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The Grammy goes to former Whidbey duo

Some South Whidbey residents have been walking around lately saying, "I knew them when."

They are talking about musicians Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel, who won a Grammy Award Feb. 24 in the New Age category for their CD "Acoustic Garden."

The award came as a surprise to Tingstad, a guitar player, and Rumbel, who plays woodwind instruments. They were still feeling the impact of winning last week.

"It is such a big deal, this is our first ever nomination and to win it is amazing," Rumbel said, speaking from her Seattle-area home. "Being nominated was wonderful, but winning was the icing on the cake with major sprinkles."

One of the people who knew the duo "when" is Bill Humphreys of Langley. The award, he said, was 20 years in the making.

"Winning the Grammy is long overdue," Humphreys said. "It is an unbelievable pleasure to see them get this."

Tingstad and Rumbel's musical roots began growing on Whidbey Island. Eric Tingstad is the son of Sue and Jack Tingstad of Coupeville. He began his musical collaboration with Nancy Rumbel when she was living in Langley. Their first performance together was in Coupeville in 1985.

Humphreys, who is musical director at Langley Methodist Church, said the pair played in several locations South Whidbey over the years. To this day, they come back at least once a year to play at the Whidbey Island Center for the arts.

"Even when they became very well-known they would perform graciously for all of us on the island," he said.

Getting nominated for the grammy award was not the only thing that took a long time. Tingstad and Rumbel had to wait to the end of the three-plus-hour Grammy show before the results of the New Age category were announced.

"When I heard our names, I didn't hesitate," Rumbel said. "I thought 'I am going to get the statue before they change their mind.'"

Neither prepared an acceptance speech.

"Somehow it felt presumptuous," Rumbel said.

Tingstad agreed with his musical partner that winning was a great feeling.

"Now that we're home the feeling comes and goes," he said last week. "It has been really neat how this has cheered all our friends and family members."

Winning also seems to have been a great career boost. The telephone started ringing in New York as soon as the awards ceremony was over.

"Right away we heard from a couple of different promoters," Tingstad said.

As soon as they were back in Seattle, Dory Monson from KOMO Radio interviewed them "to defend new age music," and they taped a segment of KING's Evening Magazine.

"We have been trying to get on that show for a couple of years and they finally called us," Tingstad said.

Tingstad is a classical guitarist trained by third generation Segovian masters. He studied at Western Washington University.

Rumbel is one of the few premier woodwind players in the world performing on English horn and oboe. She studied with members of the San Antonio Symphony while growing up in Texas. She later studied with Ray Still of the Chicago Symphony while attending Northwestern University. She toured for nearly five years with the Paul Winter Consort.

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