Wednesday, December 29, 2010

*Happy New Year*

Last year a new tradition was started by creating a picture video recap of the year for grandmas and family. It's a wonderful way to look back on each year. I wanted to post one here, since so much of it is related to the band, which has provided more opportunities than we could have ever dreamed when we started, but cutting it down to a reasonable length ended up being far more complicated than expected!

This year we will have two New Year videos, a shorter one I will post, and a long one that the grandparents will receive on New Years Eve.

This is the last blog post of the year. We'll see you next year, with information about coming performances and an exciting trip planned through Texas and Arizona. Additionally, since it is the time for resolutions to the new year, another article will be written regarding music practice for children, and particularly coordinating as a family to practice. Anyone who knows us will tell you that we are not an example of daily organization in most areas, but one area that we somehow manage, by God's grace alone, no doubt, is practicing. I'm looking forward to sharing how we put it all together.

May the Lord's Blessings be upon all of our friends, family, and fans in 2011!

Happy Pickin'!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow marks the end of our Christmas set for the year, despite having a wonderful time with it the last few weeks. The music can be wonderful, but it is only wonderful if you get to stop after a period of time. Some of it makes you reflect, some of it excites, some is truly awful (like the Shoe song), and some doesn't apply. For example:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
(We have a gas fireplace, which doesn't roast much)

Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
(Here in Colorado I hear it's been warmer than parts of Florida lately)
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
(Did that 2 weeks ago, and we were the choir)
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.
(See above about Jack Frost)

Then there is the music that truly excites and speaks to the heart:

The children are watching "It's a Wonderful Life", while playing with their token present opened this evening. When it's over, we'll build our little Nativity while telling the story of the birth of Christ, then they're off to bed.

We have had a wonderful season of Christmas music, spreading what little joy we could at some assisted living centers and our home church. The end of the Christmas season always come with mixed feelings. It is a season we love, but there are so many things we look forward to in the new year and we are excited to hit the ground running!

I am already composing our year in review photo movie, and will post it next week. Until then, we wish all of our friends, family, and fans a blessed Christmas.

*★Merry★* 。 • ˚ ˚ ˛ ˚ ˛ •*
•。★Christmas★ 。* 。
° 。 ° ˚* _Π_____*。*˚*
˚ ˛ •˛•*/______/~\。˚ ˚ ˛*
˚ ˛ •˛• | 田田|門| ˚From the Costello Family ♥

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Article: You're Never Too Old to be New

When we initially started Costello Family Music, we had plans to eventually post a series of articles relating to the real life application of music for the average family or individual. Here is the first article with hopefully more to come. Anything related to this theme will be tagged "Costello Family Music" on the side bar, if you would like to skip the band chatting and go straight to this theme. If you find this or any other articles helpful, please consider sharing them.

In Music, You're Never Too Old to be New
by Cheryl

It was just over two and a half years ago when my husband noticed we had three children individually playing a guitar, banjo, and a violin, which gave him the bright idea of putting together a family bluegrass band.
It was decided that we could use a bass and a mandolin to round out the sound, and I found myself volunteering to learn the mandolin. I suppose I assumed it would be a simple task. After all, I was no stranger to music. In fact, I had a bachelor degree in music, spent years teaching early childhood music, held some experience directing everything from bell choirs to adult choirs, and even singing as a principle soprano in an opera company.

Of course, none of this experience related directly to playing a string instrument in a bluegrass band. When the mandolin arrived, I suddenly found myself in a situation I had not been in since starting the flute at the age of 11. I was a struggling beginner. My hands hurt, and my then 7-year-old son could readily outplay me on the simplest songs.

Myth or Fact? Music should be started as a child or not at all, and takes thousands of hours of work for success.

“In the brains of nine string players examined with magnetic resonance imagining, the amount of somatosensory cortex dedicated to the thumb and fifth fingers of left hand - the fingering digits - was significantly larger than in nonplayers. How long the players practiced each day did not affect the cortical map. But the age at which they had been introduced to their muse did: the younger the child when she took up an instrument, the more cortex she devoted to playing it.

