B. J. Suter
Variety: Bluegrass, Folk, Instrumental, Old-Time
Solo Performer, Instrumentalist, Songwriter / Composer
B.J. was a musician all her life, and studied music in college. She played piano, guitar, banjo, and mandolin beautifully and had the knack of picking up anything with strings and being able to play it immediately!
Her first musical memory was of knocking out her front tooth on middle C of the family piano at age four. Probably her most "smashing" musical accomplishment. Obviously the lure of the black and white ivories was stonger than the pain of loosing that tooth, because she kept climbing up on that piano bench to make what she thought was music. When she turned five, her parents decided (out of self-defense, she said) that it was probably a good idea for her to learn how to play the piano in a more traditional style, and started her on lessons along with her two older brothers. She stuck with it — they didn't. Piano lessons waned a couple years later when they moved to another town, but she was perfectly happy to continue to play by ear and attempt to replicate songs from the radio, TV, and recordings.
Along came flute, violin, sousaphone, and tenor drum in marching/concert band and orchestra during junior and high school along with stints in chorus and stage musicals.
The first musical "awards" she remembered winning was a first for a 6-voice ensemble at the state music competition in high school and being awarded "Most Valuable Musician" her senior year. She also picked up the guitar around this time and had more fun with it than any of the other instruments combined... much easier to carry around and sing with.
On to college from there resulting in a BA with a major in music and minors in art and German. She didn't speak Deutsch!)
After college, she spent a few years in Miami, Florida, singing and playing guitar and flute in an acoustic vocal trio whose fame never extended much past the city limits, but paid the rent and put food on the table.
Since that time she did some solo gigs and played in another small acoustic band or two for the fun of it. Eventually, she picked up the banjo—a life long dream—and started writing songs.
Performance highlights include placing second in the Telluride Band Competition with a 3-piece pick-up band, being a finalist in the Telluride Troubadour Competition, and being selected for the International Bluegrass Music Association's Songwriter Showcase at its annual "World of Bluegrass" convention in Nashville.
Additional musical endeavors include being President of the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society (CBMS) for seven years and producing five compilation CDs for CBMS that feature a number of its member bands, including the bands Still Lookin' and WhoYaSay?, which she co-founded.
She started peforming less and spent more time composing; she said the highlight of which were putting the music to three of Sandy Reay 's song lyrics and recording them with her for her 2010 CD "I Wanted to Fly". BJ said, "For me, writing the music is the best part of creating a song, so to have the opportunity to work with a great lyricist like San is a dream come true!"
Some of her instrumental compositions are on two of the CBMS Compilation CDs—one co-written with Bill Farmer. A song she co-wrote with Sandy Reay is on another CBMS Compilation CD. The songs she co-wrote with Sandy are featured on Colorado Sandstorm Music Publishing . One song, State Line Cafe, was aired on KOLT and KVMR. She and Sandy drove north until they could find KOLT on the radio and hear the song on the air for the first time.
She spent a year recording a CD of her music, before her death in Jan. 2023. A memorial gathering including BJ's music and art was held at Planet Bluegrass in conjuction with the opening of the 2023 Song School in Lyons CO.