Sharing the hope of Jesus in song
WRITTEN BY NANCY BALYEAT
My childhood was rooted in music and art and horses. I thought if people knew those three things about me, they would know who I was. I loved to sing and draw as a little girl of 7 or 8 yrs old. My first time singing for people was when I was 10 at a church Christmas program in Basin City, WA. My Aunt Beulah was practicing for the program with a couple of her friends around the piano and I kept singing along in the background. They decided I should have my own song in the program and signed me up to sing Silent Night. That summer we hit on hard times and went to Montana to pick cherries in Flathead Valley. My mom would sing with me and taught me how to hold the melody while she sang alto on You Are My Sunshine. My first time on stage was in Deer Park, WA at the middle school I went to. The music teacher went to several schools to teach part time at each one. When she came to our school, she instigated a talent show and encouraged us all to participate. I signed up to sing a song I knew well from listening to my daddy’s records and his radio station, Your Cheating Heart. Grandma Alkire bought me the sheet music and the music teacher kindly transposed it to a key I could sing in and accompanied me on piano. My mom and dad were very excited and proud of me. Daddy found a silver sparkly cowgirl outfit for me he borrowed from a friend who had a Jr Rodeo princess in his family. I loved singing that night on stage and was awarded a standing ovation and tons of compliments by the audience. Grandma Alkire was sure I could win a talent show on TV and took me up to audition at the station for Starlit Stairway, a local talent search program in Spokane, WA. I didn’t have my own accompanist, so their studio piano player played for my try-out. I didn’t know that magic key my music teacher had picked for me and I bombed out really badly when he picked a key that was too low. Daddy decided if I was going to sing, I better learn an instrument to accompany myself. He rented a guitar for one month and bought me a Mel Bay beginner’s guitar book. I taught myself that month the old folk songs in the key of C. But we couldn’t afford to rent it another month and watched for an opportunity to buy one. A couple years went by before I got my own guitar. We were strapped financially, and Dad was without work when we went picking fruit to make ends meet. The orchard hired me at half pay to thin pears and I earned enough money to buy my own guitar at Kmart! We were living in a campground and I learned the chords to House of the Rising Sun from one of the other campers. Without anyone else to teach me I played all I knew and started writing my own songs. I even made up chords to my songs because the ones I knew were not enough. Then I joined choir for 6 years! I also became a Christian and wrote a couple of Christian songs: Temperance and Miracles.
Bob's music background was mostly from playing in the high school band. He learned to play trumpet in 3rd grade and stuck with it through High School and two years of college, where he also joined choir and dance band and took up music as his minor. All his brothers also played brass. He loved the Big Band era. After college, Bob pursued learning 12 string guitar and traded his expensive trumpet for a guitar to learn the more contemporary folk genres of the time.
Bob and I met in my senior year of high school at a charismatic prayer meeting at Gonzaga University and got to know one another more in that group's music ministry. I joined as a vocalist and tambourine player, and he played 12-string guitar.
WROTE MY FIRST SONG
Bob and I married and were on the music team for a new church we joined. I brought those music books home and learned many of them as well. I sang, and he played trumpet. They encouraged us to write new songs. I wrote my first worship song that year.
I wrote the song Hard Times/ Who Cares for my daddy while living in Tum Tum near the House of the Lord Retreat House.
We moved to Great Falls and put on our first concert in the basement of St Luke's. Mike and Midi, Rod Choan, and Bob VanCamp also performed that night. My favorite memory from that night was the note our niece, Liz Donohue, put in the offering box.
"Do it again."
We were discouraged by a low turnout. Those words mean a lot to me to this day!
We worked on posters and promotion material and bought sound equipment for doing our own presentations.
WON FIRST PLACE DUO
We hit the road in 1984, and I sang with my guitar whenever I got the chance.
We traveled for 9 months all over the US and Mexico. I played guitar for our tent meetings in the desert. We performed at our first RV park and participated in a talent show at the Catholic prayer meeting. We won first prize as a duo singing Resucito, accompanying ourselves on guitar and trumpet.
