About the Sanford-Hill Piano Series

Ford and Sibyl

Created in 2002, the Sanford-Hill Piano Series provides access to professional pianists from around the world for the students of Western Washington University and the greater community. The series was originally introduced by members of the College of Fine and Performing Arts with the goal of assisting a private donor, Sibyl Sanford, who was bringing professional pianists to Western on a case-by-case basis. In addition to the series mission of providing access to artists through concerts and master classes, it was determined that all revenue generated from the series would go to scholarships for talented WWU piano students.

The Series was originally titled the Sanford Piano Series to honor Sibyl Sanford - a professional artist, author, and philanthropist – and her generous gift, which made the series possible. In 2011 the series unveiled its new name and welcomed a second donor, Ford Hill, a close friend of Sibyl Sanford and WWU Music Associate Professor Emeritus of Piano. That same year, the College of Fine and Performing Arts purchased a brand new 9’ Steinway Concert Grand - which was named after Ford Hill – for its Performing Arts Center Concert Hall, home of the Sanford–Hill Piano Series.

Since its inception, the series has hosted legendary pianists and rising stars including Ian Parker, Orion Weiss, Charlie Albright, Di Wu, and The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo. This season marks the 10th Anniversary for the Sanford-Hill Piano Series. To celebrate this important milestone, we are honored to present concerts with three outstanding gold medalists from around the world. We invite you to join us as we share our passion for piano and continue our mission of providing access for all to the arts.

Sibyl Sanford

Sibyl Sanford's college degrees were earned in the visual arts - with a BA in Art from Colby College and a Teaching Certificate in Art Education from Western Washington University - and she has for over 20 years had a distinguished career as a painting instructor and a professional watercolorist. Her paintings reflect her love of nature, her connection to the world around her, and her reverence for life. In 2008, Sibyl published a book, "Painting the Spirit Within," which was awarded a silver medal for the Living Now Book Award, presented to books that inspire.

In addition to being an artist, Sibyl is also an accomplished pianist. In the late 70's to early 80's, she had the privilege of studying piano privately with Ford Hill, and in so doing forged a life-long friendship. In recent years, Sibyl's collaboration with both Ford Hill and Jeffrey Gilliam has helped to bring very fine musical talent to Western. In 2003, The Sanford Piano Series - recently renamed The Sanford-Hill Piano Series - was officially launched, in which all the proceeds from concerts are donated to student piano scholarships.

I believe that through the arts we can be in touch with a transcendent place within ourselves, a place where the Soul shines forth. The artist, then, has the opportunity to become an instrument for something far greater than him or herself. If art is created or interpreted from this state of being, then I believe it can have a transformative effect on all who express it and all who receive it. For me, The Sanford-Hill Piano Series provides a unique venue for offering such a gift to the students at Western and to the larger community, and I am thrilled and honored to be a part of it.
- Sibyl

Ford Hill

Ford Hill graduated from Wisconsin State University at Eau Claire in music and French and was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship which enabled him to enter graduate school at Indiana University where he studied with Gyorgy Sebok and won the Concerto Competition for graduate students in piano and was granted a Performers Certificate in Piano.

Ford taught at Wilson College, Northeast Louisiana State University, and Duquesne University before coming to Western in 1975 where he served as Piano Coordinator until his retirement in 1996. During his time at Western he performed throughout the Pacific NW, Canada, and Australia and was very active adjudicating in Canada and Washington State for festivals and music teachers organizations.

Ford has been honored with the Bellingham Mayor's Arts Award and an endowed piano scholarship at Western in his name. Recently a superb new Steinway Concert Grand now in Western's Concert Hall was dedicated to him and is named "The Ford Hill Steinway."

When I was a student at Indiana University my intellect was fed through outstanding lectures and through my private piano lessons with their unique one-on-one relationship with a master teacher. But, as invaluable and necessary as those experiences were, my musical soul was enriched and inspired through the many outstanding piano recitalists I was privileged to hear during my years of study.

Perhaps in some measure the Sanford-Hill Piano Recital Series can in like manner nourish the musical souls of our Western students and the music lovers of Bellingham. That is my hope.
- Ford