Betsy Tinney is a Northwest cellist known both for her graceful musicality and her broad versatility. She has performed and recorded with many different groups, from solo acoustic performers to large rock bands; her contributions to each are unique and, as she explains, “whatever the song wants.” Betsy also performs solo, using a combination of acoustic cello and electronic looper that creates an interwoven tapestry of sound. Her solo cello work has been called “captivating,” “mesmerizing,” and “a rich texture for the ear, reminiscent of dark chocolate and fine red wine.” (Betsy’s approach to the looper is much more straightforward: “Hey, it can get lonely up here. The looper lets me perform with as many other cellists as I want. Besides, it takes up a lot less room and doesn’t eat as much.”)
Betsy has had a lifelong love affair with the cello. At the tender age of five, she attended a Carnegie Hall performance by Jacqueline DuPre, and was completely captivated. However, when finally allowed to begin music lessons, she spent a long year of purgatory behind a violin. (Her very conservative teacher felt that the cello was “unladylike” and therefore inappropriate for little girls.) Baffled and frustrated, Betsy simply played the hated violin as if it were a cello, until he finally gave in — though that took nearly a year. (Stubbornness does occasionally have its reward.) After graduating from Wellesley College with a B.A. in music, she took an abrupt left turn, ending up in the burgeoning high-tech sector as a tech writer and user interface designer (a much more secure and lucrative position than playing in a pit orchestra). In 1997, after many long years and too many 16-hour days, Betsy left Microsoft to devote herself full time to her children and her music. Her first nonclassical performances were with the rock band Gaia Consort. (“My first rock concert was a trial by fire: I found myself trapped onstage, hemmed in by drum kits and keyboards and amps. I felt stupid sitting there while the band played songs I didn’t know, so I just made stuff up. Not the easiest way to begin learning improvisation, but it worked — and now improv is my most useful performance tool.”)
Betsy is a founding member of the well-loved folk trio Tricky Pixie, performs regularly with S.J. Tucker and Vixy and Tony, and is also a member of The Heather Dale Band and her daughter Katie’s band (the name and makeup of which changes with nearly every show). In addition, Betsy has performed and/or recorded with Alexander James Adams, Jeff & Maya Bohnhoff, Dr. Mary Crowell, Seanan McGuire, Marian Call, Leannan Sidhe, Molly Lewis, Amy McNally, Celia, Ronnda Cadle, Wendy Rule, Incus, Gaia Consort, Bone Poets, and many others. Betsy also teaches and does session work, and is an active member of the New Directions Cello Association, a worldwide association dedicated to nonclassical forms of cello playing.
She’s a relative newcomer to filk — she attended her first con in 2007 — and is honored and grateful to have been so warmly welcomed into the filk community, both as a performer and as an individual. As a member of Tricky Pixie, Betsy was privileged to be a Special Guest at WorldCon 2011 in Reno, and has also been a musical guest-of-honor (either with Tricky Pixie or with SJ Tucker) at many other cons. She has several Pegasus nominations to her credit, and was the recipient of the 2012 Pegasus Award for Best Performer.
When not behind her cello, Betsy is a web designer/developer, visual artist and calligrapher, and part-time pixie.