ShaeLaurel
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ShaeLaurel

Vero Beach, Florida, United States | SELF

Vero Beach, Florida, United States | SELF
Band Americana Celtic

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"Real-Life Partridge Family Too Wholesome for TV"

Real-Life Partridge Family Too Wholesome for TV
by Tom Henderson , Sep 13th 2010 3:00PM

They're like a real-life Partridge family.

Well, except there are four kids instead of five. Plus, the father is still alive.

Oh, and they can actually play their own instruments.

Other than that, the similarities are amazing. They are, anyway, if you're looking for an angle to plug a new reality show. There's only one problem: Andrew and Janet Witchger and their four kids are too wholesome for television.

Yep, this would-be Partridge family out-wholesomed the TV Patridge family.

Producers have tried, CNN reports, to base a reality show on the Witchgers and their traveling family band, yet two years of tapes are gathering dust.

"They were looking for people who fight and don't like each other and they wanted all this internal conflict, and that's just not us," 17-year-old Kathryn Witchger tells CNN.

A show seemed like a good idea at the time.

Like the musical Partridge family from the 1970s sitcom, the Witchgers travel in a bus. Their journey started in 2001, when Andrew quit his job as a church music director. He and Janet sold their home, got in their bus and just kept going.

ShaeLaurel, the family's Irish folk music group, plays more than 250 shows a year in elementary schools, county fairs and Renaissance festivals across more than 35 states.

"Some people do look at us and think we're really strange," Andrew Witchger tells CNN. "But we're reminded every time we visit somebody that if we were in a house we wouldn't see each other as much. That's how families get disconnected, because it's pretty much inherent that the bigger the house, the bigger the divide."

The Witchger kids -- Christian, 16, Kathryn, 17, Jessica, 19, and Andy, 21 -- are homeschooled. Well, bus-schooled.

They assign themselves homework and give themselves grades, teaching themselves. School is not easy, they tell CNN.

"Believe it or not, we're pretty tough on ourselves," Jessica tells the network. "We're hard-core teachers."

Despite two years of effort by a television crew to show the seamy underbelly of the family Witchger, CNN reports too many family confessionals ended with smiling kids and parents saying, "It was really fun."

"Yeah, if we didn't like each other, we would totally live in a house," Kathyrn tells CNN. She's smiling, of course.

Remember how the Partridges used to say, "C'mon, get happy"? The side of the Witchgers' bus reads: "Keep Smiling."
- Parent Dish.com


"Family sells home, hits road, plays for supper"

This was a television broadcast and also linked on CNN.com See URL for the 5-minute video clip! - CNN


"Musician puts down roots at Duquesne"

By Mike Cronin
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There's making it, and then there's making it.

Duquesne University freshman Andy Witchger and his family tried out for NBC's "America's Got Talent" program this summer. Though they got on TV, they didn't advance beyond the top 100.

"It was less about the competition and more about spreading our name, showing people what we're all about and meeting the other great musicians," said Witchger, 21, a physics major.

Their name is ShaeLaurel -- the moniker for the six-member Witchger clan's singing, musical and performing group.

"Shae in Gaelic is 'six,' and there's six of us," said Jessica Witchger, 20, Andy's younger sister, from Mannsville, N.Y., where the family performed two shows Tuesday. "And a laurel tree has deep roots. That's what family's all about: deep roots."

Witchger, his brother, two sisters and parents have toured the globe for nine years, living on what they earn on stage.

That's making it.

"Last year was our record," said Andrew Witchger, 46, about the roughly $60,000 the family earned. He and his wife, Janet, decided in 2001 to leave their home in California and hit the road to perform.

"I was the one who thought there was no way we could do this," said Janet Witchger, 42. "I just agreed so they would see it was impossible. But I was the one who was wrong."

In fact, when they think about settling down again, the family falls into a funk, her husband said.

"We've found that when we give 100 percent faith in God, that everything works out," he said. "Sometimes we have to be reminded that God has called us to do this."

Three weeks into the semester at Duquesne, Andy Witchger said being apart is strange after spending all his time with his family for nearly a decade.

"But I'm also excited about where I am now, and all the opportunities open to me at Duquesne," he said. He hopes to become a mechanical engineer. Among his opportunities, he said, is a chance to connect with friends while remaining in one place.

"Performing is going to stick with me, no matter where I go," said Witchger, who plays many instruments including the mandolin, banjo and violin.

On where he'll ultimately end up, Witchger said, "I guess that's what I'm here to find out." - PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW


"Hear this fantastic Celtic family band at Winter Fair!"

