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Shelby Imholt, accordionist and yodeler from Hillsboro, performs before the crowd Friday, Sept. 27, during the 2019 Oregon Alpenfest at Wallowa Lake.

Yodeler and accordionist Shelby Imholt didn’t start playing her instrument until she was about 21, but that took her onto yodeling.

Originally from a small town near Mount Hood, she now lives in Hillsboro. She’s been coming to the Oregon Alpenfest three years.

“I love this area. Its scenic beauty is unmatched. I love the little town of Wallowa Lake with its Alpiny feel,” she said. “And, of course, the towns of Enterprise and Joseph are fun to visit. As for Alpenfest, I like the fun, the camaraderie, the music and that everyone’s here to have a good time.”

Music is in Imholt’s blood.

“My father emigrated from Switzerland and he had learned to play a little, tiny Hohner accordion as a young boy. I’d always loved to listen to my father play,” she said. “I’m a self-taught musician. I didn’t take accordion lessons. I had a couple years of piano lessons as a child and I was able to pick up accordion without too much trouble.”

The journey to yodeling was almost an accident. Like the alphorn, it dates to the 16th century and both were used as a means of communication in rugged terrain.

“I’ve always loved singing and I’ve always sung in choirs,” she said. “I don’t necessarily like being the center of attention, so I like the safety of a choir.

“When I started yodeling, I sang in the Portland Swiss Choir – and I still do – and we did a lot of Swiss choral music and some of the pieces had some yodels in them. So, after learning that music and growing up with my father singing and playing with his Swiss and Austrian and German friends, I always loved that music. ... When I was about 40-something, I thought maybe I should yodel a bit.”

She tried yodeling at a party and got good responses and invitations to yodel at Octoberfest events.

“One gig led to another gig and to another gig and before I knew it, I was a solo performer.”

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