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.