With our focus on local youth musicians this month, and a special concert on April 9, Portland Notes has decided to highlight a few local bands that are working hard to pave the way for student and youth bands in the northwest. One such active and diligent band is headed by my friend Jack Mortensen!

Spotlight-on-Jack-Mortensen-Music-03I know I’m revealing both my age and my motherly weaknesses here – but I’ve been watching Jack grow from a student musician into a stellar performer and mentor, and I’m insanely proud of what he’s accomplished. Jack was a student at the Portland School of Rock when I began visiting there in 2011. Already an outstanding bass player at that time, he was a cornerstone of the school’s ambassador House Band. Performing note-for-note covers all over the city at high profile events, Jack was always a responsible and respectful representative of School of Rock’s commitment to mentorship and extended musical learning. I personally know many students who have been personally taught and encouraged by Jack.

Spotlight-on-Jack-Mortensen-Music-01Jack Mortensen took advantage of all the school had to offer, making the most of lessons and show rehearsals and performances, teaching incoming students, volunteering at summer camps, and participating in the National School of Rock All Star Program. He toured the country with School of Rock’s All Stars in 2014 and 2015, playing at exclusive events with other handpicked student musicians from across the United States.

Spotlight-on-Jack-Mortensen-Music-02The best news, though – Jack hasn’t just excelled at learning and performing! He’s been writing his own original music, and has formed a band with some of the most amazing youth musicians in Portland! He has released an album, Interceptor -he’s performing at local events, and will be featured in our upcoming Youth Music Showcase at McMenamin’s White Eagle on April 9, along with the School of Rock House Band, Black Sand, 4 Day Moon, Pedestrian Death Gang, and Michael Hermes. We hope you enjoy the music, and (if you haven’t already met…) really hope to introduce you to Jack in person next month! Interceptor is available for purchase on Jack’s website.

The Insomnia Sessions

The Insomnia Sessions - FI

My friend Ivan Camacho and I served together for a few years on a church worship team. Knowing about my love for all kinds of music, he invited me to an “Insomnia Session”. The Insomnia Coffee Company is a wildly-popular, locally-owned coffee shop in Hillsboro. I’ve been there many times to hear a wide variety of music over the last several years.

Since 2014 this group meets every 1st and 3rd Thursdays at the Insomnia Coffee location at 53rd and Baseline in Hillsboro from 7-9 PM. The sessions originated from a need to provide an opportunity for local acoustic musicians to gather and share music together. There are a few similar group sessions in the metro area, this is the only one that’s been around for 2-1/2 years in the Hillsboro area.

The owners and staff of Insomnia have been very supportive of the group and the music they make. The group consists of musicians with various backgrounds, including school teachers, retired individuals, professional and amateur musicians, all with a passion for Celtic / Americana music.

The group is open to interested musicians to come and participate. They typically play reels, jigs and waltzes from The Portland Collections, vols 1-3. If you’re interested in bringing some music, they would love will give it a shot. You can reach Ivan at and (503) 816-9857.

The Art of Recycling Fashion – Thrift Store Shopping Tips!


I sat down and thought about this the other day – I’ve been thrift store shopping for 32 years! Even when I worked at Nordstrom, I still refused to pay full price for clothes that were intended to last one season and one season only. It seemed so wasteful…

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-05Having always been somewhat fashion conscious (HAHAHA for those of you who know me somewhat?!?!?!?), I started trying to duplicate the current trends by purchasing similar items at resale shops. Since I was working in merchandising for a number of years, I realized that it’s totally true: fashion goes in cycles – why pay full retail for a copy when the original prototype is far less expensive and generally of better quality? Maybe because it’s risky…I get it.

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-07Sure, you can take the easy way out – hit Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, Spanky’s Closet, or a smaller local consignment shop in your area – there are experts in every store to help you put outfits together. But if you want to really save some bucks, help out a non-profit, and feel amazing about your thrifting abilities, then let me help remove some of the risk for you.

Here are my Tips for Fun and Fashionable Thrifting:

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-04Have a visual – know what you’re looking for. Take photos of outfits or pieces you’d like to approximate. I always shoot photos of creative outfits in the mall – it’s a good place to start! The crazy print dress I’m wearing (Goodwill on Woodstock – $7.99) was a very close copy of a Nordstrom designer dress on display in City Center.

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-03Dress for success – wear a good basic black tank and black leggings as a base. The tank allows you to try on jackets or sheer items over your base, and leggings gives the appearance of tights under a dress as well as that extra waistband that must be considered. You can assume you’ll be walking for miles. Bring extra thin and thick socks in case you find a pair of new shoes to try on.

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-01Be prepared – Carb load – be well fed before you shop, Or you’ll make goofy decisions. Bring water, as clothing is dry and trying on clothes will dehydrate you. Shopping is dirty work – bring antiseptic wipes or diaper wipes to clean your hands. Bring a recyclable shopping bag to carry your treasures home in.

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-02Budget wisely – it’s easy to end up overpaying: remember what things are worth generally and personally. If you NEED it, it’s worth more. If it’s just “interesting,” think twice before spending more than a few bucks. Keep a list of the items you are looking for, and realize that there will be a few awesome surprises you won’t be able to pass up. The sweaters shown are a good example – on the left, black angora blend from Deseret Industries $14.99. On the right – Macy’s acrylic, same style $69.50.

The-Art-of-Recycling-Fashion-08When first looking, size doesn’t matter – you’re going to need to try everything on! Look through all the sizes for items you like. Do not shop by size. Shop by item.

Land of no returns – don’t buy a maybe unless you have money to spare. Get what you came for or a nice surprise you didn’t know you needed til you saw it. Don’t get distracted – if you can’t visualize yourself using the item ASAP, it might never make it out of the closet. Thrift stores don’t make it easy to return items.

