For professional musician Ian McFeron, Third Place Commons was his first performance space

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Speech by Ian McFeron at the Third Place Commons Community Breakfast February 16. A Shorecrest High School grad, singer-songwriter Ian has released 8 albums, toured the country (and internationally) repeatedly. Here he shares both his personal, musical journey and his deep ties to Third Place Commons and our Commons Community.

Shorecrest grad Ian McFeron
As a Shorecrest High School graduate and having attended Kellogg Middle School and Briarcrest Elementary School before that, I’ve been a part of this community for a long time, and this community has been a part of me.

For the past 12 years I’ve made my living writing and recording music, traveling and performing in the United States and in Europe.

The Commons invited me to speak today about my experience growing up as an artist in this community and about my relationship with the Commons - an organization that I feel a strong personal, artistic, and philosophical connection with.

I don’t know what it was that first attracted me to music. Actually, I don’t have any memories of my life before music was a part of it. My parents have told me that I was 2 years old when I started crawling up the piano stool to press the different notes, one by one, to hear what they sounded like. I remember that I always had a fascination with sounds. It was like the world was brimming with voices and every object had a different one.

My parents had an old upright piano that was sort of shoved out of the way, under a staircase in the house where I grew up, and whether it was some sort of gravitational desire to press all those different notes in different combinations to hear what voices spilled out of the keys, or whether that perch beneath the staircase was just a quiet place where I could escape the din of commotion that rattled through the 2 bedroom house that I shared with 8 other members of my family, I started playing that piano for hours every day.

Like a lot of kids I started playing music in the school band in the 5th grade. I played alto-saxophone in the concert band and in jazz band up through high school. I took Greg Boehme’s guitar class at Shorecrest, learning classical style-finger picking along with a dense repertoire of 60’s and 70’s folk and rock tunes.

I took Andy Barker’s creative writing class and became fascinated with the way that collections of words and metaphors could paint pictures that you could match with collections of sounds and melodies and I started writing my first lyrical songs in the breezeways of the old Shorecrest High when I was seventeen.

Through High School and college I wrote songs out of a personal need for self-expression, but I didn’t share them with anyone. I filled old shoeboxes with lyric sheets and cassette tapes of my music, and I stashed them under my bed.

I don’t know if I was scared to risk rejection, or if it just never really occurred to me that anyone else would want to hear what I was writing, but for several years I didn’t have much of an interest in playing my songs for other people. But during college I went with some friends to a cabin at a lake in the east cascade foothills and they coaxed me into playing them some of the songs I had been writing. They told me that they thought the songs were good and that if I booked some shows they would come out to hear me play.

I was just barely 21 with no experience in the music business and no connections in the local music scene. But after that weekend I had this itch. I wanted to try my songs out on other people - people that didn’t know me. But where could I go to play my songs in public?

Well, one of the very first places I performed publicly was on this stage - here at Third Place Commons.

And through performances here, and at pubs and coffee houses around the region, I got up enough confidence to record my first album with a full band.

With some luck, that album got added to rotation on a station called 103.7 “The Mountain”. From there we got opportunities to open for national and international touring acts at venues like ZooTunes, The Showbox, and The Crocodile, which lead to our own headlining opportunities throughout the region. We played Bumbershoot several times, sold out venues like the Tractor and the Triple Door, and went on to record 8 studio albums. We had the opportunity to record the most recent 3 in Nashville with a Grammy-nominated producer and guitarist named Doug Lancio.

From that early performance on the Commons stage, my passion for music grew into a full-time career. My wife, Alisa Milner, and I met and fell in love through our mutual love of music and we bought our first home with a guitar and a fiddle. Together we’ve played thousands of shows, and have traveled half-a-million miles in a van together. Which actually turns out to be pretty good pre-marriage counseling.

Sometimes I think about what a strange journey it has been - how a childhood fascination with sound and words - drawing music out of the piano and learning some chords on the guitar grew into a passion for writing songs, and eventually into an occupation. How that early fascination with sound would go on to form and shape my entire life.

To be sure there are some inexplicable forces at work in music and in life that brought all the pieces together. And it is true that creativity is born out of a certain amount of unexplained magic. But that seed of inspiration doesn’t mature- it doesn’t blossom and bear fruit- until it lands on fertile soil; until it is nurtured and watered by the embrace of a supportive community.

This space is that fertile ground that nurtures and waters the creative passions of people in and throughout this region.

It is where songs are performed for the first time, where stories are written on laptop computers, where authors read from their newly published works, where farmers and artisans bring their goods to sell, where old friends reconnect, where people come to talk about how to live more peacefully with one a other, where book clubs and chess clubs and knitting clubs gather.

It is where individuals come together to form something greater than themselves- where individuals form a community.

Like creativity, community is a living thing- it too needs nurturing and support in order to continue to grow and flourish.

It is people like you - gathered here this morning - who nurture and support this space, so that this space might go on to nurture and support thousands of others. So that a kid with a guitar and some songs in his heart has a place to stand up and sing and connect with the world.

In closing I would like to say thank you to all of you who support this space with your time, your energy, your creativity and your financial contributions. And I would like to say thank you to the Commons for giving countless artists like me that place to connect.

If you would like to help nourish this fertile ground where creativity and community thrive, you can make a gift to Third Place Commons by sending a check to the address below or by giving online here.


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