido's Pizza and performed at several Celidhs.  It proved to be an enriching and interesting experience doing Scottish songs and rendering pipe music into session music which can include a wide variety of other instruments.

 

Guido’s Paddleboat Jam

When Stephanie first returned to music she jammed with the Paddleboat group which was a large group and focused on group sing-a-long of a variety of traditional, standards and gospel songs, as well as some country and rock and roll songs.  Paddleboat performs at the Downtown Market, Anchorage Folk Festival, BP Courtyard, and Arctic Roadrunner.  

 

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