The Cherryholmes are not your average family. The six piece Nashville based family band has received four Grammy nominations since 2006, and topped the Billboard bluegrass charts on several occasions, including with the release of their latest record, Cherryholmes IV: Common Threads. The band is currently on tour in support of the new album -- they will play at The Orpheum tonight -- and while the family may be very well-known and on the road often, they don't exactly handle life the way a stereotypical touring musician might.
Mother Sandy Cherryholmes home schooled her children growing up, thus fostering a bond and closeness with them that was reinforced by the music she taught them as part of their education.
"We ended up choosing to home school when our older daughter, who eventually passed away in '99...was 13 [and] had an open heart surgery which led to a post-operative stroke," Sandy explains. "So she was disabled at age 13 and we started home schooling her because we thought we would only be doing it for about six months. I knew nothing about it, had no intention of doing it, but I had these other -- you know I was pregnant and I had four other kids, and the ones that were in school...were going to Christian school, and then the boys were taught. And it just came to be a road we took. She never was able to go back to school and then [my husband] Jere had job cut backs and the other two children had to come home, and we figured, well, we'll home school them too. And we figured we'd do it a couple years, but then after about three years it became a family lifestyle and we did it by choice then, because of all the good things it was offering our family."
Music was an integral part of her childrens' schooling, though not in the classical sense. While Sandy feels that her sons may have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD in public school, and then encouraged to take medication to treat it, she believes that there are other ways to handle what she described as boys being boys. Through music she feels that her kids were able to better learn self-discipline, control, and organization. Though she and her husband taught the kids, her modesty claims that most of their talent has nothing to do with her and her husband.
"We taught them to play and they learned to play by playing with us," she says. "But the great way that they play -- their talent is not reflecting my husband and our 'great abilities'. So I'd have to say a lot of their talent is very natural. They've not ever had lessons and they don't read music."
The family is traditional in other ways too. Now that the Cherryholmes children are grown, they are able to make their own decisions about what kind of music they listen to, but growing up, popular music was not played in the home.
"When they were growing up we didn't allow any [popular music] mostly because we wanted them to focus. Jere and I know how much influence...music has on a young person...What you listen to is almost like 'you are what you eat', and we realized that growing up with our own music. So until they were 18 and older...they were never allowed to have iPods [or] personal Walkmen," she says. "We always listened to our music together, and if we chose something, we chose it on purpose. We had such a wide age group with our children, that some of the things that the high schoolers might be able to listen to, I didn't want the young ones to listen to... We just eliminated anything that we thought was questionable."
While American traditions like bluegrass are often described as "dying artforms", Sandy sees it a little bit differently. She believes that while it may not be the most popular style of music anymore, it still has a place. She compares it to historical re-enactment, noting that, "If you look at the people who want to re-enact Civil Wars, we don't need to throw away Civil War re-enactment, but you're not going to make big money it, and people aren't going to be able to run businesses pretending to be General Beauregard."
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So while people might not get rich off of it, it's still something that some people still love. She also notes that if someone wants to make a career out of it, they have to find a new and interesting take on the classic style.
While the band may be comfortable in Tennessee, they got their start in LA and received their first recognition right here in Arizona. They won their first contest won in Wickenberg, and the Cherryholmes used to own 40 acres of land just outside of Show Low. The plan was to live in Arizona until things found a way of working themselves out in Nashville.
Sandy says that Arizonans have more of a drive and desire for traditional/old style music, and hopes that her family's creative license is not too much for the traditionalists to appreciate. I have a feeling they'll find a way.
Cherryholmes is scheduled to perform today, Thursday, June 24 at the Orpheum Theatre.