Few concert-level performers begin playing later than the age of 10. It is much harder to learn an instrument as an adult.Your Child’s Brain, by Sharon Begley, Newsweek, February 19, 1996.

The science is settled. There is a window of opportunity for learning an instrument and you have passed it. There is no point even trying to pick one up now. Sadly, this is the message adults have received from a culture that is highly youth focused, and at times, relies heavily on a scientific community that is highly specialized, often only seeing a small piece of a complex human puzzle.

“In a study of 20-year-old violinists by Ericsson and colleagues, the best group (judged by conservatory teachers) averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000. It's the same story in surgery, insurance sales, and virtually every sport. More deliberate practice equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.” What it Takes to be Great, by Geoffrey Colvin, senior editor-at-large, Fortune, October 19 2006

Which is it? The age or the number of hours dedicated? As a former music instructor for preschool and young children, I remember an advertising slogan that suggested parents give their child a gift today for their 50th birthday through music lessons as a child. There is some truth here, but this either suggests the age of initial music experience alone will make the difference, it is the amount of time dedicated to the task requiring an early start, or both.

The truth of the matter is, a few extra synapses specifically related to the fingers of the left hand matter only at the highest levels of competition, and almost never to the average musician who enjoys music in the community, church, and within their own homes. Additionally, even the study that equates the number of hours dedicated to practice and how it relates to performance level leaves more questions than it answers. Who are these 20-year-old violinists and what were the standards applied? How good were the more average players and how obvious were the differences in the separate groups? It is obvious that hard work matters for the top level performers, but is that the ultimate goal of music for most individuals? How much is enough simply to enjoy it? We can analyze and place every aspect of musical performance under the microscope, but when we do this, are we then losing the point of the art in the first place?

Ultimately, our main question needs to focus on the underlying reason for the existence of music. Is music a competitive sport, or is it instead a form of expression and unity in worship, celebration, families, and communities? There is certainly a place for competing to be the best in a field of study, and those who excel at the highest levels, dedicating their lives to the art form, should most certainly be rewarded with admiration and opportunities. Still, this is makes up only one end of the spectrum, not the wide range music provides in the lives of most of the population, nor should those at the highest end ever become the criteria for participation in music at all.

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.

In our society we are surrounded by the mass media. Even at the grocery store, the music played has been processed by top experts in the field. Out of tune notes are fixed, balance between instruments adjusted, multiple tracts recorded with the only the best making the cut, and finally, digital enhancements to provide just the right reverberation to make it pleasant to the ear. Everywhere we turn we are shown only one thing: don’t bother doing music if you are not an expert.

What this message is missing is what should be two obvious truths. First, that every expert initially started out as a beginner, and likely played terribly, complete with sour notes and bad timing. Second, the bulk of the musicians whom enrich our lives will not be at the far end of the professional spectrum in skill and specialized management. To the first point, the beginning age of the expert musician may vary greatly, but it is admittedly usually ranging from sitting at the piano as a 5-year-old, to squawking notes on the clarinet in the middle school concert band, but they all started out as struggling beginners. The reason we see their beginning ages often during the childhood years may simply be due to the attitudes children hold towards achieving new skills in contrast to the expectations adults hold, and no other reason.

My 5-year-old daughter is learning violin and was recently very pleased to get a coloring picture where she could color ten balloons because she lowered and raised her left arm ten times, placing her hand in the correct playing position. She didn’t play a note, and the few she does play are pretty scratchy sounding, but she is easily pleased by this simple success. Likewise, when she sings a song, she hits the melody accurately, but there is very little style, and often a few notes a bit out of tune, yet the audience loves her and she is excited to continue.

Contrast this to an adult learning to play an instrument or learning to sing. If she were 42 years old and was awkwardly having to train her hand to hold a violin correctly, she would likely not be basking in the success of those ten repetitions and coloring balloons. If she was singing and had a few off notes, she would be mortified, instead of jumping up and down, glowing in the encouragement she receives. Adults are obviously at a disadvantage in terms of audience appeal in many areas, but more often than not, it is their own expectations of what should be allowed in musical performance that hinders them from enjoying the small successes in the beginning. A child is willing to be content with a squawky performance of “Twinkle Little Star” on a violin, while an adult is not.

