Meet Your Neighbor: For Tim Peterson, music is lifelong passion

Story and photo by Michelle Patrick

Image Details: Tim Peterson rehearses in his basement studio. He recently released a CD titled "The Day I Was Born."

Name: Tim Peterson
Sturgis resident for: 20 years in Sturgis, plus eight in Colon.
Profession: Teacher, currently physical education at Wenzel Elementary.
Family: Wife, Kam, is a teacher; daughter Lydia graduated from Grand Valley State; son Avery is a student at University of Michigan.
Education: Bachelor of Science in education and master of arts in geography, Western Michigan University.
Hobbies: In addition to music, birdwatching, travel, photography, gardening and tennis.
Community involvement, past and present: Was active with Sturgis Exchange Club and Friends of the St. Joe River for several years.
Worked at the conservation district for seven years, 2-1/2 years at Sturgis Council of the Arts. Established the first Heritage Water Trail in the state in St. Joseph County. Supports community efforts in various developing countries.

Tim Peterson of Sturgis has been making music since he was a boy. He recently took his talent to the next level, recording a CD titled, "The Day I Was Born." We invited Peterson to talk about the release and music in general.

How did you get your start in music? I collected toy musical instruments as a little kid, and starting in fourth grade played sax in the school band. My parents were very supportive, and the music teachers I had throughout my schooling were very encouraging, especially my high school jazz band director. I eventually wound up playing in clubs in college and picked up the guitar while in the Peace Corps.
Describe the new CD. The 11 songs are all original, and are fairly mellow renditions that range from folk to country blues. The arrangements are pretty simple and acoustic for the most part. There is a strong geographical theme in the music, with songs written in different regional styles. I perform all of the instrumental parts and vocals with the exception of one background vocal.
What was your inspiration for the CD? I had never written songs (until) a couple of years ago, though I had lots of experience performing. I was playing in a cover band and growing a bit tired of performing other people's music. I decided to try to write some songs about my family - past and present - and about what a big wonderful country we live in. A year later I had enough material for a full CD. On the CD back cover is a picture of my grandfather as a young man and my mom as a baby, and that is a recognition of who inspired a lot of the music.
Who are your musical influences? As a young lad I loved the vintage country songs my parents listened to, people like Hank Williams and saxophonist Boots Randolph. I regularly watched Rem Wall and Green Valley Boys (from Mendon) on channel 3. As a teen I admired the Woody Herman big band and jazz great Chick Corea along with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Jethro Tull. My go-to musicians as an adult are James Taylor, Alison Krauss, and the Eagles. I think musically I’m still somewhat stuck in the 60s and 70s, a time when music was a little more innocent and upbeat.
Do you have future music goals? I've started writing and recording songs for another CD, and I hope to develop a stage act of original music. I would also love to start a street band similar to those in New Orleans. I'm also working on a plan to highlight local talent in an open mic format.
What has been the biggest surprise so far? Two things really surprised me. After 40 years of writer's block, it was surprisingly easy to write songs once I had put myself in the right frame of mind. And I was honored to be featured on WMUK's Grassroots program in September as well as on other radio stations.
What is your sense of the music scene in Sturgis? We have really great talent in this area, young and old alike. The Sturgis area has a tradition of producing world-class musicians and bands, and I wish the music community could get together and help promote the city and the region as an entertainment destination. Weekly barn dances, live radio broadcasts, music clubs and band showcases would benefit the local economy and the arts community.

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