Fairhaven College alumni host weekly virtual concert series

With in-person concerts canceled, musicians turn to live streaming as way of maintaining tradition.

By Sophia Pappalau

Fairhaven College is hosting a series of weekly virtual music performances held on Facebook Live. The Fairhaven College Music Festival is an annual celebration of the musical community held at The Outback farm with performances by Fairhaven alumni. 

The festival was put on hold due to COVID-19. With collaboration between festival founder and Fairhaven College alumni Don Schlueter and John Bower, dean of Fairhaven College, the festival is happening this year, but in a new way. 

Bower said the sense of community shared by Fairhaven College alumni is the driving force behind the series. 

one person playing the banjo next to another person playing guitar

“We have 50 years worth of alums who play music professionally,” Bower said. “The series is about giving them the chance to entertain us and reflect on how important Fairhaven was to their education and their lives.”

According to the festival’s Facebook page, notable Fairhaven College alumni to perform in the 2020 series have been local musicians Flip Breskin and Coty Hogue.

Breskin, a major player in the Northwest folk scene since the 1970s, said Bellingham has long been a hub for musical transmission and performance. When Breskin moved to Bellingham in 1970, Americana or folk music was the popular genre. Bellingham was home to a lively music scene, and students hosted their own folk-music concerts, Breskin said. 

It was during her time attending Fairhaven College that Breskin took over management of Mama Sundays, now known as the Underground Coffeehouse, promoting weekly folk music shows there from 1970 to 1975.

The Fairhaven College Music Festival Streaming Series traces its roots back to those student-run events. 

The shared love of folk music became an integral part of what helped sustain the unique and mutually supportive atmosphere among Bellingham musicians, Breskin said.

“People [in Bellingham] are generous with their time, their information,” Breskin said. “Musicians from other areas look around and say, ‘where I come from, musicians don’t support each other like this.’”

Despite the adjustment of playing to a screen rather than a crowd, Hogue, a 2007 Fairhaven College alumna, said musicians are finding Facebook Live a valuable medium to share memories and music.

Hogue performed for the Fairhaven Streaming Series on Facebook Live Oct. 8. Hogue opened her set with an original song, “Push on Through,” played solo with her guitar and some finger picking. “Push on Through” is one of the first songs she wrote while studying at Fairhaven College.

Over the years, the musical community has maintained its unique presence at Fairhaven College.

“I think it’s pretty cool that something like this is happening to connect across the generations of people going to this college. Hopefully it will start to incorporate people who are currently involved with the college too,” Hogue said. 

The Fairhaven College Music Festival Streaming Series is live every Thursday at 7 p.m. on the festival’s Facebook page