Aloha Alabama serves up tasty barbecue, warm hospitality

Situated on Westhaven Drive, just across the street from the Westport Marina, Aloha Alabama BBQ is hard to miss. The bright blue sign and orange trim make the building feel inviting and the employees inside only emphasize this feeling. “We get a lot of customer feedback on our friendly staff,” says Patricia Bonina, who serves both as executive chef and general manager. “We want everyone to be treated like they’re family.”

Chef Bonina has been a part of Aloha Alabama since the establishment opened on the weekend of the 2015 Rusty Scuppers Pirate Daze Festival. Originally from Oklahoma, she’s been cooking barbecue for most of her life. “My dad and I did competitions back home. We would do lots of rib cookouts and make brisket and chili,” Bonina reminisces.

Photo : Katie McGregor

 Enter Aloha Alabama owners Brook and Jarl Priest, who respectively hail from Hawaii and Alabama. The three ended up being the perfect combination of knowledge and experience to bring genuine barbecue to Grays Harbor. Brook and Jarl had already been conceptualizing the idea of Aloha Alabama for several years when they met Bonina through work. Once the right building became available, they immediately began turning their ideas into reality. “The hospitality in the South and Hawaii is very similar, so she (Brook) wanted to keep that going by founding the Aloha,” says Bonina. The hospitality is just as central to the Aloha Alabama experience as the barbecue is.

Aloha’s menu currently boasts a large selection of mouthwatering barbecue dishes ranging from the Kalua Pork Poke Bowl to the Garlic Chicken Platter. Shortly after opening, the menu expanded beyond barbecue and now includes seafood options like Aloha’s bestselling Crispy Fish Tacos.

“I actually didn’t know much about seafood when I came to Washington. Razor clams were new to me,” chef Bonina says with a laugh. She recommends that new customers try the juicy Pulled Pork Sandwich first because it showcases the special smoking process Aloha uses. “We specialize in making traditional southern BBQ, cooked low and slow over a mix of applewood and kiawe wood smoke,” Brook Priest writes on Aloha’s website. The Hawaiian mesquite wood used in the dishes isn’t as harsh as traditional smoked wood. Bonina says that the rub isn’t the only secret to good barbecue. “The wood is a huge part of it and just letting it smoke really slow and giving it time. Sometimes it’s 12 hours, sometimes it’s 14.”

Though meat is at the forefront of the menu, Aloha Alabama also offers a vegan burger, gluten-free options, and a series of fun cocktails to try. Right next to the counter inside the restaurant are several large fridges with Aloha Market products. During Covid-19 shutdowns, Aloha started offering picnic packages grab-and-go style. These meals work well for families camping in Westport and fishermen who spend weeks out on their boats. The food is fully cooked and can be eaten cold or heated up. They always have smoked pork and garlic chicken in these fridges along with a variety of side dishes such as coleslaw, Asian slaw, and mac and cheese.

A fun feature for those who dine-in is the “hot sauce wall” nestled in near the back left corner of the dining room. The shelves here display about two dozen unique hot sauce bottles ranging in heat level. Customers are welcome to help themselves to one that appeals to their tastes.

Many customers are surprised to find a barbecue restaurant in a small beach town. Aloha’s owners prioritize sourcing their meat locally and it is all smoked in the large smoker built into the back of the kitchen. The result is mouthwatering and the extensive options on the menu make it impossible to visit Aloha Alabama just once.

Inside, the cozy surfboard-adorned eating area is a great place to enjoy a meal and the picnic tables under Aloha’s large outdoor tent are perfect for a warm summer day. Catering is also an option for Grays Harbor residents. “We specialize in rustic beach weddings,” Bonina says. “A lot of people pick barbecue for weddings. It’s comforting and everyone likes it.”

Aloha Alabama is currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It gets busy, especially in the summer. Between local fishermen and traveling tourists the restaurant serves a steady stream of hungry customers.  “Even when we’re not open and working, we do a lot of volunteering. It’s not just about being a profitable restaurant. Nonprofit and charity (work) is important to us,” Bonina says. Aloha Alabama is currently working with South Beach Christian Outreach to serve food to those in need. Right now they serve food one Tuesday per month to about 250 people. The restaurant also sponsors several local sports teams. “It’s definitely the best part of what we do. Giving back to the community is our number one goal and making this a great place for our families and employee’s families,” Bonina says.

