The United Country Western Dance Council served up a real treat at their recent competition, its 2016 World Championship. There’s one group that was “really” remarkable. All twelve were from the same family, moving in unison—think of little feet and big feet moving as one. And they are all doing Irish stepping. When you think its over, a couple of them bring out a fiddle and guitar and they are still in step. The music and dance “happening” continues.
The story behind the performance is also amazing and begins with Toby and Brenda Willis. You see, state champion wrestler at Northwestern University a few years ago, Toby Willis is a surprise. He has been involved in computers and systems, but his claim to fame at this point is family, music, and dance. Yes, he does coach boys wrestling and writes, but he has obviously made time for a very special wife. He married Brenda and along their life path together they brought a dozen kids into the world. College graduate Brenda has home-schooled the whole bunch—including a curriculum of music and the arts.
Now oldest daughter Jessica arranges music for the family, plays instruments including piano and violin, and sings, having created over a couple hundred compositions. She is a multifaceted artist, both visually and interpretively, beginning with Irish stepping, continuing with ballroom, swing, etc. Second oldest Jeremiah is also a musician, claiming expertise in guitar, cello, pipes, flute, mandolin, and piano among others. He has placed in the World Championships of Irish dance on the west coast. Like his dad, he has become a state champion in free style and classic wrestling. Third oldest Jenny is a musician focused on accordion, fiddle, guitar, and piano. She is a regional champion in Irish dance and national champion in west coast swing. And yes, she does ballroom dance. A “creative lass” she is.
There’s a dozen of these kids, all with special skills in the arts. Fourth oldest Jeanette plays whistles, dobro, fiddle, and piano and has dance skills in Irish, ballroom, swing, and flamenco. Fifth oldest Jackson does drum and banjo along with guitar, piano, and whistle. He’s “learning” violin and cello. As for dance, he does Irish, ballroom, and swing, and has a championship in west coast swing. Remember dad? Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling championships have been earned by son Jackson. Not far behind is sixth child Jedi with seven wrestling championship titles, but he also dances Irish, swing, and ballroom and does piano, guitar, bass, and whistle. (That bass is bigger than he is.)
We are half way through these children, so we are into the “little” side now. Seventh child Jasmine is learning strings, whistle, and piano. She already dances (Irish, ballet, ballroom, and flamenco) and has national championships in her own right. Her latest venture is into hand crafts. Little sister Juliette serves as Jasmine’s dance partner and is exploring ballroom, Irish, swing and Latin dance. Ninth child Jamie is on a similar track, now learning a variety of dances and writing music. Tenth child Joy Anna is learning fast. Eleventh child Jaeger is involved in wrestling, dance, and guitar. “Baby” Jada is already experimenting with dance.
They were all in this competition and synchronized. What a talented family and active!