By Ross Altman


Few opportunities come nowadays to bask in the artistic and storytelling genius of Katy Rydell, since she vacated these shores for Portland, Maine two years ago. For thirty years Katy Rydell has been at the heart of the storytelling community both in Los Angeles and nationally. She edited Stories, their flagship journal, for 15 years, and wrote half of it herself. She has taught at UCLA in the Folklore and Mythology Dept., where she earned her MA, and lectured and performed widely from Hawaii to San Diego to Maine.

Katy brings a wealth of musical experience to her storytelling art as well. She plays mountain dulcimer, which she learned from her New York neighbor at the time, Jean Ritchie. How many folk performers do you know who learned literally at the feet of the masters? That’s what I thought. Me neither. We have been more fortunate than we knew to be able to enjoy Katy’s worldly-wise art at Community Storytellers and the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club; now that she lives in Portland, Maine, such events are rare and special, as this one is.

Intriguingly entitled, The Bicycle Rider: Looking at Life, Staying in Motion, you will hear the fruit of her dramatic pulling up stakes and roots in Southern California and transplanting herself to the rugged and rocky coast of Maine. Her new show is sure to inspire you and delight you both.

Katy is an artist in the wide sense of the word, someone who recreates her personal experience in vividly local and universal terms as well, a poet who could look at one photograph on the front page of the New York Times and turn it into an astonishing antiwar poem that is worth a thousand pictures; a singer and storyteller who I have seen put a roomful of eager children in the palm of her hand in the first fifteen minutes and never lose them; a passionate Taiko drummer who won over a whole new artistic community of Japanese fans and friends; and a loyal and loving friend to Topanga storytelling muse Kathleen Zundell and her partner John Owen, who became an embattled hero to us all as she faced her final struggle with cancer.

Katy speaks from the mind and heart, and sings with the joy of a woman unafraid to give her full self in every performance.  We are so lucky that, like Macky in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s masterpiece, Mack the Knife, Katy is back in town.

So don't miss her newly-minted show at the Institute for Musical Arts (IMA) this Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, patron saint of storytellers, March 17, at 2:00pm. IMA is at 3210 W. 54th St. in Los Angeles 90043.For tickets and information call 323-300-6578 or better yet go on their web site, www.imalosangeles.com where you can purchase tickets ($20) directly. You can also email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Don’t you dare miss her!

Ross Altman has a Ph.D. in English. Before becoming a full-time folk singer he taught college English and Speech. He now sings around California for libraries, unions, schools, political groups and folk festivals. You can reach Ross at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.