It began with Sesame Street 21 years ago, recalls Maribeth Samenus-Chambers.
“My oldest, 3 at the time, was mesmerized by another 3-year-old playing violin on Sesame Street with Ishtak Perlman.
I wondered, “How can that be?”
And back in 1992, Samenus-Chambers learned about the Suzuki method of music, one that allows a young child to learn an instrument just as he learns a language. Listening to those around him “speak” it, practicing it with others in the family or in a group of peers, interacting with a teacher.
And the Chambers’ five children, as they hit the ripe old age of 4 or 5, began the path of Suzuki music education.
“It’s a classical approach, originating in Japan in the 1950s, with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki,” Samenus-Chambers said. “He believed that if Japanese children can learn some of the most difficult dialects in the world by speaking daily and listening daily, why couldn't they learn the language of music the same way? His father's violin factory provided the push for him to begin on a journey to bring the joy of music to many all over the world.”
The Chambers family, of Kansas City, has been classically-trained, and bluegrass ingrained, by a teacher in St. Joseph, Mo., Terry Brock.
“Kansas State Fiddle Champ at age 14, he knew our younger kids could begin fiddling in their spare time and have fun sharing the gift with others,” said Samenus- Chambers. “So, at 11, 10 and 7, Luke, Gabriel and Dominic and I hit the nursing home circuit, a few fiddles, a guitar and bass. And over the years, as Sophie and John came along, we added them into the band and traveled to the ends of the Midwest — Horton, Kan., Louisburg, Kan., and the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia.”
The family then began getting calls to play at Crown Center, and at business meetings in the Kansas City area. They also traveled to Phoenix to play the larger retirement communities, and to Montgomery, Ala., to play in churches.
Earlier this spring, they competed in Branson at Silver Dollar City for the Youth in Bluegrass competition.
Just three of the five now play, with mom on bass.