Northwest Pelimannit®
  Seattle's own Finnish Folkmusic Ensemble  



Meet the Members of Northwest Pelimannit:

Shirley Makela, violinist, writes the arrangements for the group. She was "bitten" first when dancing with the Seattle Finnish folkdance group, Tanhuajat. Her father, Onni Makela, was the accordionist for the group in the 1980's. Although she had heard the Finnish music all her life, she had never quite taken to it, because it was after all, "Dad's music." FinnFest USA '87 changed all that. After hearing the incredible musicians from Finland she returned to Seattle and within a month purchased her first violin. Although she had played other instruments before, mainly classical guitar, Finnish music played on the violin with accordion accompaniment took her heart and imagination. Since then she has played little else. Finnish folk musicians run in Shirley's family. Her father and his brothers had a Finnish dance band in the 1940's and early 1950's in the Duluth area. Her father, the youngest brother, played with them from the time he was big enough to hoist a heavy accordion. The Makela house has always been filled with music. Recently it was discovered that we have other Finnish folk musicians in the family. We are related to Al Reko, an accordionist, in Minnesota – small world!

Kim Whittle, flutist, joined Northwest Pelimannit in 1999 and first performed with the group at FinnFest in Seattle that year. She has played flute for over 30 years and in a variety of groups: musical theater pit orchestras, folk dance bands, small chamber ensembles, both at home in the U.S. and in Europe. She has studied Finnish music in workshops led by Arto Järvela and Perttu Paappanen. She has also performed both on flute and on foot with Tanhuajat Finnish Folkdancers of Seattle. She is one-quarter Finnish (her maternal grandmother's maiden name is Lepistö) and proud of it!


Gay Nixon, NWP's accordion player, also plays several other instruments. Although she suspects there might be a Finn in her ancestry, she is still looking. She fell in love with the Finnish music as a result of having a Finnish foreign exchange student in one of her high school math classes in 1984-85. Music is an integral part of Gay's family as well. Her father was an accomplished musician, as is Gay. Her sister is a professional musician who teaches woodwinds and piano in Edmonds. I can't tell you how often Gay has been heard to say, "I've played everything, but I never knew what I was missing until I heard this music!" Gay has trouble deciding which she likes most: dancing or playing. In 2000, Gay was awarded a grant by the Finlandia Foundation to study Finnish Tango in Finland with Pekka Pentikäinen and Petri Ikkelä. The band has since added tangos to their repitios. Recently Gay made a recording of tangos with an ex-bass player with NWP, Janne Erakare, guitarist, bass player, and recording expert and his wife Maarit, 2002 Performer of the year from the Pacifica Northwest, who performed the vocals. News of the CD is forthcoming.

Beth Nixon Matheny, violinist, is Gay's younger daughter who has played violin since elementary school, playing in the school orchestra throughout her school years. Beth was an original member of NWP, and playing harmony parts she enjoys very much.

Mike Matheny, bassist, is our third bass player since 1999. Mike has played guitar for over 11 years and is adding bass playing to his musical skills. He thoroughly enjoys playing folk music and a bass player is an essential asset to our band.



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