During the summer, a lot of younger people, including Bonina’s and the Priests’ own kids, join the Aloha team. The adults make sure to help them out when they need it. “We’ll mentor them if they’re getting their driver’s license or need help with academics. We make sure they can achieve their goals outside of work,” Bonina explains. Between stellar service, comforting barbecue, and locally sourced seafood Aloha Alabama has something for everyone. “Our goal is to always give excellent customer service with a touch of Aloha,” Bonina says.

More information about Aloha Alabama BBQ can be found online at: and on Facebook and Instagram.

Horses enrich lives of children with disabilities

Photo by Katie McGregor

Operating out of NanSea Stables in Ocean Shores, The Horse Prayer is a nonprofit organization offering horse experiences designed for 5- to 21-year-olds with physical and emotional disabilities.

“We have parents who say that the only time their child ever smiles, or speaks, or engages is while they’re in their sessions,” says Stephanie Lewis, the organization’s president.

While Lewis heads it up, the organization’s workforce includes 10 board members and various volunteers from around the Harbor. The Horse Prayer hosts a series of seasonal six-week equine-assisted learning and day camp programs.


Established in 2017, its mission is “To support and empower individuals with disabilities through equine assisted activities.” Through collective volunteer efforts, they do just that. Lewis herself started as a volunteer in 2018, becoming president of The Horse Prayer in 2021. Over the past few years, her daughter, son, and boyfriend have become hugely involved in the program as well.

“The Horse Prayer started with the intention of doing what we are doing now – therapeutic horsemanship,”  Lewis explains. Horsemanship 101 is a six-week program covering lessons in equine grooming, body language, nutrition, herd dynamics and more.

Photo courtesy of The Horse Prayer

The Horse Prayer team has even recently acquired critter paint so students can get artistic and paint the horses. Everything is hands-on to promote physical and emotional growth for the students. NanSea’s Stables has an area for parents to stay and watch as well. If students come out of Horsemanship 101 feeling confident, they can move onto Horsemanship 102, which is an adaptive riding program. But the students get to dictate their own comfort level.

“Most kids like to come back and do it again and again,” Lewis says. “It all depends on how fast they move through the program, their comfort level with the horses, and what their specific special need is.” Some students just enjoy meeting and talking about the horses while others, like 19-year-old program veteran, Brendon Bolam, have recently progressed to riding the horses. Bolam has been with The Horse Prayer since the beginning and is highly involved with the program.

Along with their six-week programs, The Horse Prayer also hosts special event day camps. Lewis recalls that Chapman Farms of Brady donated pumpkins to the program so students could decorate the pumpkins with Scribbles, the miniature horse, for a day camp event called “Rolling with the Pumpkins.”

The Horse Prayer is currently home to four horses that have all been either donated or are owned by volunteers. Scribbles is a favorite among students who are nervous to be around full-sized horses. Regardless of size, Nita, Kolors, Daisy and Scribbles are all older horses and very mellow around kids. The Horse Prayer always accepts donations to help care for the horses and run the program. On Sept. 10, the organization will host its annual “Barn Bash” fundraiser. It’s a huge party with a band, dinner, auctions and dancing. It’s open to the public and tickets will be sold online, at the door, and at some local businesses.

Volunteers are also encouraged to join the program. From paperwork to barn maintenance to horse handling, there is a job for everyone. With the number of students interested in the program, volunteer instructors are especially needed right now. No experience is necessary to volunteer since The Horse Prayer team will provide training.


Photo courtesy of The Horse Prayer

“Volunteers can donate one hour a week or 10 hours a week. Everyone does what suits them,” Lewis says.

Applications for The Horse Prayer along with information for families seeking scholarships to help cover program fees can be found on its website, In addition, those interested in volunteering with the program can also find information there.

The Horse Prayer can also be found on Facebook under the same name. In addition, Scribbles, the miniature horse, has his very own Facebook and Instagram accounts @scribblesthemini.

