Up in the U.P!

Songs and Stories about the Upper Peninsula


   A nostalgic look at early immigrant communities!

Imagine you are a third generation Finnish-America growing up in the mining town of Negaunee during The Great Depression. The company house you live in is heated by a wood burning stove. The only light in the home is a single light bulb in the kitchen. When you walk out your front door, you can see iron mines operating at both ends of the street. In the summer, you bring pasties to your father and grandfather at the mine. Speaking Finnish, the miners tell you stories about their homeland. By the time you turn 18, you're ready to work in the mines beside your father. The rest of your life is spent working in the mines. In time, your own children will work in the mines.

Bill began collecting stories about the Upper Peninsula while researching for his PBS Film Winter Wonderland. Due to its isolation and remoteness of the U.P., many cultural traditions had been preserved. Pasty shops, sauna's, and ski jumping tournaments, are still part of the culture. Bill met with miners, ski jumpers and other old time residents and collected their stories. He turned many of these stories into songs to create programs that are as informative as they are entertaining. Up in the U.P. appeals to anyone who has ever visited the area: seniors, outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers and those that enjoy stories of ethnic traditions. Bill also performs the programs in middle and high schools. Students love the stories about growing up in the 1930's and how their great-grandparents lived simple, yet rewarding lives. There are surprises waiting around every corner with this program!



"Bill has been performing 'Up in the U.P.' for the past five years for our cruise ships when they dock at Mackinac Island. Our clients come from all over of the United States and most know very little about the U.P. so it's an eye-opening experience for them. They love the songs about the ethnic groups and the personal anecdotes Bill shares."
Cassie Doyle, Blount Small Ships Adventures, Warren R.I.

"We've had Bill perform twice for our library and each time he kept our audience captivated and mesmerized. I admire the way he integrates his songs and stories so seamlessly. It's a very unique experience to hear his storytelling."
Bruce Darne, Niagara, WI Public Library

"We've had Bill present all three of his "history through Song" programs at our library for our "Specifically Seniors" program. Each time we drew a larger audience - word gets around! On his last visit he presented "Up in the U.P.!" and we set a record for attendance, 107 happy people! We hope Bill comes up with a fourth program soon!
Samantha Helmick, Burlington (IA) Public Library