Jefferson County's Music Man, Andy Mackie, dies; through foundation, he touched thousands of kids' lives

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Andy Mackie, the “music man” of Jefferson County who is credited with teaching several thousand children how to play instruments, died Saturday at a care facility in Jackson, Mich.

He was 72.

“Heaven got the greatest harmonica player this afternoon,” his daughter Laurie Wolford said in a Facebook post.

“The Lord was ready for him and called him home to be with my mom, his daughter Bonnie, his Mum and Dad, and all the children who never got to learn how to play,” Wolford said.

“Thanks for the prayers and the love.”

Jack Reid, a close friend who recently wrote and taped a tribute to Mackie called “Angels Walk Among Us,” sent out the news of Mackie's death just before noon.

“I know this was expected, but it doesn't make it any easier,” Reid said.

Beloved by many

Mackie, a man beloved by many and one of five recipients of the Jefferson County Heart of Service Award in 2006, had suffered heart problems for years.

In September 2010, he moved to Michigan to be closer to his family so they could care for him. His last visit to Jefferson County was in May, when he met old friends and performed several times.

But before bad health slowed him down, Mackie — a Scottish-born former cowboy who ended up in Quilcene — made bringing music to children his life's work.

Suffering from heart problems and physical injuries, he was spending $600 a month on medication when he decided to put his money into music instead of medicine.

He established the nonprofit Andy Mackie Music Foundation in East Jefferson County in 1996 and operated it as a channel for children to learn music and acquire instruments.

He not only taught students how to play and enjoy music — instructing children in five districts in harmonica — he also taught them how to make instruments.

He gathered financial support for his foundation to supply thousands of instruments to youth and provide college music scholarships.

Through his foundation, Mackie shared his love of music with thousands of students in Jefferson and Clallam County schools.

Bring music to every child

Mackie said his goal was to bring music to every child on the North Olympic Peninsula.

He estimated he had taught more than 6,000 kids to play harmonica — and several thousand to make strum sticks and guitars.

Many of the kids play their instruments in community parades.

“Andy was a dear friend to thousands of people who will miss him,” said Matt Sircely, a mandolin player who had known Mackie since 1999.

“He will live on in his work, which will continue to support the idea that music is within everyone and that it should continue to be supported and encouraged.”

Mackie was in ill health when he and Sircely first met.

“The kids kept him alive all these years,” Sircely said. “You couldn't go anywhere without kids shouting down the street at him, or through the halls of an elementary school — Andymackie was one word.”

‘Powerful, guiding force'

Said dulcimer player Robert Force: “Andy Mackie was a guiding, powerful force for the development of interest of music here in Jefferson County.

“He got the community involved. He got the community concerned. He got the community caring and ultimately got the community helping, and his contribution to music in Jefferson County will always remain legendary,” Force said.

But Mackie's vision went beyond bringing music to youngsters.

“In a national survey, the No. 1 thing kids said kept them out of trouble was music,” Mackie told PDN columnist Jennifer Jackson in a 2003 interview.

“And the University of Washington did a survey that showed employers look for people who excelled in music.

“What it takes to be good at music — the dedication, the discipline — carries over to any job.

“I tell kids, if you want a good job when you get out of school, learn to play an instrument.”

In 2005 at the Seattle Folklife Festival, he led the simultaneous playing of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with 1,706 harmonica players to set a Guinness World Record.

Mackie is survived by his twin brother, Eddie Mackie; four children, Wolford, Julie Rector, Scott Mackie and Mark Mackie; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Wolford said there will be no immediate services, but two celebrations of life will be scheduled, one each in Michigan and Port Townsend.

“Dad didn't want a sad funeral,” Wolford said. “He wanted a celebration of life where there would be lots of singing.”

Mackie's remains will be cremated and his ashes be brought back to Jefferson County, Wolford said.

________

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 05. 2011 11:07PM
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