Emmanuel ‘The JazzEman’ Simmons Writes, performs eclectic mix of music

With inspiration taken from notable music of the 90s, life experiences and the surroundings of the Pacific Northwest, Montesano musician Emmanuel Simmons has been writing music on the Harbor for 15 years, performing at local venues including Pub Monte in Montesano, Tinderbox Coffee Roasters and the Nirvana Coffee Company, both in Aberdeen, and at the Elma Grange.

Emmanuel “The JazzEman” Simmons’ taste in music is varied and not easily put into a single box. This can be discerned simply by listening to the music Simmons has written throughout the years.

“It’s a mixture of folk, punk rock, and a little bit of jazz,” Simmons, 30, explains. But some of his originals also tread into the rap, indie, hip-hop and pop genres; a unique sound that has been cultivated from years of experimentation.

Simmons, an Elma High School graduate, was first introduced to the world of music when he was 14 and began writing his own songs only a year later. At the time, he was very influenced by jazz and some of those first songs, such as “My Sun in Winter,” can still be listened to on his Spotify.

Currently, he sings, plays guitar, bass and drums, but Simmons started his music journey on guitar. His family gave him some tracks to listen along to and he taught himself how to play using those and whatever helpful information he could find online. “I didn’t even really memorize the names of the chords until I started doing lead worship at a local church,” he says.

Photo by Katie McGregor

Photo by Katie McGregor

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In true Grays Harbor spirit, Simmons recalls that the first song he learned to play on guitar was Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit.” That was followed by All American Rejects’ “Swing, Swing” and Green Day’s “Whatsername.” If he liked it, he learned to play it.

“Writing songs can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Recording can take a lot longer,” Simmons says. Much like his taste in music, his writing process varies. Some-times a specific topic is the main theme, but according to Simmons, more often than not the songs write themselves.

Much of his music is produced and recorded with the help of friends. Occasionally Simmons will actually rewrite parts of songs according to feedback he receives in the studio. This was the case with “Grays Harbor Rain” when he altered one of the chorus lines according to the suggestion of a friend. For him, the writing and recording process from start to finish is a collaborative effort. Simmons has made quite a few friends in the music industry throughout the years, which has led to some of these special projects.

In 2015 Simmons was at the music store to pick out a new guitar — the Martin he currently plays — when Luke and Isaac Olson of Olympia’s The Olson Bros Band walked in. They heard him playing, showed Simmons some of their music, and all became fast friends. Shortly after, they started spending time at each other’s houses and having jam sessions. “I thought I was going in to get a new guitar, but ended up gaining some lifelong friends,” Simmons says. Simmons has since co-written music with the Olsons and has occasionally opened for their shows, including venues in Centralia, Yelm, Mercer Island and even Oregon.

The collaborations Simmons has participated in extend to working with some of his musical inspirations as well. In 2015 Simmons recorded his album “A Nugget in the Bucket” at Monkey Trench Studios in Bremerton, owned by MxPx lead singer Mike Herrera. He happened to run into Herrera in the studio hallway and they ended up hanging out a few times, which was exciting because Simmons considers MxPx to be one of his big musical inspirations. While at the studio recording his album, Simmons mentioned to the producer that he was a fan of the band Amber Pacific.

Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Simmons

Amber Pacific’s lead vocalist, Matt Young, conveniently, was working on some new songs at the studio. So, the producer offered to intro-duce him to Simmons. After meeting, Simmons and Young sang together on “Run Baby Run,” a track on Simmons’ 2015 album. Shortly after recording, Simmons was invited to one of Amber Pacific’s shows in Seattle where he watched them perform a special acoustic set. Simmons says that he dreams of also someday collaborating with Blink-182 and Green Day. But he also sticks to his Harbor roots and is currently collaborating with one of his best childhood friends, Nick Burgess. Simmons and Burgess have previously worked together, but they’ve currently formed a band called Across the Coastline. Simmons is looking forward to working more on the project.

