Distinguished Graduates 2018: Karen Ellison-Seyler brings back the 80’s with The Reagan Years


Rachel McCoy

Karen Ellison-Seyler: Then and Now.

Karen Ellison-Seyler, Class of 1982, is the 2018 Distinguished Graduate Arts and Humanities Honoree. She is co-founder, keyboardist, and vocalist of the popular East Coast 80’s tribute band, The Reagan Years.

Seyler grew up in a very musical family. “I was always very passionate about music. My mother played classical piano growing up and my brother was always playing old Beatle’s songs. Music was always around.”

However, her time at Linganore was when she really started to cultivate her passion for the art. She was active in choir and even participated in many talent shows with her high school band, Hydra.

“I remember going to school and seeing a very musical scene. It was definitely how it all started, with high school,” said Seyler.

Seyler always knew she wanted to make music her career. After attending Frederick Community College for two years and working as a lab technician, she had that a traditional career path was not for her.

“I continued to have a passion for music, and I actually met my future husband in the 90’s writing music trying to come out as an original band.”

In 1996, she founded The Reagan Years with her husband, Sy Seyler. The vision behind the band was to bring the iconic tunes of the 80’s to future generations.

“We had this idea to bring back the music we grew up on so other people could make it their music, too. We were rejected immediately by many people, but we kept pursuing the idea. We knew it was good music; it was good, living, music.”

Over the next few years, their band began to grow and gain popularity throughout the DMV area. Since then, the band has gone on tours across the country and even traveled to Europe to perform. Including sold out concerts in November 2018, the Frederick News Post named them as the “Best of the Best: Cover Bands” for 2018. 

When Seyler learned she was being honored as a Distinguished Graduate, she said, “I was over the moon, I am so glad to be recognized for bringing back music that people didn’t know they needed to hear. I feel very grateful.”

Emily Webb
Sebastian Seyler poses next to his mom’s picture displayed on a Main Street bulletin board.

Seyler’s son is junior Sebastian Seyler. He said, “It’s neat that she was chosen. Not every parent has a job like hers, so it’s special. I’m proud of her that she’s gone as far as she has.”

Seyler says she is living her dream, but her life has not turned out as she expected. “I had no idea I would be where I am today; it’s a dream to be able to play music for a living. A certain percent of it is skill. A certain percent of it is luck. I’m not where I am now on my own.”

To all current students, Seyler says, “If it’s a passion of yours, you can’t disguise it or hide it. It’s always going to be inside of you. If you believe in yourself, it can happen. It’s a process that takes time and a lot of learning, and it doesn’t always happen as quickly or easily as you want it to, but it’s all worth it.”

Her husband, Sy Seyler, has the same mindset. “If you have a dream, go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t.”

Want to see The Reagan Years live? Check out the band at one of their upcoming performances!