Musical Whidbey

Some things are so common they’re hard to mention because someone and something will necessarily be left out. Whidbey Island is a musical place where music helped define the place. Now, whether it’s listening, playing, singing, dancing, and probably even learning, practicing, and composing there’s more than enough to keep a person busy.

Whidbey’s written history starts with Europeans moving to the island for farming, fishing, and forestry. It was mostly men, which is why it was also known for drinking, fighting, and gambling – things that city folks didn’t encourage. So, it wasn’t just the locals who were making some noise. Eventually, families arrived, or at least the wives what would build those families. It was time for something else to do. In the days before electricity, a few instruments provided that something else. Men plus women plus music meant dancing. Look around the island and notice how many of the historic buildings were built with dance floors. They might even be mistaken for traditional hardwood flooring – until the inspector inspects them.

Then, the artists moved in. That certainly wouldn’t decrease the amount of musicality.


Now, music is so ubiquitous that there’s something playing every night. Even dancers can find classes, practice sessions, formal and informal groups every night, during the day, and who knows when else. The weekends are prime, of course, with live bands from big bands, soloists, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, whatever. Many of them have shifting members who play in different groups for different gigs. There’s a lot of music, but sometimes there aren’t enough musicians. Getting paid is probably as tough as anywhere.

If you find a web site that captures it all, please post it in the comments. As is typical for the island, find one, show up, ask around for more, and possibly be inundated with options. The local tourism website,, is a good start, as are the local newspapers (Whidbey News-Times, South Whidbey Record), drewslist (local variation similar to craigslist), and a variety of Facebook groups (Island Bohemians, Whidbeydancers).

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We’re in the midst of the summer season. One nice pairing is the (unofficial?) collaboration between Goosefoot and South Whidbey Parks, each of which hosts free dances on Wednesday nights. Usually, the events are outside; so the dancing is done on grass, asphalt, or concrete; but the early and late events tend to go indoors to those nice dance floors. Indoors, nice dance floors and no worries about weather. Outdoors, lots of room and great ventilation – something noticeably lacking in historic buildings.


There are inevitable scheduling conflicts, otherwise known as a wealth of choices. Check the brewpubs, tasting rooms, wineries, vineyards, gardens, and even the marinas for their events. Find the right spot and put together an evening of dining, a few drinks, dancing, and a room for the night.

Some events that inspired this post (in no particular order):

  • Oak Harbor Music Festival – basically every Labor Day weekend
  • Djangofest – ‘Gypsy Jazz’ honoring Django Reinhardt
  • Dockstock – think Woodstock but on the dock
  • Whidbey Island Fair – more than just 4-H
  • Bluesberry – the blues by the blueberry fields
  • and here’s where the list gets arbitrarily cut off before overwhelm happens. Know of something to add? Post it in the comments.

That should be enough to get started. Dive in and rummage around. If these links aren’t the obvious choices, someone there will know where to find something closer to what you want, from bagpipes to square dances to free-form expressionism to just shut up and let me dance dances.

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