Our NEW CD - Phase #1

A nice, long post to catch you up on the goings-on around Eighth Note Acres.

We are back! ...from our Christmas travels to Kansas, Missouri, and finally, Iowa again. It is good to be home... Not to say that we aren't extremely busy. We are. With our 5th Johnson Strings CD being recorded this month and next, our practice times have not decreased at all. On the contrary: they will be happening all the more often!

News flash: our new website ran into a few snags, so it will not be released until the end of January. This also means that you don’t get to see our new pictures for a while.  :(

This is the first of many posts, striving in a way to bring you along with us in the long journey through preparing, recording, producing and finally releasing a new CD. You’ll get the inside scoop.

Phase One in the CD making process:

We have decided on the list of songs we will be recording and have divided those into 3 sets for the 3 days we’ll be at the recording studio. The songs need to be grouped so that no one has two solos to several of their hardest numbers to record on the same day. All the singing must be recorded on the same day, and is done after the instrumental parts are recorded.

After we have the list of pieces we would like to include on our CD, we have to go through the very long and tedious process of tracking done all the copyrights, owners, composers, and arrangers in order to pay all the royalties. Some songs change hands so many times that it takes hours or even days to track down which publishing company administers the royalty rights, who we have to pay, how much, and anything else we need to do. Whew!!! What a job. It’s probably our least favorite step of the CD making process. All those royalties add up too.

The three studio recording dates are now set and the deposit paid. We like to schedule the dates a couple weeks apart so that we don’t have to get all the songs ready at the same time. That was learned the HARD way!!! Living close to a state-of-the-art studio is a huge blessing! Very little traveling, no hotel bills, and all the comforts of home – how can you beat that?

Basically every evening, we are practicing together as a group. During the day, we are practicing by ourselves. Soon, we will be having multiple group practices per day and keep building up until our recording date. It’s a lot of practicing. And yes, it does get old sometimes, but the result is worth it. Once we are in studio, we have to get it right - ALL AT THE SAME TIME – all eight of us. Challenging? Yes. Since we have to communicate visually with each other, we are all in the same room and each person’s sound bleeds into the next person’s mike. Picture this: it is the fourth take of a certain song. Five of us do a fantastic job and are thrilled. We want to keep the take. Then we hear that the other 3 of us made a mistake and the take isn’t usable. So, we start over. Take 5. Each “take” is important. It just might be the one to go onto the CD. Because of time constraints, we can usually only record a song up to about 5 times max. We better know it well. We better have done all our practicing at home. It is wonderful to finally listen to a good take and know that we did it. By the end of 5 hours, we are worn out mentally and physically and have hopefully recorded 1/3 of the songs for our new CD.

Pray for us!
At the Oak Tree Opry
Silas, a few months back when he was still on crutches. 

Sightseeing downtown before our concert.

I hope you have a wonderful day, praising the Lord for His goodness to us!
Until next time!

A day in the life of a performing family

~ Le Mars Bluegrass Festival, Le Mars, Iowa ~
After driving for several hours, we made a quick stop at Walmart before our first performance.

It's always good to arrive with plenty of time to spare beforehand! You never know what might happen on the road. Our van has over 230,000 miles on it. We are praying it holds out until we can get another vehicle!

Studying the performance schedules for the many different stages... 10, I think.

After lugging all the equipment across the field (We made it in ONE trip!!), through the people (hey! it's good promo!), to "back stage" behind this building before our first set, our next job is to get everything as ready as possible for a quick and smooth transition onto the main stage for our time slot.
At festivals, everything is timed and the more time spent setting up, the less time you get to play. Soooo... get ready to FLY! Everyone has a job, and things are set up in a jiffy.

After our first time slot, everything must be hauled all the way back to the van.
Then it's time for a watermelon break. :) Hot and tired, we rested for a while.

Then it's off to jam with some friends, listen to other musicians perform, and talk to many people - old friends and new.

 After jamming and talking, it's back to the van to grab the rest of the equipment before our second time slot. 
Pack up.

After that performance...
Daddy treated us to Culver's. Thank you!

Then it's back to the van to get the equipment, unpack, play, and pack up once more.

Then it's.... ice cream time!!!
 At Blue Bunny.
Le Mars is the ice cream capital of the world.

See that huge bowl of frigid goodness? If you can eat it all by yourself in 15 minutes, you have conquered the Goliath! (Plus, you get a free T-shirt.) Any takers? 