The second truth, that the bulk of musicians whom enrich our lives are not at the far end of the professional spectrum, comes into play as well. Perhaps a 5-year-old’s parents will hope she will one day be a virtuoso, but more than likely, and provided she continues into adulthood, she will play in a community orchestra, fiddle in a band, or for her local church, and she will appreciate the years she screeched through her Twinkle Variations. She likely will not have spent 10,000 hours of focused study, but she will have put in a few here and there after school, and gradually progressed through the beginning stages along with her peers. Perhaps she will have dropped it through her young adult life and picked it up later, or perhaps she will instead take her early training in music and apply it to another instrument, passing through the awkward beginning stage a bit more quickly, playing guitar for a Sunday school class, or leading the singing for her son’s boy scouts troop at camp. Either way, she was once an awkward beginner somewhere in her history, but it never once bothered her.

If the likely ultimate goal for most people is to use musical training to enrich their own lives and that of their family or community, is it at all productive for the highest level of performers to be the standard which we measure ourselves against when taking the plunge? Beginning a new task in almost anything is difficult, and music, being a form of personal expression, will magnify this further, but our eyes belong on the long term reason for the venture. In all likelihood, this goal is not to sit in the first violin section of a major metropolitan orchestra, so it stands to reason that it should not matter if we do not have the time to devote a decade of work towards that magical 10,000 hours of practice, nor that we missed out on a few extra neuro-synapses in our left fingers. We only need to be willing to be terrible for a season, then average, then as far as we wish beyond that in order to enjoy making music in our homes and community.

Looking closely at the ultimate goal and realistic expectations.

What many of these studies fail to include are the advantages adults enjoy when beginning musical instruction over children, including an increased attention span and reasoning. Through and adult’s more mature ability to analyze personal weaknesses, he or she can more readily use this to narrow down specific areas to focus on during practice, and then apply this directly with longer sessions of the difficult and redundant exercises necessary to overcome the weakness. However, to fully benefit from this natural advantage, one must also use that same enhanced reasoning skill to see the initial awkward sounds made as nothing more than the first step that all musicians of any age must move through.

If you have longingly looked at the guitar for years, wishing you played, or imagined yourself sitting at your piano playing Christmas songs with your family, or even dreaming of a calm evening playing a harp, yet you have never touched the instrument before, there should be no reason to look first at your age, and perhaps even a busy schedule should not be a negative factor in picking it up.

As for me and my mandolin, it would be wonderful to report that after only a couple of years, I am one of the hottest mandolin pickers in the region, but given my main role as a mother of budding young musicians, leaving limited time for practice, this is far from reality. I am, however, gradually holding my own backing up the increasing skills of our family’s band. I can now watch my youngest daughter’s enthusiasm as I am able to accompany her on the songs she is learning, use my mandolin to arrange chords for songs we have written, or pick out melodies to music, even playing breaks in the band where only a mandolin will do. We’ll have to wait a few more years before I receive the title of hottest mandolin picker, but I’m patient. I’ve already reached goal number one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas time is here...

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Somehow our dreams of having a quieter Christmas were turned over when I offered (yes, my fault), to play our "Christmas set" for some residents at an assisted living center. You know, the Christmas set that didn't exist? One show led to another, and we have a few things suddenly scheduled, including heading down to Pickin' on Tennyson tonight for their First Friday Jam, and playing a few of our favorites!

Yesterday we played for the Sterling House Assisted Living Center of Greeley. Very nice people, great staff, encouraging residents! The best places to try out new tunes.

They especially loved it when Mary passed out jingles to everyone so Sean could lead them in "Jingle Bells".

