The Alaska String Band consists of the entire Zahasky family: father Paul on guitar; mother Melissa on the violin/fiddle; 17-year-old Laura on fiddle, guitar and mandolin; 14-year-old Quinn on upright bass; and 10-year-old Abigail on the fiddle. All three children are home schooled, but with Laura looking at colleges for next year, the family band is trying to fit in as much music as they can this year.
The Alaska String Band will have a CD-release and send-off concert Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Resurrection Lutheran Church. The next day, they hit the road in their 40-foot touring bus.
This year's 10-week journey will take the family from Oklahoma and Texas to Louisiana, Georgia and Virginia.
The group's new CD "Farther On" includes a fix of familiar tunes and Zahasky family originals. All members lend their voices to songs at times, and the group's repertoire is always growing, now including elements of bluegrass, swing, gospel, old-time and blues. Paul calls their sound "quite an eclectic mix of string music."
The Zahaskys have been introducing visitors to Southeast Alaska with their music all summer. As in the past, the band performed regularly at the Mount Roberts tram along with occasional shows on cruise ships. Playing for visitors from the Lower 48 landed them many of the future gigs during their tour.
"A lot of our contacts are from people we meet playing in the summertime," Paul said. "Some of the locations are invitations, other ones are just things that looked interesting."
This trip will be the second tour for the Zahasky family. After three months on the road in 2006, Paul and Melissa asked the kids if they "could just keep going." The answer was a resounding yes.
"It's our passion," Paul said. "It's what we love, and our kids seem to as well. People ask them repeatedly if we force them to play or if they enjoy it, and they always say they enjoy it."
Indeed, the kids have done as much as their parents to shape the Alaska String Band. Composition is a collaborative process and the band's bluegrass bent is thanks to the influence of the younger members.
"The bluegrass element really kicked in with our kids," Paul said. "They attended the Barefoot Bluegrass camp and that really fired them up."
When they return from their tour, the Zahaskys plan on starting a five-week bluegrass string camp for kids in Juneau.
"The idea is to give kids an opportunity to put together bands with other kids and hone their songs," Paul said. "We hope to pass on to (other) kids what we've passed on to our kids."
The Alaska String Band will perform Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Resurrection Lutheran Church. Tickets are $10. To hear music samples and learn more about the Alaska String Band check out www.alaskastringband.net.