Ellen Audley with her mandolin and electric mandolin. Photo by Brian Dusek.
She’s Colorado State University’s summer program coordinator, a current journalism student, a band member — and a recent Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee. Accomplished is definitely a word to describe Ellen Audley. While she says she is honored to be recognized for her musical talent, Audley just sees it as doing what she loves with the people she loves.
Audley has been a member of the all-female “Mother Folkers” (the self-proclaimed “most carefully pronounced name in show business”), for 36 of their 46 years. The Mother Folkers, also known as the “MoFos,” are women from many genres of music – classical, jazz, world, blues and American roots — who create shows together. Audley, who plays electric and acoustic mandolin and guitar for the group, has felt a connection to the band since the first time she saw them.
“I used to go to the Swallow Hill Concert Hall in Denver as a teenager, which is where I saw my first performance of the Mother Folkers. I realized women could be serious players,” Audley said.
The MoFos weren’t where Audley first found her passion for music, however.
I knew when I was in kindergarten I wanted to be a guitar player,” she said. “My dad originally didn’t want me to play, but by the time I was 12, I had worn him down, and he never needed to ask me to practice after that.”
As Audley grew older, she continued to expand her music skills and passions. She initially attended CSU to study music therapy, but left to play mandolin and travel around the country. She was able to meet and play with many of her heroes in roots music.
Later, she became a DJ at KCSU, Colorado State’s radio station, and was a public radio volunteer DJ for about 30 years.
When Audley was 26, the MoFos invited her to join the band, and she’s been thriving with them ever since.
Audley’s mandolin is made of Engelmann spruce from Nederland and a maple tree from Kansas cut down in 1928. The instrument was handmade to fit the size of her hands. Photo by Brian Dusek.
“The women in the band really support each other,” Audley said of the MoFos. “Most of us have been friends forever, and we all have a way of really letting each other shine. It’s a non-competitive environment.” The friendship and harmony among the women translates into the success of their band as well.
Hall of Fame induction
The Mother Folkers were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame on Nov. 9 in the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Denver. The ceremony was not only an exciting night for the group, but Audley said it was her favorite performance ever – calling it “fantastically fun.”
“We were so excited to play and so excited for the audience to have a good time,” she said. “There was an amazing vibe in the air, a lot of love in the air. Many in the audience were original fans who have followed us for decades. The sound was good, and the acoustics were amazing because of the beautiful church in downtown.”
The MoFo’s in the early 1980s. Photo by Eric Weber.
The MoFo’s in 2010. Photo by Eric Weber.
For Audley, the most important element of the band, and music, is the connection she’s made with others.
“If you look at many of the artists in the Hall of Fame, they are accomplished individuals creating music with others,” she said. “The group creates something greater than we can do on our own.”
Her belief in teamwork and unity translates into her job as the summer program coordinator at CSU. Things like attention to detail, the desire to never stop learning, creativity and her love for working on a team intersect with the skills needed for her job and as a musician.
And, now that Audley is back at CSU taking classes to earn a degree in journalism and media communication, she’s continuing her love for creatively sharing stories, whether it be through “music, writing, making a video or building websites,” she said.
Audley has a few words of advice for young musicians.
“It’s cool to see young people carrying the torch forward,” she said. “Play every chance you get, work hard, learn from everybody you meet, and share what you know.”
The song Audley leads when the MoFos perform is called “Alma, Corazon y Vida,” which translates to “soul, heart and life,” in Spanish. Whether it be in her journalism courses, job at CSU, or concerts with the Mother Folkers, Audley is putting her soul, heart and life into everything, and enjoying every moment with the people she loves.
Photo by Brian Dusek.
Audley’s favorite sticker: “adapt or suffer.” Photo by Brian Dusek.
Listen to the Mother Folkers.
“Forty Something” from their second album Confluence ©1991. Composition by Mary Flower, Mary Flower (guitar), Ellen Audley (mandolin), Carla Sciaky and Vicki Taylor (violins), Bonnie Carol and Elena Klaver (percussion), Mary Stribling (bass).