Simmons hopes to have several more songs released this summer and mentioned that one of them is a collaboration with J.Rob the Chief. The passion that Simmons holds for writing, performing, and creating is undeniable, “I think that, basically from the beginning, I knew this is what I wanted to do forever.”

Emmanuel Simmons is enthusiastic about performing live this summer on the Harbor, including a performance at the Montesano Saturday Morning Market from 10 a.m. to noon on August 13. His music can be found on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Apple Music, and Amazon under his stage name, “The JazzEman.” He can also be found on TikTok under the same name.

Wil Russoul Weaves Music, Art & Community to Create Vibrancy

I don’t want to be labeled as anything,” says Wil Russoul. And honestly, one would be hard-pressed to find the right label for Russoul. Musician? Of course. After all, he sits in his office in downtown Aberdeen wearing a t-shirt with the name of his band, The Toons, and playing an impromptu song on his guitar. But “musician” falls short of adequate. Poet? Artist? Community organizer? Mentor? Yes, to all. And no, because each label only captures a piece of the picture.

Russoul himself suggests another possibility. “I’m human duct tape. I just see an opportunity, and I stick it all together. I stone soup it.” That stone soup concept has guided his life for decades. Based on an old French tale, stone soup invokes images of a community coming together to build delicious soup out of stones, something out of seemingly nothing.

For Russoul, stone soup took root in the late 1990s, not long after he moved to Grays Harbor. While playing music at a Montesano coffee shop, he realized that young musicians, too, needed a safe place to develop and share their music. But on his own he could do little. Soon, with help from 54 local volunteers and a motorcycle gang, Russoul built an underground club in Elma.

“It was amazing,” he remembers. “We sometimes had 17 bands in a weekend. We had up to 600 kids in there and never once had an incident.” The Bash, as they called the venue, launched hundreds of young musicians. Russoul guided the teenagers that formed his Reality Check team through the business of vetting bands and recording music. Stone Soup Records began.

Photo by Rick Moyer

Photographer and on-air personality Rick Moyer has known Russoul since those early days of The Bash and Stone Soup Records. “Wil is a dreamer and a promoter,” says Moyer.  “He loves people.  He has always been a guy that loves the creative process and shares it with those around him.”

Blending music with mentoring seems a logical fit for Russoul, a minister’s son who discovered a passion for music at around age 15. “I grew up deaf,” he explains. “When I got my hearing, the very first song I ever heard was ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ by Elton John. I knew from that moment on I wanted to make music.”

The beginning proved a little rocky. New to hearing and musically untrained, Russoul initially had no sense of timing or pitch. He traded a bow and arrow for a guitar and taught himself in part by following along with a worship leader at church. Because he had been told he could not sing, he read his own poems, accompanying himself on the guitar. Eventually, he started to sing.

Forty-five years later, the music continues. Russoul described himself once as “an eclectic acoustic rocker with country roots.” More importantly, he says, “Every time I write a song, it’s about a moment, about sharing that moment.” Those moments can be simple, like the glimpse of a stoneworker from the window of a train. Or they can reflect hinge points, like the song “Wonder,” which Russoul wrote at the passing of his father.

Photo by Rick Moyer

Sharing those moments on stages and street corners, online and even in quiet hospital rooms, he recognizes the healing power of music and art, both for individuals and for communities. “After all, isn’t that what the gift’s supposed to be about?” he asks.

To that end, Russoul has been instrumental in establishing a creative arts district in Aberdeen. And as executive director of the Downtown Aberdeen Association, he serves as a passionate promoter of the community he calls home. From creating walking tours of downtown to establishing a “Hive” for artists in the historic Becker Building, he works tirelessly to build a sense of place here in the Harbor.

Most recently, Russoul spearheaded the effort to acquire an iconic piece of Nirvana memorabilia, making it available to the community in celebration of Aberdeen’s artistic roots. Check out the Nirvana98520 Facebook page for details, photos and stories.

“This is what sells Aberdeen,” Russoul maintains. “It’s not just a product, not just the people. It’s the stories and experiences you are going to have.”

And if you want to experience Russoul’s music? Start by checking out and YouTube. With luck, you might catch him playing downtown at Tinderbox Coffee Roasters or hitting the stage with his band, The Toons. You will be happy you did.

