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Biography

Win Grace

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. 

On returning 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.

In 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 the accordion 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 listener.

Win worked 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. 

Paul's Biography       Go Back to Paul & Win Grace Bio

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