This is only SOME of the grand array of flavors they offer.
One of our family favorites is huckleberry, only available at ice cream parlors.

Need the time?

Talking to friends and fixing the world over ice cream.  :)

~ Back to the van for the hours of driving. ~

And we're home!
And that is one day in the life of a traveling musical family.
Come back next week to hear about more of our adventures. Life is never dull around here.

A Joke, Some Sand Plums, and a Barn Concert

Earlier this year, we were engaged to do a Sunday morning church service for a local family reunion.

After the concert (and brunch!) we stopped and ate some sand plums. Tart, sweet, and small with a large pit in the center. 
This is what we do in program clothes - climb around in ditches! The guys actually were the ones who scrambled down and then threw the sand plums up for us girls to catch.

A TERRIBLE joke, don't you agree???  :( 
Violas are NOT fake violins!

Our Christmas concerts have begun!!! Check under the "Schedule" tab at http://johnsonstrings.net/ to see when we'll be closest to your area!

A Surprise!

(Two surprises, actually!)

1. We are going to record a new CD in January/February!!! We are all so excited and have been waiting and saving for quite a while! It has been a long time since we recorded our fourth CD (WAYYY back in 2011!) and we have been practicing like crazy since then. Just yesterday, we logged about 3 hours as a group and then did a concert last evening. This time, we will "take you with us" in the long journey - all the steps it takes to produce a CD. You'll truly get the inside scoop! So... stay posted!

2. Luke is designing a totally new, amazingly revamped and updated website! I've had a glimpse, and it is going to have lots of fun new stuff.

3. All of this means that I have a marvelous excuse to do a full Johnson Strings portrait session! (Pictures coming up soon!) It has been a while since we did a set of group pictures and we definitely need some new ones. Can you believe it? The poster we use on our CD table is from 2010. Silas was 8 and missing his front teeth.  :)

4. Our Christmas season has started! Yesterday was our first Christmas concert. We are doing tons of practice as we prepare for our next 16 Christmas concerts! We'd love to see you at one of them! Other than this next Saturday, all the rest of the concerts this year are Christmas concerts. With a bunch of new Christmas music (Karen and Abigail have been working hard arranging it all) it's going to be a wonderful season.

~ Two random photos of our family dog, Toby ~

Wisconsin Indian Mission Trip Adventure and Concert

On our long drive up to Wisconsin to the Indian Mission in July, we ran into a long detour, winding around the country side for miles on end.

Culver's was a welcome stop to eat and regroup with the team.

(Oh, by the way, I've gotten the commenting fixed on this blog. Now all of you will be able to comment instead of just a select few!!!)

We finally arrived late at night, got a bit of sleep, and attended a Native American church Sunday morning.

Later were briefings on what to expect, time to get to know the staff who ran the camp, and time to move to the right cabins before the campers arrived on Monday.

If you wanted a shower, you had to get up early even though each night was a late one. With only 3 showers for all the girls and women at the camp and not much water pressure, some of us were getting up before 5:30 each morning to beat the rush.

One of the nights, we gave a concert for all the children, staff members, and the visiting family members. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing them react to the music.
They were such a FUN audience!
It was one of my favorite concerts of the year.

~ Children decorated tee shirts during some of the craft time ~

Kickball, Ga-ga ball, swimming, water activities, and fun crafts were all big hits with the children.

After cleaning cabins, exercises (Get your blood pumping before you eat!) and then breakfast, the mornings were spent with different age groups rotating through Bible time, game time, and craft time.

Abigail, telling the story of Pilgrim's Progress

Meals were an adventure!

Because of the great attendance, one leader and his campers was put outside in a tent. That leader was Seth. He was a great trooper. It was REALLY hot and the air was swarming with millions of mosquitoes. He and his campers were the only ones in a tent. No air conditioning. No cool escape (like all the rest of the camp had). Plus, he and his boys didn't get a break from the camp cabin inspector: their tent had to be spotless, just like the cabins. No grass, no bad smell, everything absolutely in order, bags in a straight line with no wrinkles, swimming clothes out of sight, everything spotless, everything precisely uniform (you are docked points if it isn't) all sleeping bags going the same direction each morning, etc, etc. for the ex-Marine cabin inspector!