If your weekend plans include attending the 100th edition of the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, make sure you take the time to take in a performance of Celtic/roots/folk sensation, ShaeLaurel and pick up their newest CD entitled "Daffodils."
The sextet is led by a guitarist father and bassist mom, and the couple's children, who range in age from 13 to 18, round out the band.
These kids are road experienced and not only do they all play fiddle, but are self-taught--and incredibly well-versed--on other instruments, including mandolin, banjo, bodhran, Celtic harp, drums and various percussive instruments.
The American family band has toured around the world and after their week-long stint in Brandon, will head to China for Shanghai Spring International Music Festival.
Fortunately for their new fans in Westman, the band has a discography of five recordings, including Daffodils.
This project is diverse and showcases the musical family's wide range of repertoire and underlines the group's talent and skill.
Cuts include traditional fiddling tunes and Irish Jigs, like Rocky Top, Drowsy Maggie, Growling Old Man and Woman - all with a ShaeLaurel twist.
What truly stand out are the band's original works which share some of their thoughts as well as the sights and sounds they have experienced on tour.
My two favourite cuts are Seminole Wind - the family lived in Florida for a while - and Daffodils, the title track.
This particular song starts off with a lone mandolin line, which evolves into a fresh, original tune bordering on pop and country, with great vocals and instrumentation, and a meaningful message.
Daffodils, the album, is well-balanced, covering several genres convincingly, with input obviously given by every member of this remarkable family.
ShaeLaurel plays three times daily in the Convention Hall at the Keystone Centre, during the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair today, tomorrow and Saturday.
--Joanne Villeneuve, Arts Reporter for the Brandon Sun - The Brandon Sun


"Tunes To Go"

TUNES TO GO

Parents and their four kids leave a life in Boca Raton to form a traveling band.

By Rhonda J. Miller
Staff Writer

March 11, 2005

Four years and 1,000 performances into their odyssey, the ShaeLaurel family band is booked a year in advance.

A 35-foot RV is their only address.

"I thought we'd do it for a year. I didn't know if I'd like it, because I'm a homebody," Janet Witchger said about selling the family's three-bedroom Boca Raton house and launching a traveling troupe.

For classically trained pianist and composer Andrew Witchger, the most wrenching part of going on the road was leaving his grand piano.

Everything else that Andrew loves, he has in the RV -- his wife, Janet, 38, sons Andy, 16, and Christian, 11, and daughters Jessica, 14, and Kathyrn, 13.

The Witchgers went to California with a guitar, drums, bass fiddle, violins, mandolin, bagpipes, banjo, harp and the Celtic bodhran, an Irish hand drum. They started as buskers, the British word for musicians who play in public for tips.

Bookings grew more regular, including performances at Busch Gardens in Tampa and the annual Michigan and Florida Renaissance Festivals. The family band will perform at private country clubs in Atlantis and Gulf Stream this month.

ShaeLaurel performed in Delray Beach at the First Night New Year's Eve celebration and at the Irish Cottage Pub.

"They're grown so much in the two years they've played here. Each one has their own talents," said Paula Glazer, co-owner of the 90-seat Irish Cottage Pub on Federal Highway, where the band was booked for 10 Thursday nights. "They pull in a full house."

The Witchgers consider South Florida home because of regular bookings and longtime friendships.

Andrew, 41, has a degree in music from Central Michigan University and studied at the Conservatoire de Paris. He was music director at a church in South Bend, Ind., and taking theology classes at the University of Notre Dame when he met the Rev. Marty Devereaux, chaplain at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Devereaux told Witchger about an open position at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton.

It was a good fit. Witchger was music director from 1996 to 2001 at St. Joan, where he led choirs for preschoolers, elementary age children, teenagers and adults.

Witchger won the 2000 Clyde Fyfe Award from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council for artistic development and community service.

"Andrew has a way of bringing out the gifts of other people," Devereaux said.

The family's three oldest children went to elementary school at St. Joan of Arc, and Christian hadn't yet started school, when they decided that home schooling would give them more family time.

"Dad had this huge job at church and we never saw him," Jessica said.

Janet, a Boston University graduate with a degree in economics, helped teach her children the Suzuki violin method.

Tuesday evenings after choir practice was often family time at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub in Boca Raton. One night, Andy played fiddle. Another evening, Jessica joined him. Soon the family had a regular Tuesday night gig playing Celtic, folk and bluegrass music at the pub.

Janet filled in the rhythm section, transferring what she learned from the Suzuki method to the bass fiddle. Invitations to perform multiplied.

Jessica chose the band's name for the hardy, widely grown laurel plant and the Gaelic word for six. She thought it would be fun for the band to travel.

"The kids used to play these little violins. They always loved to perform," said Bernie Molinksi, assistant to the music director at St. Joan of Arc. "Andrew is a good composer and always wanted to do something with the kids, so it didn't surprise me when they hit the road."

The teens say they enjoy spending time with their parents. To find individual space, they go for walks. Christian does wood burning. Kathryn designs and sews her own fashions. Jessica weaves on a loom and writes fantasy novels. Andy practices mandolin.