We had moved to Montana. I sold my guitar to buy a keyboard to teach myself piano. I taught myself Suzuki books 1 and 2. I sang at the coffeehouse in Billings, MT, and sang with tracks. I built up a track repertoire and recorded a demo tape at church to send to groups we were going to sing at. Bob got his Christian worker's papers from the Assembly of God church, and we spent the year filling in and presenting our ministry around the state. We bought a really nice keyboard for performance in parks and church groups
STARTED SELLING CASSETTES
We went to Arizona for the winter. I spent a lot of time in the bus with the kids while Bob was working. I committed many of the St. Luis Jesuit songs to memory and tried to record a cassette on a Tascam recorder a friend loaned us. I sang in Ogden coming and going. Back in Great Falls, we rented a little house where I wrote many new songs on the keyboard, and we recorded 3 cassettes with Rod Choan in his basement studio. Bob bought a duplicator, and we started packaging and selling the cassettes, 2 of original music and one of the Jesuit songs we purchased mechanical licensing to sell.
Then we started selling my artwork full time all over the country, and music took a back burner for a long time.
ATTENDED CHRISTIAN ARTIST MUSIC SEMINAR
We attend our first Christian Artist Music Seminar of the Rockies in Estes Park. We just bought tickets to the three-hour concert as a night out together. I so hoped God would still do something with the music that I really wanted to play. I gave one of those cassettes to Lulu Roman and told her she didn't have to listen to it, just take a moment and pray for me that if God ever wanted to use the music again, He would do it.
TOOK SONGWRITTING CLASSES
We attended the Estes Park music seminar as participants this year, and I was so excited. I was in both songwriting and vocal competition. I didn't even make the first cut in vocal, but my song, The Pathway, made it to finals and was critiqued by professionals in the industry, including Steven Curtis Chapman! We dove into songwriting classes and soaked up all we could learn, including co-writing songs together.
RECORDED IN NASHVILLE
We entered songs we wrote together and sang a duet at Estes Park. Bob took classes in sound equipment, promoting, and the business end of singing as well as joining me when he could on songwriting and singing. We signed up for Song Shops in Dallas and Minneapolis that year. We were invited to record a whole project in Nashville after we demo-ed a couple of our songs with Brian White and Don Koch. We finished the Light the Dark music project.
We prepared to release our new project with a release party in Great Falls at the Holiday Inn. We prepared a small dinner concert that we invited everyone we knew to. I got ill and couldn't sing much that year and had to back-burner the music again.
We continued to write music and enter it in the Estes Seminar each year. We sang once or twice a year at different opportunities at homeschool events.
ATTENDED "ON STAGE"
We paid to just have Johanna enter as a songwriter in Estes for her 16th birthday and sat in on Tom Jackson's big class in the auditorium that he videoed for a VHS tape series called On Stage!
STARTED A BAND
We entered the Estes Park competition as a band! They had a super deal that made band registration barely more than the cost of two people to sign up. We got Jonathan on drums, Johanna as a bass player (which she volunteered to learn 3 weeks before the big day), and Jim Hunt on keyboard. Bob sang and played guitar, and I sang and played guitar. That was really the beginning of being a band, which really didn't happen until 2001. I was still having stomach issues that made it difficult for me to be depended on to sing. But as a band, the pressure was not all on me.
Was a pivotal year with the art business taking a dive after 9/11. We tried fairs as a new art venue and discovered singing on the free stage. As we were deciding what to do that fall, our tour director of World of Art at that time offered us to take over the tour. When she heard we were thinking of changing to singing full time, she decided to invest in us and gifted us with over $1000 worth of costumes ( many of which the girls sewed) so we would "look like a band," as she put it. That changed our direction forever. All the children participated in the band! James played drums, Johanna sang and played bass, Susanna played harmonica, and the little girls sang.
