Wilson family takes musical act on the road -- and lives there now

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The Wilson Family -- Zack, left, Andrew, Brandon, Deanna, Cara and Jake -- sit and play in front of their RV at the Kettle Campground in Eureka Springs. They are playing at Holiday Island's Mark Wayne Theater through October. Jennifer Jackson / CCN Contributing Photographer

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Andrew and Deanna Wilson and their family once lived in a six-bedroom, three-bath house in Spokane, Wash. In the basement of the three-story house was a recording studio and a laundry room. Outside was a large yard with four large trees.

Last May, they sold the 3,500-square-foot house, and in June, they set off across the county in a 35-foot RV: two adults, four children, six fiddles, four guitars, two mandolins, an 88-key electric piano and an upright bass -- to say nothing of the dog.

The good news: They don't have to rake leaves any more.

Since June, the Wilson Family, a.ka. the Wilson Family String Band, has been on the road, playing at music festivals and teaching at workshops from Idaho to Vermont.

This month, they are parked at the Kettle Campground in Eureka Springs while playing the new theater in Holiday Island two nights a week through October.

The biggest adjustment: living together in a smaller space, but it also cut down on the chores.

"Now we focus on what we want to do," Deanna said.

What they do is music. Andrew is two-time Washington State Fiddle Champion and was in the top ten at the 2011 National Fiddle Contest.

Deanna, who formerly traveled with her family's band, plays guitar, piano and mandolin. Jake, 13, was named the 2011 Junior Picking Champion in Hood River, Ore., for his mandolin playing. He and Zack, 12, each play three instruments. Brandon, 9, is a championship fiddler and a singer -- he is known for "songs about the girls he has loved and lost," according to the family's website. Cara, 5, is learning to play the fiddle.

Brandon was the child who was most excited about going on the road, his mother said.

"Now, he says, "I'm not sure it's something I'd do with my kids,'" Deanna relays.

Deanna knows how he feels -- as the oldest and a girl, she had mixed feelings when her family, the Palmer Family Band, went on the road when she was 13.

For the next seven years, they lived and traveled in a converted bus.

In contrast, the Wilsons are living in a one-bedroom, one-bath RV, with bunks for the kids and a tent the boys set up outside if it's warm enough.

"We home-schooled the children, so we're used to being together," Deanna said. "This is being together in a different way."

The Wilsons also played Branson and Fayetteville, and in Eureka Springs, they gave a street performance during the Jazz Festival and played at New Delhi Cafe.

After their month here, they plan to continue their road trip for another five months, which they started with the idea of relocating when they find a place where Andrew and Deanna can both teach music and perform regularly.

Northwest Arkansas is at the top of their list, Deanna said.

The boys and Cara seem to be enjoying the ride so far, she said, although being on the road is a whole new way of life.

"My brothers thought it was great," Deanna said, "so I'm hoping my boys will look back and think so, too."

The Wilson Family String Band plays at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays through October at the Mark Wain Theater, No. 1 Forest Park Drive, Holiday Island, next to the ice cream shop. Admission is $5. For more information, go online to www.wilsonfamilystringband.com.

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