Nov. 19 2008 12:00 AM

If you’ve attended Lansing’s annual holiday blowout, Silver Bells in the City, in the last several years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the music of Wanda Degen.

The Lansing folk artist is a regular on the festival roster, who says no matter how often she plays it, the celebration never fails to get her in the holiday spirit. “It always draws me in,” Degen says. “It’s just a great way to start the holidays with such a wonderful turnout by the community. From the parade to seeing the same friends there, the music that follows me, and the camaraderie between everyone.”

Degen specializes in the hammered dulcimer, which she started playing as a child, and the autoharp. The Montague native moved to Lansing in 1971, and she has made a name for herself around Mid- Michigan as a musician and a concert promoter working to make a place for roots music.

“I feel really lucky to be an integral part of [the local music scene],” she said. “Whether it was working at Elderly Instruments or booking performances for the East Lansing Arts Festival, I’ve been very involved in what’s been a vibrant music scene.”

With numerous albums and instructional CDs, Degen has a catalogue of music that spans two decades. Earlier this year, she released “At Home,” her latest album with the Wanda Degen Trio, which includes band mates Dan Giacobassi and Pete Wittig.

Even with new material under her belt, Degen knows Silver Bells is about seasonal music, meaning it’s time to brush up on the classics and possibly revisit some material off her 1996 release “It’s Almost Day! Family Christmas Music.” “I do a lot of holiday programs during the season, and Silver Bells is the first one of the year, so I’ll be pulling out the sheet music and practicing up.”

She hopes this year’s experience will be a little warmer than some of Silver Bells gone by. “I played with a band mate outside, in front of a storefront, and it was very, very cold,” she said. “A classic case of overcoming the elements, my friend had gloves with the fingers cut out to be able to play flute, so the weather made that interesting.”

Degen performs from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday at The Michigan Library and Historical Center.

Silver Bells in the City

p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 Featuring electic light parade, lighting of the
State Christmas tree, fireworks and more Downtown Lansing FREE (517)
372-4636 www.silverbellsinthecity.org

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