They enjoyed us so much, we've been asked to return for the Christmas party next weekend to play again, then we will play a couple of the sacred songs for our own church on Sunday, and on to the following week with an invitation to play at the Bible Society in Colorado Springs for their luncheon, followed by an Alzheimer's facility, and Christmas caroling. Good stuff!

Guess what? We now really do have a Christmas set! I figure we'll have it memorized and polished sometime around December 26th, but the beauty of it is, most of the places we are playing at this season do not mind at all if we stumble on a chord or have to watch the music.

Grandma Susan joined us yesterday and grabbed some video, which I've edited down to a couple of video highlights below. Be sure to catch the start of the second one where Michael sings "The Grinch", and halfway through the first, the girls have some beautiful harmonies.

Happy Pickin!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giving Thanks and on to Christmas!

We blinked and November is almost gone, nearly leaving us without time for a turkey theme background on the blog! By next week we'll be on to Christmas plans.

Hey, how about a wrap up of the last month before new news?

We were honored to be the guests musicians for an event at the Maranatha Christian Center a couple weeks ago. The people were wonderful, chili was delicious, and the show didn't produce a single blooper for our growing collection.

It did provide for some nice pictures!

(Thanks to Frank Gerstner Photography)

The last two performances also provided more options for a couple of shorter band demo videos. The last one was too long, so that one became two shorter ones, one specific to the music, the other an introduction to the members of the band.

Where next? *Christmas!*

We only have a few opportunities lined up for our Christmas program, including an assisted living center, and we'll be crashing Pickin' on Tennyson's First Friday Fest, as well as our own home church. What a shame to have such great tunes and only one month a year in which to play them.

Mary will join the family for a 6-part rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?", as well as her own solo version of "Away in a Manger". The cuteness spilleth over. Michael's version of "The Grinch" is perhaps a bit too authentic, Cheryl gets "Let it Snow", the twins have some lovely duets, including "Angels We Have Heard on High", and Sean will lead "Jingle Bells".

What's next for the New Year?

We hit the ground running in January so check the schedule! I have new items I will be adding for January as I receive confirmation and details, and we are still looking for places to play on our Texas trip. There are many new songs waiting in the wings to finish arranging, hopefully adding at least a couple by the mid-January programs.

Happy Pickin' and Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When Murphy goes to the Concert

When Murphy shows up to your concert with his set of laws in tow (that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong), you make him part of the show. I figure, that will teach him to crash our parties!

Last weekend was the first and finest, Fall Gospel Bluegrass Jamboree. Amber Waves was honored to be a part of what is hopefully to become a great series of Gospel shows in the area, so we were rather concerned when Alex's voice, (Mom & Katie's to a lesser extent), decided to take a holiday.

We waited... and waited... missing valuable rehearsal time in an effort to save her voice. It just wasn't showing back up! Finally a secondary show was created, and she agreed to two songs - well, one song, but I bribed her with a Twix bar to croak out the second. The rest we tossed in from other singers/songs from previous shows, but it wasn't easy, considering the fact that normally she is the song stealer and likes to take them all, plus the harmonies on just about everything.

Even so, we showed up intending to give a smashing performance, and smashing it was! Sometimes literally. Murphy tried his best, but we thwarted him. Thankfully, this had to be one of the most enjoyable audiences for which we've been privileged to perform. They were so much fun, we just took the silliness and went with it.

Here is a condensed version of the show, complete with bloopers and all. Normally I wouldn't show off the mistakes in a show, but Sean has been falling over laughing at us every since Saturday, and he has specifically requested a blooper video. This is both - highlights and bloopers. The video I retrieved this from was corrupted (thanks again, Murphy), so I used whatever clips I could from the non-corrupted spots.

It was so much fun! Friday we play at the Chili Fest so come out and see us!

We're still working on Alex's voice. It's mostly back, but she has a few notes she said are still getting "stuck". We'll try some light practice tonight to see if we can unstick'em gently. Prayers are always appreciated.

Happy Pickin'!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Life beyond the band

You'd be surprised how often life tends to revolve around band life, but with fall having arrived, time can be made for the often neglected things in life.

