Poppycock June/July 2014 - Page 8

music ellen whyte Ellen Whyte, thrice Grammy considered, has taken her experience and passion for the blues and is showing people the validity and need for the creativity of music in our schools. g r a c e • c a t o n S ome spend their whole lives searching for a career and what their purpose is. Ellen Whyte isn’t one of these people. Blues music found her. She’s taken it on as her mission to spread the joy that it brings her to Portland, and most of all, Portland public schools. The minute I say blues, her face lights up. She can’t help it. It’s instinctual, and it comes from a place so deeply rooted inside of her. From that instant, I’m hooked. “Here! I’m going to write a song about Poppycock! ‘The only blog in town…the only blog you’ll ever need. The only blog you’ll need to read…” sings Whyte. “Hey, you never know, I might surprise you.” Blues music has blazed different trails over the years with innumerable influences. Anyone from Hank Williams, Bonnie Rait, to the one and only B.B. King have brought something to the table. It’s simple, it’s emotional, and most importantly it tells a story. Whyte has the blues swagger down. Her sway, her tempo, her radiant smile—she embodies every aspect of this genre. There are some artists who make you dance, some who make you awestruck, but Whyte makes you want to participate and respond. She makes music approachable and accessible to anyone. Whyte’s musicianship is captivating. She sings a Billie Holiday cover and brings you to tears, or sings her song about “B-b-bacon!” which makes you hoot and howl. I’ve never been so excited to sing about bacon. She evokes such a broad range of emotion through the stories she tells. Something tells me she knows what she’s doing. 8 The blues have shaped Whyte’s character. Ellen grew up on her own, living in and out of foster homes, and eventually went to boarding school in North Carolina. “I met a young woman who played guitar. I said, ‘Show me,’ and the rest is history. It was the first introduction I got to how emotions are presented in music.” Through years of struggle and the adventure of the 60’s and 70’s, Whyte knew that her only reliable, consistent rock to lean on was blues music. After recording four albums, collaborating with fellow musicians, receiving three Grammy Award considerations, and writing song after song, Whyte found a new way to spread the word about the blues: teaching. “I’ve never been busier than I am now,” says Whyte. “It exploded, and I have not looked back.” Recently, Whyte finished an Artist in Residency for Estacada School District. From January to April 2014,