- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

HARWINTON, Conn. (AP) - It’s not easy for Kais and Dollz to carry a conversation without bursting into laughter. Every question will tickle the band. After all, the band members are only 8 to 13 years old. When asked how they like each other, they all laughed at the same time.

“We don’t like each other,” the team said and laughed again. “We like to play music together.”

The band is only a little more than two years old, but the musicians started their artistry as young as age 4. Meghan Spangenberg, 12, plays guitar. Rowan Cookman, 13, is in charge of the keyboard and the piano. Ella Cookman, 9, is the only violinist. And Jaden Spangenberg, 8, plays drums and ukulele.

Megan said she feels free when she plays music. Rowan said people don’t only like them because they are young. The band started its first show at the Mark Twain House in 2012. The largest show they performed was on the Litchfield Green in front of hundreds of people last summer.

“I like performing. People don’t expect too much from you, but when they start seeing you play they are like ‘Oh my god, you are so young and you play so well,’” said Ella, almost jumped from her seat.

The band not only does covers, they also create original songs about traveling and friendship. You can’t expect any maturity from the lyrics, but the funkiness will make you laugh. Their musical styles cover almost everything.

The first song Kais and Dollz wrote was “Rong,” which was supposed to be “Wrong.” They wrote the second song “Sometimes I Feel Weird,” and then their parents put them together as one song, “Sometimes I Feel Wrong.” And sometimes, writing songs is just an excuse not to go home.

Both mothers said their children showed their talents at a very young age. The baby Rowan would always respond to music, his and Ella’s mother Starr Cookman said. He always feels a buzz when he hears music. Growing up in the musical environment, the younger child naturally picked it up too.

Malie Grasmere, mother of Megan and Jaden, said her son would create rhymes when his sister sang in the car, though he still couldn’t talk at that early age.

“For me, it was like, ‘Wow, what do we do with this?’” Grasmere said. “We would get together, and we would sing. We would have the music groups that all the adults were playing and kids joining in.”

The two musical families joined hands because their children go to the same school. When the kids came up with the idea of forming a band and creating a song, at first the parents just laughed it off. Grasmere said she was doing dishes when Ella started playing the song they wrote, and everything stopped. She knew there was something special in there.

The children could never get their hands off their instruments, the parents said. It’s more about how to get them to stop. Megan started at piano at age 4, but now she mainly plays guitar. She would crawl onto her parents’ bed at night and whisper into her father’s ear, begging to play the guitar. The family has 14 guitars in the house and four ukuleles.

“The four of them speak the language of music like they were born in a bilingual household,” Cookman said. “They just found a way to access freedom, joy and relaxation through being conduit to music, but also feeling how music galvanized a room of people.”

It’s the real deal. They remodeled the dining room into a studio with a full set of drums, a keyboard, a bass and many guitars. They have speakers, microphones, a molbox - everything needed for a real concert. There is no harsh rehearsal. The band only practices twice a week.

Each show is a combination of stage fright and excitement. Megan said she would jump up and down. Jaden, the youngest, shyly said he is nervous before the big show.

“I am excited but really, really, really nervous,” Megan said.

As their manager, Grasmere said the challenge is to find an appropriate place for them to play. Kais and Dollz play at libraries, historical societies, charity events, birthday parties and farmers markets, places friendly to children. As people recognized their talents, opinions flew in, telling them to go on reality TV shows or asking them to expand the band. But the parents only want to make it fun for the children. For simplicity, they try to maintain a small band.

As parents, the growing fame of the kids band will also expose them to some of the negativity in the outside world. Kais and Dollz has a public Vimeo channel, a Facebook page and they are planning to put up a website. To protect the children, the parents said they don’t allow comments on the Facebook page and they are involved with everything.

“It’s a balance of letting them do what they want to do and protect them from it,” Grasmere said.

Grasmere wants the children to continue to have fun playing music and not think it’s a hassle. As Rowan is graduating from the elementary school, the band may not be able to get together as often as they can now. Change is always a fear, Cookman said, but she has faith that they will stay true to their music.

For the children, they want to keep the band going as long as they live, Ella said.

There is a price to pay to keep the band going. Cookman said Rowan had to give up sports for music. For Megan, she gave up ballet classes to play guitar.

“When they can see the happiness of people, it isn’t until with an audience, everything becomes electrified,” Cookman said. “Because they are so young, it’s a real gift to have opportunity to play for people.”


Information from: The Register Citizen, https://www.registercitizen.com

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