8 Siblings, One Band, Lots of Practice: Q & A with the Voetberg Family Band

voetberg-family-bandWhen we learned about the Voetberg Family Band — eight siblings ages 11–24 who between them have won two national fiddle titles, a west coast flat-picking championship and 10 state fiddle championships — we had some questions. Like: How did they do it? Who inspires them? And don't they want to play video games now and then instead of practice?

So we asked, and they were kind enough to share some of their secrets.

And take note! You can see the band perform live at the Kirkland Performance Center this Saturday, March 9, at 8 p.m.

What is the coolest thing about being in a family band?

Rudy (age:11, fiddle, piano and vocal): Being able to spend time with my siblings in the van. I have great memories of playing games, listening to stories, and being able to see new places while traveling in our van to different shows.

voetberg-21Vance (age 13, fiddle and vocal): I like being able to perform on different stages and meet new people. I have been able to meet some of my favorite musicians all from being in family band. I also like singing along to Taylor Swift every time we are in the van on our way to a performance.

Deter (age 15, bass, drums, and fiddle):  I am grateful that I am able to make our audiences happy by our performances. I think that it is really cool that I have been able to learn to play multiple instruments. I plan on playing them the rest of my life.

Tucker (age 16, drums, fiddle, and vocal): Being able to travel to places that I otherwise would not be able to visit. Being able to play music at a high level. Being able to make all the girls hearts melt every time I sing.

What is the next instrument that you want to learn to play?

Rudy: I think that it would be guitar for me.

Vance: Bagpipes!

Deter: Banjo

Tucker: Harp.

What advice do you have for kids who are thinking about quitting music?

Rudy: Never say never. Don’t quit! You’ll regret it.

Vance: Sometimes it is hard for me to practice because I want to do something else. But if I would have done the something else I probably wouldn’t be a national fiddle champion right now. I am really glad that my parents encouraged me in those times of discontentment. I like being a national fiddle champion.

Deter: Anything of value involves doing some things that seem boring and hard. I see music as being one of those things of value. Practice can be hard and boring but it always pays off. Don’t play video games!

Tucker: We have all made the commitment to play music until we are at least 18 years old. I think that if you set that goal and achieve it than you will be able to make a more clear decision on whether or not you want to play music for the rest of your life. Some of my older sibling did not like music when they were younger but they are all grateful that mom and dad made them stick to it until they were 18. They all still play today.

Lilja: Music is something you can take with you for the rest of your life and you can pass it on. Practicing can be hard sometimes but it makes it worth it for when you have success.

How did you get your start?

Liddy (age 24, fiddle, piano, and vocals): In addition to learning classical piano, a part of our home schooling curriculum was to learn new songs each week as a way of learning the history behind the music. My mom is a singer and would teach us traditional songs and hymns in the living room. We would often perform them at church with piano accompaniment. I grew up singing and jumped right into piano lessons when I was 7. We all loved our piano teacher and she passed on an enthusiasm for music that always kept us interested and improving. When I was 10 I decided I also wanted to play the violin. At the same time my older sister wanted to learn to play the flute. We were the first kids in the family to want to learn something other than piano. The years that followed were quite the domino effect of family members picking up different instruments, taking lessons, going to music camps and growing in our love for music and performing.

When did you first start performing as a family band?

Liddy: I have always felt like the family band kind of just happened. Not so much that we haven’t had to be intentional about it but that I don’t think there was ever a point when everyone sat down to talk and said, “Hey! Let’s have a family band!” Our first experience performing was in church, singing kids’ songs or singing hymns with our mom. That moved into being asked to sing for retirement groups or maybe our grandparents or friends’ private parties.

We knew people were encouraged more by us being together as a family, then that they might actually love our music. As we started to invest more into music lessons and practice time, along with receiving some really awesome band coaching, we began to grow into more of an actual music group.

Elisha (age 21, guitar, fiddle, mandolin): I can remember performing a vocal at church as early as 5 years old. I didn’t start playing an instrument until I was 11. My first show playing an instrument was at a nursing home when I was 11.

What is your practice schedule like?

Lilja: I spend a minimum of two hours every day. If I am preparing for a contest, I spend about three times as much time.

Elisha: My practice schedule really fluctuates. Ideally I would spend 1 to 2 hours a day on each of my instruments, guitar, fiddle, and mandolin. And maybe a two-hour practice session with the whole band. Like I said, this is ideal.

Liddy: This has always varied depending on the season of life that we are in. During a normal school day the kids are required to practice at least one hour of music. It is often more but there is a certain consistency built into their schedule. As a family we have gone through "break seasons," where we haven’t been consistent in our meeting together to practice because of other things going on. Since the beginning of this year we have made a commitment to practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12-1:30 every week. It has been great for us to have that consistency. We sometimes tag some extra sessions onto to that and each individual is spending many hours in personal practice separate from our corporate practice.

Q. What musicians do you most admire?

Liddy: Recently I have been amazed at the amount of ordinary people I run into who play music. People who aren’t professional musicians or touring the world but maybe just work a normal job and enjoy the beauty of music. Some I have met are really, really good but no one knows it. I have grown to appreciate the musician who genuinely enjoys music and works hard because he or she wants to do it well and those people tend to be the people I am often most inspired by. With that, I would say that I admire anyone who works to do whatever they do well and faithfully. I am also a huge LeCrae fan.

Lilja: Natalie MacMaster, Mark O’Connor, Stuart Duncan, LeCrae, Leahy and Floyd Domino.

Vance: Allison Kraus, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, The Quebe Sister Band, John Powell, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Andrew Sisters, Taylor Swift, Whitney Houston.

Elisha: Edger Meyer, Stuart Duncan , Bela Fleck. Tim O’Brien

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