Woman behind the music honored | RecordCourier.com

Woman behind the music honored

by Sarah Hauck
Published Caption: Shannon Litz
Shannon Litz File Photo |

For nearly a decade, Minden resident Linda Sandstrom has been calling the tune by playing the piano for the Douglas County Historical Society’s melodramas.

On Saturday, Sandstrom was one of several women honored in the Douglas County Historical Society’s annual Women in History reception.

“Of course I’m honored,” the 72-year-old said. “I’m honored to even be mentioned among the other nominees. My dear friend Ellen Caywood nominated me.”

Since moving to the Valley 16 years ago from a busy life in the Bay Area as an occupational therapist, both Sandstrom and her husband, Ron, have thrust themselves into the world of melodramas.

Every time Sandstrom has played the character music for the plays, her husband has acted.

“I didn’t even know what a melodrama was when Sue and John Smith, (the original director and writer of the melodramas) asked me if I would play,” Sandstrom said. “I found out it was overacting, but also involved a lot of music. I was so lucky when I first started to have the directors that I did because they let me do what I wanted to do. I’ve played everything from grand opera, to Steve Foster, an American composer that most people have never heard of, to Pink Floyd and Broadway. I have been able to incorporate a lot of different themes into the melodramas, which is very satisfying to me. I feel like we’re not exposed to enough good music. Don’t even get me started on that.”

Armed with a script and the exuberant characters, Sandstrom dives into her library of music to create the personalities with music.

“The melodramas are always a lot of work, but they are so much fun,” she said. “If they weren’t I would not have done it for so long.”

Sandstrom’s musical foundation in the Valley started with a handful of private piano lessons.

Her reputation soon spread throughout the area and her piano performance resumé has grown to include community theater and world records.

“I had no intention of getting involved in music when we moved here,” Sandstrom said. “In the summer time I’d play piano in the evening and one day a neighbor came over and asked if I’d teach her child piano. After that I started getting calls from clubs to play their events, like the library. I never wanted to be paid for my time. I played at an event at the lake one time and they were insistent on paying me so I donated the money to the arts council. I also played for the library when they organized the big ‘Home Means Nevada’ sing-along when we broke the record for the only state to have the entire state singing the state song at the same time. That was so much fun.”

Before retirement Sandstrom worked for nearly a decade as an occupational therapist, a career she pursued in college instead of music.

The time she spent as an occupational therapist has helped Sandstrom excel in her lesson teaching.

“As I teach piano I am seeing so many things that I studied coming through these children as they are learning,” Sandstrom said. “I think a lot of the knowledge that I have from my degree helps make me a better piano teacher.”

When Sandstrom wasn’t busy providing background personality for characters like Johnson Lane, her and her husband were busy as board members for the High Sierra Fishing Club and the Carson Valley Pops Orchestra.

Taking a break from melodrama music this year, Sandstrom continues to be an advocate of stuffing the archives of the museum with both the melodrams that she has been a part of as well as the other pertinent Valley figures.

“Nobody will ever write things like this again,” Sandstrom said of the melodramas. “I will make sure that the museum has scripts from all of the melodramas we’ve done. Someone is going to look back on these 50 years from now and want to do this again. I am convinced of this.”

Leaving her musical mark on the area would never had happened had it not been for her son tipping her off to a good friend, Ernie Monfiletto, who lived and loved the area.

Frequent trips to Tahoe were not enough to bring Sandstrom and her husband down the hill to the Valley that she now calls home.

“We had spent so many years up at Tahoe, but had never even heard of Minden and Gardnerville,” she said. “We spent a weekend her and we absolutely fell in love. It really is an honor to be a part of this community and I love being able to give back with my music. I hope this program keeps going. The more we get into the archives the better and the more history that stays here.”