SANG AT OUR FIRST FAIR
We started singing free stages as a trade for commercial spots to sell my artwork at the fair 3 months out of the year. We also started participating in Fair Conventions. We met up with a promotion agency that gave us constructive criticism and challenges to improve, and we set to work crafting better sets.
Susanna taught herself fiddle and Johanna learned banjo. We bought the Jay Buckey Virtual bluegrass band CD lessons and picked up a bass fiddle for Bob or James and a mandolin for Rose. We sang at the Main Event stage in Quartzsite and did photoshoots for the band. Johanna got married and passed the bass parts on to James. He became an amazing bass player. We were flooding our market with artwork and couldn't afford to just trade for space anymore. We were able to contract to paint murals for pay in addition to singing on free stages in Minot, ND, Billings, Great Falls, and Glasgow, MT, Rapid City, SD, and Filer, ID, and sometimes running sound for other free stage acts. We even got paid to just sing in Livingston, MT, and New Salem, ND.
We started going to fair conventions to pitch music and murals. We started singing regularly in Quartzsite in 2004 with the Christian Fellowship of the Escapee RV club and several jams around town. We had our first concert in a Camper's Christian Fellowship tent. We met Bill Bogan at the Arizona bluegrass events, and he sold us fiddles for all the girls and two mandolins and a guitar for James.
RECORDED FIRST CD
Joe Roby suggested we needed a CD of our music and suggested singing at church groups. We traveled and sold soap that year to pay for our first CD, Only Here For A Little While. Susanna taught all the little girls fiddle, and we learned to sing harmony.
BEGAN SINGING FULL TIME
We took the plunge, and I retired from selling my art after 20 years of that being our primary income and went into singing full time in ministry. God blessed it financially, and we were able to pay off all our debts and sing full time. We sang in Mexico. We met Susie Solomon and signed up for GospelGrass, family bluegrass festivals in several states, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona. MaryAnna had picked up banjo and Rose mandolin. We started singing at cowboy churches.
RECORDED 2ND CD
Susanna got married. We recorded our 2nd CD with Joe Roby, Something Personal. James had become quite the flat picker on guitar and started singing solos. Charis was doing pretty well on fiddle and wrote her first instrumental, Tears of a Butterfly.
SING IN BRANSON
Sang at our first restaurant in Branson, Sadies Sideboard. We went to our first Country Gospel Music Association International convention in Branson, MO. We sang at nursing homes in Tennessee so we could see our son, Joel, who was in the army. We started recording a Christmas CD.
We recorded our third family band CD, You Gotta Stand for Something, in Great Falls with Dave Martinson. We sang at the National High School rodeo finals in Farmington, NM.
We met Bob Everhart and participated in an Old Time Rural music event in Freemont, NE. He reviewed our new CD in Tradition magazine. James recorded a solo CD for his senior year project, I Love Your Presence, in Great Falls with Dave Martinson. James and Amanda got married.
WON MANY AWARDS
James and Amanda joined us on tour. Amanda added her versatility in banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. She also learned guitar and bass! We went for a two-week tour in Mexico with another family band, the Schuberts. There we sang in the state prison near Navojoa, several city parks in various places, in a migratory workers camp, and church outreaches. We sang in Canada for a cowboy church and a rural church in Nordegg. We went to our first Western Region Country Gospel Music Association conference in Nebraska and received the Bluegrass Band of the Year Award, and Amanda received the Instrumentalist of the Year award. David was born in the fall.
We were awarded Best Family Gospel CD of the year by the Rural Roots Commission. We went to the National Traditional Music Association's Festival in LeMars, IA, to receive our award and participate in the free stages. We sang during the Cody Stampede in Cody, Wyoming. We participated in our first Country Gospel Music Association International convention in Branson, MO, and received the International Bluegrass Band Award.
We recorded our first CD with Amanda on it, Believe. We finished our CD, Balyeat Family Christmas. We sang during the Cody Stampede for our second year.
RECORDING WITH A NEW STUDIO
Matthew was born. We recorded, The Songs Mama Sang, and, Hymns for Him, CDs at Custer's Last Studio with Chuck Seward.
