On any given day and floor at Trinity Homes you may hear the distinct sound of accordion music floating through the air and it's not coming from any speaker.
It is 81-year-old Marles Smestad, a recent Trinity Homes transplant who has been entertaining family, friends and complete strangers with her spirited accordion and piano playing for more than 60 years.
"It wasn't until I got here that I got really popular," Smestad said.
Whitney Pandil-Eaton/MDN •
Marles Smestad, 81, has been playing the accordion for more than 60 years.
Moving to Trinity Homes in Minot last April was a no-brainer after having worked as a certified nursing assistant at Trinity Hospital for 26 years.
"I really like it here," she said. "I just try to get people to like music and sing songs."
Her passion for music and song came at an early age, growing up on the family homestead in Makoti. Following in the musical footsteps of her father, Smestad began playing the accordion at the age of 14 and later learned to play the piano. Although she can read some musical notes, Smestad prefers the "play by ear" method of learning to play new songs.
Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"You can hum a song and she will pick it up on the piano," said Lois Zahn, her daughter.
Smestad's musical ambitions continued into adulthood.
When not helping her husband out in the fields of Makoti, Smestad shared her love of music with her eight children until one day when her musical talents almost came to a tragic end.
Zahn was 12 years old when she witnessed her mother engulfed in flames as the result of a house fire.
"She was burnt head-to-toe and had to have numerous skin grafts," Zahn said. "She could've gave up, but she had her kids and she loves her music. She is my inspiration."
In spite of the setback, Smestad continued to entertain anyone willing to listen, from small groups of family and friends to large-scale events such as Hstfest, where she played annually for more than 20 years. Although she loved to give live performances, one aspect of a musical artist's life eluded her.
"I had a dream of cutting a record and giving it to my kids and my grandkids," Smestad said. After more than six decades that dream was accomplished last December when a few of her children found a recording studio in town that was willing to make her dream come true.
Walking into the studio that December morning was an eye-opening experience.
"The mystery of all those machines I didn't know what I was getting into," Smestad said.
It took nearly three hours to record the 10-song album but the process of selecting the songs came far easier.
"I chose my favorites and the songs my kids used to play," Smestad said.
An honored place in any album, the opening song on Smestad's CD is "Beyond the Sunset," the favorite song of her husband, now deceased. Other classics featured on the CD include "Wild Irish Rose," "You are My Sunshine," "Red River Valley" and "Amazing Grace."
The CD was completed just in time to be put into the Christmas stockings of more than 40 members of her family ranging from her own eight children down to her 20 great-grandchildren.
"The grandkids were so excited, they said 'oh grandma, we just love it' and they played it over and over again," Smestad said.
"Making the CD was a little costly, but it was worth every cent. If you would have seen the look in her eyes and the hope in her heart, it was a dream for that moment it really captured mom's spirit," Zahn said, adding, "The mission was to keep the tradition going so that one day they could pick it up because so much of the old- time music is lost to the younger generations. Many don't even know the waltz or anything about polka."
Although Smestad's dream of musical immortality has come to fruition, she continues to push forward and look toward the future.
"I'm a wayward wind I am always looking for something different. I know I'll have big plans, I just don't know what," she said, adding later, "I really want to cut another (CD) one with one of my kids."