The Witchgers say their lifestyle includes plenty of athletics and socialization. They play basketball when they're near a net, ski in the mountains, surf when they visit grandma and grandpa in Vero Beach and spend time with friends across the country.

Their school year is every day, with science museums always a first stop. They are often invited to perform in classrooms.

"We play at schools all the time and I just don't want to live in that kind of style," said Christian.

"The parents go off, you never see each other. Being with your family, I think that's the best thing."

Much of their focus is on the perseverance needed to perform.

"It can be tedious, doing the same show a thousand times," Jessica said.

They invent ways to keep it fresh, with costumes, new music, adding a jig, tossing in new jokes.

They occasionally work with vocal coach Mark Goff of Orlando, whose clients include Disney.

"It's unique to see a family as gifted as they are come together," Goff said of the Witchgers, the first such group to seek his expertise in 20 years of coaching. "Especially at a time when it's hard to find good quality family entertainment, it's very endearing."

Rhonda J. Miller can be reached at rjmiller@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6605.

Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-bc11rvboxmar11,0,3509416.story - Sun Sentinel


"Fiddlin' Around"

The devil didn't have to go down to Georgia. He could have made a stop at Oak Hall Lower School instead.
ShaeLaurel Folk Band, a fiddling family of six, including a 19-year-old back-flipping musician and a hair-twirling, music playing 16-year-old, had students clapping their hands and singing along during their performance Friday.
ShaeLaurel is known for its high-energy performances that integrate traditional and contemporary music.
ShaeLaurel holds workshops in area where they perform to draw children to the study of music, Witchger said.
"It's really toe tapping, family entertainment at its best," she said. - Gainsville Sun


Discography

ShaeLaurel has released 8 CDs and 3 DVDs. Most of the tracks are available in many online locations. The CD titles are:
Across America
Hey Diddle Diddle
Kat Tales
This Train
Daffodils
Get Together
Irish Roots
Shine

Photos

Bio

ShaeLaurel has thrilled audiences all over the world with their amazing talent and dazzling showmanship. Each show features a blend of musical acrobatics and traditional Irish step and American dance fusing vibrant new music with traditional Celtic, Pop, and American favorites. The band started 8 years ago as a project to bring the family closer together and has since bloomed into an internationally acclaimed sensation. Each member plays multiple instruments and together they have performed thousands of shows from The International Music Festival in Shanghai, China and Downtown Dublin, Ireland; to Disney in Orlando, FL and the Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Canada. With a growing number of fans worldwide, ShaeLaurel has produced 8 CDs and several DVDs over the last 10 years. ShaeLaurel’s fun and comedic stage show has thrilled audiences around the world. Featured on regional television and radio shows as well as international programs and ABC TV, ShaeLaurel reaches out to audiences of all ages with heart-stopping performances that will leave you wanting more!
The Members:
Andy (21) has been fascinated with instruments ever since he was small. With a knack for finding new instruments and new ways to play them, Andy has a large posse of instruments around him all the time. On stage he enjoys playing Guitar, Mandolin, banjo, violin, electric guitar, bodhran and tin whistle. Like the rest of his siblings, Andy started his classical training 13 years ago. This strong basis in music has fed his vibrant talent and shows in his multi-instrumental virtuosity.

Jessica (20) has been performing since before she could walk. Her sparkling personality and soaring voice continue to bring the audience to their feet. Her early classical training started at the tender age of six and her training has since been carried on by musicians, singers and dancers from all over the world. Now a teacher in her own right, Jessica is a world- class musician known for her passionate vocals, fast fiddling and graceful dancing on stag. She is also the songwriter and lyricist for the group.

Kathryn (19), is the sassy lead fiddler and Celtic harpist. Feisty on stage and off, she brings crowds to their feet with her flair for dance and stunning musicianship. Ever since she started playing the violin (14 years ago) she has instinctively moved with the music and has been dancing for as long as she can remember. She has been playing the Celtic Harp for four years, and loves every style of music.

A fiddler from the age of 3, Christian switched to drums at 11 to keep the band in time. Within months, representatives from Ludwig saw him on stage and immediately supplied him with his first drum kit. Now at 17, his love of music and his engaging performance style constantly bring him center stage to sing and play the music alive in his heart.

Janet, known simply as 'Mom' to most people, is the backbone of the family. She picked up the acoustic bass when the kids decided to form the band. Andrew, an accomplished jazz pianist, widely published composer and solo pop artist, learned to play the bagpipes and guitar to join the family on the road.

On tour now, ShaeLaurel is changing the world one stage at a time. They just released their 8th CD and continue to enjoy enthusiastic audience responses everywhere they play. With a core group of fans growing world wide, the band continues its journey...