Photo by Rick Moyer
Photo by Rick Moyer

Grays Harbor Civic Choir director Kari Hasbrouck

If you consider the humanities (especially the musical arts) essential to the human experience, you’ll certainly appreciate the contributions that Kari Hasbrouck has made to the quality of that experience in Grays Harbor County.

Recognized widely for her inspiration, enthusiasm and many talents, the Hoquiam musician teaches voice and piano, serves as an adjunct professor at Grays Harbor College (GHC), and directs both the GHC Jazz Choir and the Grays Harbor Civic Choir.

Kari, 56, also serves as the music director at Saron Lutheran/First Presbyterian Church in Hoquiam.

Photo by Katie McGregor

“Kari has so much experience,” says Bill Dyer, GHC’s band and orchestra director, who has worked with her for 11 of the 30 years he has known her. “She’s a perfect fit for everything, and she does everything. She is very easy to work with, and students feel comfortable around her.” 

After graduating from Hoquiam High School in 1983, Kari attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, then transferred to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where she earned a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in music performance (vocal jazz). Then, in her mid-thirties, she earned her master’s degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University.

Now and Then

Kari’s students love her. Amber Mullins, 21, a third-year music major, says Kari “is a super positive person and one of the most encouraging and understanding instructors I’ve ever had.”

“Kari is a very patient and understanding teacher,” says former student Rae Snow, 20. “She helped me to grow into my voice, teaching mental techniques and selecting songs that challenged me.

“I always knew she was very skilled as she accompanied me for every lesson, but it wasn’t until I saw her perform on one rare occasion that I realized how incredibly talented she was. She gives so much to her students,” Rae says.

Photo by Keith Krueger

It’s debated whether virtuosity comes from a natural born talent or hard work and experience. Arguably, artistic skill comes from both, if you mix in opportunity and passion. Kari has all that.

She began piano lessons in fourth grade, playing piano in the high school jazz band and violin in the orchestra. At Hoquiam High School the orchestra teacher, Chuck Elwell, helped the students put together a blue grass group, The Fiddling Grizzlies.

“We were the first high school group to ever perform at the Seattle Folk Life Festival,” Kari recalls.

She began accompanying the choir at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (now Amazing Grace Lutheran Church) in Aberdeen, when she was in high school, as well as the Hoquiam High School Concert Choir for a couple of years, singing with both choirs whenever she got the chance.  Her first experience directing a choir was in an emergency substitute situation.

She was working as a paraeducator in the Hoquiam School District and had been accompanying the choirs at the high school and middle school for a couple of years when in the middle of the year, the district unexpectedly needed someone to step in and teach the choir classes.

“There was no one on the substitute teacher list who had any music experience. The principal asked if I would be willing to step in. I was finishing up my final course of my master’s program and was getting ready to do my student teaching. So, I said ‘yes.’  In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘What did I just get myself into?’

“I basically had a trial-by-fire experience being the teacher for two high school choirs, two middle school choirs and a beginning music class. I taught for the district for two and a half years. It was the toughest job I ever had, but I have a lot of good memories from that period in my life.”

Heart and Soul

Kari says that she invites choir members to express their opinions about the music. “I really enjoy the collaboration and the team atmosphere of the choirs I have directed. I think it’s important that singers have the freedom to talk with me and make suggestions about repertoire or challenges in the music.“Choir, for as long as I have been involved, has been like a second family and a place where people are comfortable expressing themselves through music,” she says. “Singing can feel very vulnerable because you are your instrument. Creating an environment where singers feel safe to express themselves and grow as musicians, whatever that looks like for them, is very important to me.”

And yet, she says, “I think the most challenging thing for me is that I am a total introvert. I’m not big on chit chat, but I’ll talk to you about music because that’s what I am passionate about. People sometimes underestimate me because I am a quiet person.” But introverts often have a way of both finding and expressing themselves creatively. For Kari that includes writing and arranging music.

“I started writing simple piano music at about age 10 and vocal music soon after. I attended a young songwriters workshop at Fort Worden State Park the summer I turned 12 and remember sleeping in rooms in the old Army barracks and making friends with other nerdy young kids who were there learning about songwriting.