We each had campers we were responsible for - 24 hours a day - eating, sleeping, playing, and working through problems together for 5 days straight (with some on our team even getting up multiple times per night to go with their kids to the bathrooms). 
Because of his age, Silas had day campers instead of ones that stayed for night - he did a fantastic job with them.
Silas and one of his many new friends.

It was an amazing experience. God answered prayer and helped us when we asked Him. All of us grew in the Lord through the time there and are thankful for the opportunity we had to spend time with these wonderful children. They are such treasures.
Several members of the team said it was the hardest mission trip they had ever been on before, but it was worth it for the children. With God's strength and help, we can do anything we need to do to have the opportunity to tell others about Jesus.

~ The Team ~

Behind the Scenes Christmas Prep

A lot is happening around here as we get ready for the Christmas season. Practices are vamped up – beside the usual group practice almost every evening. We also have group practices on Monday and Friday on the songs just the 6 of us younger ones play. For each of those practices, goals have been set, metronome markings have been picked for the next practice, and we spend time working individually beforehand. (Check out our Christmas concert schedule starting December 1st at http://johnsonstrings.net/ under the "Schedule" tab!)

To get into the spirit of Christmas, we are already enjoying batches of English Toffee and Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls – a couple of the 8 or so recipes we make every Christmas season.

You can hear Christmas CD's playing at different times throughout the house. (Karen and Abigail have been working on finding and arranging our new Christmas music since July/August, so for them, the Christmas music is nothing new. They do try to be nice and save the majority of the audible Christmas CD playing {a.k.a. without headphones} until at least October. J ) By the way, our house is never silent unless we are gone – so much happens all the time. Then again, I don’t really know if the house is silent when we’re gone.

Karen is making supper right now and it smells absolutely wonderful! I’m getting hungry just sitting here and waiting, writing this for publishing tomorrow morning.

Here are some pictures from a concert we did earlier this year…

Lots of the old churches we get to play in have neat architecture. 

The “perfect” angel? ... complete with a halo

Oh, it’s supper time!
See ya later!

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

“He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” – Luke 1: 32-33

Bill Riley Talent Search - EXCITING!!!

It was a really hot day. And I mean REALLY hot. The van thermometer read 140 degrees. I admit, it might have been slightly off...maybe. :) Did I mention that the air conditioner barely works? We were sitting in the stifling van, trying to eat supper without getting our performance clothes messy. Although we do it all the time, it still can be an interesting experience. Anyway, we arrived safe and sound at our destination - a high school 3 hours from us that was hosting one of the preliminary rounds of the Bill Riley Talent Search.

10 Days Earlier...
We have always thought it would be fun to enter one of the bigger talent contests, but never have. When we went to the Iowa State Fair for the very first time ever, we got to see parts of a couple of the contest rounds in the Bill Riley Talent Search. It's a big contest with 4 levels of judging (in the Senior division - 3 levels in the Sprouts) that you have to get through, with the last three rounds taking place at the Iowa State Fair over a period of 10 days. When we got home from the fair, we decided it'd be fun to enter the contest next year. The competition we saw was very stiff, but we knew we could be a Christian influence to the thousands of people there and, of course, it would be a fun opportunity! I was extremely disappointed to learn that once we finally decided to enter, I was too old. I would turn 22 before the contest. Everyone would be able to do it except me. Sad, but God is good, and He knows what is best. After all, He controls all things and this wasn't by accident. 

A few days later, Karen just "happened" to find out that there were still 2 qualifying rounds in 2013 which meant I would be able to enter! It was such a gift! We couldn't make the first qualifier, but we could go to the second. We had 10 days to prepare. Silas entered the Sprouts Division and the other five of us played as a group in the Senior division with our Mom as an accompanist. At the competition, Silas was the second performer. There were other Sprouts who sang, acted, or danced. He won first place! He gets to go on to the next round! We were so happy for him. He played amazingly well on his piece - Sarabande by Bach. It has lots of chords and double stops.

We wondered though whether the judges would pick our group now that a string player had already won the sprout division. They only get to send two acts to the state fair- one sprout act and one senior act. In our division there was an opera singer, dancers, tap dancers, regular singers, a yo-yo artist, a baton twirling act, and a good barbershop quartet... The results? With God's help, we won! So, now we are all going to the State Fair next year to compete in the next round. We had ice cream to celebrate on the 3 hour late night trip home.
And they all lived happily ever after.
~The End~
Silas being announced first place winner in the Sprout division 

All of us with Bill Riley