Music is a family affair for the Flemmings.
Troy and Sandra Flemming, two former teachers at the now-closed Music Studios of Jan Erickson in Eden Prairie, travel around the country performing as the Flemming Fold with their two daughers, 9-year-old Julia and 11-year-old Arvena. The group started four years ago and recorded their first album, “If Dreams There Be,” in New Hope last year.
The Flemming Fold plays bluegrass, country, old-time, gospel – and Alpine folk music with yodeling.
Troy, a St. Louis Park native, was exposed to the latter genre’s vocal stylings as a child. His parents had travelled to Europe and his father brought back yodeling records from Switzerland and Austria. Troy recalls his father listening to the music while playing with model trains in the basement. It got into his subconcious and surfaced years later, he said.
“I was in the car (about 10 years ago) and a guy who was performing at the State Fair was on the radio demonstrating a yodel,” Troy recalled. “I tried it with him. I had always wanted to learn the Hank Williams song ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues.’ I tried that song when I got home, and found I could do it really easily. Before long, I was obsessed with yodeling.”
“At first, I didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Sandra, an Excelsior native. “I didn’t mind that he wanted to yodel. He wanted me to learn accordion to accompany him and I pretty much flat-out refused. I thought, ‘My grandma used to play accordion. It’s so uncool.’ After a year of it sitting in the closet, I got it out and tried it. Because I am a piano player, I took to it well and grew to like it.”
Both Flemmings taught at the music studio. Sandra left when the couple had children and Troy taught there from 1998 until 2010, when it closed. The family lives in New Prague, and Troy would practice yodeling in the car during his 40-minute commute to the music school.
“The whole way, I would yodel with CDs,” he said. “It was the greatest practice I had ever had – forty minutes of yodeling to and from work. The commute would dissappear for me.”
The Flemming Fold got started when someone asked Troy to perform at a nursing home. They knew he was a musician, and asked him to bring the girls along to play. Sandra recalled that the group had time to prepare and got a few songs ready.
“It went well,” she said. “It was mostly Tim playing and singing guitar. The girls were 5 and 7 at the time and I had to sit in a chair and point to each note one at a time while they played.”
“We had been fans of the Carter Family, and that planted the seed (for wanting a family band),” Troy said. “It was purely for fun when we first started. There was no money motivation. We just wanted to be closer and share the music experience with the girls. Singing together is a special feling. Harmonizing with your family – it can’t get much better than that.”
The group recently left for Arizona Feb. 10 to do a two-week tour of RV resorts and senior communities. They are planning a tour of the East Coast tour for October.
Sandra said the group travels by van with their equipment and stays in hotels while on the road. She hopes that they can upgrade to an RV soon, because it would make it easier to transport equipment.
The Flemmings homeschool their girls, but try to leave the school work behind when the family hits the road, Sandra said. Traveling has brought both girls “a lot of neat experiences.”
“We have gone on some really amazing trips through the desert, and to Hollywood,” Sandra said. “They love that aspect of it. But they are kids, so they don’t always want to practice.”
Some of Troy’s favorite touring memories are from closer to home. There was the time where the group was performing in a 100-plus degree tent at the Waseca County Fair and how the tent leaked rain all over some of the band’s electrical equipment when a downpour came a short while later. Then there was the time the group performed in front of thousands of people at the Steele County Fair (“People as far as the eye could see,” Troy says).
The Flemming Fold also performed at Eden Prairie High school’s annual blues rock concert concert last November.
“It’s an absolute ball, because the kids scream as if we are the Beatles,” Troy said of the blues rock show. “If I yodel, they go bonkers. Performing is my favorite. Applause is always nice. You get to where you can’t wait to hear applause again. It’s doing it as a family – all of us loading up in the van, off to another adventure. It’s so great to do these things together.”
The Flemming Fold are scheduled to perform 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2, during the Winter Blue Grass Weekend at the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West in Plymouth. For more information on the group, go to Flemmingfold.com.
Music is a family affair for the Flemmings.