PUBLISHED: 5:17 PM on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Zahasky family takes music show on the road

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  The Zahasky Family String Band, Melissa, from left, Paul, Abigail, Laura and Quinn, play Sunday, Sept. 17, at the gift shop at Mt. Roberts Tram. The family will leave at the end of the month to embark on a three-month long road trip to tour the eastern United States.
The Zahasky Family String Band is taking their show on the road.

The family of five, who also play under the name Alaska String Band, will take their music outside of Juneau and embark on a three-month long road adventure in the eastern United States.

All family members lend their voice to the show. The band is made up of father Paul on guitar and mandolin, mother Melissa on violin and mandolin, 15-year-old Laura on guitar, mandolin and violin, 12-year-old Quinn on upright bass and 8-year-old Abigail on fiddle, mandolin and percussion.

Paul and Melissa met about 25 years ago playing music and have passed their love for music on to their children. Paul said each child started playing at about the age of 8 and started lessons at age 10. For the second season the family has spent the summer playing for guests at Mt. Roberts Tram. They also have shared their music at Alaska Folk Festival.

"The tram has given us an outlet to play and play a lot," Paul said. "We've met a lot of interesting people from all over the country."

The family will leave for the Lower 48 at the end of September and will spend three months playing shows and learning about the country. Paul said the family set three goals when deciding to take the extended trip.

"We wanted to not get so caught up in a busy lifestyle that we miss our kids and they grow up, to be closer to distant family as they age and to use music to fire kids up," Paul said. "We would like to go into school and show kids they can have fun with it."

The family will travel in a 40-foot bus, which the children call "the train."

"It's the full meal deal," Paul said. "We just thought being in any car with five people for three months wouldn't be enough room. Now we have storage for all of the gear and we can be a little spread out."

Paul works for the state of Alaska and said he is able to take a leave due to his built up vacation time.

Melissa teaches the children at home and said the road trip will be an educational experience. They plan on making stops at historical sites and museums as well as take in performances of their favorite bluegrass artists.

"We'll do things we've studied in school. There is definitely an education element here," Melissa said.

Melissa said she has wanted to take her children on an extended road trip since the time they were born.

"I've always been very excited about the idea of this trip. Music was not even in my sights at the point," she said. "But the kids will really get to explore and meet people and this will give them an opportunity to hone their skills."

As a child at Gastineau Community School in Juneau, Melissa said she saw a performance of a family folk band and wished to be part of a musical family who traveled, as well.

"It planted a seed in me to have a family band and I never got to do that growing up, but to see that come to fruitarian as an adult is amazing," she said. "I can see us going into the schools and playing and spreading that love for music in another generation."

Paul said playing music together serves a bonding point for the family.

"As the kids get older, their interests spread out and it's hard to have time together," he said. "We have this in common though and it keeps us together."

The Zahasky children also play with other children in the band College Bound. Both the family band and College Bound will play in the Mountain Music Festival on Friday, Sept. 22, at Mt. Roberts Tram.

To kick-off the concert tour, the Zahasky Family String Band will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, at Resurrection Lutheran Church. The concert is $10 for adults and children are free.

"We need gas money for that big bus," Paul said with a laugh. "We want to play for Juneau and see everyone before we leave on this amazing adventure. We're very excited."