The Jackson 5, The Kinks, Disclosure: all seemingly discordant bands that’re made up of siblings who strengthened their relationship through a musical bond.
Siblings Danielle, Mark, James and Michael Wimberley, all juniors at Chapman, comprise the Wimberley Bluegrass Band. They started playing music together in 2006 and first performed as a band in 2008.
“We’re best friends, so we always enjoy hanging around each other,” Michael Wimberley said. “It was only natural that we play together since we all wanted to play the same type of music. The performing just happened by chance.”
In February, their song “Hard Working Man” was featured in an episode of ABC’s sitcom “The Middle.”
Danielle is the oldest sibling, followed by twins Mark and James and then Michael. After begging their parents to buy each of them instruments for Christmas in 2006, they taught themselves how to play the guitar, banjo, fiddle and the mandolin, an instrument that resembles a guitar but has eight strings and tunes like a violin. Each member contributes to the vocals.
“We grew up listening to vintage country but nothing really inspired us to play like bluegrass did,” Mark Wimberley said. “And that’s probably the reason we’re professional musicians, we heard bluegrass and were like we have to do that. We have to know how that happens.”
Bluegrass music is a subgenre of country music composed of vocals and a variety of stringed instruments. It has roots in jazz and its sound is characterized by fast playing and improvisation, according to the Tribeca Film Institute.
The Wimberley Bluegrass Band has played shows in numerous bluegrass festivals, churches and large events like the Orange County Fair. The siblings have traveled as far as Nashville and Arkansas to perform. They were featured at Mochella in the residence halls last month and will be playing at one of Chapman’s TEDx talks this August.
The siblings were all home-schooled, then attended San Diego Canyon College for two years before transferring to Chapman last fall. They each have a passion for music, but are working toward degrees that aren’t rooted in the industry.
Danielle is a business major, James is a mathematics major, Mark is a communication studies major and Michael is a strategic and corporate communications major.
The siblings currently live at home with their parents just a mile and a half from Chapman.
“After we graduate we plan to continue the band. We’re going to try to have that pick up and see if we can make a living doing it,” Michael Wimberley said. “One of the reasons we chose these degrees is to help out with the business aspect of it.”
The siblings chose degrees they felt would prepare them for the traditional working world because they’re aware of the uncertain nature of the music industry.
“The music business is up and down, so if that doesn’t work we’ll have degrees we can fall back on,” Michael Wimberley said.