One of our strong new basses had never sung in any organized way until about five years ago. If you’ve ever heard Mike Rinehart speak you can appreciate why people he went to church with would sometimes ask him out of the blue whether he was a singer. But of all things, it was just singing at a birthday party that set in motion the chain of events leading him eventually to Northwest Sound. Among the other party-goers that day was Hugh Merritt. Being a good barbershopper, Hugh heard Mike sing and asked if he would be willing to take a chance on visiting the Tacoma Totemaires sometime. He would.
At Mike’s first rehearsal there was another first-time visitor: a young guy named Deran Conkling. The two newcomers leapt right into quartetting, pairing up with a couple of veterans. Three-quarters of them thought a fitting name might be “Three Goats and the Kid,” but Deran wouldn’t go for that. So instead they became “Acapella Fellas” and sang together for a few years. In 2009 Mike and three others formed the seniors quartet “Tale Draggers,” which won first place in the seniors division in its first Division II contest. They’re still going strong.
Along the way Mike sort of dropped out of chorus singing, which he found a bit too casual in Tacoma for his personal preference. But Donny Rose had coached both Tale Draggers and the Totemaires, and Mike had great respect for Donny as musician, teacher, and motivator. He called Donny this past fall just to broach the possibility of trying things out with Northwest Sound, and Donny told him his timing was good: we were just one week into Sing, Sing, Sing! Good timing indeed.
For those of us not in the know aeronautically speaking, “taildragger” is an airplane term. That makes sense, because Mike is a pilot for Alaska Airlines, and a second-generation pilot at that. He and his wife Sally live on Fox Island. Sally is a registered nurse who now works as a consultant for a law firm that defends medical malpractice claims. They have two daughters, Maureen, 32, who teaches kindergarten in San Francisco, and Stephanie, 25, who manages a doggie day care center in Seattle.
For Mike, “Where are you from?” is an essay question. He was born in Texas, spent his grade school years in Florida, went to high school in Nevada, and graduated from Arizona State with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a pilot, starting his career in Minnesota flying for the Mayo Clinic. Then he flew for Braniff International Airways until that company went under in 1983, at which point he joined Alaska and relocated to the Northwest.
Besides singing, Mike has played and coached a variety of sports over the years, including being a ski instructor. More recently a shoulder injury has reminded him that, “In singing, you don’t get hurt.” It is a lot of work, but Mike says he really appreciates the NWS work ethic and the structure and expertise the chorus brings to its musicianship. At the same time, he expresses gratitude for how friendly and supportive this chorus is, and especially for the help he’s gotten from guys like Bob Thomas, Matt Picioccio, Bob Strand, and Scott Davi, among others.
For our part, Mike, we’re awfully glad you’re able to “drag your tail” all the way up to Bellevue from Fox Island every week, when your flight schedule permits!