New Musicians Bring a Change of Tune to PDX

After a short, pandemic-caused hiatus, we pressed “play” on the PDX Volunteer Music program – a vital part of what makes Portland International Airport so special.

After holding open auditions for the first time in three years, five new musicians have joined the program to play to the traveling audiences. We spoke with Sister Mary Margaret Delaski, Shaymus Hanlin, Jimmy Free, Brenna Larsen and Mary Sutton about their art and inspiration for playing at PDX.

Sister Mary Margaret Delaski

Instrument: Harp
Genre: Celtic, folk, classical, spiritual

Tell us more about your instrument and musical style

I play the Celtic harp, also called the lever harp. The model I play is one of the largest, non-pedal harps. It is made of Bubinga wood, with Camac levers on all strings – making it possible for me to play in many keys. The music I play ranges from Celtic to classical, with hymns and folk in between. As the saying goes, “There is no wrong note on a harp,” so I enjoy improvising melodies.

Why did you want to be part of the PDX Volunteer Musician program?

Harp music has always had a calming effect on the listener. I volunteered to be a part of the program and to help all who pass through or work at PDX experience a moment or two of calmness.

Shaymus Hanlin

Instrument: Vocalist
Genre: Jazz/Swing

Why did you want to be part of the PDX Volunteer Musician program?

I’ve always loved PDX and the atmosphere of traveling. When auditions opened, I knew right away I wanted to be part of it. This is a special opportunity – sharing music with a few thousand travelers every time I come in is quite thrilling. I’m grateful to play a small role in the program.

Jimmy Free

Instrument: Seven-stringed violin
Genre: Live looping of the seven-stringed violin

Tell us more about your instrument and musical style

My violin is actually the size of a viola, but since it has a high E string, I still call it a violin. It has three additional lower strings, all tuned a fifth apart. That means it can play a lower note than a cello.

Live looping is a method of performing where a musician plays a line or two of music into a recording device that then plays those lines on repeat – or a loop. I can stack as many tracks as I’d like, making it sound like several musicians playing together, and it all happens in front of you.

Brenna Larsen

Instrument: Guitar and voice
Genre: Folk Americana and jazz

Why did you want to be part of the PDX Volunteer Musician program?

I wanted to meet people from around the world and to grow my connections in the Portland music industry.

Do you have any memorable moments to share from your time at PDX?

Somebody put a $1,000,000 dollar bill in my tip jar! Turns out it wasn’t real. Some other favorites include making friends with the airport staff, like the employees in the restaurants and the cleaning crew. Everyone has been so kind and supportive of the musicians. 

Mary Sutton

Instrument: Piano and synthesizer
Genre: Upbeat and uplifting songwriting with Americana and Jazz influences

Why did you want to be part of the PDX Volunteer Musician program?

I’ve been told that my music has a healing and soothing effect on the listener.  Getting to play shows again after COVID is wonderful, but I also want to bring my music to people in a time and setting where it could provide a deeper meaning. It’s hard to tour these days, so I thought, why not bring the tour to me? Connecting with audiences when they are least expecting it is admittedly thrilling.  

Do you have any memorable moments to share from your time at PDX?

I have had very nice reactions from passengers, anything from a smile to a thumbs up or saying thank you.  A passenger told me a song I played, called “Nocturne,” was very meaningful to her, and she loved hearing it performed live. An airline employee recognized my song “Barcarolle” and said he was excited for me to be his soundtrack while at work. These kinds of connections are humbling and deeply meaningful to me. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect and do more with music.  

Visit the Art and Music page to learn more about the PDX Volunteer Music program. And check out our entire line up of talented volunteer performers and their schedules.