It's natural that the musical careers of Polly and Heather Stewart would follow similar paths because, well, they're sisters and shared similar influences growing up. Both recall their affection for the songs of Burl Ives and attribute their penchant for folk music, in part, to their mother for encouraging their singing folk songs and spirituals to and from the Stewart family cabin in Provo Canyon—a ploy, says Polly, "to keep us from killing each other in the backseat.”
Heather, like many other revivalists, taught herself to play the guitar. "I just fiddled around with the frets until I found how I needed it to sound, and that's how I learned the chords;' she explains. Her motivation for getting involved in the folk music revival was, she says, "the idealism and the truth behind the words we were playing and singing.” In high school, Heather and classmate Hal Cannon formed the Folk Music Club; and in the mid-'60s, she and fellow high-school student Ray Carlisle became a duo, appearing in high-school assemblies and Park City gigs.
In college, however, Heather became disenchanted with the direction the country was headed. "President Nixon had just bombed Cambodia, and a lot of people were going to Canada in protest ... People were saying 'Love it or leave it; and a lot of us took up that challenge and left.” At age 22, Heather headed for Europe, where she performed in the coffee houses of Amsterdam and ended up teaching English and husking on the streets of Paris.
Some 20 years later, Heather returned to Salt Lake City with her Welsh husband, playwright Mike Dorrell. She also resumed her studies at the U, where she received two degrees (her M.A. is in linguistics). She is currently a vice principal at a local junior high school.