One of those is schoolin' kid-o's. Fall means new curriculum, shiny new pencils, a touch of butting heads now and then, and a lot of grace from God.

Last weekend we were also privileged to attend a concert and conference with the Maxwells from Titus 2, then we enjoyed the wonderful music of the Josties. It was nice to be the audience for a change and enjoy the music of a couple of other very talented family bands.

We brought home new CDs and new books to keep us busy, including Terry Maxwells all-powerful (and very intimidating) "Managers of their Chores". Perhaps I was persuaded to try it because I'm a glutton for punishment and I've not had a good inferiority complex in some time, or maybe it was because - live and in person - Terry Maxwell looked like a regular human instead of some super-human power of household management. If a regular human like her can design and write it, maybe a bunch of regular humans like us can make it work?

It's not been implemented yet, but Mary's cards are finished, the Twins' checklists are complete, and the rest is typed up and almost ready to go.

However, while hours are spent dividing up everything in a house into bite sized pieces, we are working towards the...

We have a couple new tunes we'll pull out for this one! Everyone is very excited. This is hopefully only the first of what will be a reoccurring event.

If you can't catch us there, we also have a wonderful Chili Supper for a great cause to support the Maranatha Christian Center Friday, November 5th. Chili Fest - in the gym beginning at 5:30 pm.

We are also planning our mini-tour through Texas and Arizona in early winter so spread the word! We'll be looking for playing opportunities anywhere between Austin and South Padre Island, as well as attending the South Texas GospelGrass and Arizona Gospel Grass. Let us know if you have any suggestions!

Happy Pickin'!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sorghum and Gertrude

What do Sorghum and Gertrude have in common?

If you weren't aware of it, Kansas is a looooong state. It's not fair that you must first drive hours through the plains of Colorado, only to find you just started your never-ending-flat-land journey. At least it is an easy drive. Zippin' down the freeway at 70 miles per hour, children squabbling in the back, pit-stops every 15 minutes, the wind trying to blow you off the road, miles and miles of sorghum growing as far as the eye can see.

I had to look up that last one with some google searches on Kansas crops, along with some images. We're all agriculturally challenged and expecting to see lots of corn, soy, wheat, and hay, but we didn't know what sorghum was, yet saw more of that than anything else. The things you learn... We should get out more. You'd think we'd know about a major crop in a nearby state.

Then there are the lovely rolling hills on the east end, where the GPS tried very hard to get us lost or stuck in the mud off some unmaintained dirt road. We had to remember that, though it may talk to you, it is really not smart enough to realize that a 15 passenger van is not the best thing for taking a 4 wheel drive short-cut through fields.

Our destination was some dear friends' home where we stayed the night. Their home is breathtaking! It made us forgive Kansas for the wind and flatness.

What about Gertrude? Here's how sorghum is obviously related.

Sean: "Mom, what do they call these plains?"
Mom: "The Plains."
Sean: "No, what's their name?"
Mom: "The Great Plains."
Sean: "They have to have a name."
Mom: "The Great Plains of North American."
Sean: "No, their NAME."
Mom: "Fred."
Sean: "Moooom!"
Mom: "Gertrude?"
Sean: "Moooom..."

I guess he figured, mountains and forests often have names, so plains should too, right? For the record, we made it safely through Gertrude and learned to ignore the GPS when it asked us to drive through a sorghum field.

The Ozarks in Missouri were beautiful, even if they were forests that had the gall to not be made up of evergreens and aspens, climbing up steep mountain sides, like we're used to. Kind of made one feel like Bambi, hiding in the thicket. Silver Dollar City was a blast, as you can see by the pictures!

We have some exciting performances coming up and to blog about this weekend so stay tuned!

