'We have a blast'
Whether it’s performing for a crowd at Turkey Rama or jamming until 2 a.m. at home, there’s nothing on earth the Humlie family likes more than making music.
Joshua, Bethany and Manny Humlie play together with their father, George, and other musicians — including George’s brother, Mario, and sister, Petra Bolton — at all sorts of venues. They give music lessons for others at the Humlie School of Music, based at their place of worship, the Coastal Hills Community Church.
Now, as the Humlie Trio, the three youngest Humlies are working on their first CD. It will feature songs written, sung and played by pianist/drummer Joshua, 22, bass player Bethany, 19, and guitarist Manny, 15.
They’ve already started recording both in their McMinnville home and in Keith Summers’ McMinnville studio. If they reach their $5,000 goal in a fundraiser on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, they’ll be able to finish the CD late this summer and release it in November.
The fundraiser runs through June 30 at www.kickstarter.com/projects/mrdeg/the-humlie-trio-music-album.
“When we started doing professional gigs as a trio ... it was exciting to do what we want, to express those passions,” Joshua said. “The CD is another step.
“We love this community. We have a blast playing and we want to share our music.”
He and his siblings also want their music to glorify God.
“We are just so, so, so grateful,” Joshua said. “Dad always said, ‘God gave you these talents and he can take them away.’
“We need to use them the right way. That’s our motivation for giving back all he’s given us.”
The Humlie kids grew up with music.
Their grandfather, the late Paul Humlie, was a professional trumpet player. And their father, George, once toured the Northwest with a Top 40 band, Export 233.
George also joined Mario in serving at one point as singing waiters at Ricardo’s restaurant in Lincoln City. They performed songs by Bread and other easy-listening groups after delivering plates of food.
After George married Kelley, they moved to McMinnville. Mario followed, and so did their parents, Paul and Dolores.
George served as a worship leader at the Nazarene Church on the Hill for many years. He and Mario joined Petra and her husband, Fred Bolton, in forming a band that went by Elsker Deg, Noisy Joy and other names before settling on Soul Shot.
When the children were young, George and Kelley made sure they were exposed to vocal and instrumental music. They also made music part of their home-school curriculum.
George said he presented his children with instruments from the time they were old enough to notice, hoping to spark their interest.
A guitarist himself, he expected that his oldest son would follow. But Joshua, drawn to rhythms, began pounding on pots and pans as a toddler.
He soon had his own little drum set. Later, he went on to master the piano.
“Since we don’t have another kid, I have to do both at the same time,” Joshua said. And he’s not joking about that.
Manny confirmed that when the trio plays live, his brother thumps the drum with his foot as he plays keyboard with his hands.
He also plays melodica and harmonica as needed. “We call him the monkey,” Manny said.
Young Bethany was interested in the flute, but her father steered her to the bass guitar. “What could I do with a flute in the band?” Dad asked.
Fortunately, she’s enthusiastic about her bass these days.
George finally found his guitar player in Manny, the youngest, who showed both an interest and an inclination. He started playing a tiny white electric guitar when he was 6, and later switched to a full-size acoustic model.
Now, Manny also plays trumpet.
While their parents gave them the idea of music and all the support they needed, all three siblings said they were always dedicated to music and willing to work hard to learn and perfect their skills.
Their father said he admires how far they’ve come. They’ve already surpassed him in some areas, he said.
“They’re good kids,” he said. “I’ve been very proud of them.”
But there’s still so far to go, Joshua said. “We can never be as good as we want.”
He said he and his siblings are always trying to improve. They value constructive criticism and give it to each other more frequently than they give compliments.
“It’s never a downer,” he said. “We’re always positive with each other. But we always talk about what we need to work on, how we could be better next time.”
Manny said he actually prefers to hear criticism from his family. “We already know we admire each other,” he said.
All three Humlie siblings sing. All three write songs, as well, both on their own and with each other. In fact, they said, music seems to grow organically when they all sit down with their instruments.
“It’s like play when the three of us are together,” Joshua said. “Three hours will go by and it seems like nothing.”
On his own, Manny said, he sometimes will decide to write, but find nothing comes. Other times, he’ll awaken with a song in his head, just begging to be finished.
That’s how “Change,” one of the selections that will be on their CD, came about. He had been thinking about changes in his life — the death of an aunt, the pending marriage of his only sister — and suddenly he had the beginning of the song.