“I wrote mostly vocal music with piano accompaniment all through high school and college. When Bill Dyer was directing the jazz choir, I arranged one of my solo pieces, ‘Dream,’ for the jazz choir. It has been performed several times in the past. In a nutshell, the song is about a world existing without war, without hunger and without hate.” In fact, her two most recent solo pieces, both originals, were featured in the GHC Community Ensemble Directors Concert on Nov. 13, 2020.

“One is a humorous blues piece about getting older. The other is a song I wrote for a special guy in my life,” she says, adding that the program is still on the Bishop Center for Performing Arts Facebook page. One of Kari’s most recent and rewarding projects was working with the 7th Street Kids production of “Frozen JR.” “I was hired to be the music director—something I had always wanted to try, but never thought Alex Eddy would give up the gig. But he and Julayne Fleury were busy with the opening of their own theater project, Plank Island Theatre Company. (Eddy was featured in the Fall 2021 issue of Coastal Currents and Fleury in the Spring 2021 issue.) “I was able to work with some wonderful young singers and be part of a new directing team. It was a great experience and I would definitely do it again if given the opportunity,” she says.

Photo by Katie McGregor

Fun and Future

Kari enjoys spending time with her family—especially her granddaughter Dakota, 6, who loves music as much as she did at that age. During the summer she likes to take road trips with her dog to visit family. Creating mosaics and playing pinochle are other ways she enjoys downtime.

She plans to continue teaching and directing, saying she hopes to explore more musical theater opportunities. “And someday I want to actually go to New York and see a Broadway show.”

“I would really like to do more singing, put together a jazz combo, do some arranging of jazz standards and originals and get out there and do some playing.” Though her GHC teaching schedule keeps her pretty busy, Kari does offer private lessons. She can be reached at

Tiffany Maki, Grays Harbor Concert Band

Four years ago, popular Harbor jazz singer, pianist and band director Tiffany Maki was hired by her former band director Bill Dyer, music instructor at Grays Harbor College, to launch and direct the Grays Harbor Community Concert Band. The band offers performance opportunities to players of brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Photo by Katie McGregor

“Music circles in Grays Harbor are tight, and I had admired Tiffany’s musicianship and generosity of spirit,” Dyer says. “She was a clear choice to be the director of the concert band, and has done a fantastic job in developing an inspired band of area musicians. We couldn’t be happier with their growth!”

Grays Harbor boasts an impressive tradition of concert band music, but after the Aberdeen Elks Band disbanded in 2006, there had been a hole to be filled. Since 2017, Maki has been happy to fill it by directing the Harbor’s new concert band.

“Continuing the legacy of great concert bands and big bands in Grays Harbor was my passion and ambition,” says Maki, 41. And, as the director of the popular Dukes of Swing band, in addition to the Grays Harbor Community Concert Band, it’s clear she’s achieved her goal.

Tiffany Maki spent much of her childhood in the world of concert bands: “My dad played tuba in the celebrated Aberdeen Elks Band, which began in 1912. I had a great time traveling on the bus to national Elks conventions in Chicago and other big cities,” she says.

As the years went by, Maki performed in many concert bands herself under the direction of prominent local directors, including Bill Dyer, Scott Pierson, Robert Richardson, and the legendary Craig Wellington, who directed the Aberdeen Elks Band for 25 years.

In 1980, the Dukes of Swing split off from the Elks Band to perform 1940s jazz. Wellington directed this new band, too. When he died in 2006, the Elks Band dissolved, but the Dukes of Swing survived. After performing with The Dukes of Swing for eight years as pianist and vocalist, Maki was named the new director of that band in May 2019. “It was the fulfillment of a life-long dream of not only performing in, but also leading, a big band,” she marvels.

With her personal history, it’s especially fitting that Tiffany Maki is now directing the newly formed Grays Harbor Community Concert Band in the Wellington Rehearsal Hall at Grays Harbor College, a building named in honor of Craig Wellington, a man she greatly reveres, and in whose footsteps she is now walking – and directing.

