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Perpetual Change — by Pamela DeGroff

| Sep 22, 2008
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Perpetual Change-TGs Making Music

From time to time, Perpetual Change will take a slight deviation from the regular playlist. This month is just such a time. The first transgender blugrass musician to be featured in the column is this month’s artist, Julie Olivia Buse. Over the years, it seems like every conceivable style of music has been discussed, even dissected, here. Bluegrass is a welcome addition, and in coming months, there will be more surprises.

On a sombre note, this month’s installment features the first obituary of a transgender musician we’ve ever posted, I believe. In actuality, it’s more of a rememberance of Stacey Fair Tessler, who passed away September 3, 2007. Mention was made of the anniversary of her passing on the TG Music Society’s discussion group. This is an opportunity to honor one of our own.

Julie Olivia Buse

Julie Olivia BuseOne style of music that has yet to be featured in this column is bluegrass. That’s kind of unfortunate, really, because no other genre’ can be considered as seminal as bluegrass. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call bluegrass the original “roots” music. It’s from bluegrass that country sprang, as well as folk, and even the foundations of rock and blues.

As with most genre’s, bluegrass has had spikes and lows in its popularity. The older generation of Opry stars such as Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe kept the style active when the fickle mainstream public moved on to whatever happened to be the musical flavor du jour. Younger artists such as Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, and Allison Krouse took it to newer audiences, injected the music with their own styles, and have kept it viable well into a new century.

Bluegrass has settled into a niche where it’s often comfortably lumped into a sub-catagory known as Americana Music. Its audience is diverse-from fans of some of the above mentioned artists, to the folks who attend bluegrass festivals across the country.

As with practically every other style of music, there are transgender muscians who love and play bluegrass. Julie Olivia Buse of Yakima, Washington, is proficient at 5 string banjo, guitar, and harmonica.

“I’ve been playing the 5 string banjo…for, oh 20 years now,” she said. “I think, so I pick. I started playing, in of all places, Enid, Oklahoma. I’ve always loved the banjo, and at the time there were not many banjo recordings to listen to. I said to myself, if I learn to play, I can listen to all the banjo music I want.”

Julie doesn’t claim any formal music training, and is largely self-taught. The only thing close to training were some pointers from the music store owner who sold her her first banjo.

As with most musicians, Julie continued to seek out the music that challenged and influenced her the most. She counts among her favorites artists such as Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Roy Clark, and Dick Weissman. Going outside the box, Julie also regards John McEuen, B.B. King, and Louis Armstrong as important sources of inspiration.

Julie Olivia BuseAs a transperson, Julie took the path that is familiar to most of us. “Like everyone else dealing with my transgender issues since being a kid, I was sneaking in and wearing my sister’s and mother’s clothes,” she said. “My parents had me see a counselor at one point. After high school, I joined the Air Force and was married around the same time. I thought I was cured…but everything came back and it came to a point where just cross dressing was not working.”

What was working was finally making the decision to take control of the gender issue, and start making the music she always wanted to make.

One outlet besides the occasional gig is providing some of the music for a local cable access show in her home town. Her music is also available online, and she says she’ll be adding more soon.

In closing, Julie had this to say to fellow musicians: “Just keep picking, blowing or whatever to your heart’s content. You find it will keep you company and it’s a great ice-breaker. The music in your heart will always be there.”

Stacey Fail Tessler

From The Denver Post:

“Tessler, Stacey Fair, a native Denverite, passed away unexpectedly September 3rd, 2007, while on vacation in Florida. She was an exceptional and unusual person. She will be remembered as a loving caregiver; a talented writer, musician, and composer…her radio listeners and numerous friends from around the world knew her by many names, including Momma, J.J. Jefferies, and ‘George’.”

Jami Bantry, a member of the TG Music Society, said this about her:

“My femail exchanges with Stacey were wonderful. I shared a couple of my songs with her, and she offered some very good advice relative to trying to just be myself and let my own style come through…she was a wonderful human being.”

Stacey also was friends with New York musician/producer/guitar whiz Robert Urban. There was talk of a musical collaboration, and who knows what would have come together had things been different.

Stacey wrote and recorded over 50 songs, and her tune The Weird Turn Pro, can be found on the TGMS 2005 release of the organization’s Compilation 1. It’s one of those tunes that’s stylistically hard to catagorize. Almost techno, almost new age, almost prog rock, The Weird Turn Pro is a tribute to her own transsexuality.

Stacey had family friends…and fans. She will not be forgotten.

To hear Julie’s music, check out;; Julie can be emailed at:

The TG Music Society Compilation 1 is available through and also through

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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