Renee Vaughan plays traditional Scandinavian music on the nyckelharpa, an instrument that has been around in one form or another for over 700 years. The sound is both rustic and ethereal. Renee has played for the King and Queen of Sweden, but her most consistent and attentive audience is her dog, Goosey.
Renee performs throughout the northern heartland area with a variety of musical constellations and is a regular performer at the American Swedish Institute, Høstfest and the Nisswa-Stämmän Scandinavian Folk Music Festival.
"I’m a bit of a musical late bloomer. About ten years ago, I learned traditional Swedish folk painting from Judy Kjenstad. To help with inspiration, I borrowed a CD of Swedish folk music from the local library, and kept it on repeat for days. One tune in particular was an instant favorite, Eric Sahlström's“ Pinntorpafrunpolska,” on nyckelharpa. When I mentioned this to Judy, she said she plays nyckelharpa and would help me get started. Within a few months she secured a harpa and patiently taught me."
Renee is also accomplished in the traditional Swedish art of dalmålning, more commonly known as kurbits painting. Her next creative endeavor is woodblock prints of järnkors "tree-of-life" iron crosses, from the 1700-1800’s in Värmland and Jämtland Sweden.
10 Fun Facts
Her journey began...
when Renee Sunflower Vaughan was born in a VW van headed for Woodstock. Members of the commune doted on the budding musician and encouraged her interpretation of Tracy Partridge’s game-changing tambourine work.
Young Renee had a difficult transition to life on the outside. At the impressionable age of 16, she hitchhiked along the famed Route 66, when the first car to stop for her was a lime-green 1972 Ford Pinto--and inside, Sammy Davis Jr. and Carol Channing.
The trio toured the country playing their vaudeville revival act to second-rate hotels and casinos. At some point during their journey, Carol began the daunting task of taming and refining the free-spirited young lady. She instructed Renee in the art of social graces, teaching her how to dress gorgeously and walk steadily. Carol also shared her unique lipstick application techniques with the yet-to-blossom-beauty.
Sammy's role in Renee's education was more simple, yet immeasurably more difficult--he instructed the young beauty in the tender arts of love. At last, when they could teach her nothing more, Renee, Carol, and a broken-hearted Sammy parted ways the best of friends.
Renee traveled to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to see if it was indeed as unforgettable as her future musical trophy husband, Prince (RIP) had described.
Once in Minnesota, she learned how to make a Swedish nyckelharpa from an old tree stump, goat entrails and a discarded typewriter. This new instrument allowed Renee to further pursue her creative vision. She forged ahead into the wild of her new home state, armed only with a nyckelharpa, and an abundance of confidence.
Success came quickly and she found herself overwhelmed by the enthusiastic, and slightly aggressive nyckelharpa aficionados. Renee had no choice but to retreat into the woods, broken in body but happy in spirit.
Renee can be found in her home, (which she made entirely out of pine needles, including the indoor plumbing,) biding her time quietly playing polskas, a subdued and thoughtful woman.