Wyakin Warrior Foundation

On Tuesday, August 4, 2015 I went to a Wyakin Warrior Foundation meeting. The reason I was there, was to present them with a check for $400. That is the money I raised from generous donors during my National Oldtime Fiddle Contest performances, as well as a performance at the Boise Elks. I don’t have a picture yet, but am hoping to get one. My mom filmed since they had someone taking pictures. Thank you to all of you who donated and helped me deliver my biggest check to date!

Interview: Megan Lynch-Chowning (my fiddle instructor)

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know a bit about my fiddle instructor Megan. We do Skype lessons once a week, and I can’t tell you enough how much I love and appreciate her! I asked her if I could do an interview for this blog, so here it is:

Me: “Where were you born?”

Megan: “Castro Valley, California- about 20 miles east of San Francisco.”

Me: “When did you start playing the fiddle?”

Megan: “October of my kindergarten year. I was four and a half years old.”

Me: “What was one of your favorite performances?”

Megan: “When I was eight years old, the fiddle group I played with stood on the side of the road in Utah and played tunes while the Olympic torch runner ran by. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.”

Me: “At what age did you start performing?”

Megan: “I entered my first contest when I had just turned five years old. I started performing with Fiddle Kids and Co. that same year. Five was a big age for me!”

Me: “Have you won any awards?”

Megan: “I am a seven time National Champion, a 6 time California State Champion, and I’ve been the State Champion of half a dozen other states.”

Me: “Have you ever performed or played with anyone famous?”

Megan: “Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Mel Tillis, and several other bluegrass and country legends. I’ve been so fortunate!”

Me: ” Does anyone else in your family play an instrument?”

Megan: “My mother was a fantastic piano player when she was young. But other than that, no. However, many members of my family have wonderful ears for music.”

Me: “What do you love doing that doesn’t involve music?”

Megan: “I’m a pretty bad knitter but I enjoy it. I read at least an hour every day. And I travel as much as possible.”

Me: “Who are your musical influences?”

Megan: “I was influenced by all of the classic country artists like Ray Price, Bob Wills, George Jones, Mel Tillis, Patsy Cline – all the wonderful singers who played with great fiddle players! Of course I always listened to awesome fiddlers and still do. I love Bruce Molsky, the late Dick Barrett, Texas Shorty, Alison Krauss, I could list a million!”

Me: “What are your favorite foods?”

Megan: “Nashville style hot chicken, fresh picked vegetables, and just about every kind of gelato you can imagine.”

Me: “Where is your favorite vacation spot?”

Megan: “I love England – London, all the small coastal towns, all of it.”

Me: “Do you collect anything?”

Megan: “I try not to collect things, I get nervous around clutter. But over the years many people have given me fiddle playing figurines of all shapes and sizes so I guess I collect those!”

Me: “What are your hobbies?”

Megan: ” I love reading of all sorts. And playing with Winston, the best dog on the planet.”

Thank you Megan for allowing me to share a bit of you with everyone else!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

Above: Megan and I at Bluegrass Camp 2014

Below: Megan teaching at Bluegrass Camp 2014

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

Military Medley

This video gets its own post!

Had a really hard time loading this thing! Have worked on it for two days! I could not get it to work to add to the Veterans 4th of July performance post, so here it is:

God Bless all of our military past and present!

4th of July 2015

In Harmony hopes that everyone had an eventful, but safe 4th of July!

We spent the afternoon of the 4th at the Veterans Home in Boise. Kali played an hour session there again. It was during lunch time, and the Elks were there serving root beer floats, so there were quite a few people there. Kali’s Bubba went with us, and his friends Jay and Patty met us there. Jay was in the Marine Corps with Kenneth from the start, then moved to Idaho after he got out. It is good for them to have each other!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

One of the things we love about playing there are those who constantly come up to Kali to talk to her. There are always new ones, but there are three that do it every single time. One gentleman even goes back to his room and comes back with a printed song he thinks would be good for her to hear. It’s so cute! I was told yesterday that he tells everyone, “It takes a lot of courage for someone her age to get up and play in front of a lot of people.” He is right! She is very courageous! Something she has in common with all those Veterans! Then we have another one who has told us growing up they had a family band, and his brother was a fiddle player, so he loves listening to her.

(Here are a few of the new people)

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

(Here’s is the sweet man who gives Kali printed songs)

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

(Here is the one who had a family band growing up)

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

As we looked into the crowd before and during her performance, we noticed one of our regulars was missing. This got us a bit nervous, as he told us at the Father’s Day performance he would come see us. After the performance was done Kali noticed him! We picked up most of her stuff, then headed to him. We introduced him to Kenneth, Jay and Patty. I then felt I needed to let him know how drawn we are to him. This is the sweetest  guy! He talked to us the longest the day of Kali’s first performance. We left that day talking about him, and still talk about him a year later! I talked to the event coordinator that we work with about him. She confirmed what we already knew…he is one of the most genuine people here. Kali told her she wanted to adopt him, and bring him home with her. She doesn’t have any grandpa’s that are alive, and I know she’s thinking he would make the perfect “adopted grandpa!” We found out he doesn’t have family close by, so we have made a decision to write him letters, and visit him. Don’t be surprised if you see another article in our local internet news, “Living In The News” by Kali, about her newly “adopted grandpa Roy!”

Here they are together!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

We’d like to leave you with a quote Kali used during this performance. One that we think people in this country have forgotten about:

“What is a Veteran? A Veteran, whether active duty, discharged, retired or reserved is someone who at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount up to, and including his life.” That my friends is called HONOR!

