Activities for your visit

Heard on Ocracoke: Marcy and Lou launch Coyote Music Den

Coyote : Lou Castro and Marcy Brenner performing on Ocracoke. Photo by P. Vankevich

Coyote: Lou Castro and Marcy Brenner performing on Ocracoke. Photo by P. Vankevich

By Peter Vankevich

To listen to their song “Home to Me,” click the link at the end of this story.

Two of Ocracoke’s premier performers Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro, the wife-and-husband duo known as Coyote, are really home-bodies.   

Not that they stay at home per se, but they prefer to perform here on the island rather than extensive time on the road. Ocracoke is the big beneficiary, especially with their new venture Coyote Music Den in Community Square.

Last summer, the duo launched a listening room-type concert experience titledCoyote Plus OneTuesday nights in the Community Center where the two were joined by a guest artist each week.

However, after the season, the group learned they would not be able to perform their shows again there in 2016 because the Center, a county-owned building, is designated for nonprofit use.

The couple didn’t know how they were going to continue their musical venture until Marcy contacted Ocracoke Community Foundation Director Robin Payne last fall about any open buildings in Community Square and learned that the William Ellis Williams House (c. 1900) would be available.

Marcy was ecstatic about the historic house that is now called Coyote Music Den.

It’s perfect here,” she said as the afternoon sun winked off the harbor and into the ground floor. “We can have a listening room, and upstairs is where we will create and teach.  I’ve always loved this historic building and I’ve wanted to be on the water.”  

Marcy explained the couples’ new direction.

“We were really lucky to play with Molasses Creek, and Gary and Dave,” Marcy said.  “Molasses Creek was one genre, and we missed jazz, blues, Americana and rock. That’s why we’re ‘Coyote’–a trickster. You can go in any direction.” Coyote Music Den sign

There are few musicians as versatile as Lou.  

On the island he regularly performs with Raygun Ruby, an ’80s dance band; Lightnin’ Lou and the Blackouts, which is his jazz-rock band; Martin Garrish; the Ocracoke Rockers and the Aaron Caswell Band. Marcy also plays with Martin Garrish.

This winter, the Coyote Den was the site of weekly jam sessions with whoever wanted to join in to sing, play or listen.

And for the summer, the Den features three nights of performances at 8 p.m.: Coyote Plus One on Tuesday nights; Coyote, which is just Marcy and Lou on Wednesday nights; and Martin Garrish & Friends: Ocracoke Memories on Friday nights.  The box office opens at 7 p.m.

If patrons want to stay home, they can still experience the concerts for $1 via web broadcast at concertwindow.com/coyote.

In addition to concerts, the Den has an upstairs where Marcy and write and Lou can teach music.

The two are life-long musicians. Marcy began music as soon as she could reach the keys and pedals on the family player piano, and played flute and violin in her elementary school band.

For her tenth birthday, her Dad gave her a guitar he found in a pawn shop, but these days, her instrument of choice is the mandolin. 

Lou Castro. Photo by P. Vankevich

Lou Castro. Photo by P. Vankevich

Lou started classical piano lessons at age 9, and two years later, inspired by the Beatles, picked up the guitar which he hasn’t put down. His musical training includes being a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Boston, Mass.

Performing together since 2001, they have had a musical journey that many aspiring performer can only dream of.

This includes  producing several CDs both as Coyote and Molasses Creek and appearing as guest performers on many others. They appeared in the hit movie “Nights in Rodanthe” with Richard Gere and Diane Lane, and have performed with hundreds of talented musicians at the summer weekly Ocrafolk Opry, the annual Ocrafolk Festival and countless other venues. 

A songwriter, Marcy  worked with the late producer Nik Venet (the Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Bobby Darin), and calls him her greatest artistic mentor. 

Marcy Brenner. Photo by P. Vankevich

Marcy Brenner. Photo by P. Vankevich

She was the subject of the documentary, “Dead Girl Walking,” produced by the late Ray Schmitt of Real Earth Productions.  Schmitt, a former analyst for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, was in the Village Craftsmen one day several years ago when he heard the song she wrote in 2005, “Dead Girl Walking,” that appears on their “Home to Me” album. The song is about what her experience living with breast cancer. (She has been in remission since 2000.) 

Intrigued by it, Schmitt contacted her which led to the production of the film. To see the trailer, click here

As a breast cancer survivor, Marcy is an active volunteer for advocacy and support organizations.  She spends a good deal of time immersed in music, songwriting and speaking about the back-handed gifts her cancer journey has given her.

On Ocracoke, both have been active music educators, directing children’s music, after-school music activities, youth band workshops and school residencies.

Listen to Home to  Me:  

Connie Leinbach  contributed to this story. 

Molasses Creek: Fiddler Dave, Gary Mitchell, Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro. Photo by P. Vankevich

Molasses Creek: Fiddler Dave Tweedie, Gary Mitchell, Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro. Photo by P. Vankevich