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Chill Records Presents

Sydney Stull

About this gal...

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The first 8 years of Sydney Stull’s life were spent in at least 8 different locations while her father finished first theological seminary, then medical school, then overseas training in preparation for being a medical missionary.  Appreciation for music was a staple in the Stull home. Dad had the musical talent.  He loved classical music and musicals.  His relaxation after studying was playing the piano and occasionally ukulele and scoring song arrangements.  He taught Sydney chords on the uke when she was about 4 or 5 and she played till her little fingers blistered.  Her Mom, on the other hand, couldn’t carry a tune to sing Happy Birthday, but that didn’t stop her from singing to Sydney and Sydney’s five siblings.  Although eventually it was difficult to listen, Sydney felt her mother instilled the joy of song very early in the Stull children’s development.  


Moving to Liberia, West Africa when Sydney was only 8 gave her a perspective very few American children ever experience. She attended boarding school for the next 5 years with pet mongooses and monkeys, dangerous snakes, scorpions and spiders, and swinging on vines in the jungle.  Her music education continued with piano lessons there along with her most memorable music experiences singing constantly on the school bus - mostly camp songs and old favorites from the late 1800’s.


Coming back to the States in the mid 60’s for high school was quite a shock, going from a small, controlled missionary community to the USA in the middle of that era of love, drugs and rock & roll.  But moving to the Midwest to live with cousins was a bit gentler.  She had had very little exposure to popular music, so had some catching up to do with the likes of the Beatles, the Stones, the Doors, the Dead, etc. By this time, though, music was a part of her being. She sang in the church choir and in school choirs.  She began a love for the theatre at this time as well involving herself in school plays. Once it became known that Sydney could sew, she only got a small chorus part and was in charge of making the costumes! She acted in A Christmas Carol in community theatre, playing multiple roles as Mrs. Cratchett, a maid at the nephew’s party, one of the spirits that haunts Scrooge, and one of the street singers. It was during this growth era in her life that Sydney taught herself to play guitar.  Another blistering experience.  One of her school teachers in Liberia would play the accordion for the students, and she really wanted to learn to play that… or guitar.  Luckily, the Midwest cousins had a guitar.


Twenty years and a daughter later, her marriage was ending. She was setting out on her own for the first time in her life.  “35 going on 18” was how she put it.  Altho a difficult time, it beckoned with promise of adventure and new experiences.  With new friends Sydney backpacked the Sierras and the Trinity Alps, biked century rides all over the Bay Area, Napa and Sonoma.  Part of that adventure was discovering photography, and local bands. Yes, there’s a relationship there, because one of the photography instructors encouraged her to come hear his band, a local favorite, Avenue. She rapidly became a devoted fan creating promotional graphics for the band and even performing backup vocals on many tunes. She dated one of the band members and hung out with Avenue for about 5 years.  She had much fun enjoying the camaraderie and collaboration Chuck described amongst himself, Bill Jason, Jim Thompson and Tim Taylor.


Fast forward another 10 yrs, and Sydney’s evening shift job at a local hospital kept her away from rehearsals with her church choir.  So, along with a co-worker, Sydney started a chorus at work. That chorus evolved into the John Muir Chorus and is still performing after 18 years with Sydney singing alto.  The JMC has been a great source of musical joy - and improvement – for all involved. And very instrumental in the segue to her current collaboration with Chuck Phalen.  But that’s a story for their joint page…..


Recently retired now, Sydney had always thought she would dedicate more time to photography, which has been her first love for the last 40 years.  But because of collaborations with Chuck Phalen, her energy is being directed to more musical endeavors, and she loves it.  She now has a duo/trio (with Sue Kiel) that performs, has recently released another CD with Chuck Phalen, and plans to work on writing music and musicals.  (However, photography will not be forgotten. Her photographs enhance many pages of this site.)

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