If you’d like to come along on my next fashion adventure, send us a comment!



Youth-Music-Project-Making-Music-Accessible-01In our efforts to bring attention to the struggles of local youth finding places to hear and play live music, Portland Notes came across an organization that gave us a good deal hope – Youth Music Project! This group has proven that our country recognizes the importance of music as part of education, that the community has an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea of an all-inclusive music program, and that students are dedicated to pursuing and excelling when given an opportunity. Youth Music Project is providing access to all students, regardless of income – and that is extremely encouraging for the future of our next generation of local musicians!

Youth-Music-Project-Making-Music-Accessible-02Youth Music Project offers group and private classes in guitar, drums, bass, violin, ukulele, piano, and vocals for kids, teens, and adults. They provide access to top quality musical instruments for those who cannot afford them. They believe strongly that all students should have equal access to music instruction, so that each student can shine, free of any judgment or burden. Youth Music Project offers free tuition for students whose family income qualifies them for the school free/reduced lunch program. Even toddlers and preschoolers ages 1-5 can receive financial aid for the awesome pre-K music classes!

The following quotes are taken from the Youth Music Project Webpage, as the founders of the project have taken the time to describe their organization very well:

Youth-Music-Project-Making-Music-Accessible-03“Youth Music Project is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that offers Music lessons, instrument use (We have kid-sized instruments too!), and provides students with sophisticated, state-of-the-art performance and sound recording opportunities. Financial Aid for group lessons is available as well as free instrument rental for students who qualify for the free/reduced school lunch program.”

Youth-Music-Project-Making-Music-Accessible-04“Youth Music Project’s mission is to provide outstanding rock, pop, and country music education for youth by offering low cost lessons, free instrument use, and exceptional performance opportunities. Friday, April 15 is the next Teen Open Mic night. Open Mic nights are free and open to the public. Performers age 13-20 play and sing covers or original songs. It’s a really fun night. Free raffle tickets are given to everyone for prizes such as instruments, accessories and concert tickets. This month they gave away some beautiful leather Gibson guitar straps, Carlos Santana designer hat, and tickets to Ellie Goulding!

YMP students perform around the community and will be seen this summer at various fairs, festivals, farmer’s markets and other events.

Youth-Music-Project-Making-Music-Accessible-05Cynthia O’Brien, Outreach Coordinator, was so kind as to give me a tour of the beautiful, well-equipped facility in West Linn, which boasts a number of studios, tailored to such uses as recording, group drum sectionals, band rehearsals, individual lessons, and a rock star quality performance venue. The project also offers regular open mic nights and karaoke, and is completely welcoming to the entire community.

Youth-Music-Project-Making-Music-Accessible-06How can you help? You may donate to the non-profit organization on their website. You may volunteer, or refer a student to the program. Youth Music Project’s goal is to make music accessible to all youth in our community – thank you for looking to the future!

Tommy Alexander – Old News is Good News!


Tommy Alexander has just released a new album entitled Old News. Portland Notes says, “It’s good news to us!” The classic folk lyrics combined with interesting instrumental voicings have resulted in a sound that appeals to folk traditionalists and new style seekers alike. Tommy’s return to Portland with his album release at the Goodfoot on Wednesday night was a success after an exciting tour. The concert with the Harmed Brothers and Taylor Kingman was only $1 – providing an all-access pass to experiencing the excitement of the release celebration!

Tommy-Alexander-Old-News-is-Good-News-01We asked Tommy a few questions about his recent tour and the new album. For more Information and links to videos from Tommy Alexander’s Old News, check out the album review in Vortex Music Magazine! Please enjoy the link to Old News in its entirety, available on Bandcamp!

I’m very interested in Jenke, your artist collective. What led you to form this collaboration?

Tommy-Alexander-Old-News-is-Good-News-04It started at a small idea of collaboration between friends. I was living in Burlington, Vermont working to get into the music scene. I figured it would be fun to present the shows at a series, “Jenke Presents”. This idea grew and grew, until eventually we had 1400 square foot studio and 100 or more donation-based classes a month plus fundraisers and musical events – we released almost 20 albums in 4 years. Truly this was not my plan when I started Jenke, but it was very fun seeing it grow and grow.

Your lyrics seem to be based from personal experience – it that the case? Does Old News really reflect old news for you, or does this represent your current state of mind?

Tommy-Alexander-Old-News-is-Good-News-03Yes. generally my lyrics can be very relatable to my life and current experience. The process is very therapeutic. In the case of ‘Old News’, the tune was inspired by my own break up with an ex-lover. Inspiration for me comes from all over for sure.  Stillness and movement have their place in the process. I travel quite a bit these days and the creative juices have really been flowing. Happily, I’ve already got the next album written and ready to record.

The songs have traditional folk elements, for sure. But, there are some instrumental sounds and production techniques that are extremely modern. What led you in that direction?

Tommy-Alexander-Old-News-is-Good-News-02Working with Mike Coykendall opened up all those doors with ease. He and I are on the same page in every regard of where the sound should go. I’ve always been very into different genres of music, from hip hop to punk rock. Growing up in southern California, I was constantly hearing new sounds and new beats. I don’t want to be confined to any specific genre because truly I like them all. It is much more fun for me that way, and the band agrees.

How have your fans reacted to the new sound?

The reaction has been really incredible. FUN FUN FUN! The music drives and moves with a nice story to tell. People are listening and dancing. Folks have been loving it, and I’ve been loving it too. We’re really just beginning to scratch the surface here.

Sharing local artists with Portland and the world