Happy pickin'!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Tour of Folk and Bluegrass Instruments

Recorded in September of 2010.
Thank you, Gary and Suzie Solomon, for inviting us to Pickin' on Tennyson for a homeschool field trip!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fare Thee Well, O Summer

Things learned as a band and a family over the summer:
  • You can perform with nasty colds, bruised knees, and lack of sleep. People will still like you.
  • When children act up on stage, people laugh and like you more, despite parental attempts to crawl into the nearest hole.
  • It is possible to do a 4 hour gig in near 100 degree weather and not whine, it's just not probable.
  • Cows can dance.
  • Foggy Mountain doesn't break down no matter how often you play it.
  • You can make a guitar strap from the things found in the back of Papa's truck.
  • Colorado has some awesome people - and a few who should not be out in public until they learn to pull up their pants.
  • Our quiet child gets a 'tude when you put her in shades and stick a banjo in her hands.
  • Ice cream is fine bribery for young musicians.
  • Not so young mandolin players can learn to play breaks, sometimes fast, when hyper children provide no alternative. We won't mention accuracy yet. ;)
  • The quality of our performances go up immediately when a certain teenager gets coffee. So does the speed everything is played.
  • Bass players must get bored easily and always want things faster too, rushing mandolin players.
  • At certain speeds there is no place to breath when playing the fife. You must, however, breath when playing the fife. It's a conundrum. Playing the fife in the wind is a challenge too.
  • Working with a family band is not for sissies, but it is for us.
When we went into this last year with our band, we had some hard talks as a family. Do we want this to just be an occasional thing, or are we in it for the long haul? It was unanimous. We were not going to just be a quaint little side gimmick, but instead a band of honest musicians. We were, however, still a quaint little side gimmick at the time, so there was work to be done with some hard on-the-job training. So, I signed us up for a lot of gigs for a bunch of youngsters starting out. We had street gigs, where we had to learn to balance our sound, project voices without a sound system, and work in the heat for hours. We had to be flexible with sound systems that were often not what we specified for other gigs, sometimes with poor quality. At times we performed for almost no one, other times large numbers would gather and cheer us on. It didn't matter, we still had to give it our all. Other times we signed up for more music than we knew, and had to learn music fast. There was individual practicing, group work, metronomes, and occasional frustration. Most of it was laughs and good times, however.

We're not the band we were last spring, and we won't be the same band by next spring. The kids are flying on their skills, but they are still kids and need time off sometimes. I noticed our schedule has lightened dramatically now that the summer season is over. As tempted as I am to fill it right back up, I may give them a chance to breathe for the holidays, just taking things that find us, instead of things we hunt down. We need to polish up new original songs. Believe it or not, we're already thinking ahead towards a new CD. Though the last is still a fine CD with wonderful music, (you have one, right?), we aren't the band we were last year when we recorded it. Next fall, God willing, (and willing to supply us once again with the funds for the project), we will start a new one. We'll write, arrange, and learn them through the winter, then next summer we'll perform the new tunes to wet the appetites for new music, and polish them to perfection for the next CD.

We also plan to add things to our new music program, Costello Family Music. Should be fun!

Happy Pickin'!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our First Music Videos

Our newest video!
Episode 3: Helping Your Child Match Pitch
Most children can easily learn to sing and match pitch. Here are some fun ideas you can implement into your playtime to help get them started.

Episode 2: Music with Children
Do you have young children in the home? Here are a handful of fun ideas you can incorporate into your day to develop musical skills.

Episode 1: An Interview with Al Brouillette
Michael interviews Al Brouillette of "For the Blessed Hope" on the benefits and challenges of a family band. Due to the limits of the equipment, you may wish to turn up the volume during the interview.

If you enjoy them, and are on Facebook, please "fan" our page, linked on the post below. I am posting the youtube ones here for the moment for those not on facebook, and you can subscribe through youtube. Additionally, if you know someone who would be blessed by these videos, someone into music in the family, or the mother of young children, please consider passing them the links!

I would also love further suggestions. Some things I may show in the future include practicing ideas for different ages, starting to play as a group with very new players, having Alex and Katie introduce very basic chords for beginners, and I'll be interviewing Suzie Solomon of GospelGrass Productions and Pickin' on Tennyson. Sean has played some bass and knows a few guitar chords/strums, but he's picking up mandolin now, and perhaps some Dobro. We'll see if that progresses and perhaps he can give a report on what he's learned about the different instruments. (For the record, he wanted banjo too, but Katie won't share!)

