About the Sanford-Hill Piano Series

An elderly man and woman next to a Steinway piano, smiling

Ford Hill and Sibyl Sanford

Created in 2002, the Sanford-Hill Piano Series provides WWU students and the greater community access to professional pianists from around the world. The series was originally introduced by members of the College of Fine and Performing Arts. The goal was to assist private donor, Sibyl Sanford, who was bringing professional pianists to Western on a case-by-case basis. In addition to providing concerts and master classes, all revenue generated from the series goes 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. Her generous gift made the series possible. In 2011 the series welcomed a second donor, Ford Hill, and unveiled its new name. Ford is a close friend of Sibyl Sanford, and a 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. It was named after Ford Hill, and resides in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall - the 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, The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, Haochen Zhang, Vadym Kholodenko, Petronel Malan, and Tamara Stefanovich, among many other luminescent players. 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: a BA in Art from Colby College and a Teaching Certificate in Art Education from Western Washington University. She has a 20+ year 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". It was awarded a silver medal for the Living Now Book Award, presented to books that inspire.

In addition to being an artist, Sibyl is an accomplished pianist. In the late 70's to early 80's, she had the privilege of studying piano privately with Ford Hill. In so doing, they forged a life-long friendship. Sibyl's collaboration with Ford Hill and Jeffrey Gilliam in this series has helped bring very fine musical talent to Western. In 2003, The Sanford Piano Series - recently renamed The Sanford-Hill Piano Series - was officially launched. 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. He was also was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, which enabled him to enter graduate school at Indiana University. There 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. Here he served as Piano Coordinator until his retirement in 1996. During his time at Western he performed throughout the Pacific NW, Canada, and Australia. He 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. It 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

Looking for more information?

If you have any questions, we're happy to find you an answer. Call the Music Department Office 360-650-3130, or view the directory of faculty and staff.