Annie Moses Band
The Annie Moses Band is an ensemble unlike any in America today. A blend of fiddle, jazz, and classical influences fused with soaring, folk-inspired vocals creates a sound that is both refreshing and familiar. The Annie Moses Band is a family bringing classicism to the common man.
With 1000+ hours of airings on PBS stations across the country (the highest debut for any artist on public television to date), a top-ten Classical Crossover album (Billboard Magazine), a bustling tour schedule of over 80 concerts a year before 100,000+ people, and a plethora of appearances in print and on television, this family is pulling new fans from across musical genres to their eclectic style of music making.
Named in honor of the children's great-grandmother, the group is poised to broaden its impact with their new project and public television special, Pilgrims & Prodigals. Scheduled for release in 2011, Pilgrims & Prodigals is a two-disc CD/DVD package giving audiences the visual thrill of the group's live performance, as well as the accessibility of a studio album.
The music is a tapestry of Americana favorites and original tunes. Jazz re-imaginings (Poor Wayfaring Pilgrim), Copland-esque renditions of Celtic classics (Blarney Pilgrim), Appalachian echoes (Girl of Constant Sorrow and Trail Mix), and progressive strings and vocals (The Road Well Traveled) make Pilgrims & Prodigals the Band's definitive project thus far.
Beyond this success, the Annie Moses Band enjoys the fact that their music is an inspiration to a new generation of young artisans. "Everywhere we perform, there are returning children, who say to us, 'I started playing a couple of years ago after we saw your concert.' This scenario is exactly what we hope will happen," Annie explains. To bolster this reality, the Band hosts the annual Fine Arts Summer Academy in Nashville, TN where over 200 students from ages 4 to 22 come to hone their artistic craft, and discover their innate gifts as performers.
But before you can appreciate the scope of the Annie Moses Band's vision, you must look back over the years at the story of the family and their music.
Meet the family: Bill Wolaver (composer/arranger/pianist) and his wife, Robin (vocalist/lyricist/composer/ speaker) along with their children: Annie (lead vocals, violin), Alex (lead vocals, viola), Benjamin (cello), Camille (harp, keyboard, vocals), Gretchen (violin, mandolin, guitar, vocals) and Jeremiah (guitar). The parents are award-winning songwriters. The children's background is classical music - the older siblings trained at the Juilliard School, and the youngest are well on their way to similar distinction. All have studied with renowned instructors, earning awards and achievements that testify to the depth of their artistry.
As the Annie Moses Band, they combine the attributes of prodigious talent and a creative curiosity with a love for one another, reaching beyond music and into the great questions of life.
The story behind this music inspires as much as the music itself. Bill and Robin met as music students at Oklahoma City University. He was a classical pianist and jazz lover, while she was a vocal performance major raised on mountain music played back home in the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma. Their tastes merged in writing popular music, and after their marriage they began their journey in the music industry.
On the heels of their first hit song, the Wolavers moved to Nashville where they began to raise their family. Robin, especially, was convinced that learning to play music was fundamental to the learning experience. "If I ruled the world," she insists, "all children would start their education with music, because music enhances and prepares the brain for every other musical endeavor." So when each child was three or four years old, the lessons began.
Music proved to be more than an educational jump-start for the siblings. Each showed exceptional ability and dedication, and by 1994 Bill was writing arrangements for the earliest incarnation of the group, featuring the three eldest children. Their studies took them from Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music to the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Ultimately, the Wolavers moved from Nashville to the New York area when Annie, Alex, and Benjamin were admitted simultaneously to the Juilliard School's Pre-college Program. Annie became concert-mistress of the Juilliard Pre-college Orchestra while Alex quickly found similar distinction as principal of the Juilliard Pre-college Symphony. He was also handpicked to play in a string quartet coached by the legendary Itzhak Perlman. Together, the siblings performed in settings ranging from Lincoln Center to dinner theaters and churches. Even at that stage, they felt challenged to push beyond classical conventions, and thus the Annie Moses Band was born.
Alex explains. "It was about combining our study with people's daily experiences. We didn't want our music to only be accessible to the person who can afford a symphony ticket. We wanted to relate to young people, grandparents, couples with children, folks driving home from work listening to the radio." Combining their unique string style with vocals and a rhythm section, the Annie Moses Band took their new found sound on the road for their first concert tour in the summer of 2002. As Gretchen, Camille, and Jeremiah progressed down similar musical paths, a union with their older brothers and sister was inevitable. Guided by Bill's ambitious arrangements, all the parts fit together, improbably but harmoniously and, often, gloriously. Robin adds, "Our goal is to span not only generations but also genres. If you love rock, that doesn't mean you can't love jazz or fiddle. The common denominator is, simply, good music well played."
The journey of the Annie Moses Band is, admittedly, a long one. From concert tours to a discography of more than 10 projects and educational endeavors like the Fine Arts Summer Academy, the Annie Moses Band is a group with a mission to help others capture the creative call God has placed on every person. They play to inspire all generations to join in the discipline, beauty, and excitement of highly-skilled musicianship. They are worth hearing. And once heard, they will not be forgotten.