The kids plan to add comedy to the mix. Alex has promised me an episode, a silly short flick. She just needs to write it out and rehearse a bit! I'm looking forward to seeing what she has in mind.

Happy Pickin!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Take Me Home Country Cows

It's a story of which dreams are made. You start a band, you work hard, never knowing where it will lead, but secretly praying one day you will have the opportunity to perform for a dancing cow.

I think Chick-Fil-A should give us some free sandwiches for entertaining their cow, don't you? We should start a petition.

This was today at the Firestone Honey Festival. I do declare, that town knows how to do a festival!

Thursday we were privileged to play for a wonderful assisted living center in Greeley. Nice people, very encouraging, and they were given a treat too: The debut full solo performance of our youngest band member.

Oh, gosh, she's cute. I think we'll keep this little cute weapon on minimal use for the moment. There is a fine line between gimmick and a legit family band, and I don't really want to abuse that for her sake or her siblings. The others work their tails off so, while they'll have to live with being upstaged by cute alone eventually, I'm going to let her earn her stripes like the rest of them.

(Yeah, that'll last a week, tops... Ok, I give. Come out to some future performances and we'll throw cute in as a bonus.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Birds, Bands, and Bouncing

We took a little trip down to Colorado Springs today for a Homeschool Resource Fair. Although we were privileged to be asked to perform, it would have been worth the trip anyway. This was a great event, full of exciting opportunities for the homeschoolers in the area. I think the kids' favorite exhibit was the feathered friends.

It was rather noisy in the room, but those Amber Wave kids don't mind. They'll just sing out and pick or saw those strings.
I'm rather impressed the younger two were still standing after the day was over. Bouncing in the air, running, play grounds, and new friends.
After the event we ran by Focus on the Family's Visitor Center so they could burn off even more energy. Yes, somehow they still had some left for slides and exploring Whit's End. While we were there we enjoyed some wonderful conversation with old friends, then joined them for dinner out.

Tomorrow we'll be out for a Streetmosphere gig. The temperature promises to be manageable, thankfully. I think we had our share of 100 degree weather events for the summer.

Happy Pickin'!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dog (and Toad) Days of Summer

It's been hot. I mean, really hot. I know, anyone reading this who lives in the south may think we're big babies for thinking a mere 100 degrees is hot, but I think after about 98 degrees the differences are minor, because you're simply miserably hot.

Saturday we played for Streetmosphere and it was one of those record matching hot days. Four hours. Kids. Hot. It wasn't too bad the first 3 hours. We had shade, partially frozen lemonade packets, frozen Gogurts, and water. Even better, we had the great people that stroll by and sometimes stop to listen for a bit. However, by the last hour nothing was going to save us. It's like trying to pick and play happy bluegrass instruments while an invisible warm sludge of air and heat is surrounding you. We survived, however, and it was all worth it when the afternoon breeze set in, we had our after-gig ice cream, and the younger two got wet in some fountains, while the adults and teens enjoyed another great band before heading home for pizza!

This week we had the opportunity to jam with Uncle Dennis too. He sometimes brings his guitar by and we find ourselves playing some interesting tunes in a bluegrass style. Everything from "California Dreaming" to whatever he's learning on his ukulele. (Can you mix banjos and ukuleles? Is that legal?)

The most amazing, and completely non-musically related thing this week has been cherries! Normally, any plant of the non-weed variety in our yard is doomed, but somehow a dwarf cherry tree, planted years before the extent of the collective brown-thumb was realized, survived the doom. It not only survived, but this year it went nuts with cherries!

The first pie was delicious, if you like tart cherries. There are preserved jars of them awaiting future pies as well.

Rain swept in and rescued us from the heat yesterday, bringing out a temporary pet toad. An old kid pool became the temporary habitat for two young nature explorers and their toad. The toad is happily free now.
This week we can relax with the rain, amphibians, and cherry pie. Next week we are back to being a band. We look forward to playing at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, then on to the Happy Jack Festival! Wyoming is kind enough to generally avoid 100 degrees, so we're all the more looking forward to the music and fun!