Maki grew up in a musical family. She began studying piano at age six, clarinet at age nine and voice at age 17.  In high school, she had the privilege of studying with Patricia Wilhelms, the longtime Aberdeen High School choir director, as well as conducting and/or playing in the pit orchestra for more than 15 of Wilhelms’ musical productions.  Tiffany was also a voice student of Christine Hill and Brenda Richardson at Grays Harbor College. She graduated with an associate’s degree in 2001.

For the last 13 years, Maki has been a senior secretary with the Department of Children, Youth & Families in Aberdeen. It’s in her spare time, that in addition to directing the Grays Harbor Community Concert Band and The Dukes of Swing, she performs solo and with several of her own groups, including The Maki-Mehlhoff Duo, The 593 Singers, Electric Park Jazz Band, The Tiffany Maki Band, and Tiffany Maki & The Mellow Tones. She particularly loves singing jazz in local venues.

Her vocal style is influenced by jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, as well as modern jazz singer Diana Krall and by 60s rock/blues singers Janis Joplin and Mama Cass. In addition to jazz, concert bands also hold a special place in her heart. “A concert band is basically a symphony orchestra without the strings,” Maki explains. “We play American marches by John Philip Sousa and Karl King, but also classical and popular music, anything really.”

The Grays Harbor Community Concert Band welcomes musicians from all walks of life. No auditions are required and members range widely in age and experience.  Maki’s firm-but-friendly leadership brings them all together, and she clearly makes time to work individually with those who need help.

Halvar Olson, 72, who plays the snare drum, announces proudly that the percussion section is 148 years old, between him and bass drummer Steve Rodgers, who is celebrating his 76th birthday.

Cindy Jamroz draws attention with her collection of large woodwinds, including a bassoon and an even larger instrument. “This is a contrabass clarinet,” she explains. “It is four times the size of a regular clarinet and it takes a lot of wind to play.”

Flutist Joellen Beatty is a semi-professional musician, a certified music teacher, who drives to rehearsals all the way from Raymond.  “I love the sense of community here,” she says. “I’m happy to be able to give back.”

Photo by Keith Krueger

Trumpet player Simon Rogers comes in from Ocean Shores.  He was playing in the Grays Harbor College Jazz Band when his work schedule at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino made it impossible to attend. He is happy to have found an alternative in the Grays Harbor Community Concert Band. Families playing together is a wonderful feature of the Community Concert Band. Jessica Jurasin, who plays the oboe, and her husband, Tyler, on clarinet, attended high school with Maki. They were happy when she started the band, where they can perform along with their 17-year-old son, Nolan, on trumpet. “Tiffany makes this such a relaxed and welcoming place,” Jessica says.

Flutist Joellen Beatty is a semi-professional musician, a certified music teacher, who drives to rehearsals all the way from Raymond. “I love the sense of community here,” she says. “I’m happy to be able to give back.”

Maki’s own family is also represented, with her father, John, on tuba and her sister, Heather, on trombone. What does it feel like to direct a big band?  “The adrenaline rush is crazy,” she answers. “With every rehearsal, I get so emotional, I can’t sleep.” With her talent and experience, one might wonder if she has ever considered leaving the Harbor for greater opportunities. “Oh, no,” says Maki. “I commuted to Olympia for four years and that was enough. I love the Harbor. I just bought my first home in Cosmopolis. This is where I will stay.”

On Dec. 10, the Grays Harbor Civic Choir & Community Concert Band will perform together for this year’s holiday concert. Civic Choir director Kari Hasbrouck will join the Community Concert Band for a performance on the celeste, a keyboard percussion instrument with a bell-like sound. The concert will be recorded and aired via Zoom, due to Covid-19 restrictions. To watch the concert via Zoom, go to the Bishop Center’s webpage and look under the calendar for the link.

The Grays Harbor Community Concert Band performs three times a year in the Bishop Center for the Performing Arts. New members are always welcome. Rehearsals are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Grays Harbor Wellington Rehearsal Hall on the college campus. Contact Director Tiffany Maki at,  or visit the Grays Harbor Community Concert Band’s Facebook page.