Local couple helps bring top talent to Lake Oswego for Music Mondays
Visit Lake Theater and Cafe for Music Monday concert series
Making ones way into a new community sometimes takes a leap of faith. Musician Dean Mueller and singer Julie Yanko learned this even before they moved from the Oregon Coast to Lake Oswego in 2013.
Mueller quit his job as a software engineer to pursue music full time, buoyed by his acceptance into the local blues community.
Yanko left her safe space as a jazz singer to explore other genres, creating fresh opportunities and new avenues for her talent. Together, the couple formed Julie Amici, a musical collaboration, which began in 2014. The name is derived from Yankos first name and Amici, Muellers fathers original last name.
Its a melding of Julies country roots and childhood dreams of singing jazz and my deeply rooted blues foundation, Mueller said.
Today, the couple sits at the forefront of a movement that has put Lake Oswego on the musical map.
Mueller and Yanko currently curate the Monday night music series Music Mondays at Lake Theater and Cafe, located at 106 N. State St. in Lake Oswego. The series not only has brought some of the best local and regional musical acts to downtown Lake Oswego, its also brought some noteworthy recognition.
Lake Theater and Cafe recently won the 2016 award for Best Venue from the Cascade Blues Association, shining a light on the great work Mueller and Yanko have done alongside theater owner Drew Prell in creating a terrific environment for neighbors to enjoy musical evenings on the town.
Its a super-cool thing to be able to bring people together physically and emotionally around the music, Mueller said. The acoustics, the vibe, the food, the bar the folks that work at the theater treat everybody well and they treat the artists great.
And its not just great blues music that has been drawing the crowds to Music Mondays. Mueller and Yanko have been working with other likeminded artists to present themed shows from across the musical spectrum, such as a recent tribute to the music of Bette Midler.
Julie Amici will take center stage for a Patsy Cline Tribute this coming Monday, Nov. 28. Upcoming shows include a holiday music show featuring local jazz greats Tom Grant and Shelly Rudolph (Dec. 5), an Acoustic Guitar Summit Christmas (Dec. 12) and a Holiday Showcase at the Lake (Dec. 19).
Getting people to come out on a Monday night can be tough, but three of the last four shows have sold out, and I think the rest of November and December will be sellouts, Mueller said.
That Lake Oswego has gotten such a foothold in the local blues community is a tribute to Mueller and Yankos talent and willingness to take a chance.
The couple met while living in Manzanita Yanko was singing in local jazz ensembles and Mueller was dabbling in different types of music as an upright bass player.
When physical ailments related to his work as a software engineer began to take a toll, Mueller began to think about a career change.
Aside from screwing up my work life, I worried I wouldnt be able to play music again, he said.
But he found sanctuary in the Portland blues scene, where he began to forge the relationships that served as a foundation for his life as a full-time musician.
I just spent a lot of time in the blues community in Portland, going to jams at Duffs Garage and getting familiar with the great players in town, Mueller said. It was very welcoming. I found that if you ask people to play, theyre willing to play with new people.
The same held true when Mueller and Yanko reached out to friends and cohorts about playing in Lake Oswego. First it was house concerts at their home in the Palisades neighborhood, and then came the opportunity to book acts at the Lake Theater and Cafe.
As we got to know more and more people in Lake Oswego weve been able to keep it pretty local, Yanko said. We have to go to Portland for certain things and certain gigs, but its nice to integrate into this community because it has a lot to offer.
The couple has been honing their own act, called Julie Amici, with Yanko at the center of the combo as vocalist. Mueller plays bass and they team up with a ready roster of talented musicians whoever is best suited to whatever theyre working on at the time.
Mueller described their music as a fusion of his bluesy roots with Yankos background in jazz.
This year, the act was nominated Best New Act and Best Traditional Act by the Cascade Blues Association, and Mueller was nominated for the Back What You Believe In award.
Clearly, Mueller and Yanko believed enough in themselves and the community of Lake Oswego to make Music Mondays a weekly cant-miss at the Lake Theater and Cafe (capacity: 90).
Its been such a success, Mueller said. The music has evolved since we got a reputation, and now Im getting calls from new people all the time about playing the theater.
You have to believe what youre promoting and bring in really great talent, Yanko said. Its been really rewarding. People have said repeatedly, Were so glad youve brought this music to Lake Oswego.