Happy Pickin'!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where did June go?

I swear we must have had a June this year. After all, I had a lot of things written on my calendar where it said "June". It zipped right by! I'm going to try not to blink for July or I fear I'll loose that one too.

We were privileged to be invited by the Christian Home Educators of Colorado to play for their kick-off dinner and sing for the opening general session this month.

So far we've completed two sets for Fort Collins' Streetmosphere. This picture was taken at the very end of a very long four hour set. Everyone was looking just a little weary, but still managed to give everyone smiles. The second to the last song we had a few raindrops. We ended the song early, zipped instruments into their cases, then hopped into the van right before a massive downpour!
We're having a blast with all of this performing, and gaining valuable experience playing in so many different types of settings. Every one has different needs for balance, audience interest, etc. Sean tends to be the crowd pleaser at Streetmosphere. We lose our audience every time I give him a break, but at 10 years old, you must have your breaks! So, we kill time with some nice music, people walk off, then they crowd around again when we set him loose on wild fiddle tunes.

Gospel festivals favor the vocals, it would seem. Everyone comments about our vocal harmonies, despite some very worn voices. Below are some clips from the 2010 GospelGrass Festival. My mother captured a few. As I wrote below, the kids were real troopers. Sean sings with what little was left of is voice, and Katie's voice was so poor she had to skip her signature song all together, saving what little she had to force out in harmony. Mary had been sick, coughing, and sleeping! Yet she jumped up when it was time to sing. (Sorry, we didn't get any Mary solos from the festival.)

This little family band music experiment of ours is not only fun, but the places you get to go are sometimes very interesting.

Speaking of family bands, you do have the ultimate family band release of the decade, don't you? Don't you? If not, head over to our CD Baby Store and get one!

Happy Pickin'!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the performance

I bet many parents will relate to having a kid or two just a bit different than the rest. If you don't, it must mean God didn't feel you needed the humbling at this time. He felt I needed an extra dose. (Oh, and any humblings set from God are an eternal blessing... just so you understand my perspective!)

In truth, the funny things usually happen at the performance, not on the way to it.

Being the band mom, I have been known to get mild anxiety before performances. It's occasionally due to music, when we've not had something together during practice lately and I really hope to wow the audience with it. However, if I were to be truly honest, sometimes it's, uh, stage presence.

The younger two band members are firecrackers. They are never nervous and actually thrive on getting as many eyes on them as possible, no matter how it is accomplished. Born to be on stage. I'm sure God planned it that way since he put them here, with us. This is a wonderful thing when you want them to give everyone a big smile, sing loud, be enthusiastic, and charming. It creates more of a desire to crawl into a corner and hide at other times.

Things to happen in front of lots of people during music:
  • Pastor praying and giving some instructional words in front of us before we play. Moths on the floor and around the altar. Moths being slowly poked with a bow and flying off...
  • Advent candles lit. Music over. Lingering child with fire fascination sticking hand over fire to see how hot it is...
  • Nose needing... uh... something removed.
  • Mom helping to keep tempo, child stopping to instruct mom that child doesn't need help.
  • Child walking off stage for a snack in the middle of a set.
  • Sister goes out of tune, brother makes a gagging face like he's going to die while she sings.
  • Young child not on stage with instructions to sit right there, leaves in the middle of your song and you watch child go down the aisle...
  • Serious religious song with one child noticing some kids are in the audience and starts making obnoxious faces to be funny during serious song.
  • Siblings start fighting when not on stage, louder than the banjo can blast, requiring mom to sneak off and separate them.
  • Child yelling, "I need to go to the bathroom!" in front of microphones.
When we perform for elderly, they about fall over laughing. I'm sure we add years to their lives. (On the other hand, it sometimes takes years off mine!)

Those who expect professionalism at all times may not be too interested in having us perform until we've passed some maturity milestones around here, but it'll be their loss.

Happy Pickin'!