Recently I had the opportunity to get to know three extremely talented young women. They are dedicated, driven, and determined – a trio to watch out for. Meet The Gothard Sisters!
A: The Gothard Sisters are multi-instrumentalist musicians and dancers who are all from the same family! We play violins, guitar, mandolin, bodhrans, sing and all sorts of percussion as it is needed. Our main show is a Celtic variety stage show that we perform at fairs and festivals around the country, and in between those shows we have also recorded 5 CDs and are working on the 6th.
The Gothard Sisters are Greta (24), Willow (21), and Solana (16).
Q: How did you all get inspired to become musicians and performers? Who plays what instruments, and in what order were the instruments learned?
A: It was so long ago when I decided to start playing the violin (I was 5), that I don’t remember exactly what was the reason I wanted to play in the first place. My mom always says that I (Greta) was very sensitive to music, and that once when I was watching a violin concert she looked over to see that I had tears in my eyes because it was so beautiful. So it could have been from a live performance that I was inspired to play violin.
The dancing was inspired by Riverdance, which we brought home and danced around to in the living room. We all loved it and would put on different colored ice skating dresses in order to pretend to be the “good girl” and the “bad girl” in Lord of the dance.
I (Greta) play violin, and have played since I was five. I started playing the guitar in 2008, so not nearly as long but it is coming. I have also started playing a latin percussion instrument called the Cajon, and singing vocals in the group.
Willow plays violin and also started when she was five, a few years after I did. She picked up the bodhran in 2006 and has been learning the mandolin in the last year or so. She also sings vocals in the shows as well.
Solana started playing violin when she was 3 and has been singing informally since she was very little. Now she sings all the lead vocals, and plays the bodhran (taught to her by Willow.) She has been learning how to play the djembe as well.
Q: Of the many instruments you play, and the dancing, what is the favorite thing each of you likes to do?
A: Greta’s favorite thing to do is to play the violin, and arrange and compose new music for the group, which errs on the introspective and epic end of the Gothard Sisters’ sound spectrum.
Willow’s favorite thing is variety. She especially loves the numbers in the show where she can play multiple instruments and dance and sing in the same number, because she likes to shake things up. Her original compositions are more active than Greta’s, fiery and fast.
Solana’s favorite thing to do is sing. She has loved words since she was little, when she would talk nonstop to anyone who would listen. Now she loves playing with words and singing them through song.
Q: Am I correct that you started out doing Irish dancing in competitions and then decided to create your own act? Where was the first place you performed outside dancing competitions?
A: We started out as classical musicians in the Seattle Youth Symphonies and Irish step dancers with the Comerford School of Irish dance. They were separate activities and we rarely did them together. For the Irish dancing, we would travel to competitions in the region, as well as to the Oireachtas (the regionals for the West Coast), the Nationals (most frequently held in Nashville, TN of all places) and the World Championships, (almost always held in England or Scotland.)
So one year we were trying to raise money to fund our trip to the Worlds in the UK when we decided to put together a show combining the two things we’d been studying; violin and Irish dance. Our first “real” show was probably at the Jefferson County Fair or the Edmonds Waterfront Festival. Almost on our first “real” show, a talent agent from Nashville happened to be in the audience and asked us to give her a call. The rest is history. lol!
Q: Where all have you performed in the US and around the world?
A: We have performed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. We haven’t performed our sister act internationally yet, but hopefully that will be coming soon! (I love traveling!)
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a sister act?
A: There are many advantages to being a sister act, especially in our current economy. First, we all live in the same house. We have all our instruments, equipment, dance floor and music in the same house. We can practice as often and for as long as we want without having to coordinate band members and equipment in storage sheds. We also get along really, really well and know exactly how to work with each other, so no time is wasted trying to figure out personalites. When we travel we can all stay in one hotel room and rent one car. Getting through airport security with all our instruments is tough, but it is organized between us to make it smooth.
We can work on our own time and save money and stress by being a sister act.
There are a few disadvantages to being a sister act, although it depends on the family. I can’t really think of very many because it has worked out so well for us. A disadvantage is that if a “work issue” (a.k.a. a problem within the group, or a dispute that happened while were practicing) doesn’t stop at the end of the rehearsal or show. We then go to dinner together and wake up and have breakfast together and the problem is still there. It makes you fix your disagreements in order to keep the peace!
Q: What is the long-term goal – what are your dreams?
A: We would love to be able to make a living with our music and performances, and to provide good music for kids and families to listen to. What I listened to when I was little has influenced my whole life. So I would like to help the next generation that way. We also would all like to have families when we are older, so if we could keep performing and juggle that it would be perfect!
Q: If you suddenly couldn’t perform, what other passions would you want to pursue?
A: Solana really enjoys creative writing and baking, Willow loves sewing (she made our performance costumes) and teaching dance, and I (Greta) really enjoy teaching violin lessons and creating things, visually, whether in drawing and painting or in video or other media.
Q: Do things ever go wrong at shows? How do you deal with that, and what life lessons have you learned from that?
A: Things always go wrong at shows. Our first couple years of shows were a long workshop in every single thing that could possibly go wrong. Luckily we were out on such a long tour at the time (about 6 weeks before we would get a break) that we HAD to fix the problems and just get on with it. We kept notebooks the whole time and wrote down the problems and the solutions so that we would never forget them. The nice thing about a problem that happens in a show is that it is so obvious and so embarassing that chances are you’ll be so determined to fix it, it’ll never happen again.
Many things have happened during our shows. Microphones breaking, bows breaking, violins going out of tune, brainfreezes (when you can’t remember the song), slippery floors that make you fall during dance numbers, feedback from the stage monitors, Motley Crue soundchecking at the same time and coming through the mains at our stage, microphone dropouts, shoes flying off, skirts getting caught… pretty much anything that could happen to us, has.
Now we don’t even really have to write in our notebooks anymore… we’ve managed to fix so many of the problems we used to have. But I wouldn’t trade them in because of how much we have learned from them. There is nothing like a real life experience to cement knowledge.
Q: Three adjectives to describe each of you?
A: Greta: Optimistic, Funny, Creative
Willow: Calm, Logical, Graceful
Solana: Happy, Caring, Sunny
Q: We talk a lot about happiness on this blog. What makes you happy? What do you think are the elements of a happy life?
A: I think happiness is about living the moment. You never find happiness when you are out looking for it. There is always something that you are doing that can be turned around if you rethink your thinking. I think happiness is yours to create.
We love teaching and talking to kids at our shows, and even doing our shows is a source of happiness because we know that we are giving an audience a good time. We are constantly happy and grateful that we get to do this together. We do things all the time together, whether it is connected to the shows or not. We bike, jog, walk, play, cook, read, watch movies, create and joke together all the time and it is always fun.
The elements of a happy life are balance, gratitude and hope.
Connect with The Gothard Sisters!
Shameless self promotion: Don’t forget to check out my (Pam Stucky’s) book, Letters from Wishing Rock (a novel with recipes) too!
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