JAMES & AMANDA LEAVE
We recorded our last family band CD, God Is Good, in Missoula with Joe Roby, on which our grandson, David, sang his first solo. James and Amanda left the band and moved to Virginia. We did the initial recording of the first of my solo projects of my original songs, My Journey, with Chuck Seward.
THE BAND DISSOLVED
Jeremiah and Hillary Roby toured with us for three months. Jeremiah played bass and keyboards and sang. MaryAnna got married. The band dissolved.
NANCY'S SOLO CD
Charity and Nancy went to Branson and had Stoney Fergusen re-record 3 songs from the Journey project with more of a country sound.
Joe Roby finished recording the, My Journey CD, incorporating Stoney's and Chuck Seward's previous work. Bob started pitching Nancy's original songs through a radio promoter in New York.
Bob started singing as Happy Trails one-man band at retirement homes across Montana. Bob and Nancy traveled to Arkansas for a radio interview and concert.
Whatever Is True charts #1 in July on Music Review Top 40 Independent Inspirational songs.
Charity and Nancy joined friends at the CGMA International convention in Branson and started a new CD project, Come To Me, with Stoney Ferguson of 10 original songs.
Charity and Nancy did a duet tour for Christmas at retirement homes.
Nancy and Charity travel to the Philippines to help with women’s and children’s ministries. He knows My Name charts #1 in September Music Review Top 40.
Bob and Nancy and James and Amanda and family participate in regional CGMA convention in Apache Junction, AZ.
Bob started doing Happy Trails one-man band presentations in North Dakota.
James and Amanda join Nancy and Charity for Texas tour. James and Amanda sing with Bob at nursing homes. Nancy and Charity join them in singing at Montana assisted living centers when they get back from the Philippines.
Nancy and Charity travel to the Philippines to help with women's and children's ministries. He Knows My Name charts #1 in September Music Review Top 40.
Bob and Nancy and James and Amanda, and their family participate in the regional CGMA convention in Apache Junction, AZ.
Bob started doing Happy Trails one-man-band presentations in North Dakota.
James and Amanda join Nancy and Charity for a Texas tour. James and Amanda sing with Bob at nursing homes. Nancy and Charity join them in singing at Montana assisted living centers when they get back from the Philippines.
Bob and Nancy join James, Amanda, and Charity to sing at assisted living centers in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Montana. They do an abbreviated tour to Texas. James and Amanda work with Life Light. If You Have Been Raised With Christ charts #1 in October of The Music Review's Independent Christian Top 40 and Daddy Couldn't Settle Down charted #1 on Music Review's Independent Country Top 40. Charity and Nancy do a Christmas duet tour.
MORE RADIO CHARTs
James and Amanda spend several months in Virginia. Charity and Nancy go to Ireland. Charity and Nancy do an Easter duet tour. Striving to Forget charts #1 in February on Music Review Independent Christian Top 40 and Just Be With You charted #1 on Music Review's Independent Country Top 40 in August. Charity turns 18 and graduates from high school. She goes to work on a ranch for a couple of months and goes to a filming class in Colorado. James and Amanda and family and Bob and Nancy travel and sing in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Bob and Nancy and James and Amanda go to the regional CGMA conference in Wyoming. Charity goes to the regional CGMA conference in Oklahoma. Charity joins them for a music tour to the Washington coast and an evangelism conference in Portland. We all go to International CGMA in Branson. Charity and Nancy do a Christmas duet tour. James and Amanda and Charity sing for part of the tour.
COVID CHANGES MUSIC
We all left for a music tour on New Year's Eve through South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, and Arizona. The tour was cut short in March when coronavirus hit.
In October Nancy got to sing the National Anthem at the National Hanging Tree Dog Trials in Texas.
We start to learn how to do Facebook live concerts. We have campouts in the summer to get together with other musicians to sing and play music by the lake. James and Amanda perform a bit on their own as well as Bob and Nancy. Charity left the band to marry a small-town farmer.