When Patti Black signed four of her children up for piano lessons, she wanted only wanted them to be able to play music.
But the mother of 10 could never envisioned this: packing fiddles, a piano, guitars, mandolins, accordions and even an Irish drum in a trailer behind their van and traveling all over southern Ontario playing 80 shows a year.
“We never actually planned on being a musical family,” says Patti, “it all just happened.
Black enrolled her four oldest children in piano lessons about a decade ago hoping to give them something she had wanted as a child. “I wanted them to learn piano because I never had the chance,” she says. “I want them to be able to sit and play music.”
And they seemed to have a natural talent for it. After five years of piano, a friend gave the family a violin and the children started to play.
“Someone from the church knew they were taking violin lessons and they asked if we could entertain for the church’s seniors,” says Black. That year, the children performed four times. This year, they’ll be on stage for 80 performances including in Petrolia Oct. 5 for a fundraiser at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church for the Petrolia Food Bank. They’ll be back in the area for the Brigden Fair.
As the family grew, more musicians came up the ranks and every once in a while a child would pick up a new instrument. Or Black would find something new, like an accordion at a yard sale. “I thought ‘If we bring it home, I wonder if someone will play it?’ It took two years but one of our daughters looked at it one summer and said ‘I’m going to learn to play that accordion’ and she sat on the front porch for hours and learned.”
Black says while the oldest children had extensive music lessons, the younger children learned from their siblings as the house filled with music.
And the children take the lead choosing songs, instruments and arrangements, since Black and her husband don’t read music.
Black says the life of travel has opened a new world to them, allowing them to travel places they normally wouldn’t go. And she says it keeps the family close as they work toward a common goal.
“The kids still like each other,” she laughs when she is asked about sibling rivalries and disagreements. “They’re normal kids and they all have their moments; but they all enjoy the music and they find it fun to do…They all seem to be well adjusted.”
And while the schedule may seem hectic, Black says it is possible because the children are home schooled and everyone is traveling in the same direction instead of being shuttled from one sport to another.
“We’re feeling very blessed by it,” says Black. “It has been a real blessing to our family. It’s amazing really. Sometimes I sit there watching, thinking, ‘Wow! How did this all happen?’”