“It’s like other people write in their journals to express themselves,” Manny said. “I write songs.”
Joshua also was inspired by their sister’s marriage.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “We’re very interdependent. We didn’t even realize how much until things started changing. We both wanted to express the sadness and happiness that come with that.”
He had been trying to compose something for the wedding, he said, but it just wasn’t working. Then a couple days before the ceremony, he thought about a folk song they all love, and the song almost wrote itself.
Sometimes, as with the wedding song, Joshua starts with a melody. Other times, he said, the lyrics come first. No two songs grow in exactly the same way.
And no song is necessarily finished when the ink dries, Manny said. It may grow and change each time it’s performed.
The three siblings have similar, but not identical, tastes in music.
Joshua, who just finished his bachelor’s degree in music at Western Oregon University, has been exposed to the broadest spectrum and likes or appreciates most of it. “Jazz, bluegrass, funk, rock,” he said, beginning a long list of his preferences. “Stevie Wonder, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Michael Jackson, bebop/Charlie Parker, Dixieland ...
“It’s all music,” he said. “I like it all.”
He said he’s even come to appreciate the skill that goes into genres that aren’t his favorites, such as rap and country, and Manny agreed.
“We may not like all of it, but we appreciate it,” Manny said, including among his choices Michael Jackson, Mumford and Sons, Stevie Wonder, big band swing and New York Voices vocal jazz.
The latter interest comes from studying with Dana Libonati, vocal music instructor at McMinnville High School. All three Humlies have taken music classes at Mac High, studying with band teacher Jeff Hornick and choir teacher Robin Pederson, in addition to their home-school studies.
Bethany, whom her brothers say has a “pure, sweet tone” to her voice, but can also produce a raspy growl, loves most of the groups and genres her brothers mentioned. She also enjoys Esperanza Spalding and the Civil Wars, a folk group.
Once they start talking about the music they like, it’s hard for the Humlies to stop.
“Earth, Wind and Fire!” Joshua exclaimed, as if he’d almost forgotten an obvious choice. “That’s a family favorite.”
Their dad encourages them to play a wide range of music and perform for all kinds of people.
“We’re Christians,” Joshua said. “We want to be examples in our lives, to demonstrate and proclaim our world view. We want people to hear our Christian view.”
Their CD, featuring original songs, will represent all those influences and more.
What sets their music apart, Manny said, is their own unique world view and the way they play. If he hears someone playing the piano, he can tell immediately if it’s his brother. When one sibling sings or plays a line, the others are pulled to join in with similar or complementary parts.
“Super fun,” Joshua said.
They play together whenever the mood strikes, which is often, and usually forget about the clock. Until Bethany married, the three siblings often jammed until 2 a.m.
“We have a soundproof room in the house,” Manny noted. Joshua added, “We’re fortunate to have really, really good neighbors.”
Starla Pointer has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or email@example.com.
MUSIC SCHOOL IS FAMILY AFFAIR
The Humlie School of Music could easily be called “The Humlie Family School of Music,” since everyone has a hand in teaching there.
“We all play a very instrumental role,” Joshua said, accidentally making a pun.
George and Kelley Humlie started the program in their home after home schooling their three children. Now, with up to 100 students at a time, its small classes and private lessons are held in their place of worship, Coastal Hills Community Church, 655 N.E. Highway 99W in McMinnville.
Both the adults and the younger Humlies -- Joshua, 22, Manny, 15, and Bethany, 19, when she’s in town -- give lessons. There are several other teachers, too, including jazz pianist Dana Libonati, who also teaches at McMinnville High School.
The school is picking up a Saturday Strings program once run in conjunction with the Linfield Chamber Orchestra, as well, George Humlie said. Also planned is a summer drop-in program that will teach kids the basics of rhythm, harmony and melodies.
It’s more than just a business for George Humlie, who has played in rock bands and been a church worship leader. It’s a mission to bring music to everyone.
He said he encourages every parent to expose their children to music, to listen to at least, and better yet as an activity. Everyone can learn to play and sing, he believes.
Music is an important life skill, he said. “Kids struggling in math improve when they do music. It goes hand in glove,” he said.
More than that, he said, “it opens the mind. It’s a connection to the soul.”
For more information, check the program’s website, http://humlieschoolofmusic.com.