Local open mic regulars know Juneau musician Teri Tibbett. Either they’ve performed at an open mic she’s hosted or they’ve seen her perform at The Alaskan Bar, the Alaska Folk Festival or other regional venues. Maybe they even learned about playing music from her when they were in school.
Tibbett’s regular gig these days is as the host of open mic at The Alaskan Bar every other Thursday night. There, she performs a mix of her original songs and covers, and she creates a welcoming environment for other artists to showcase their performance skills. She has been performing in various capacities at the bar for about four decades.
Just this year she said she has begun to feel a new wave of inspiration like nothing she has experienced in decades.
“You get to a certain age and you hope you’re evolving somehow,” Tibbett said. “I’m glad I’m still evolving. It feels like a good place to be.”
Tibbett’s last songwriting boom occurred a couple decades back, when she wrote most of the work featured on her recent album, “Raven’s Gully.” She described the completion of the album and her subsequent 2016 performance on 360 North’s “Alaska Originals” series as a culmination of that body of work. Now, she said she clearly feels the opportunity to transition to the next step in her musical life journey.
Part of the journey for Tibbett is a new approach to songwriting and performing. In the past, she has put much of the emphasis on the instrumental portion of her songs – the tones, dynamics and other musical elements. Today, she feels a deeper connection to lyrics and the stories being told in the songs she sings, whether the lyrics are hers or others.
“I’m feeling all this new inspiration,” she said. “I’m feeling the music like I’ve never felt it before. It’s not just about making a good tone. It’s about telling a story.”
It’s more of a feeling than hearing, she said. There’s something in her spirit to which she feels it’s important to pay attention, then express it. Tibbett considers it her goal during her performances to give something positive to every member of the audience through the music.
“I’m feeling a pull toward wanting to sing something meaningful that has the power to bring people together, get people excited and use the power of music for good,” she said.
In another form of giving, Tibbett travels throughout the state as a part of the Artists in Schools program, a passion she has been following since the early 1980s. She has worked in more than 70 Alaska communities as an artist-in-residency teaching music in schools, most of which don’t have the resources to hire a full-time music teacher.
“Kids love music, it doesn’t matter where you go on the planet,” Tibbett said.
Tibbett thinks that her recent wave of inspiration may be a result of her personal healing journey that has occurred in recent years. Through the healing process, she has found a new sense of being in the present moment, which she believes makes way for new creative and spiritual growth. Now, she wants to share the fruits of her journey. She hopes her music might encourage others to come out of their own dark places and join into the positive communities around them.
“I could sit around and just play songs in my living room and that’d be fine, but I’m a performer,” Tibbett said. “It’s a cyclical thing that goes on in a room. You give (the audience) energy, and they give you energy back.”
Tibbett said the relief from anxiety she has experienced has been transformational in ways she hadn’t expected. She has learned to unlock barriers that had previously hindered her creative energy, akin to working in a garden or getting a massage to release tight muscles.
Alaska is a tremendous source of inspiration to Tibbett. She hopes to continue exploring both the physical and the spiritual aspects of the place she has called home for so long, putting the feelings into song.
“Feel the music, and the rest will follow,” she said.
• Libby Stringer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.