Tip Update:

We promised you that we’d give you the final tally with what we raised, but……we’ve extended our fundraising until the end of July!! Please go to the “FAQ” tab above, then click on the link under “Where do I donate.”

We will be headed down to present them with our money in August, this is why we went ahead and extended it. That means, we can’t tell you our final total!!

Sorry :(

Weiser Classic Candy Performance #2

My final performance during this years National Oldtime Fiddle Contest was after the parade on Saturday, June 27th.

Remember that beautifully decorated tip jar I talked about in one of my earlier posts? Well, I no longer have that tip jar! Upon arriving to set up my mom (I was in the parade line-up) opened up the back part of my sissy’s car and out it fell! Yep, broke into a few large pieces and a gazillion (not really) little pieces. My tips from the week laid there in a heaping pile. Good thing the wind wasn’t blowing or they would’ve been chasing money everywhere! Keith came out and cleaned up the mess for us. They also let us borrow a candy jar to use for this performance. This is how Keith delivered it to my mom! HAHAHA! How can you not love this?!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

I always start out my performances by telling a bit about myself. I then play a few tunes, then either tell more about what I’m doing, reading quotes, some of my favorite things, facts about myself, thanking people, etc. I’m going to let you in on some things I said on this day:

“I am the little sister of a United States Marine Veteran. There is 13 years difference between us. He is the reason I am passionate about taking care of our wounded warriors and Veterans. One of my favorite quotes is one that describes how I feel about my brother: Heroes don’t wear capes, the wear dog tags.” My brother is the true definition of hero! I’d like to introduce you to him now.” This is where it started getting emotional……

I have had breakdowns at other performances, but this was the first one my Bubba was able to attend.

I made it through the next set of songs, then spoke about my organization, including what organizations we work with. I played another set of tunes.

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

Then I said this: “Here’s another quote: “You can’t take the war out of the warrior.” If you are a family member of someone who has served, you know what this means. I do! My brother was injured during his time in Afghanistan. While you may only see a small scar above his eye…it’s deeper. PTSD and suicide affects a high percentage of our military and Veterans. Every day we lose 22 Veterans to suicide. My grandfather is part of that statistic. He was also a Marine Corps Veteran serving in Vietnam. It is time we do something to reduce those numbers and take care of them when they come home!” Yes, there was another break down during this time. My Bubba came up and comforted me. He gives the best hugs!

After this I played some more tunes, then talked about some of my favorite things. This includes my slight obsession with the band One Direction! I followed this up by playing a One Direction song called, “What Makes You Beautiful!”

After another few tunes played I took the time to thank some people. Some weren’t at that performance, so I’m going to post it here in hopes they will see that I truly appreciate them and all of their support!

“I’d like to take the time to thank some people: Patrick here at Weiser Classic Candy for all your support and allowing me to play here. Alex with Living In The News for all his support and kind words. My fiddle instructor Megan for devoting her time to teach me, and being the best instructor on the planet! My family who is all sitting over here for supporting me in everything I do. I love you all! Most of all, those of you who graciously donate your hard-working money to help support me and my cause. I really appreciate it!”

I played some more tunes (you see a pattern here?)…..

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

Then I introduced my instructor Megan. Megan is from Tennessee, and we do weekly Skype sessions. She just happened to be here for the week to compete, so I asked if she would come play a few tunes of her own, then a few with me. I have to tell you….she is the winner of this years National Oldtime Fiddle Contest Adult Division!!! So proud of her, and love her TONS!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

Here is her and I playing some of “San Antonio Rose”. We did NOT get together at all during the week to practice, and we did NOT practice together during my Skype sessions!

I then said this: “Our flag doesn’t fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.” “The American Flag is our country’s symbol for freedom, and our soldier’s fight to protect those freedoms. I personally thank each and every one of you who stood up and fought for my freedom!”

This is where I play one of my favorite songs. Megan (I thought) was putting away her fiddle, then all of a sudden I hear the most beautiful sound…..

I’m hoping to get her to record the backup piece so I can start playing it this way! Thank you Megan for jumping in and making this song even more beautiful!

I end with another quote, some more thanks and a military medley. You will have to check back for another post, which will have that video!

Until next time……….

One Of My Passions:

Is softball!

I’m pretty sure I have loved it since I was born! I mean, when you have a sister who is 15 years older than you, and it was her passion too (and I know my mom made pretty much every single game)! I’m sure I was cheering her on in the womb!

I can remember knowing a lot about the game when I started playing. So much so, I didn’t understand:

1: why we could only run one base when we could make it to the second

2: why we couldn’t keep score (I knew who won and lost)

I have always played the positions of pitcher and 1st base. While I love pitching, 1st base if my favorite position!

This year I needed some new equipment. We kept running to a certain store close by, but every time we went there, they were out of what we needed. A helmet and face mask is VERY important! After about our third trip there, and with them still not having what we needed, we drove to Nampa. My Bubba and his wife Chelsea went with us. I had my gear in hand and we were headed to the check-out stand when my Bubba pointed me into a different direction. It must have been fate! On a shelf sat the PERFECT helmet for me! I ran the plain black one back to the shelf, and scooped me up one that I wear proudly! You could say that I stood out at all of my games!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

My Bubba put one of his Marine Corps stickers on the back for me! Thanks Bubba!

OOH RAH!

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter

©Kelley Branstetter