The Paonia Hellecksons are a musical family. The four of them form a musical quartet — actually a vocal quartet and an instrumental quartet.
Mother Karen plays piano and saxophone. She also teaches piano.
Dad Brent plays cello, violin, viola, piano, guitar, bass guitar and manages the sound system.
Daughter Stephanie, a student at University of Colorado Boulder, plays violin and piano. Stephanie will graduate in 2014 with a double major: vocal music performance and anthropology, with an emphasis in archeology. Stephanie plays in the college orchestra and sings with the university madrigal singers.
Son Jacob, a senior at Paonia High School, plays cello and piano.
Both Stephanie and Jacob have been active in the Valley Youth Orchestra.
All members of the family sing. Stephanie sings soprano, Karen alto, Brent tenor and Jacob bass.
Jacob says, "I was born into singing, singing in church as soon as I could walk and talk. Our parents started a youth choir when I was four years old. It is amazing the amount of music that comes out of four or five families who are really involved in Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Paonia." Father Chrysogonus Nwele pastors the church.
Brent said he and Karen created the youth choir so the kids would have a place to sing Christmas carols and enjoy four-part music. The church presents a Christmas program every year for the community.
Brent and Karen met in college, North Dakota State University at Fargo. They took economics together, studied together, and were in choir together, Karen for four years and Brent for two years.
Music has always been part of Karen's life. She has six siblings and five of them are music teachers. Her dad played in dance bands and her mother was a singer.
Jacob said, "Dad taught us all to sing and now we get out our gig books and sit in the living room singing four-part harmony."
To help the children be musical, the television resides in the closet and only comes out when the family watches movies.
The Hellecksons perform as a group for community events, Cherry Days, church benefits, the Christmas program at Sacred Heart, Chapel of the Cross, Paonia Public Library and other venues. They sing contemporary to classic selections.
Instrumental music is a part of the Hellecksons' lives, also.
Jacob found the cello when he was three years old. "I knew right away it was my instrument," Jacob said. "I love the sound. I was exposed to the cello at a young age. There were several people in the [North Fork] Valley who pursued cello as a profession. It's a rigorous path to become a professional, the bar is high. I didn't want to enter that area and the cello became more of a passion than a profession at that time. I really love the cello, it's a great instrument," Jacob said.
Jacob started weekly cello lessons at age five. He had wanted to start lessons earlier, but no teacher would accept him at that young age. When he was accepted, it was on the condition that his dad take lessons along with him. Both became cello players.
Cellist Tyme Mienka lived in Paonia when Jacob and Brent began their cello lessons. He was Jacob's first teacher. Jacob took his lessons in Paonia for five or six years. When Tyme moved to Grand Junction, Jacob continued his lessons with him in Grand Junction, right up to a month before Tyme passed away.
"It was tough to lose a mentor who had been in my life that long," Jacob said.
His current teacher is Betsy Furth from Aspen. "She's great. She is retired and played in many large orchestras during her professional life," Jacob said.
Thinking about his early lessons, Jacob said, "My dad and I took lessons together, learned together, and we play together still. Dad took violin lessons with Stephanie when she was about seven.
"The key is to have parents who are helping you, who are really with you, and are with you when you go over the bump of 15 years or 16 years. That's really cool," Jacob said.
The first cello Jacob played — sized for a five-year-old — was loaned to him by Steve Rhodes, Karen noted. Jacob played it for several years.
Jacob has played with the Valley Youth Orchestra for eight years. When he first started, he was too young to play alone, so his dad played along with him.
Both Jacob and Brent play in the Valley Symphony.
Jacob has played with the Western States Honor Orchestra in Greeley for three years. The orchestra is audition-based and the musicians play during the weekend festival.
Jacob has played in the Colorado All-State Orchestra's weekend festival for three years. It, too, is audition-based. "That is the scariest thing for a string musician, it's nerve racking. I prepare a piece of music and play it. There is also sight reading or an excerpt chosen for you," Jacob said.
The Colorado All-State Orchestra has been playing for 61 years. "It's harder to get in, more difficult because there are only 70 or 80 slots available," he said.
"There are 14 to 16 cello positions and the whole state is competing for them.
"I have never had the same director twice, and all the directors are phenomenal. This is a great program Colorado has.
"Western States Honor Orchestra has the same level of musicianship, same level of incredible directors," Jacob said.
Jacob auditioned and was accepted in the All-State Choir, a weekend festival, for two years. This was his second year to sing with the 190-member mixed choir and his first year to sing with the 150-member all-men's choir.
Jacob says music is a passion and a lifestyle in his family. "Enjoying music means a lot to us, it's ingrained in our lives," he said.
He is active in sports also, in cross country and track and field. He is the co-captain for the varsity cross country team and a varsity member of track. "It's a good way to focus in a personal sport and an opportunity to run for the team in track. The single events give you an opportunity to become better," Jacob says.
And the Helleckson family is out together enjoying skiing, mountain biking, climbing Fourteeners in the summer, camping and hiking, and anything outdoors.
Jacob will be graduating from Paonia High School this month. He is considering, and being considered by, three colleges: University of Colorado at Boulder, The Daniels College of Business at University of Denver and Northern Arizona University.
He will be majoring in international business. He wants to travel, to market American products to foreign countries.
The Hellecksons own Stone Cottage Cellars. Jacob's interest in international business stems from watching the winery grow from the ground up. "It is a big part of our lives, growing it as a family business. I have seen the importance of small business in America. Small business provides good things for America. It is good for society and it's an incredible experience being a part of it," Jacob says.
Jacob may minor in music, or he may just participate in musical groups on campus.
He was selected from Paonia High School to go to a seminar at Leeds Business School at University of Colorado Boulder and invited to audition for Lamont School of Music at University of Denver.
As Jacob considers leaving the North Fork Valley and his family, he says, "The North Fork Valley is a rewarding place to grow up. My childhood was so rich and so fulfilling.
"Everyone in my family shares similar passions. We celebrate successes together and help each other through tough times. My stable family is a good reason I can do what I've been able to do."blog comments powered by Disqus