Annie Moses Band:
Family is instrumental

When they were kids, music was homework -- as dreary at times as working out a page of algebra problems or diagramming a paragraph by Faulkner.

But the Wolaver siblings -- whose parents were, after all, musicians, so they had little choice -- kept at it. They studied their lessons, they rehearsed, and eventually they began to excel at their art.

Along the way, they learned to love it.

"There were elements of it that were fun, but we didn't really do it just for enjoyment," Annie Wolaver Dupre muses, thinking back to those home-school days.

"It was just a part of our education -- every day, we practiced the way we read, the way we did math," she says. "Music was part of the educational process."

Now, singer and violinist Dupre fronts the Annie Moses Band, formed in 2002 and named for her maternal great-grandmother -- Annie Moses, obviously -- who was a linchpin in the family's musical legacy.

Besides Dupre, the band consists of full-time members Alex (violin, viola), Benjamin (cello) and Camille (vocals, keyboards, harp). The two remaining siblings -- Gretchen (vocals, violin, mandolin, guitar) and Jeremiah (guitar, banjo) -- are occasional additions, as is sister-in-law Berklee (backing vocals). Their parents also contribute -- father Bill plays piano, and mother Robin writes many of the band's original songs.

"We grew up with music in our home," Dupre says, "and they always intended for all of us to play an instrument to one extent or another. Not necessarily to do it professionally, but we studied seriously -- they wanted us to have the chops (to go professional) if we so desired."

Music, she says, was "a natural part of our home. It didn't seem exceptional. ... when every child came along, by the time they could speak, they wanted to know when they would get an instrument."

She recalls one of her brothers coming home from preschool "simply astonished" to learn that not everyone plays music. "He thought everybody does that, just like everybody eats and goes to bed. Everybody plays music," she says.

Some family members later honed their skills at the Juilliard School in New York. They consider their music a ministry of sorts -- Christian music, of course, is defined by its content, not its style, and the Annie Moses Band blends a range of classical, folk, Celtic, pop and jazz elements into its sound.

"We're not a worship band," Dupre says. "There are a lot of Christian musicians who write music for church. We are not in the niche." However, she insists, "every musician, regardless of their faith, expresses what's in their hearts through music. That can be something very positive or something very negative. It can be very deep or very shallow. But music is by its nature emotive."

AMB, she says, is "an acoustic pop string band," with dual instrumental and vocal identities. Their original songs, she adds, are often deeply personal, in many cases drawing on "personal impressions of literature, poetry and nature."

Through its music, the band foments "a desire to see a return in our culture to basic tenets of goodness, faithfulness, charity and love," Dupre says.

Dupre toyed with the idea of a career in broadcast journalism -- "I started questioning the feasibility of a career in classical music," she says -- but found herself unable to move in another direction.

"Music is a part of my fiber, part of who I am as a human being, and I wanted to express myself musically," she says. "Music is in many ways something almost magical, in the sense that it connects with other human beings on a biological level. ... There's a common language inherent in music. Then there's the spiritual and emotional aspect of music that's very powerful."

Both Dupre and her brother Alex have started building the next generation of family musicians. So far, however, they're not thinking too much about the babies' place in their musical legacy. "I don't know that we've thought that far ahead," Dupre says, laughing. "We want our children to have a creative voice, certainly. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we're worried more about nap time."

interview by
Tom Knapp

27 July 2013

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