Story last updated at 9/23/2009 - 1:43 pm
The first time Peggy Seeger performed on stage, she was a nervous wreck.
"My legs were just jelly," she said, describing her middle school talent show debut. "But my classmates said it sounded great."
Seeger is now 74 and has over 50 years of performing under her belt. The folk musician grew up in a house in Washington D.C. that was "filled with music all the time." And that music took priority over almost all else in the home.
"If you were in the middle of the song and the phone rang, you didn't answer the phone," Seeger said. "You didn't talk or study while music was going on."
After attending college in Cambridge, Mass., Seeger headed to Europe. She spent 35 years in England, where she raised a family and continued to play music with life partner Ewan MacColl and their children.
Seeger is considered by many American and British fans to be a legendary and authoritative voice in folk music.
"Everybody's got a different definition (of folk music)," Seeger said. "Mine is probably a bit utopian."
In Seeger's lifetime, she has watched the genre evolve for better and for worse. She said she is sad to see musicians who "hype the music up so that it will sell" because they "take it out of the styles in which it originated." However, she is happy to see many young people currently taking up instruments.
"When I first started playing, there weren't a whole lot of us," Seeger said. "Now there are plenty of people like me."
Her advice to beginning musicians: Don't rush.
"Don't get on stage too soon," she said. "Learn how to sing and play like other people and imitate them before you look for a style for yourself. That will stretch your comfort zone. Listen to a lot of other people, learn from them and sit at their feet. Then you'll have a wider range of ability."
Seeger's favorite thing about performing is "the feeling that everyone in the hall is in some kind of touch with everybody else." She said it has been rewarding to be the "focus for making a temporary community out of a group of people who have come from hither and yon."
Seeger has future plans to return to England to be with her children, but she won't stop performing until she's ready.
"I'm not going to retire until I have to, until somebody tells me I can't sing anymore," Seeger said.
Seeger will perform at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the Main Street Gallery in Ketchikan. Tickets are $15 and are available by calling 225-2211. A second performance will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 at Centennial Hall in Juneau. Tickets are $18 in advance at Hearthside Books and Rainy Retreat Books or $20 at the door.
For more information about Peggy Seeger, visit http://peggyseeger.com.