Win studied piano as a child and sang at every possible chance.
The members of her mother's extended
family were -- and are! --great lovers of music. At all
family gatherings, they were likely to spontaneously burst into
song. Win was also very much inspired by her father's two brothers, one of whom
was a composer and pianist, and the other who could play anything by ear. Win
continued to play piano from written music, to sing in plays and choral groups
and to be a lover of all types of music while obtaining a degree in theater
(with minors in French and dance) from
Denison University in Granville, OH.
In 1973, she saw the autoharp being played in concert for the first time, and
knew she had finally found her instrument! She drove to the nearest music store
after the concert and slept in her car, waiting for the store to open, whereupon
she rushed in and bought her first autoharp. Shortly after this, she left for a
four-month backpacking tour of Europe. She carried the autoharp on this trip and at
one point found herself playing (from her Learn to Play the Autoharp book!) in front of
Le Louvre in Paris along with the other street buskers.
from Europe, she began to play with Paul, and taught herself to
play by ear. She initially learned to play autoharp in the standard pinch style,
and subsequently went on to develop a thumb-lead or cross-picking style. She
redesigned the tuning of her autoharp, calling her design the "chromatonic"
autoharp -- a cross between a diatonic (plays in one key) and a
chromatic autoharp (plays in many keys). Her three chromatonic
harps play in three keys each, but many strings are doubled,
leading to a richer sound.
1977, Win began to look for an
instrument that she could play faster and in a wider variety of keys. She
decided that the piano accordion would fit the bill, and began to teach herself
to play the accordion in 1978 while she was pregnant with Ellie (poor Ellie!).
She uses the button side of the accordion to provide bass runs and a rhythmic
accompaniment, while the piano side makes a fiddle or cello-like melody or
harmony sound. And If all goes well, she can sing at the same time!
Special note to fans of Leela and Ellie Grace: Observant
friends have noted that Win was playing the autoharp (a lot!) when
pregnant with Leela, and had newly acquired the accordion and was playing it (a lot!) when pregnant with Ellie. Some people
have suggested that this may have a lot to do with Leela's mellow
personality and the fact that Ellie had a precipitous birth
(Ellie: Let me outa here!), and that she is not quite as
mellow as her sister!
In 2001 Win acquired an electronic keyboard that sounds just like an
upright piano, but is much easier to move around (duh...). She is having a great
time playing the old time tunes on the piano.
In 2003, Win began to learn Le Pied
-- the French Canadian/Metis traditional seated clogging.
She loved doing it, although it took a while to build up her
stamina -- first 1/2 time through a tune, then 2 times, and now
she can sing while doing it! And since traditionally the
Franco-American and Metis fiddlers do Le Pied while
playing, she began to learn to clog while playing the
accordion. This presented an additional challenge because
the accordion was sitting on her lap, but in her typical stubborn
fashion, she forged ahead -- first playing the piano side of
while clogging, then the piano side AND the button side while clogging,
then the piano AND the button side AND singing while clogging.
It is still subject to breakdown at any moment, but what a gas
when it all goes right!
Win has always loved to sing, and one fan wrote that Win's
voice and its down-to-earth quality represented, to him, the "voice of the
Midwestern woman." Her aim with her music has always been to let her voice
and instrument complement the song, and, especially, to bring joy to the
for 4 1/2 years as the Festival Coordinator/Artistic Director for
First Night Columbia, an alcohol-free celebration of the arts held on New Year's Eve.
In 2001, she resigned from this position to pursue music full-time.
Stay tuned for what 2009 brings for Win. See more at
the end of the Paul & Win Grace bio.
Go Back to Paul & Win Grace Bio
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